Openness, the means for an end, access, liberation, acceptance, understanding

About the meaning: The right key to a barred door gives its owner the power to unlock it. All the following interpretations are derived from this basic starting point.

To unlock / to open (up) / openness: The first dimension of the Key's meanings is pretty general. The Key represents acts of unlocking or opening something which was barred, or at least closed, before, and it stands for openness of all types, all kinds of "lack of restriction". It can stand for literal, physical acts of unlocking locks, for literal, physically open, doors. But more important is the Key's figurative meaning. Along this line, the Key may for example indicate that someone opens or should open their heart or mind. Often, the openness the Key represents is productive. But it can also suggest too much openness - for example, that someone is emotionally unguarded, or too impressible. And the Key can hint at difficulties with accepting other people's boundaries, or with asserting our own.

A means (for an end) / solution: Irrespective of the motives for opening a locked door, the right key is the means to do it. This is why the card Key represents that which we need to achieve something. The Key stands for that which is necessary for getting where we want to be. It stands for the means to an end; for that which solves a problem, or that which answers a question. The Key represents the proverbial "key to success". Any time we wonder "How could this be achieved?" we can look at the Key and its surrounding cards for input.

Access / entry / snooping around: Interestingly, there can be several different underlying motives for the same act of unlocking something, say, a barred door. One would be that opening the barred door allows a person to get to its other side. Along this line the Key represents access. It can mean that we gain access to something; or that something or someone is accessible to us. Slightly different but still related are acts of entering. Depending on the context, or on surrounding cards, the Key can for example mean that we enter into a relationship, or a company, or a contract. And it could also stand for unrightful or at least morally questionable entering; for prying about. It could warn us that only because we have the means to access someone's private information, for example, it is not automatically morally alright to do so.

Liberation / deliverance / relief: I wrote above that someone might unlock a barred door to get acccess to that which is on the other side. The second motive for unlocking the barred door has little to nothing to do with what's on the other side but everything with what's on this side. Here, a person unlocks the door in order to get away from what's on this side. In other words, having the key to the locked door gets them out of an unpleasant or unwanted situation. In this sense, the Key represents acts of literal or figurative liberation. It can mean that we free ourselves or someone else from some kind of confinement. From a slightly different angle, the Key can also represent relief - relief from pain, for example, or of a duty - or, on a larger scale, deliverance.

Acceptance / yes / welcome: As I wrote above a key can be used to gain access to something, or to free oneself from confinement. In both cases, after the unlocking there follows a move - in my example, to the other side of the door. This is different with the third motive for unlocking the barred door. In this last scenario, the door is opened to let someone else come in! So here, the Key represents a welcome. It means that we let someone or something in, grant admittance, give permission, say "Yes!". Basically, here the Key stands for acceptance in all its forms. It can represent the inclusion or integration of other people, or even concepts, into our life.

Understanding / idea / ingenuity: When you open a locked door what's behind this door becomes visible to you, known to you. Thus, the Key can represent insights, sudden realisations, "Eureka!", but also slow, deliberately grown comprehension, rational understanding. The Key can mean that we figure something out. Also, the card can stand for ideas, in the sense of inspirations. In German, the verbatim idiom of saying "I have thought of something!" is "Something has fallen into me!" In other words, having an idea means letting a thought into our head. Along this line the Key represents specific ideas, inspirations, but also ingenuity, inventiveness, in general.

Now / immediateness: The Key is one of the cards that seem to have a strong temporal pull. There is a sense of immediateness, of "right this moment" about all its meanings. For example, ideas usually pop into our heads very suddenly. One moment there was a blank, and the next moment inspiration is there, stark and obvious, as if it had never been absent. And, while we might ponder for a long time, hesitate, doubt whether we should open something, once we actually do it the act of opening happens in a very short instance. Maybe this is the reason why the Key seems to hint at things which are happening right now, which are done immediately, or which are imminent.

See also the annakblogs article >> So, is the Key a negative or a positive card?

About the Image: Illustrating what the Key means for me was a very difficult process which took lots of sketch paper. I wanted to get across the "open up" aspect in all its facets - liberation, access, and acceptance. And I wanted there to be a sense of immediateness in the image, a sense of the intense emotion which accompanies realisations. At first I tried to find a design which wouldn't include a person. But no matter what I did when drawing just a key in a lock, or next to a lock, or even a hand holding a key to a lock, it always seemed unclear whether the key was actually about to unlock or lock it. Also, these sketches seemed strangely distant and cool, unemotional. It took a while for me to realise that they didn't work because they were very technical. But when we open something, even if this eventually requires an actual, mechanical act, the first step is always that our heart warms to the idea, and that our mind understands the necessary approach. So the Key is never just about doing something, it is also very much about specific mental and emotional processes. So I finally realised I had to paint a person whose heart area and head would be at least partly visible, too, not just their hand. As soon as I did that, I felt pulled in. I actually felt that I myself had just this second unlocked the door in the image and was about to push it open, blinking out into the bright light outside - relieved to have freed myself from the dark room behind me, or excited to have found access to this beautiful new world outside, or happy to welcome a visitor.
What I didn't do consciously but only noticed after the painting was finished is that the bright light coming in is a beautiful symbol for inspiration striking, for understanding. And I noticed that I had instinctively painted the person in the image hold the key at their heart's level - almost as if it had been their heart they had just opened up, not (just) a literal door. And the person's hair is as red-golden as the key - which connects the key with mental processes, with open-mindedness, and ingenuity.
Something I did do consciously was to design the Key to be the Tower's counterpart in some respects. For just as the Key says "yes" and "welcome" the Tower says "no" and "stay out".

Maybe you have already noticed that the outsides of the door of the Key are the same as the surroundings of the Tower. Thus, Tower and Key could easily depict two different points of time in the same scenario. While in the card Tower the door is still barred, in the Key the Tower's inhabitant has opened the door and is standing in the open door frame. Another clue that both cards are part of the same environment is that the door leaf in the Key shows part of the same cross which is on the the outside of the Tower's door.  
<< PREVIOUS CARD | NEXT CARD >> | VIEW ALL | menu | home | imprINT | shop