Keys to the Hidden Door: Part I

For our final installments in this cycle of posts about keys, let’s consider keys in the misty realm of dreams, knowing, secrecy and spiritism!

Keys in Dreams

Now, depending on who you ask, you will get 10,000 different answers for what it means to dream about any given thing.  The folklore collections, for instance, yielded two interpretations: to dream of a key means success, or dream of a key, and you will discover a secret.  Gustavus Hindman Miller’s 1901 dream guide provides the following interpretations of key dreams for ladies: keys denote unexpected changes; if lost, unpleasant adventures; if found, domestic peace or brisk turns to business.  If broken, the key bodes separation through death or jealousy, and lost options.  If a girl should dream of a lost key to a “personal ornament” means quarrels with a lover and distress; if given away, poor judgment in conversation and a bad reputation.

In addition, this turn-of-the-20th-century guide dictates that to dream of unlocking a door points to a new lover, perhaps one in which you have misplaced confidence, and locking a door indicates successful selection of a husband!  One I found particularly unique, is that a dream of being unable to find a keyhole means that you will unconsciously injure a friend.  I’m kind of proud of Gustavus for not automatically jumping from this dream image to an analogy of a failed sexual encounter!

In general, I shy away from prescriptive dream dictionaries, and instead I find it helpful when deciphering a particular dream image to do some free association on what that image evokes in my mind and memory.  It also sometimes helps to imagine that each element of my dream represents some aspect of my own self.

Another thing to keep in mind with dream interpretation as with anything is context.  Context, context, context.  If in your dream you lose a key, and you wake with feelings of anxiety, perhaps this signifies fears of loss of security, or fears of exposure, for example.  If you throw a key away carelessly in your dream, maybe you are ready to give up your secrets and liberate yourself.  If you find a key, maybe it means just that — you will find the key to a waking puzzle.  I find that there is a lot of crossover between the magical aspects of an object and its dream symbology — once you start looking at one, the other begins to seem much more intuitive.

One last hint from the folklore annals:  “A door key placed upside down near your bed will banish bad dreams and produce peaceful sleep.”  How handy!  A nice little witchy and easily-acquired dream catcher.

Keys, Secrecy and Revelation

Just as keys can be used for both opening and closing locks, they can also represent equally either the binding or loosing of power, people, and even information.  Say you have a feeling that you’re ready to leave behind, but you just can’t seem to let it go.  Ever had the feeling of wanting to lock something away and bury the key?  Try doing just that!  Well, at least you can infuse a key with the power of putting that feeling away and bury the key.  This might also be a good spell against gossip, or for keeping someone quiet.  Be careful, though, because when (not if… when) that key gets un-buried , you’ll have to be prepared for the consequences.

Tied to the power of secrecy, and well-known from our dealings with keys in love, the key is a striking symbol of trust.  But it is also a harbinger of tests and temptation.  Think back to the story of La Barbe Bleue, in which the terrible Bluebeard entrusts his young bride with all the keys of his household, granting her total access to every wondrous room but one.  This room carries the grisly remains of Bluebeard’s former wives who failed this test, and when the key is dropped in their blood by the horrified young bride, no matter how hard she scrubs, the key reveals the truth of her betrayal.

If you are trying to fight temptation, try using a key to overcome your weakness.  Imagine the key like Bluebeard’s key, and practice carrying it without giving in to its seductions.  Over time, start envisioning that same key as an instrument of agency — by the end, you carry the key to your own willpower, and it will remain as an emblem of your strength, having overcome your undesired impulses.

On the other side of the coin, say you’re having trouble obtaining information that you seek, and you want to do some magical work to help you break through the barriers.  (Looking for personal insight?  Wondering if it’s really love?  Combating writer’s block??)  Try making an unlocking candle to light while you visualize a positive outcome.  This couldn’t be easier.  Find a candle that you like, preferably with a smooth surface, and a relatively flat key that strikes your fancy.  Press the key into the side of the candle, either up or down, depending on your intentions and using your instincts.

Dress or cleanse the candle, or take any other steps that you feel will lend power to your goal.  Then 1, 2, 3, LIGHT!

…et voilà!  Fiat lux!

Think of it as turning on the light as practice while you work to turn on the bulb above your head.



Keys, Understanding and Prophecy

As a symbol of opening the ways to knowledge, keys can also unlock the way to enlightenment, initiation, and even shamanic death/rebirth.  (For inspiration, read MacDonald’s “The Golden Key” or Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden”!)  There is so much more to be said about this, but that is perhaps too deep a topic for this series.

Not surprisingly, keys turn up in many folkloric bits of prophecy and methods of divination.  Let’s highlight a few, shall we?

  1. If a wife’s keys persist in getting rusty, it is a sign that some friend is saving money for her.  [Arrow’s note: hmm… I really don’t know what to make of this one.  Leave a comment if you have some insight!]
  2. If you hand a pregnant woman a key and she picks it up by the hook end, she will have a boy.  If she picks it up by the end that goes in the door, the child will be a girl.
  3. Or: Tie a rusty key on a string and suspend it over the abdomen of the mother while she is lying down.  When the key stops swinging, if it’s parallel to the length of the mother’s body, the baby is a boy.  If the key stops crosswise, the baby is a girl.  [What is it about rusty keys?]

This last bit makes me think a key might make a delightful pendulum, if you’re into pendulum divination.

And finally, a series of practices with keys and Bibles:

If a key is placed on an open Bible, and a certain verse repeated, the key will turn.

If you want a wish granted, open the Bible to Ruth 1:16-18.  Place a key there, with the top end sticking out.  Tie the Bible firmly closed. Hold it, and repeat over and over the above passages.  If your wish will be granted, the key will turn slowly, even though you try to hold it.

[These passages read: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will be buried.”]

Insert a key in a prayer book.  The key should stick out about an inch or so.  Place two fingers from each hand on each side of the key and say, “Ruth, Ruth, your people will be my people and your God will be my God.  Give me the name (or initials) of the one I’ll marry.”  Then start the alphabet and when the key starts to turn, use that letter for the initial or the name.

As I recall, this practice figures somehow in the novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.  (Not the most trenchant of works, but a time-passer.)  I have never tried it, though, and I am unsure of the relevance of Ruth in these practices.  Why that chapter?  If you have tried this, or if you have any additional information, I’d sure love to hear from you.  Maybe I will try contacting Cory from New World Witchery to see if he has any ideas; he seems like he’d be the one to know!**

The last key and Bible trick for learning the name of your future spouse reminds me a lot of some divinatory games we used to play as kids.  I might have to have a post later on of my favorite slumber party occult games. :)

The next post will be my last installment on keys (at least as part of this cycle), but I will try to end on a spooky note in honor of the crispy creepiness of autumn.




**Update! Cory gave us a lovely shout out on the Divination and Destiny episode of New World Witchery (you can find a link in the Comments).  Thank you, Cory!  I also had a chance to chat about the bible & key method described above with some friends, and we came up with some proposed answers as to why Ruth would be a choice passage for this practice.

One possibility is that the chosen  passage sounds like it might have some oral-formulaic components, which would make it better known and easier to remember and recite.  Another perspective was that the cited statement is one of complete devotion, so it might be used kind of like saying, “If you grant my wish/answer my question, I will devote my life to you,” and a confirmation of utter trust in the outcome.

An idea I had about it being Ruth in particular is that, as far as I’m aware, the book of Ruth is the only book named for a woman besides the book of Esther.  Because the marriage divination games seem to have been practiced more often by young ladies than young men, Ruth would have made a very strong choice of a female figure with biblical power to call upon that was still approachable, where one might feel slightly awkward about beseeching Mary or Queen Esther, for instance, for a direct response in such small matters.

Readers, if you have any other suggestions or insights, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. :)


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: How to tell if he likes you, and other sleepover occult games « Wandering Arrow
  2. Trackback: Blog Post 120 – Divination in the New World (an Overview) « New World Witchery – the Search for American Traditional Witchcraft
  3. Trackback: Podcast 25 – Divination and Destiny « New World Witchery – the Search for American Traditional Witchcraft
  4. Trackback: Blog Post 122 – Bibliomancy « New World Witchery – the Search for American Traditional Witchcraft
  5. Trackback: Podcast 34 – Biblical Magic « New World Witchery – the Search for American Traditional Witchcraft
  6. Ann
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 21:11:25

    We used to do the key in the Bible thing to foretell our future husbands but the verse we used was from Song Of Solomon 2: “My Beloved is Mine and I am His….”
    and then recite the alphabet until the key turned.


  7. arrowclaire
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 15:22:03

    Thanks for your comment, Ann; that is fascinating! I’d be curious to know who you learned the practice from, and whether it worked for you. ;)


  8. chase your dreams even if it breaks your heart
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 16:16:12

    Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and
    I am waiting for your further post thank you once again.


  9. Linda Harris
    Jan 02, 2014 @ 16:42:51

    If you are still taking comments…I inherited my Great Aunt’s Bible and in it I found a rusty Key and although she was barely literate I was able to decipher her notes that she had tucked inside The Book of Ruth. She was a very devout Church going Christian, who remained unmarried her whole life. If you are interested in seeing photos of the note and the key let me know.


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