The first operation is a technique used in the Golden Dawn, the beginning of which involves a curious ritual which, I suppose, is to see whether the reader is in touch with the 'energies' of the querent enough to proceed with a reading. It's like a test of the water, perhaps? I was intrigued by this idea when I read about it recently, and so I made a quick study of the Golden Dawn method, which involves assigning the querent a significator and then shuffling the deck and dividing it into four piles, read from right to left, and assigned the names 'Yod - Heh - Voh - Heh', YWHW, or Jehovah. This Qabbalistic and ceremonial, as are all things Golden Dawn, and I found these didn't resonate with me. What you do is then search each pile to find the significator and use this to determine the nature of the question. If the querent affirms that you have correctly identified the nature of the question, you should do the reading. If not, the reading should end, to be attempted again another day.
I decided to adapt this technique to my own way of thinking, and instead of assigning the four piles as YWHW, to make them 'Fire - Water - Air - Earth'. (I still lay them out right to left, as I'm left-handed and always cut a deck to the left.) In my mind, they represent the progression of 'inception - feeling - thought - manifestation'.
Here's my version:
1. Select Significator and shuffle.
2. Cut the deck into 4 piles. ( I visualise 4 spots on the table 4-3-2-1, and cut the deck in half to create 1 and 3. Then I cut pile 1 again to create 2, and pile 3 to create 4, but if that's confusing just do it however you like.) So 4 -3 -2-1 becomes Earth - Air - Water - Fire.
3. Then I look for the significator and say one of the following, depending on which pile it's in:
Fire: 'Your question is about the beginning of an enterprise, about the root ideas of some matter. It is concerned with causes, inception.'
Water: 'Your question is a matter of the heart and has to do with relationships, intuition, or dreams--the inner world of feeling.'
Air: 'Your question has to do with logic, reason, problem-solving, justice or solutions. It is about resolving conflict or disharmony.'
Earth: 'Your question is concerned with finances, security, health, practical life. It is almost wholly concerned with material affairs.'
4. Ask the querent to confirm, without telling you their actual question. If they confirm, proceed with the reading.
This all seems very atmospheric and forutne-teller-ish. Kind of fun!