Aeclectic Tarot
Tarot Cards & Reviews          Tarot Forum               Free Tarot Readings           Tarot Card Meanings

Qaballah and Tarot

  > Aeclectic Tarot Forum > Beyond Tarot > Kabbalah & Alphabets

Ravenswing's Avatar
Ravenswing  Ravenswing is offline
Join Date: 11 May 2002
Location: wondering around in the World of Innocence
Posts: 1,589
a quick rundown

hello again--

my thanks to whoever hardwired us so an address turns blue and becomes a real link-- that was quite a surprise to me LOL!

i tried out the link-- it opens up a window. max the window and creep down a bit to where (in very small type) it says if you don't have a left-hand window click here. click the click here and you'll get another window. max this one. in the left hand window you'll have the tree of life. if you click on any circle (callled sepharoth) or line (called paths), the right hand window will give an explaination of that particular part.

you'll notice that the paths corrospond to trumps. that's a good first look. just skim to get the feel of it, and take it slow. it's a great resource, but can be quite overwhelming.

as we go along, we'll discover that the entire tarot can 'fit' onto the tree. but for the moment i think we might do well to examine the structure of the tree itself.

just take a look at the tree in the left hand window. a good exercise is to copy it, look at its symmetry, color it in.

any suggestion as to what to do now??

Top   #11
catboxer's Avatar
catboxer  catboxer is offline
Join Date: 23 Mar 2002
Location: Seattle
Posts: 374

This is an extremely interesting topic, and raises the question whether Kaballah is intrinsic to the tarot, that is, whether it was built into the cards from the earliest days, or whether it's something that is imposed on, or read in to the cards.

The answer is obviously the latter, but that doesn't mean that connecting Kabbalah and tarot is necessarily a bad thing. It's what might be called a creative appropriation. In her "Complete Illustrated Guide..." Rachel Pollock states categorically that "No historical evidence exists to back up the claim that Tarot cards derive from the tradition of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah," (p. 30) but then goes on to devote several pages to methods of Kabbalistic interpretation.

There could not have been any connection between tarot and Kabbalah at the time of tarot's origin for two reasons: 1) Medieval Jews would have considered the tarot trumps "graven images," and would have recoiled from associating them with a sanctified metaphysical system, and 2) Christian Europe was not introduced to Kabbalah until the appearance of Giovanni Pico's translation of Kabbalistic Hebrew esoterica in 1486, more than a generation after the appearance of tarot (Decker et. al., "A Wicked Pack...," p. 14).

The first solid connection of these two entities did not come until 1781, with the publication of Court de Gebelin's celebrated essay in "Le Monde Primitif," in which he alludes to a connection of the trumps with the 22 letters of the Egyptian alphabet (sic), which he says were also "common to the Hebrews and the Orientals." The subject is dealt with in more detail in an essay appended to the same work by Louis-Raphael-Lucrece de Fayolle, the Comte de Mellet, who more methodically connects the 22 Hebrew letters to the trumps, and in a footnote calls attention to "the science of numbers and the value of the letters," which he says was "formerly very well known." This would appear to be a reference to Kabbalah (Ibid, pps. 62-72).

As it turns out, tarot and Kabbalah make a fairly good match, while attended with some difficulties. The correlation of 22 trumps with the 22 sephirothic paths works well, but ignores the fact that the Fool is not really a trump. Also, people continue to argue about which card goes on which path. The four suits correlate with the four worlds theorized by Kabbalah, and in each suit there are as many pip cards as there are sephiroth. The court cards are ignored by this equation, however.

If there is any historical connection between tarot and Kabbalah prior to the 18th century, it would be tenuous, rather second hand, and embodied in one card -- the Chariot. As I understand it, the foundation document of Kabbalah is the vision of Ezekiel which the prophet describes in chapters one and two of the Old Testament book bearing his name. It's a metaphorical description of God's chariot, which takes the form of the tree of life, and is a work of towering literary genius. The chariot was a metaphor found in numerous ancient cultures, and appears in Hindu and Buddhist as well as Jewish scriptures.

Having said all this, I would have to conclude that the joining of tarot and Kabbalah is a modern innovation, but one that seems to be extremely useful for a lot of people.

Top   #12
Mermaid's Avatar
Mermaid  Mermaid is offline
Join Date: 16 Feb 2002
Location: Aotearoa New Zealand
Posts: 352

Thanks for posting that link Steve - count me in for the study group everyone!
Top   #13
Kaz's Avatar
Kaz  Kaz is offline
Join Date: 28 Oct 2001
Location: netherlands
Posts: 2,070

somewhere on this site mentioned on the first page of the thread, there is a link to download this whole clickable thing.
you get it in a zip file.

Top   #14
jmd's Avatar
jmd  jmd is offline
Join Date: 05 Aug 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 8,502

Wonderful area to have a a study group in.

Some aspects pertinent to this thread have been discussed here and here, and I thought I'd give those links for those interested.

There are, of course, various associations made between the Kabbalah and the Tarot, and the wonderful link provided by stevepolsz above gives the more common Golden Dawn type association.

A. Kaplan, in his Sefer Yetzirah (Weiser, rev. edition 1997), provides different paths for the Letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Also, in the Sefer Yetzirah, there is a clear indication that the letters are to be placed in a circle or on a sphere... hence not on the so-called paths.
2:4 states:

Twenty-two Foundation Letters:
He placed them in a circle like a wall with 231 Gates[...]

[here is a different version (trans. A Kalisch, 1877, republished by AMORC):]

He fixed the twenty-two letters, stamina, on the sphere like a wall with two hundred and thirtyone gates, [...]
The version of the Tree used by the Golden Dawn was, incidently first published in that third great book of Kabbalistic tradition: the Sefer Zohar (the other two being the Sefer Yetzirah already mentioned, and the Sefer Bahir). To all serious students of the Kabbalah, I would really recommend that especially the S. Yetzirah and the Bahir (A. Kaplan, Weiser, 1979), especially the ones edited and commented on by Kaplan, be obtained.

For those interested in understanding the Golden Dawn version, I agree with the recommendation made above:

Draw and redraw the Tree as depicted, learn the names and meanings of the Sephiroth and their (claimed) associations:
  • Kether - Primum Mobile (first mover)
  • Hockmah - Zodiacal wheel
  • Binah - Saturn
  • (Da-at)
  • Hesed/Gedulah - Jupiter
  • Geburah/Pahad - Mars
  • Tipharet - Sun
  • Netzah - Venus
  • Hod - Mercury
  • Yesod - Moon
  • Malkut - (Earth/) Four elements.
To understand the Golden Dawn associations, one needs to see that, for example, the High Priestess is to be understood in terms of the letter Gimel (3/Camel/double letter/Moon-according to GD) being 'operated' on by the Primum Mobile to the sphere of the Sun... this is also the longest 'path' on their version of the Tree, and crosses the Abyss over which is Daat (Knowledge).

In my opinion, the combination really makes sense once the component parts are medidated on and somewhat understood.
Top   #15
Ravenswing's Avatar
Ravenswing  Ravenswing is offline
Join Date: 11 May 2002
Location: wondering around in the World of Innocence
Posts: 1,589
hebrew vs hermetic

good morning all--

(at least to those in the US-- i guess 'good day' would be more applicable. except of course if it's night time now for you... time zones can get so confusing at times LOL. so maybe i'll just say hi)

catboxer made an excellent point that i'd like to comment on.

there are in a sense two major views of kabalah.

the first-- which is generally spelled qabalah-- is the jewish mystical intrepretation of the old testiment, particularly genesis and eziekial. this varient is concerned with the mysteries of creation (and before...), the rising up through the planes to achieve a vision of god, and the re-uniting of man and god. these studies are contemplative and very deep. much here uses gematria-- a form of numerology, but more involved than the form most people are familiar with.
two things are developed in this qabalah. the first is the tree of life, the second is working with permutations of the sacred name of god which is usually transliterated as YHVH.

the second view is the one we are taking. we use the tree of life and the name YHVH as the basic tenets of our kabalah. the inter-relationship between god and man is not a major consideration, although we may touch upon it here and again.

what we are doing is called 'comparitive systems analysis' ("oh dear, not some great technical stuff!!")

basically, what we are saying is that if we can relate two systems-- tarot and the part of kabalh we are using-- such that there is a one-to-one corrospondence between members ("Huh???") we can say that the behavior of one system can be predicted by the behavior of the other ("predictions, now THAT sound familiar")

("I wonder if he speaks English??" **shrug** "Beats me...")

inotherwords ("isn't that three words??"), every tarot card can be related to one member of either the tree of life or the permutations of YHVH with nothing left over. it matches perfectly.

our job ("Oh No! he expects us to work??") is to figure out the best match up between the two.

now, as i said before, these are only models. don't take them as set in stone, absolute or almighty. as catboxer pointed out, there is some disagreement as to what's what and where to put it. the bottom line is that if it works for you, it's a valid match up.

the usual matching is the paths with the trumps (including the fool if you don't consider it a trump), the sephiroth with the minor arcana (there are four levels of the tree, ten sephiroth; so fourty memebers) and the court cards with the permutations of YHVH (i'll explain that later)

enough for the moment-- i've got to go to work

Top   #16
jmd's Avatar
jmd  jmd is offline
Join Date: 05 Aug 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 8,502

Thank you stevepolsz.

With regards to the spelling of the term and its relevance to various types of work, the three usual versions are:
  • Cabala(h) - usually referring specifically to the Christian version of the field;
  • Qabalah - usually referring to its hermetic version or tradition; and
  • Kab(b)alah - usually referring to its more traditional Hebrew version(s).
Top   #17
jmd's Avatar
jmd  jmd is offline
Join Date: 05 Aug 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 8,502

Also, here is one of my favourite links to Kabbalistic sites...
Top   #18
Jewel's Avatar
Jewel  Jewel is offline
Join Date: 25 Oct 2001
Location: Somewhere in the Sea
Posts: 6,164

~rubs her temples~ Thanks for the overwhelming amount of info! *LOL*. No seriously, great stuff!
Steve I am glad to see that you have jumped into the lead. Can we pick one model to work with first? then later when we all have a better understanding we can explore other models. If I start looking at all of the options out there I am going to get lost very fast *LOL*. Thanks for your consideration.
Top   #19
Ravenswing's Avatar
Ravenswing  Ravenswing is offline
Join Date: 11 May 2002
Location: wondering around in the World of Innocence
Posts: 1,589
a little focus please??

hi all--

jewel, i want to say that you have an excellent point. to much information without a foundation leads on to chaos.... there seems a fair amount of us posting who have quite a bit of kabala under our belts (or perhaps up our sleaves??) i've done about 20 years-- and the learning never stops.

i think we should stop for a moment, take a deep breath and tighten our focus. consider this: i searched via google for the topic 'tarot meditation'. in a flash (well, 0.03 sec actually) i had a screen that listed 1-10 of 12,375 matches. WHOA! information overload. i'm sure you see what i mean.

i think we should center ourselves on one narrow study to begin with. in my experience, learning is a spiral-- learn some, then start over at a higher level.

so-- why cabala, kabalah, qabala and all these spellings? this was one of my first questions. (oh, my thanks for the catagory correction jmd) well, hebrew is not english so we transliterate not translate. the SOUND of the first letter in the hebrew word can be represented by the SOUND of an english 'c', 'k', or 'q'.

so "cabala", "kabala", "qabala"-- the importance is how the word sounds. after all, cabala is cool (or is it that kabala is kool?? maybe it's that qabala is kewl. i get confused some times )
(i haven't figured out the little smilies yet, could some one pm me on this important matter??)

the sephiroth have been mentioned-- exploring them as they related to tarot might be a good start. of course, everyone needs a deck. pick a deck, any deck-- but make sure it REALLY speaks to you.

look over the diagram of the tree. then look it over again....

something that may help you to start visualizing the tree is this:

take out all the minors, sort them by number. sit on the floor 'cause you're going to need a bit of room. take the aces and place them with the wand at north, the sword on east, the cup on west, and the penticle on the south.
drop down about six inches and to the right six inches and do the same with the 2's.
move to the left 12 inches and place your 3's.
drop down 6 inches and to the right 12 inches and place your 4's
move to the left 12 inches and place the 5's
drop down 6 inches and to the right 6 inches and place the 6's
drop down 6 inches and to the right 6 inches and place the 7's
move to the left 12 inches and place the 8's
drop down 6 inches and to the right 6 inches and place the 9's
drop down 6 inches and place the 10's

what you have is a tree of life-- spheres only-- made of tarot cards. look it over, see what it might mean to you. may we should get one of those damnable journeys-- i mean journals.
("What??? Another of them???)

maybe we can agree on a book for study. i would think one for group study and a free choice that appeals to you. that way we all get a benefit of a small "library"

and please, let's try to keep a focus. i remember all my initial confusion from too much information; too much, "But we can also consider..." .

one model to start with, explored slowly, piece by piece will give us more real knowledge. and i will emphasize once more-- it is only a model.

if anyone ever has any question, please bring it up immediately. someone will be able to answer it. good kabala builds from a sturdy foundation; don't build your house on sand...

Top   #20



More in the Aeclectic Tarot Forum
· Tarot
· Tarot Special Interest
· Beyond Tarot
· Forum Library

Elsewhere on Aeclectic Tarot
· Tarot Cards & Reviews
· Free Tarot Readings
· What's New
· Tarot Card Meanings

Aeclectic Tarot Categories
· Angel Decks
· Dark & Gothic Decks
· Goddess Decks
· Fairy Decks
· Doreen Virtue Decks
· Beginner Decks
· Cat Decks
· Pagan & Wiccan Decks
· Ancient Egyptian Decks
· Celtic Decks
· Lenormand Decks
· Rider-Waite Decks
· Marseilles Decks
· Thoth Decks
· Oracle Decks
· List All Decks
· Popular Tarot Decks
· Available Decks
· Tarot Books
· What's New

Copyright © 1996 - 2020 Aeclectic Tarot. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. Contact us.