A new Tree - The Star Tower



I’d like to start a thread about a new tarot layout, which includes some innovations that seem to hold great promise.

One of the problems with the traditional attributions to the trumps is the question of the planets. Using the 22 hebrew letters, according to their attributions in the Sefer Yetzirah (SY), the zodiac and elements pose no problems, but the planets pose some difficulties, as evidenced by the variety of ways they have been connected with the double letters of the Hebrew alef-bet.

According to the SY, the 7 planetary letters Bet, Gimel, Dalet, Kaf, Peh, Resh, Tav, (BGDKPRT) represent the six directions in three-dimensional space, with the final letter Tav being in the center of all. The letters are then attributed to the planets, but these attributions have been modified by various commentators. By far the most common attribution is the Chaldean order, from slowest to fastest planet (Saturn - Juppiter - Mars - Sun - Venus - Mercury - Moon), with the Gra version slightly modifying this and placing the Moon first, then Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Juppiter.

The Golden Dawn famously used their own idiosyncratic order of the planets, and either Kenneth Mackenzie or MacGregor Mathers arranged the planets to best suit the trump images they aligned with. In doing so, they abandoned any connection with the Sefer Yetzirah planets, but kept those for the elements and zodiac.

One variation of the sequence, which uses the order of the days of the week, can be found in Table 33, letter G. page 179 in Sefer Yetzirah by Aryeh Kaplan. This variation comes from Sheirat Yosef 10a, and begins with the day of the Sabbath, thus it has the order as:

B - Saturn
G - Sun
D - Moon
K - Mars
P - Mercury
R - Juppiter
T - Venus

This particular order is well suited to align with the tarot trumps, as it has the Sun and Moon in sequence.

In order to line up these planets with their namesake cards, we simply perform the ATBaSh cipher on the traditional letter-order, swapping Alef for Tav, Bet for Shin, and so on. This will result in the letters going in reverse order on the trumps, so that Alef is the World, Bet is Judgement, Gimel is the Sun, Dalet is the Moon, and so on down to Tav as the Fool.

Interestingly, this is the same order proposed by the Comte de Mellet, which was the first published account of attributing the Hebrew letters to the trumps. Since that time, this order has been generally neglected. But the correct attribution of the planets to the letters makes this order reveal hitherto hidden connections between the trumps and the planets. The key is lining up the Sun and Moon, which will necessitate six new cards having planetary letters, with the Sun being the only one that is still a planet, albeit with the letter Gimel instead of Resh, (as in the Golden Dawn inspired decks).

So the order of the trumps and their Hermetic attributions are these:

DEVIL ----------ZAIN------GEMINI

This results in mostly new planetary trumps, most of which seem fairly harmonious with their imagery.

Saturn is Judgment; the Sun is the Sun; the Moon is the Moon; Mars is Strength; Mercury is the Pope; Juppiter is the Popess, and Venus is the Fool. It might seem that these last two could be switched to great benefit, but as we shall see, this arrangement will prove to be the correct one. The important point is that both the Pope and Popess are planetary cards. The Fool needs to be Tav, and Tav needs to be Venus. The Fool is somewhat hermaphroditic anyway.

One obvious result of the ATBaSh rearrangement is that Heh becomes the Star and Tzaddi becomes the Emperor, which is in line with Crowley’s switch, in accordance with the instructions in Liber AL v. I:57. Also, Temperance is now Cancer, much more appropriate considering the watery nature of the imagery, while the Chariot is Sagittarius, also more consonant with the fiery nature of that sign and the martial aspects of the card. The Wheel, as Libra also plays a central role when one sets the cards out in triads. The remaining zodiac attributions are a bit more obscure and definitely require more in-depth investigation.

Next we will take a look at how this arrangement plays out on the Tree of Life.




As we all know, the Tree of Life diagram comes in many varieties. Three of the most widely used versions of the Tree are the Golden Dawn/Kircher Tree, the Lurianic Tree, and the Gra Tree. The first one will be ignored, while the other two, which arrange the letters much more sensibly based on their attributions, can be fruitfully combined to make an excellent layout for the tarot trumps.

While the Gra Tree is perfectly symmetrical, and would seem to be the best candidate, this symmetry actually works against it when placing the letters on the Tree according to the SY, as will be shown. The superior arrangement for this purpose is the Tree of Isaac Luria, the ARI. This Tree, like the Gra version, puts the three elemental/mother letters on the three horizontal paths, the 7 planetary/double letters on the vertical paths, and the 12 zodiacal/single letters on the diagonal paths.

However, when it comes to the diagonals, Luria has an idiosyncratic arrangement that is fairly complicated, and so this will not be used - rather, the straightforward approach of the Gra tree will be used, where the zodiac letters are attributed in zodiacal order from right to left and top to bottom of the Tree. Thus the Tree we will use is the ARI Tree, with the Gra path-letters (as indicated in Kaplan, table 29 - not from the usual Tree image that is shown as figure 5 on page 30 of Kaplan).


It may be worthwhile to note as an aside that the Lurianic Tree is also called the Tree of Return, as it indicates the pathway back to the godhead, while the Gra Tree is more the Tree of Creation. In some circles, the Lurianic Tree is considered the ‘Tree of Knowledge (of Good and Evil)’, since it has a place for the sphere of Da’at, (meaning ‘knowledge’), while the Gra version is the ‘Tree of Life’. Both of these Trees are of course mentioned in the book of Genesis.

The paths of the Gra Tree we’re using follow the Sefer Yetzirah, as shown on Table 29, page 164 of the SY by Kaplan. The path of Bet goes downward vertically into the sphere of Chesed, Gimel goes into Gevurah on the opposite side of the Tree, Dalet into Tiferet in the middle, then Kaf into Netzach, Peh into Hod, Resh into Yesod, and Tav into Malkut. This is the first diagram to be investigated.

I’ve borrowed a Tree image from the web, which will have to suffice until I can make a proper one from scratch. In accordance with the chart of the letter-attributions to the trumps, the planetary paths are marked with their tarot cards, as well as showing in the spheres what day of the week is indicated by the letter that flows into that sphere, (this also indicates what planet has influence in that sphere). Following the Sheirat Yosef scheme, the days begin with the Sabbath, and start at Chesed, and then follow their regular order.


One nice thing about this array is that the Fool is the first (and only) path out of Malkut. This seems intuitively correct. But the remaining letters do not show any symmetry. it would seem more useful to have the Sun and Moon on opposite pillars, as well as the Pope and Popess. And we must remember that the letter Tav is supposed to be in the center of the other six letters, which are representative of the six directions (three dimensions) of the Cube of Space. Indeed, some commentators have designed cubes based on having the Tav at the center of the three axes of a cube (as the World card). But Tav is not in the center in this Tree.

One thing this Tree does demonstrate is that using the symmetrical Gra version will not work well for the tarot when placing the letters in order of the days of the week, as Tiferet is above Chesed, and so one has to work forward and backward, since the SY indicates that the planets are created starting at Chesed. This is the main reason why the ARI Tree is preferable, along with the fact that there is only one path coming out of Malkut.

So this Tree is perfectly usable in its present state, and is in line with the SY. But one simple change will make it much more symmetrical in terms of the tarot trumps. We will look at that revised Tree next.




The final revision to the Tree will produce a lovely set of symmetries. it is also more in line with the book of Genesis than the Sefer Yetzirah interpretation of the days of the week for the planetary letters.

Recall that in Genesis, Elohim begins the creation on Sunday, and requires 6 days to complete it. Then the 7th day of rest is the Sabbath. So when using the scheme of letters where Saturn is the first letter, for Saturday, we are somewhat putting the cart before the horse, unless the idea is that the day begins with the evening before, thus Sunday begins Saturday evening. In any event, it makes much more sense, in terms of Genesis, for the days of the week to begin with Sunday instead of Saturday, So if we keep the same sequence of Saturday to Sunday for the planetary letters, but begin that sequence on the paths with Sunday, we end up with the symmetrical relationships shown in the revised Tree.


Now we have the Sun going into Chesed, opposite the Moon going into Gevurah; the Pope going into Netzach opposite the Popess going into Hod, and this parity continues with the Emperor and Empress coming from opposite pillars down in to Yesod. This puts the masculine figures on one side and the feminine ones on the other, which matches with the arrangement that has all the Fire and Air (‘masculine’) zodiac signs on the right side diagonals, and all the Water and Earth (‘feminine’) signs on the left side.

This also puts the Fool, as Tav, in the center of the 7 vertical paths, just as Tav is said to be in the center of the 6 directions of space. And this is all the more cogent when remembering that the key number of the Fool is Zero, and there is no more appropriate place for zero than at the center.

The final pair of ‘opposites’ is Strength and Judgment, on the middle pillar. These are Mars and Saturn, the two malefic planets, balanced by Venus in their midst. They may symbolize that one needs to wake up from their dream state (‘resurrect’ as the figures on the Judgement card do) in order to begin to ascend. Then one has three choices of pillar to continue on - the male, the female, and the neutral zero of the Fool. If one chooses the middle pillar, know that it will take Strength to get to the Crown.

Other pairings are Justice and the Hanged Man on one side, as against Death and the Wheel of Life on the other. Below these are the opposites of the Chariot (War) on the male side and the Lovers (Love) on the female side.

So here is the completed Tree:


Note that with this new arrangement, the middle pillar has letters that equal 422 instead of 604. While 604 is relatively uninteresting, 422 is the gematria value of ARIK ANPIN - the ‘Vast Countenance’, which is a title of Keter; as well as QU IRUQ, meaning ‘the golden line’. Both of these have relevance to the middle pillar, ending as it does in Keter.

One oddity remains - at the top of the ‘male’ pillar, the Star goes into Keter, while at the top of the ‘female’ pillar, the Tower does the same. These are opposite genders based on their iconography, but perhaps that is exactly the point in the Supernal Triad, for the first emanation out of the sphere of the “fixed stars” is the Star itself. This may also be related to the spheres that these paths descend into. On the left is the sphere of Binah, often called the Great Sea; for this reason it is given to Neptune. Its counterpart Chokmah is thus given to Uranus. Pluto has no place on this Tree, as the traditional association with the fixed stars is moved up from Chokmah to Keter.

The Tower and the Star are joined in the middle by the path of Strength, and this has a secret relevance to Liber AL v. I:57. In any event, these three paths equal 5 + 6 + 20 = 31, the value of the Hebrew name AL, meaning ‘god’, and LA, meaning ‘not’. This matches the value of the trump numbers of the middle pillar: 11 + 0 + 20 = 31. The names of the first two emanations from the Crown gives this arrangement its name - The Star Tower.




With this new Star Tower complete, it would be a simple matter to reverse-engineer the same sets of paths, letters and attributions onto the symmetrical Gra tree. All one need do is move the letter Bet/Judgement/Saturn card up to the top of the middle pillar, where it can descend from Keter to Tiferet and begin the sequence of days of the week, followed in order by Gimel into Chesed, etc., as on the Star Tower. The paths for Death and the Hanged Man would then come out of Tiferet to Chesed and Gevurah, while the Devil and Temperance would descend from Chokmah and Binah into Tiferet from above, just as they are on the Gra Tree. The last change would be to rotate the positions of Kaf, Resh, and Peh, so that they conform to the Star Tower arrangement, as opposed to the idiosyncratic and non-sequential order they have on the Gra Tree, found in fig. 5 of Kaplan.

Such a revision would change some of the symbolism of the Tree, as the middle pillar spheres all move up one notch, thus removing the position of Da’at, or the “Abyss”, but obviously the Gra and the ARI Trees have different purposes, as noted above. so for the sake of completeness, a symmetrical, Gra-inspired Tree can be found here:


I'm very interested to hear what the forum members think of these various arrangements.



The Golden Dawn famously used their own idiosyncratic order of the planets,

Well you know, they are much like a TV. Many will say it is necessity, but one can certainly thrive for decades without it.

I'm very interested to hear what the forum members think of these various arrangements.

I find it to be brilliant, creative and gutsy. You are to be commended for all of the time and thought it took to dream up such an arrangement. It takes courage to work against established orthodoxies, but this is exactly how such original work gets done.



Thanks for the critique. I was actually inspired to look into this because of the recently revived thread on the Gra Tree of Life, which I missed the first time around. Looking it over, it raised some questions for me that I think a novel approach can answer, especially how to get the Sun and Moon to line up with planetary letters.

So basically, the structures used in any such arrangement - letter-order, letter attribution, type of Tree, and letter position - are here brought together from five (six?) different traditions:

Reversing the order of letters- from the Comte de Mellet
Using the Mother and Single letter attributions of the Sefer Yetzirah
Using the Double letter attributions - from the Sheirat Yosef (SY)
Using the Tree of Return - from the ARI
Using the Mother and Single letter positions - from the Gra Tree
Using the Double letter positions - from the days of creation in Genesis



I created a tree on the site for this exact reason. Of course the letters when clicked on will access the card with links to blog posts.. dont' click on em :D Instead just press your back button to see the GRA and the "Accurate" letter attributions



I find all this fascinating, and useful. If our heroes from days gone by had not experimented and exercised imagination in this way we wouldn't even be having these great discussions.

I've created a little YouTube video, that looks very conventional and tame compared to your laboratory work, but nevertheless pushes at the sides of the popular box.

Check it out if you will: http://youtu.be/ir5FqBIqyl8


.......I find it to be brilliant, creative and gutsy. You are to be commended for all of the time and thought it took to dream up such an arrangement. It takes courage to work against established orthodoxies, but this is exactly how such original work gets done.
To hell with established orthodoxy! So what if a certain Tree of Life (Kircher) already models both the lightning bolt of creation and the serpent path of return? Why not invent a new Tree of Life which works better, and also an entirely new tarot deck to go along with it? Originality should be the motto of postmodernism. Two plus three equals five? Forget it! Rigid orthodoxy deserves to be tossed into the pit!


To hell with established orthodoxy! So what if a certain Tree of Life (Kircher) already models both the lightning bolt of creation and the serpent path of return? Why not invent a new Tree of Life which works better, and also an entirely new tarot deck to go along with it? Originality should be the motto of postmodernism. Two plus three equals five? Forget it! Rigid orthodoxy deserves to be tossed into the pit!

Do I detect a note of sarcasm? Or are you suddenly in favour of dreaming up theoretical maps of undiscovered countries?