Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 17, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2009
Tarot and Kabbalistic Sacred Geometry

by J.S. Kupperman

In issue thirteen of the JWMT appeared an article on sacred geometry derived from the proto-kabalistic text The Sefer Yetzirah. That article described a way to read the first five chapters to develop what is commonly referred to as the “Cube of Space” and discussed its relationship to the aura and the kabbalistic souls. The current article builds upon the previous and will discuss a kabbalistic tarot in relation to the Sefer Yetzirah, but also later kabbalistic text. As the Sefer Yetzirah deals with the letters of the Hebrew alefbet this article will focus on the corresponding major arcana of the tarot, which are associated with those letters. This will include not only their placement on the Cube, and on the Tree of Life, but will also imply interpretations of those cards based on their location on the Cube and the sefirot that surrounds it as well as how they may be understood because of their location on the Tree of Life.

The cards of the so-called “major arcana,” the series of twenty-two image bearing or “trump” cards, of the modern tarot deck have been associated, in one way or another, with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alefbet for over two hundred years. Though developed by the likes of Papus and Eliphas Lévi Zahed modern decks that employ those letters are largely derived from the tarot work of Samuel Liddell “MacGregor” Mathers, one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Following this are decks based on the work of Aleister Crowley in his Book of Thoth, and A.E. Waite’s Key to the Tarot, both of whom based their tarots on Mathers’ work.

The Golden Dawn’s attribution of the letters to the trumps is founded on William Wynn Westcott’s “corrected” translation of the Sefer Yetzirah, a proto-kabalistic text dating from between the third through sixth centuries C.E. Later tarot enthusiasts have used a similar ideology in developing the “Cube of Space,” much as I had done in the issue thirteen of the JWMT. One difference, however, is that previous authors have been working from the perspective of modern magical qabalah while my own perspective is derived more from traditional Jewish kabbalah. Applying this to the Cube of Space and the tarot creates a somewhat different, and very interesting, understanding of the trump cards.

Importantly, I am not claiming to represent the “correct” version of the tarot. The tarot was derived from a game; there is no “correct” version. To make such a claim is to mistake the map for the terrain. However, there are possibly some systems that work better than others and, worse, some things that present themselves as systems that, ultimately, are dead ends. Not having mistaken the map for the terrain, we must read our maps carefully if we are to proceed forward at all.

Over the last few centuries there has been any number of different orderings, names, etc. of the major arcana. Some early decks, designed for game play rather than divination, have included upwards of thirty trumps. Standardization of the trumps, their names and order has only occurred in the last one hundred or so years. This article will use the following set of card to letter attributions. I refer you to the previous article for a greater understanding of how the letter-to-sign correspondences were derived.

Table 1: Association of Letters, Signs and Cards

It is important to note that I have decided to keep the usual letter-card attributions.[1] This means that the planets here are not necessarily associated with the same cards as found in modern tarot decks. 

Part I: The Placement of the Cards and Letters

Shelosh Imot - Three Mother

Verse six of the third chapter of the Sefer Yetzirah tells of the position of the three Mother letters, , , :  

The head is created from fire,
            The belly is created from water,
            And the chest, from breath,
                  Decides between them.[2]

The Sefer Yetzirah is here describing parts of what will eventually be known as Adam Kadmon, the Holy or Divine Human. Though Rabbi Isaac Luria will eventually associate this with one of his five kabbalistic worlds it is also a term sometimes used to refer to the human form on the Tree of Life itself. Through this ideology the triad of Keter-Chokmah-Binah make up the head, Chesed and Gevurah the right and left arms,[3] Tiferet the torso or trunk of the body, Netzach and Hod the right and left legs, Yesod the phallus[4] and Malkhut the feet.

The twenty-two extra-sefirotic paths of the Tree of Life are divided into three horizontal, seven vertical and twelve diagonal lines. These perfectly mimic the divisions of the Mother letters, Double letters and the Simples. Placing the Mothers becomes a simple matter at this point. Breath, given to the letter A decides between fire () and water (), and is located at the level of the chest. The path corresponding to this letter runs between Chesed and Gevurah. Fire, the head, runs between Chokmah and Binah and Mem, the belly, between Netzach and Hod.

Diagram 1: The Mothers on the Tree of Life

Placement on the Cube of Space is an easy prospect at this point. Following the previous article we find that the Mothers run through the X, Y and Z axes. This is demonstrated in the diagram below:

Diagram 2: The Mothers in the Cube of Space

As you will recall, the three-way axis formed by the Mothers extend through the cube of space, connecting to the sefirot beyond. A connects to Chesed and Gevurah,  to Netzach and Hod and  to Tiferet and Yesod. This double connection, each of the Mothers being situated between not two, but four[5] will be important when it comes to interpreting the cards.

Alef: To this letter is given the element of air and the Fool card. For some time it has been given the number 0 and placed either towards the end of the deck or at the beginning, with the advent of Mathers’ “corrected” sequencing. Kabbalistically one might suggest that it is more appropriately give then number 1. There are at least three possible reasons for this. First, it is the first card and the first element, from which the others come from. In gimatria there is no number 0, so 1 is entirely appropriate and it is the gimatric value of the letter . Second, and equally important, , and all the letters after it, are distinctly in manifestation, it is only Ayin Sof, the fully transcendent deity, that is innumerable. Finally, the Fool is the card of beginnings, but not of origination; it is not the nothing from which everything came, but the very first something, walking the balanced path between water and fire, love and fear.

Mem: is the 13th key of the tarot, associated with the Mother element of water and the Hanged Man card. Given water’s association with Chesed it may seem that the Hanged Man is an unlikely match. However water is also an element used for punishment, such as seen in the Biblical story of the flood. The path between Netzach and Hod has to do, amongst other things, with divine protection and the cessation of divine protection.[6] It is we who have tied ourselves up, whether or not we will be freed before the water rises depends upon our actions in this world, whether or not we have gained protection or have lost it and so will suffer for our falling in with the “evil inclination.”

Shin: The 21st key of the tarot and the second to last letter,  has attributed to it the element of fire and the Judgment card. The sefira Gevurah is given to the idea of judgment and so , with its Gevuric fire, is entirely appropriate here and no more explanation is needed.

Shevah Kefulot - Seven Doubles
The fourth chapter of the Sefer Yetzirah explains the role and placement of the seven Double letters and their planetary associations. Having already established the Mothers as the horizontal lines on the Tree of Life, the Doubles are naturally placed on the seven vertical lines. Again, the association of the letters and planets has already been established. As mentioned in the introduction, in order to maintain some semblance with the now normative positioning of the letters, signs and trumps on the Tree of Life, I have decided to link the planets with their Hebrew letters, rather than their tarot cards.

Table 2: Letters, Planets, Cards

The same idea that caused this ordering, the use of the Chaldean order of the planets, will also help us place the Doubles on the Tree of Life. This is necessary as even though we know they are to be placed on the verticals, the Sefer Yetzirah is not as obvious about their individual placement as it is for the Mothers. However, for exact placement, we will also turn to the earliest of the of kabbalistic texts, the Sefer ha-Bahir.

In a theme that will be later taken up by the Zohar, the Bahir discusses the natures of many of the Hebrew letters. These brief discussions will help us place the Double letters on the Tree of Life, causing an apparent change to their perhaps logical order. Thus, as you will see, the letter  will be placed beneath Chokmah, the second sefira and not Keter, the first.

Diagram 3: The Doubles on the Tree of Life

It is obvious from diagram two that even though the cards are being associated with the same letters as with the modern forms of tarot, their positioning on the Tree of Life is radically different as it does not employ the “path of return” model used in modern decks.[7] Also, and perhaps more radically, the card-sign relationships are altered, as they were with the Mother letters. A brief discussion of the reasoning behind how the letters are placed on the Tree of Life follows:

Bet: The Bahir,[8] playing on the etymology of the name of the letter , tells us that we should not read it as “bet,” the letter, but “bayit,” “house.” It quotes Proverbs 24:3, saying: “With Wisdom the house is built. . .” Thus  and Chokmah, wisdom, become directly related in kabbalistic thought. Further, the Zohar[9] tells us that the Bible begins with the letter  because it is the letter of blessings, connecting the idea of beginnings with the letter. The kabbalists associated the ten depths of creation mentioned in the Sefer Yetzirah with the ten sefirot.[10] Most commonly they decided that Chokmah represented the depth of beginning, further establishing an association between  and Chokmah. As this is a Double letter, the only place for it is descending vertically from Chokmah to Chesed, where the blessings will fill the “cup of blessing” found in the sefira of Loving Kindness.

To is given the Magus card and the planet Saturn. Astrologically, Saturn is the great teacher whose slow lessons give us wisdom. This is the role of the Magus, the knower of all wisdom. It is through this wisdom, which is experiential, not just intellectual, that the Magus is able to manipulate the world as he does. As Chokmah contains the blueprint of all possible creation the path of the Magus is one of supernal wisdom. For this reason we might rename the card Theurgos or Theurgist, the God-Worker, which in Neoplatonic cosmology is associated with Nous, or the Divine Mind.

Gimel: The letter is described as something that renders (gomel) kindness. is to render goodness to the lower sefirot, to the poor.[11] All of the sefirot are poor in comparison to Keter, for it is from Keter that everything else emanates. Thus , with its attribution of “wealth”[12] can only be appropriately placed beneath Keter, the source of all spiritual wealth.

Gimel is the High Priestess and the planet Jupiter. The rendering of kindness, the blessings of Keter is highly appropriate for Jupiter, the greater benefic. Here the High Priestess might be seen as a kind of Upper Shekhinah, hinting not only at the Empress descending from Binah but the World card that leads into Malkhut. These two cards, the High Priestess and the World, may be seen and upper and lower reflections of one another. The High Priestess’ work, like that of the Magus/Theurgos, is truly spiritual in nature, leading us only higher and higher on the path of tikun, rectification.

Dalet: According to the Bahir,[13] dalet represents poverty (dal, poor). This may be read as an allusion to the Shekhinah and Malkhut, both of which ultimately stem from Binah, through Gevurah. Malkhut is “poor” because it does not give its own blessings; it only receives them from above. D is also given the power of “seed” in the Sefer Yetzirah, an appropriate power for Binah, who is also called Ima, mother.[14]

The Empress card is associated with , along with the planet Mars. This is significantly different from its now normative planetary correspondence, Venus. The martial ideology here is a reflection of kabbalistic thought. Binah, as the head of the left-hand pillar, is the source of all severity and restriction. It is through the power of restriction that all creation comes, symbolized by the pregnant Empress. This idea is reflected in Genesis, where the name of God that creates is Elohim. This, according to kabbalistic tradition, is the divine name of Binah when spoken.[15] Mythologically, it could also be added that the Roman god Mars, though a god of war, was a god of crops as well, linking the above ideas together.

Kaf: The fourth Double letter, K, comes from kaf, the palm of the hand. Of this it is written that the palm is called a “pan of merit” (kaf zechut). In the Sefer Yetzirah the “pan of merit” is associated with the letter  as the element of water, which is given to Chesed, loving kindness.[16] Further, K has the power of “life,” which is only appropriate for the life-giving sun.[17]

The 11th key is the Wheel of Fortune, connected to the Sun. In the modern systems this card is given to Jupiter and represents, ultimately, good fortune. The idea of the Sun connected to fortune has a kabbalistic precedent. According to the Zohar whether or not one will have children is a matter of fate, mazel. Mazel has the literal meaning of “star,”[18] of which, of course, ours is the sun. So, we pray for good fortune, loving kindness stemming from Chesed, for the giving of children, one of the greatest blessings a couple can have in Jewish thought. This can, of course, be seen symbolically as representing good fortune in general, so its placement here in fact replaces the planetary attribution of the modern deck.

Peh: , to which is given the planet Venus, descends from Gevurah and has the power of “Dominance” given to it by the Sefer Yetzirah.[19] The Bahir is silent about , though given its commentary on , and the Zoharic attribution of Luna for  suggest this is the only other place for the letter to be placed.

Normally associated with Mars, here  is given to Venus and the Blasted Tower. While the Tower may be the Tower of Babel, which was destroyed because of the arrogance of humanity, that destruction also allows for new growth, life and rectification, a major theme of kabbalistic works, especially after Rabbi Isaac Luria. The Zohar simultaneously associates  with redemption (purqena) but also the serpent by the shape of its body. Traditionally kabbalistic sources blame Eve, Venus, for humanity being exiled from the Garden of Eden by being tempted by the serpent, opening the way of the evil inclination, represented by the serpent, to dominate the world. It is through the Shekhinah, or in Christian belief theVirgin Mary, that this will be rectified. So the Tower can be seen as a symbol of both destruction and resolution.

Resh: The Bahir[20] says that  is the root of every tree. Leading into Yesod, the root or foundation of the Tree of Life, we can see that  is thus logically placed. This logic of discussing Yesod rather than Tiferet directly is continued in a kabbalistic interpretation of the Sefer Yetzirah. Here  is given the power of “peace,” shalom, a title of Yesod.[21]

The letter is here associated with the Sun card and the planet Mercury, which is the planet closest to the sun. The Sun card is here appropriately placed between Tiferet and Yesod, both of which are symbolized by the sun in kabbalistic texts. It is the sun, the Bride Groom or Blessed Holy One that connects to the moon, Shekhinah, a kabbalistic pageantry of the higher self coming into the lower and rectifying it. Thus this card may be said to represent the completion of a cycle, with the higher and lower married, with new prospects in the future.

Tav: The last of the Doubles, indeed the last letter of the alefbet is , to which is given the moon. According to Aryeh Kaplan, in his commentary on the Bahir and its discussion of tohu, “chaos,” the letter , being the final letter, represents Malkhut, the final sefira.[22] More significantly, the Zohar makes constant allusions to the full moon being the symbolic manifestation of the Shekhinah, the presence of God in creation.[23] Thus, it can be seen how the World, Malkhut, is entirely appropriate for this letter and its position.

In the Cube of Space the planets form a secondary axis, supported by the Mother letters. Unlike the Mothers, the axis of the Doubles extends only to the perimeter of the Cube of Space, which is made up of the Simple letters. The Doubles, with their tarot and planetary attributions, are as follows:

Diagram 4: The Doubles in the Cube of Space

Unlike as with the Mothers, which have a double set of trump-between-sefirot attributions, the Doubles do not extend beyond the Cube of Space. That being said, as we will see, the sphere of the sefirot described in the previous article will come to influence the Doubles, in fact all of the letters, in unexpected ways.

Shtem Esray Pashutot - Twelve Simples
Chapter five of the Sefer Yetzirah deals with the Simple letters, which are associated with the signs of the zodiac. Of all the chapters of this short text, this is the most explicit about the placement of the letters, telling us their general position on the Tree of Life and their precise position in what will make up the actual cube part of the Cube of Space.

            Twelve Elemental
            Their foundation is the twelve diagonal boundaries.[24]

Table 3: Letters, Signs, Cards

There are many different ways that the Simples can be placed on their paths. For instance there is an emanatory method. Each sefira, with the exception of Malkhut, projects from it one or more netivot, paths. The emanatory method simply allows for the paths to extend naturally and chronologically, with each sefira emanating its path(s) before the next. In the cases of Keter, Chokmah and Binah, all of which have two, or three in the case of Keter, netivot leading from them, rather than one, paths are projected first to the higher then the lower sefira

Diagram 5: The Simples on the Tree of Life

It will be noticed that unlike in the form of the Tree of Life used by most modern qabalists, there are no diagonal paths connected to Malkhut. This is in keeping with kabbalistic doctrine that Shekhinah receives only through union with Yesod, the divine phallus, and nothing else.[25] The reader should also notice that this creates a fundamentally different looking Tree of Life from what is found in most modern books on the qabalistic tarot. Its attributions also differ greatly from versions of the Tree of Life given by the Gra and Rabbi Isaac Luria.

Associated with Aries and the Emperor,  has the 5th key of the tarot. Though this card’s attributions are in keeping with modern tarot decks, its placement is not. To H is given the power of speech,[26] the ultimate creative act in all of the Abrahamic religions. As the first of the Simples to come from Keter it is fitting that the first and most proactive zodiacal sign be associated with it. The Emperor is here the true King, descending from the Crown, empowering the divine Will of Chokmah with sacred and creative speech.

Vav: Corresponding to is the sign of Taurus and the Hierophant card. The Hierophant is a card of creation, something that gives shape. The numerical value of the letter is six, which alludes to the six directions in space and the six seals of the Divine name that surround it.[27] This is appropriate for a card that inspires Binah, which means intuition and understanding and is given the power of thought. [28] It is this thought that gives meaning and form to the speech of .

Zayin: has associated with it the Lovers card and Gemini. This netivah runs between Chokmah and Gevurah, which is perhaps fitting for a letters whose very image, is that of a sword[29] and whose name means “weapon." is given the power of motion according to the Sefer Yetzirah.[30] Coupled with Gemini, the twins, we have the suggestion of strife or the sword of God cleaving between two things to separate and restrain them as found in the beginning of the alchemical process, which is necessary to create the perfect gold.

Chet:  is the Chariot and Cancer. It has the power of sight as bridges the gap between Binah, the supernal Mother, and Chesed, the lower father. The chariot is the merkavah or throne upon which the Upper Shekhinah, Binah. We see upon the chariot the image of God, a vision of creation in its supernal form; the union of Mother and Father. It is this chariot that carries us from the lower sefirot to the Supernals. The feminine nature of Cancer supports both the image of the Shekhinah as chariot rider and the armored chariot itself.>

Tet: leads from Chokmah to Tiferet and is associated with Justice and Leo. Justice is a fitting card for this path as Tiferet is the sefira of justice and true justice can only come from the Supernals, which exist beyond the subjective realm. Justice occurs through the careful listening of the complaint and deciding with wisdom, and hearing is the power associated with this letter.[31] Leo is the honorable lion, which is also a symbol for Christ streaming down from the Father. Courage is necessary in the carrying out of justice, as it is often the case that we do what is easy, not what is right.

Yod: The card connected with  is the Hermit, its sign Virgo.  connects Binah, the Mother, and Tiferet, the son. The power of  is action,[32] which, along with its receiving of power from Binah, seems contradictory to the idea of the virgin and the reclusive hermit. However, the virginal hermit is one who, through action and compassion has rectified themselves, overcoming the evil inclination in order to lead others along the path of tikkun

Lamed: Typically Justice is attributed to Lamed, but here it is Fortitude, its sign is Libra. Lamed is the ox goad, and idea which connects this card to , the ox. Fortitude can be seen as the perseverance of moving under pressure, the goad moving the ox. It also speaks of a requisite spiritual fortitude necessary to move from the place of beauty beyond, to higher levels of spirituality that are not so easily gained, and never gained without trial and ordeal. This is represented by the woman taming a lion on the trump. Classically the soul was seen as being feminine in nature, thus it depicts the soul in its ordeal. Lamed is also associated with kingship,[33] as Tiferet is the king of the Kingdom, Malkhut. The ordeal must be met and passed for that kingship to remain, and for it to vivify the world it must be tempered with loving kindness.

Nun: The sign that corresponds to  is Scorpio, the card is Death, which connects Gevurah and Tiferet. The power of  is that of smell,[34] fitting for Death. The letter is also association with nofelim, fallen,[35] as all eventually fall to death, who is called the End of all Flesh.

Samekh: This is the Temperance card, associated with Sagittarius, a sign of spiritual seeking. Samekh is the support of the world, holding up the fallen.[36] This idea works well with Netzach, which is accorded the role of giving divine protection to those who need it.[37] The power associated with  is sleep, which is also fitting, as Netzach, along with Hod, are responsible for the spiritual gifts of vision and prophecy.[38]

Ayin: is the Devil and Capricorn, connecting Tiferet to Hod. Whereas Netzach is given authority to protect, Hod withdraws that protection,[39] leaving us vulnerable when we have given ourselves to the evil inclination, which is associated with Satan and the power of anger[40]. Further,  is associated with avon, iniquity.[41]

Tzaddi: The Star and Aquarius, connecting Netzach and Yesod.  is tzaddikim, the righteous of the world, which is associated with Yesod.[42] It has the power of taste,[43] which refers to the flowing water coming from the water bearer’s vessel; this is the flow of divine blessings from above, originally being poured out from the High Priestess.

Khof: Finally,  is the Moon, which is associated with Pisces and the power of laughter.[44] Khof is associated with deceit,[45] the most common trait of the new moon, which is given over to the power of the Evil Inclination and Satan. It was for this reason that the Azazel goat sacrifice was implemented, to distract the Evil Inclination so the blessings from above could descend unmolested.

Chapter 5:2 of the Sefer Yetzirah gives us explicit directions for the placement of the diagonal paths to create the actual Cube of Space proper.

            The east upper boundary
            The east northern boundary
            The east lower boundary
                        The south upper boundary
                        The south eastern boundary
                        The south lower boundary
            The west upper boundary
            The west southern boundary
            The west lower boundary
                        The north upper boundary
                        The north western boundary
                        The north lower boundary

The implication here is that the letters should be placed in the above sequence according to how they were listed in four sets of three in the earlier portion of the same section.

Diagram 6: The Simples forming the Cube of Space

The so-called “Cube of Space” isn’t exactly a cube, however. The boundaries described in chapter 5:2 do not form a six-sided shape but a four-sided one, the top and bottom are open, perhaps allowing for the influx of supernal energy into the quasi-cube. Or, as Netzach and Hod are associated with the gifts of vision and prophecy,[46] this may be the opening through which those gifts are brought into manifestation. That these two sides are open is not entirely relevant to the current discussion, though perhaps interesting given the general subject matter; i.e. divination.

The Cube of Space, as it pertains directly to the tarot trumps, is now complete. However, these first five chapters of the Sefer Yetzirah don’t deal solely with the letters of the alefbet; they also discuss the sefirot belimah, the sefirot of nothing. The role these sefirot play here has to do with the overall influence they have on different sections of the Cube, and how that influence relates to the trumps there and their interpretations. The next section of this paper will discuss the how all of this reflects upon those interpretations.

Part II: The Influences of the Cube of Space and External Sefirot on the Trumps
The Cube of Space, as defined by the twelve diagonals of the Simple letters, is surrounded by two sets of sefirot. The first are those outside of the whole system, designated by the Sefer Yetzirah as Beginning (Chokmah) and End (Binah), Good (Keter) and Evil (Malkhut).[47] In accordance with their relative positions on the Tree of Life, I have placed these four sefirot around the other depths. These sefirot cut the sphere created by the six directions in space into four quarters. Each of these quarters is influenced by their respective sefira:

Table 4: The Sefirot and the Quarters

The whole system can be seen in the following diagram:

Diagram 7: The External Sefirot and their Influence on the Cube of Space

When the above diagram is broken down, we see that each quarter has within it multiple letters. The cards of these letters fall under the influence of the sefira that dominates the quarter that it is in. The sole exception to this is , which lies in the precise center of the sphere and is either influenced by all four of the surrounding sefirot or none. Given the hypercube that will form around the center of the Cube, the former is more likely than the later. Also, some of the Simple letters, being on the borders dividing the quarters, will fall under the influence of more than one sefirot. The Mothers will likewise be associated with the powers of two sefirot as they pierce the central access of the Cube.

Beneath this is another of influences, determined by the six depths that correspond to the six directions. This will create a second set of influences. Though this becomes very difficult to represent graphically, the follow set of tables in Chart 1 demonstrates how the externals influence sefirot of the six directions. Chart 2 shows how they influence the letters and Chart 3 how the sefirot of the six direction influence the letters. Missing from these charts is the letter , which is affected by all the sefirot.

Chart 1: Externals/Directionals

Chart 2: Externals/Letters

Chart 3: Directionals/Letters

As can be seen each letters, and thus each chard, is governed by not only its astrological sign but multiple sefirot.

What does all of this mean for a kabbalistic tarot? In fact, many things. First, and perhaps most importantly, it allows for a richly complex cosmology. This in turn will affect the use of the cards both for scrying and for divination. In designing each trump the confluence of forces can, and should, be taken into considering, providing for multiple levels of symbolism for interpretation. Also, as the minor arcane and the court cards can be placed on this system, it is a complete system.

On a practical magical level, much as discussed in the previous article, this system also creates a map of energies present in any magical space that is created using this ideology. Thus, for instance, physical postures can be developed to tap into these energies, much like the Order of the Golden Dawn’s grade signs. It also suggests initiatory purposes wherein each progressive initiation moves the candidate through different portions of the hall corresponding to the various levels discussed here and elsewhere.

The tarot is a deeply rich cosmological system. When attached to a kabbalistic paradigm that richness is enhanced many times. Through the Sefer Yetzirah and kabbalistic texts such as the Bahir and Zohar a complex and complete system can be developed to enhance both one’s magical and spiritual journey. The map thus created consists not only of a five-dimensional hyper-cube but one with external and internal structures that can be utilized to explore both the micro- and macrocosm. Such a system must be carefully produced and, more importantly, explored. It will be through a complete investigation of the kabbalistic tarot that its true fruits will be harvested.


[1] With one exception for those who are used to a Golden Dawn style set of attributes. The version above pre-dates the Golden Dawn’s attributes (Christopher I. Lehrich, The Occult Mind: In Theory and Practice (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007), 135).

[2]Aryeh Kaplan, trans., Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation (York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 1997), 3:6. As with the previous articles, unless otherwise stated, all quotations from the Sefer Yetzirah are from the Kaplan translation.

[3] Respectively. Traditional kabbalah does not reverse the right and left sides as later hermetic qabalah does. Thus, in texts such as the Zohar, constant references to the “Left-hand side,” the side of the demonic derived from Gevurah, are made.

[4] Traditionally Yesod was associated with the place of the Covenant, the circumcised penis. Though generally considered masculine, Yesod is also the place of union between the Blessed Holy One (Tiferet) and Shekhinah (Malkhut) and a portion of its Divine Name, Shaddai, shares a root with the Hebrew words for “mountain” and “breast,” suggesting a hidden feminine side as well.

[5] With the exception of A, which is lays between Chesed and Gevurah on both the Cube and the Tree of Life. This, in and of itself, suggests something about the nature of A and the Fool card.

[6] This theme is woven throughout the chapter on Netzach and Hod in Gikatilla’s Sha’are Orah. Joseph Gikatilla, Gates of Light: Sha’are Orah, trans. Avi Weinstein (San Franscisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994), 115-146.

[7] This model traces the letters going sequentially down from Keter to Malkhut, These can then be followed back upwards forming the Golden Dawn’s “Serpent of Wisdom.”

[8] Aryeh Kaplan, trans., The Bahir: Illumination (York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 1979), 6.

[9] Daniel C. Matt, trans., The Zohar (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004-6), 1:3b.

[10] C.f. Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 44-6.

[11] Matt, Zohar, 1:3b.

[12] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 4:9

[13] Kaplan, 11.

[14] C.f. Geoffrey W. Dennis, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007), 34 and Matt, Zohar vol 1,  459.

[15] It is spelled YHVH but said Elohim. See, for example, Gikatilla, Gates, 283.

[16] Kaplan, I believe, mistakenly associates the three Mothers with Keter, Chokmah and Binah. The Zohar fully establishes Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet as being archetypal for mercy, judgment and balance; i.e. the scale described by the Sefer Yetzirah. See, for example Parsha Bo, 201.

[17] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 175.

[18] C.f. Matt, Zohar, 1:115a, 1:137a.

[19] 4:12.

[20] Kaplan, 30.

[21]< 4:16; Gikatilla, Gates 66-7.

[22] 90.

[23] C.f. Matt, Zohar, 1:136a,1:237a.

[24] 5:2.

[25] C.f. Gikatilla, Gates, 55.

[26] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 5:7.

[27] Kaplan, Bahir, 12. This refers to the numerical value of the letter.

[28] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 5:7.

[29] Matt, Zohar, 1:3a.

[30] 5:7

[31] Ibid., 5:8

[32] Ibid.

[33] Matt, Zohar, 1:3a.

[34] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 5:8.

[35] Matt, Zohar, 1:3a.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Gikatilla, Gates, 115-146.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 5:9.

[41] Matt, Zohar, 1:3a.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, 5:9.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Matt, Zohar, 1:2b.

[46] Gikatilla, Gates, 130-33.

[47] Kaplan, 1:5.