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Kabbalah:

What’s It Got To Do With Witchcraft?

by Carridwen Brennan, HPs

 

That was certainly a question I asked myself in the early days of my training in the Craft. I was trained in a fairly traditional Gardnerian coven (though not really “Hard Gard”). While Kabbalah was not a major part of the training or practice, there were elements of it present. Still, since I could mostly ignore it, I did. 

I had left behind and, frankly was still angry at, Judeo-Christian religions (currently often called “Abrahamic” and including Islam). Why did I need a Jewish mystical system? And so I progressed joyfully in my Pagan spiritual evolution. 

Several years after attaining the 3rd Degree, working with my own coven and teaching classes in the public arena, I was sent a book to review for a (since defunct) Pagan publication. The book was titled The Goddess and the Tree, (now “The Witch’s Qabbala”) written by Ellen Cannon Reed.  

A book review is only a book review, not a spiritual commitment, so I plunged in. Well, the Lightning Flash illumined the corners of my prejudice; followed on closely by the urge to investigate the Tree of Life, the World Tree, the Axis Mundi and the Shamanic Tree in multiple cultures, ancient and modern. 

Kabbalah (Cabala, Qabalah and other spellings) is available in the 21st Century in three basic forms: Jewish, Christian and Neo-pagan (or “Other”); although the Jewish form apparently now encompasses a subset that can be called ”Pop” and caters to the “glitterati”, like Madonna. 

The textual trail of evidence for QBL can be traced back with confidence only to about the 13th Century CE in Spain and the Sephardic branch of the Jewish Diaspora. But there are oral traditions tracing its roots to at least the Babylonian Captivity. 

Tree Of Life from "The Key To The True Kabbalah" - Franz BardonThe Tree of Life/World Tree exists in some form in virtually every human culture. Did the Hebrew Mystics acquire the Tree from Magi Mystics? Or did the two Trees cross-fertilize? It’s irrelevant. The ongoing mystical Jewish tradition of the QBL has helped bring a living study of the Tree of Life (Otz Chaim in Hebrew) into the modern era. Christian mystics and Ceremonialists have picked it up and modified it for their own use. So have Neo-pagans. 

Like a deciduous tree in fall or winter, The Tree of Life resembles a coat rack; bare branches ready to receive the “garments” one chooses to hang upon it, in an orderly fashion. It has also been seen as a Cosmic Filing Cabinet, with the spheres being individual “drawers”. Certainly the correspondences for the sephiroth are universal and exhaustive. 

As a spiritual tool, the Tree of Life can be utilized in many ways. But the way I’ve found most useful is as a Meditation or inner reflection tool. The “fruit” on the Tree are called sephiroth (sapphires, gems or just spheres). 

These can be equated with archetypal concepts and imageries common to human experience and cultures down through time and around the globe. A straight line called a “path” can unite any two spheres and the “journey” from the experience/archetype of one sphere to another is called a “path working”. 

Path Working has become the foundation of Western Meditation (as contrasted with Eastern or No Mind Meditation). The technique has even oozed over into the “mainstream” as Guided Meditation and Creative Visualization. 

The Sephirothic System "The Key To The True Kabbalah" - Franz BardonThe Tree of Life is a living system, in that each culture and spiritual path using it modifies it and keeps it relevant to the time and people who are currently studying it. That very quality is what keeps Qabalah useful and meaningful. Anything that has been “carved in stone” was relevant to a specific people in a specific locale at a specific period in linear time. The moment it became carved in stone, it “died” and became meaningful only as history. 

Modern students of the Tree look at its history and usages through time as foundational information, not a mental straitjacket that prevents experimentation. The oldest books on QBL are certainly useful and the modern ones can give new insights, but ultimately each student should connect with the Tree in his/her own way. It’s your tree, growing in your garden and bearing fruit for your nourishment; if not, it’s useless to you. 

The Sepirah I’ve had the deepest relationship with over time is Binah, one of the Supernal Triad. Related to, among many other things, Understanding, the Crone, and the planet Saturn, Binah is one of the names of the Goddess cited in the traditional Charge of the Goddess and I resonate with Her vibration. 

But the sephirah that is not a sephirah and apparently was/is deeply frightening to traditional Kabbalists, Da’ath or Knowledge, also speaks to me. (Possibly because I’m a Gemini!) Coincidentally, or not, Da’ath can be associated with the planet that is not a planet, Pluto; as in “Knowledge is Power”.  

Each of the sephiroth has multitudes of correspondences with deities, plants, animals, angelic beings, body parts, thought processes and archetypes ad infinitum. 

The list is virtually endless and constantly being revised/expanded. The imageries of the Tree have correlations to most of the subjects common to the Western Mystery Traditions (of which Witchcraft is one), including Tarot and Alchemy. 

The intricacy, and paradoxical simplicity, of the tree of life glyph cannot be adequately addressed in a few paragraphs. There are numerous books, many of them veritable tomes, on Kabbalah. 

Don’t just read one or two books, even by different authors, and call it “good”. Read all you can and discuss the Tree with like-minded others, but come to your own conclusions. We come to Wisdom (Chokmah) by viewing Knowledge (Da’ath) through the lens of Understanding (Binah). 

The Tree of Life is about life and experience and Self and choices and the tools for shaping all of the preceding. Should you choose to taste the fruits of the Tree of Life, l’chaim!
 

 

I am available at Witches Brew in Denver for individual counsel as well as classes. I can also be reached through the CyberWitchcraft Contact Page and WitchVox. My website is The Alexandria Academy of Universal Metaphysics (AAUM).


 

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