CONCERNING THE TAROT TRUMPS AND THEIR
ATTRIBUTIONS TO THE HEBREW ALPHABET.
There have been many false attributions of the Tarot Trumps to the Hebrew Alphabet and only one true presentation as far as I am aware. Certainly the truth was not published prior to 1909 when the Key was given in Book 777.
This is no place to attempt anything approaching a full explanation of the TAROT, but since there is a very direct correspondence between it and “The Tree of Life ” it is important that the matter be at least briefly discussed.
The TARO or ROTA (meaning a Wheel) is sometimes called The Book of THOTH. It consists of 78 Leaves or Cards, divided into two main sections called the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 Symbolic Designs or Trumps, and these form a sort of Universal Alphabet of which many interpretations may be given.
The Minor Arcana consists of 56 Cards, 40 of which are very similar to the “small cards” of the ordinary playing pack, except that in place of Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds and Spades, we find the True Magical Weapons of the Mysteries, WANDS, CUPS, SWORDS and PENTACLES.
The remaining 16 are the Court Cards usually described as KINGS, QUEENS, KNIGHTS and PAGES, and there are 4 of each for the 4 Suits.
Properly speaking we should perhaps deal with the Minor Arcana first, but since this would necessitate a description of the Four “Worlds” of the Qabalistic Plan which I intend to treat of in the next Chapter, I shall take the 22 Trumps of the Major Arcana first and show how they correspond to the 22 Paths of the Tree and the Hebrew Alphabet.
The important thing to notice is the attribution of these cards to the Proper LETTERS of the Hebrew Alphabet, without which, all our work is awry. The cards as they are found in the pack are NUMBERED from I to XXI in Roman Numerals the remaining Trump being marked “0” or sometimes it is unnumbered.
For reasons ranging from a pledge of secrecy to gross ignorance, this Unnumbered Card has usually been placed anywhere but in the obvious position PRIOR TO NUMBER ONE, with the result that the Card Marked I, viz.: - “The Magician, ” has been attributed to Aleph and so on down the line, until the un-numbered card The Fool, was given a place. This slight change was enough to confuse the Student and prevent him from reaping the harvest of Symbolism from the Study of the Correspondences of the Tarot and Holy Qabalah, and, as we shall see later on when it comes to the question of “Climbing the Tree,” it may be considered as almost criminally misleading.
Let us start then with ZERO attributing THE FOOL to the letter Aleph and the path leading from Kether to Chokmah. Aleph is the letter of AIR, or the Divine Breath which arose prior to the WORD or LOGOS the Male aspect of the Creator in Chokmah.
This is THE PURE FOOL who cometh forth from the Source of LIGHT. He carries in one hand but resting on the opposite shoulder, a Staff, from which depends a wallet. He is on the verge of an Abyss, and is followed by a snapping Dog or Wolf, yet he travels “ THE WAY OF THE TAO ” oblivious to his surroundings. He is perhaps more properly symbolized in the Old Tarot Cards as an ANCIENT instead of a YOUNG MAN.
I have no intention of giving a description of the full symbolism of these Cards. The Reader should obtain a pack for himself and STUDY them carefully, MEDITATING on the Symbolism therein contained. He will find a Treasure House if he so do. The Modern Pack, drawn by Miss P. Coleman Smith under the direction of Mr. A. E. Waite, published by Rider and Sons, London, is the only one easy to obtain, and though the Symbolism varies somewhat from the older packs, since it is possibly the only set that can be got by the Student, I shall discuss the matter as if one were in his possession, pointing out some of the differences as we go along.
In order to avoid confusion I ask you once again to note that the TRUMPS or KEYS are numbered in ROMAN NUMERALS so that when we refer to these Trumps this will indicate the difference between them and the Numeration of the Sephiroth, Paths or values of the letters of the Alphabet.
I. The MAGICIAN = Beth = Mercury who is clearly the God of Magick. This card shows The Magician with the 4 Symbolic Elemental Weapons on his table. He makes the Sign Solve' et Coagula, viz.: he points upwards and downwards as if to indicate “That which above is like unto that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above for the performance of the Miracle of the ONE SUBSTANCE.” This card is given (Bk. 777) the Title of THE MAGUS OF POWER.
II. The HIGH PRIESTESS = Gimel = The Moon. This card shows the Priestess seated between Two Pillars representing Severity and Mercy which are Established in Strength by means of Equilibrium. This, however, is said not to be the correct Symbolism as the Pillars of The Tree of Life have their Heads in Chesed and Geburah while The Supernal Triad forms an Arch over them. Since The High Priestess is attributed to the Path from Kether to Tiphereth, she would partake of the Nature of the Supernals and should then be ABOVE rather than BETWEEN the Pillars. Notice however that The MOON is at her feet, which shows clearly her correspondence with Gimel, the Letter of the Moon, and also indicates how much mistaken we might have been had we attributed Aleph to the Magician, for then Beth would have been the High Priestess who is hardly symbolic of Mercury. Again she would then be on the path from Kether to Binah and the Pillar Symbolism would not be explained nor the Luna Crescent. Notice she has the Scroll of the Law, ThORA, on her lap, and these letters signify TARO and ROTA. She is said to represent The Holy Guardian Angel and is given the title of PRIESTESS OF THE SILVER STAR.
III. The EMPRESS = Daleth = Venus is attributed to the reciprocal Path from Chokmah to Binah. The Card shows the symbol of Venus on her shield, another proof of the correctness of the attributions. She is Crowned with Twelve Stars, thus combined with the High Priestess, whose Path is crossed by this one, (note the “cross” on breast of H. P.) we have a Symbol of Our Lady Babalon, Crowned with the Stars and with the Moon at Her feet. The title of this card is THE DAUGHTER OF THE MIGHTY ONES.
IV. The EMPEROR = Heh = Aries. Notice the Ram's Heads on his throne. He is called THE SUN OF THE MORNING-CHIEF AMONG THE MIGHTY ONES.
V. THE HIEROPHANT = Vau = Taurus, The Bull, Osiris the Initiator into the Mysteries in the Old Aeon. Title: - The MAGUS OF THE ETERNAL.
VI. THE LOVERS = Zain = Gemini. The Symbolism of the older packs is better in this instance as they show a Man between Two Women, one of which represents Virtue and the other Vice, or better a Virgin and a Harlot. Above is seen Cupid with his bow and arrow. The card signifies the necessity of overcoming prejudice regarding the so-called opposites. The title is THE CHILDREN OF THE VOICE; THE ORACLES OF THE MIGHTY GODS.
VII. THE CHARIOT = Cheth = Cancer. The Symbolism of this card is best studied in the Design given by Eliphas Levi in Le Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. It represents the Harnessing of the pairs of Opposites, or Black and White Sphinxes and, of course, a great deal more. Title: - THE CHILD OF THE POWERS OF THE WATERS; THE LORD OF THE TRIUMPH OF LIGHT.
VIII. STRENGTH = Teth = Leo. This card is sometimes called “Fortitude.” Notice the Lion and Serpent Symbolism (Leo = The Lion, Teth = The Serpent). A Woman is seen opening the Jaws of Lion, the Old pack shows her closing them. Title: THE DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMING SWORD.
IX THE HERMIT = Yod = Virgo. An Ancient is seen carrying a Lamp and Staff, the old pack shows lamp concealed by his cloak to represent Secrecy. He is said to be “The Fool” of the Path of Aleph bringing Light to the College of Adepts. He is styled THE MAGUS OF THE VOICE OF POWER.
X. THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE = Kaph = Jupiter. A very important Symbol the title of which is THE LORD OF THE FORCES OF LIFE. This will be dealt with more fully in another chapter. In fact, I give the interpretation of the cards very briefly, since the symbolism of the Paths is more important when considered from the BOTTOM TO THE TOP OF THE TREE., as that of the Sephiroth is from the TOP TO THE BOTTOM, for the “Flaming Sword” or “Lightning Flash” descended, but the Paths were formed by the ASCENT OF THE SERPENT OF WISDOM. The Wheel, in a way, indicates this eternal ascent and descent.
XI. JUSTICE = Lamed = Libra. (Note. In the old packs this card is numbered VIII and STRENGTH XI. This has been corrected in Rider's Pack.) The Card shows a figure with Sword and Balances which clearly indicates Libra. Title - DAUGHTER OF THE LORDS OF TRUTH, the RULER OF THE BALANCES.
XII. The HANGED MAN = Mem = Water. Title: - THE SPIRIT OF THE MIGHTY WATERS. Note: This card should show - according to some authorities - a man hanging from a gallows shaped like the letter Daleth. His legs, arms and head symbolizing a Cross above an inverted triangle. He is said to be the Adept suspended over THE ABYSS thus bringing down the LIGHT as the Redeemer.
XIII. DEATH = Nun = Scorpio. Old card shows skeleton with Scythe mowing down Heads which grow again as fast as they are cut down. Viz.: Death is the Gate of Life and Love. Title - THE CHILD OF THE GREAT TRANSFORMERS, THE LORD OF THE GATES OF DEATH.
XIV. TEMPERANCE = Samech = Sagittarius. Design should show, it is said, symbolism of the Waters of Chesed descending upon the Fires of Netzach, and the Fire of Geburah uniting with the Water of Hod. Title:– THE DAUGHTER OF TEE RECONCILERS, THE BRINGER FORTH OF LIFE.
XV. THE DEVIL = Ayin = Capricorn. Again one should refer to Eliphas Levi's design for the true Symbolism of this Card which, as a rule is much misunderstood. The Pentagram on Forehead should not be “reversed” as in Rider's Pack and there should be a Flaming Torch between his horns etc. Title:- THE LORD OF THE GATES OF MATTER, THE CHILD OF THE FORCES OF TIME.
XVI. THE BLASTED TOWER = Peh = Mars. It is sometimes called The Destruction of the House of God, and it conceals symbolism of Initiation. Title:- THE LORD OF THE HOSTS OF THE MIGHTY.
XVII. THE STAR = Tzaddi = Aquarius. The Figure in this Card suggests the Swastika. Symbolism should be carefully studied. Title- THE DAUGHTER OF THE FIRMAMENT, THE DWELLER BETWEEN THE WATERS. I had written thus far (May 31st, 1922 E. V.) when I was rewarded with the opening up of SECRETS so wonderful that they have changed my whole conception of the Plan of the Qabalah, and have indeed proved not alone a LIGHTNING FLASH to destroy THE HOUSE OF GOD but a SERPENT of WISDOM to reconstruct it, and yet again a STAR which explains all SYMBOLISM. This matter being of such TRANSCENDENT IMPORTANCE will be dealt with in the form of Appendixes to this Volume which will be obtainable under certain special conditions. Meanwhile the main plan of this book will be followed as originally intended, since it is necessary that the Student should have a clear and comprehensive grasp of the old system before he could appreciate the New.
XVIII. THE MOON = Qoph = Pisces. This card is very interesting and is understood to represent the ILLUSION of the MOON consciousness with its constant change. Two Towers are shown with a narrow winding path between. Above is a strange Moon, below are two dogs or jackals barking at it and below that again a Pool from which issues a Crab or Crayfish symbolical of Kephra the Rising Sun. Title: THE RULER OF FLUX AND REFLUX, THE CHILD OF THE SONS OF THE MIGHTY.
XIX. THE SUN = Resh = The Sun. Here we have a truly magnificent Symbol though it is better expressed in the old packs where in front of a wall TWO CHILDREN Embrace beneath the Rays of the SUN. Rider's Pack shows THE CHILD on THE WHITE HORSE, the Crowned and Conquering Child Prophesied in Revelations and to be manifested in this New Aeon.
XX. THE LAST JUDGMENT = Shin = Fire. Here we have the “ 'Stele' of the Old Aeon” Gabriel Blowing His Trumpet and the Dead rising from their tombs. Those who know of the Fire of the Holy Spirit have nothing to fear from this event. The Gross must pass through the Fire however, as they need the refining which will make it possible for them to pass on to the Second Order where they will next be tried in INTELLECT as shown in Liber Legis. Shin it must be remembered is both FIRE and SPIRIT. The card suggests Regeneration. “This is my body which I destroy in order that it may be renewed.”
XXI. THE UNIVERSE = Tau = Saturn is called THE GREAT ONE OF THE NIGHT OF TIME. This last trump of the pack is a Symbol of the Universe. It contains symbolism of the Ellipse, the Squaring of the Circle, etc. It represents, in a, measure, the Daughter (Malkuth) who is to be RAISED to the THRONE of the MOTHER. One interpretation reads “And in the heart of the Sphinx danced the Lord Adonai, in His garlands of roses and pearls making glad the concourse of things; yea, making glad the concourse of things.”
So be it My Lord ADONAI.
We have now dealt very briefly with the Major Arcana of the Tarot, but please understand this is quite useless until the Student applies himself carefully to the Study of the Cards themselves, makes himself quite familiar with the designs and places them on the “Tree of Life” in the order indicated by the letters and the paths as heretofore described. Then only will he begin to realize the great importance of these symbols as a means of SELF-INITIATION, and as part of the great system of Correspondences which he is building up into that “FILING CABINET” which in the end will be found to be “THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD.”