A Monday Follow-up
Some further notes on Tarot and Kabbalah . . .
I woke up this morning with two realizations.
First, that I should have provided more context around my comments on Tarot and Kabbalah. Second, that I need to offer a bit more detail regarding historical aspects of this topic.
New EP readers especially might want to take a look back at some of the Kabbalah/Tarot-related material posted here over the last couple of years.
Here’s the story that attracts traffic on Medium: “Kabbalah and Tarot: The Tree of Life.”
Here’s some topic-related commentary from my first book, History, Mystery, and Lore.
Here’s the starting point of this theme, which commenced with the convergence of Hannukah and Christmas.
There are several other posts that touch on or talk about Kabbalah and Tarot. To find them, just go to the EP home page and use the search bar.
A reader comment on yesterday’s post encouraged me to think about several points that I made too briefly. So here’s some elaboration.
I don’t doubt that individual scholars and practitioners found meaning in connections between Kabbalah and Tarot—possibly in earlier times than we know about. But I think those connections were “invented” rather than “discovered.” Not that their inventions don’t have value; only that they are not binding on Tarot, which has its own identity and history.
My remarks are mostly about the “Tree of Life” expression of Kabbalah, which has the appeal of something that can be visualized, and which seems to offer a doorway into the complexities of Jewish mysticism.
The Tree of Life connects with Tarot through the number 22. But the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet took centuries to evolve (fascinating story!), whereas the Tarot trumps just seemed to turn up in a set of 22. For me, the significance of this commonality has to do with the number itself, and why it might be expressed in these two very different forms
Worth noting: The 22 Hebrew letters were not formally associated with the Tree of Life paths until (as far as I can tell) the 17th century. The first known depiction of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, which appeared on the title page of Portae Lucis in 1516, has only 17 paths, not 22. (See the original image here, at the British Museum.)
The assignment of Hebrew letters to paths on the Tree seems to have been introduced by Athanasius Kircher in the 1650s. So—it’s fair to say that the shared 22-ness of Kabbalah and Tarot has a fairly shallow history.
To wrap up . . . I’ll just re-emphasize my personal conviction that 22-ness has its own significance (expressed in different forms), and that Tarot took shape in its own way, not as a function of, or companion to, some other system.
I also realized this morning that today marks our annual commemoration of an extraordinary life. Although MLK’s influence is not limited to matters of race, this is a perfect day to revisit an EP post about Courtney Alexander’s Dust || Onyx: A Melanated Tarot. Here’s a snapshot:
Also—be sure to visit Courtney Alexander’s website. In addition to her extraordinary Tarot deck, you’ll find a unique line of products!
More soon. C