Mage the Ascension is one of the World of Darkness TTRPGs which helped shaped the paradigm of 25-35 year old me well beyond roleplaying. There was a great deal about it that I didn’t enjoy about MtA when sitting around a table, dicing with friends or typing in-character posts inside a roleplaying chat room. However, when it came to applying its metaphors and arcane theorycraft to how magick actually worked? Some of it was pretty good, I thought at the time. I still do.
One of the most useful things that MtA teaches about the efficacy of magick – aka the success in creating your intended effect through the application of True Will upon a situation via a personalized rite or ritual- is your success in overcoming Consensus.
MtA is just a game about mage politics and hubris in a reality that can be much more definitively shaped by True Will than our actual one. However, it uses Consensus as a gatekeeper over what the PCs and NPCs can successfully accomplish.
Mages know that all humans shape the world with their wills, but Sleepers do so unconsciously – reality is what the majority of people believe it to be. For any individual willworker to work magic, he must force his belief on the world, fighting the billions of minds whose beliefs shape the Consensus. – White Wolf Wiki
There is a lot of nuance to The Consensus and there’s a war over it going on in the United States these days. A war that looks like it is only going to become more vicious and brutal from here. It wouldn’t be wrong, in fact, to use the MtA factions as a metaphor for #BLM and QAnon as examples. Just about every ideological truth of one is repudiated by the other and both are fighting hard to seize control of the Consensus. Alt-Left and Alt-Right are convinced that the leaders of the opposing side are fascists who will destroy everything sacred and precious. Everyone outside of their own paradigm is either crazy or simply calculatingly exploitive.
I’m pretty biased myself towards #BLM and a world where a progressive, humanitarian, environmentally-sustaining ideology becomes the Consensus. I find it daunting as a psychoteric magician to apply rituals and workings towards this cause. I also feel a Calling from something beyond my own singular consciousness to do so. However, I think the most practical and successful way to create magickal change is to focus on the macrocosm vs. the microcosm. When your own Self is what you are throwing into the alchemical crucible and putting through all the stages of tempering into a Magnum Opus, you have a whole more control over the environment. The only “believers” you have to get into agreed ideology are the dwellers in your own psyche.
However, that is a whole lot harder than it sounds.
One of my favorite new spelunkers of the psyche is Anne over at ThirdEve. who wrote a very good article on Jung’s Model of the Psyche a few years ago. One of the big takeaways from it is:
“The Self can only be seen through images we call archetypes such as hero, king, queen, wise old man, orphan, savior, divine couple, etc. in dreams, myths, fairytales, and the like. When a person is at an impasse developmentally, it is through trying to break through to the hidden life of the unconscious that she may find the way to her true Self.”
One of my personal truths is that within the self we don’t have a singular archetype to draw on, but at least sixteen of them (The MBTI archetypes). Then there are our individualized inner demons, qlippothic or shadow archetypes that serve the Adversary Within. This would create 32 archetypal voices in my personal paradigm for the psyche: gasp just like there are 32 paths of Wisdom in QBL philosophy!
If you view your inner Self as a chorus of competing spin doctors, each wanting to establish dominance over what you feel and how you behave? You can appreciate why, even magicians and mystics, have so much challenge in making meaningful, sustainable self-change. One of the benefits of being a life-long “gamer”, however, is that attacking challenges and seeking creative solutions is sure a lot of fun.
Laurel gives some brief historical information about Éliphas Lévi and his most famous text Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie best known in English as Doctrine & Ritual of High Magic or Transcendental Magic. This sets the stage for going through this text chapter by chapter with a focus on a related Major Arcana card.
This week, Laurel talks about the binary/elemental methodology she uses, inspired by Linda Gail Walters, to associate the Court Cards with the MBTI personalities. She also links each Court Card with a conventional MBTI archetype name and provides some associative traits.
Jung’s theory of psychological or personality types attempts to categorize people in terms of their primary mode of psychological functioning. I like the definition of psychological functioning being a person’s ability to make and achieve goals and it covers individual mental/emotional wellness, social skills, beliefs and behavior. There are sixteen personality types created by the MBTI questionnaire which I think can be very aptly applied to the sixteen court cards. The ~specific conventional names~ for these 16 personality archetypes don’t necessarily suit my tastes, especially for every deck I work with. But taking the general traits applied to each personality archetype and applying them to the Court Cards with whatever relateable archetype name best suits seems to be an incredibly powerful psychoteric tool.
Several different tarot authors including Mary K. Greer and Janet Riley have created systems that associate the 16 MBTI Personality types with the 16 Court cards. Each authors system does it a little differently. The system I use for matching was created by Linda Gail Walters who tragically died before her book Realms of Personality: The Jungian Personalities of the Tarot Courts was complete enough to be published. I work off a copy of an article she had published on her website circa 2012. Her website is down but it and this article are still available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. I have merely taken Linda’s work and adopted it into my own, finding her associations more compatible with how I do them than the work of others such as Mary K. Greer and Janet Riley who have published their own systems for matching the Court Cards and the MBTI Personality Archetypes.
I get the naming conventions for the MBTI Personality Archetypes used below from 16Personalities.com with one exception; I call ISTJ by The Analyst, not The Logistician.
I have great antipathy for The Kabbalah Centre and its commercial exploitation of Jewish mysticism. I have great antipathy for the New Age/Wellness Industry as a whole. But the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, Philip S. Berg, was a Jewish scholar and rabbi albeit now a very controversial one. At least one of his books, Kabbalah For The Layman Volume I used to be in my collection and I’m sure I read others. I would say that the Kabbalah Centre, while not culturally appropriative (since the Bergs are Jewish), it isn’t very respectful towards conventional Jewish mysticism.
Jack Chanek (@jack_of_wands) tweeted the other day that he is taking a lot of community backlash over the title and premise of his debut book with the working title of Qabalah For Wiccans. I immediately watched in YouTube video on Qabalah, Wicca, and Appropriation. My empathy for him immediately switched on. I’m not going to cover the same ground as he does but I do not put his book in the same category as merchandise from the Kabbalah Centre. Not at all. Watch that 16 minute video and then read my thoughts about the topics it raises below. In no way do I view Jack’s future book as belonging in the same category as the Kabbalah Centre. It is something that definitely should be published and read by those interested in Qabalah, Wicca, or both.
Because of the easy confusion in topics, I specifically use Kabbalah to mean the closed Jewish mystical tradition, Cabala to mean the pre-Lévi closed Christian mystical tradition, and Qabalah to mean what started in the Lévi/Golden Dawn era and evolved from there into the open esoteric philosophical system it is now. I’m going to toss in a lot of links so anyone unfamiliar with certain names can get some quick reference.
Should non-Jewish occultists use the Hebrew alphabet in their occultism?
I have put a lot of thought into this since returning from my last hiatus. I recently, synchronistically, made the decision that in my personal magickal practice I would no longer use Hebrew alphabetic script (any of them) while drawing glyphs, sigils, or anything ceremonial and evocative. If I make my own tarot deck, Hebrew letters won’t be included there. I don’t chant in Hebrew and I refrain from uttering the Tetragrammaton by its actual Hebrew pronunciation out of respect to the belief it is too sacred to be uttered except under very specific religious situations.
Can I continue to be a Qabalist with these changes where respectfully retreat from Hebrew as a tool from my non-Judaic magickal/spiritual practices? Absolutely and easily. Qabalism is an underlying philosophy and cosmological/psychological paradigm, it isn’t the practice of ceremonial magick itself. You don’t have to be a ceremonial magician to be a Qabalist; you don’t have to have a Qabalistic worldview to be a ceremonial magician.
Should Gentiles Read Books of Jewish Mysticism?
I don’t consider it disrespectful to simply read and contemplate published works. My feeling is that once a sacred text has been published for public consumption, the reading of it doesn’t interlope on a closed practice. I think all non-hate-based sacred texts should be respected and appreciated for what they provide people of faith, even when it’s not your faith. Reading books written by mystics won’t by themselves provide you with your own mystical experience, however. At best, they might give you some insight into how to dedicate your life to having one. Reading comes from a place of Air/Swords/Intellect; Faith comes from a place of Fire/Wands/Belief.
What I can tell you from my long personal experience in reading sacred texts, including Kabbalistic ones? Reading the Zohar, the Bahir, the Sefer Yetzirah, or any text of Jewish mysticism without coming at it from decades of cultural and academic study within Judaism isn’t going to give you the right context to appreciate their nuances. Also? They’re really hard to read and understand. Books of Christian mysticism like those of John Scotus Eriugena and Hildegard of Bingen are just as hard. So is Aggripa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. To read texts these old and truly appreciate them, you need to know a lot of things about the authors and their life and times.
Do you need to read these sorts of texts to learn Qabalism or Qabalistic tarot? No. Absolutely not. As a beginner, you will want the kind of book that Jack has written. I’m out of the loop of what is currently in print and an ideal place to start.
Is Qabalah An Example Of Cultural Appropriation?
So, after doing a lot of research on what this term means to different people who are using it, I have decided to personally use the definition for cultural appropriation covered at VeryWellMind. I have a lot of respect for VeryWellMind as a website.
Therefore, in my current lexicon? “Cultural appropriation refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn’t respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression.”
Therefore no, the philosophy of Qabalism in Western Occultism is not cultural appropriation. It is really important as a modern person to realize that while Qabalism is about 150 years if we date it beginning as a philosophy with Éliphas Lévi and the publication of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1864 and 1856, what he based his system off of wasn’t directly the works of, for example, Saadia Gaon, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman and Isaac Luria. In my opinion, what Levi began to publish and bring into public view was Christian Cabala. He didn’t create Christian cabala, he just created his own magickal system and philosophy that introduced tarot as a definitive magickal tool. Then he published his work and it went viral. Tarot was transformed into something new as part of that.
Cabala originated hundreds of years before during the Renaissance. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola is attributed with being the founder of Christian Cabalistic philosophy. Mirandola appears to have respected the Kabbalists whose work he studied- among the copious other things he studied-, gave credit to his sources and did not reinforce Jewish stereotypes or encourage/contribute to their oppression to the best of my knowledge.
I am very sure that a better historian than myself can articulate the multiple ways that the Jewish and Islamic peoples of Europe were victims of systemic racism in the late 1400s and 1500s by the White Christians of Europe. But my personal research spanning from the life of Mirandola to Antoine Court de Gébelin (1725-1784) suggests that cabalists were typically more inclusive, open-minded, and devoted to hate-free spiritualism than less esoteric Christians in the same era.
What About The Tree of Life glyph?
So. The Tree of Life as a concept was borrowed by early Judaism from Assyrian mythology; a lot of things were. Judaic law, philosophy, tradition, ritual, myth, and literature evolved and included a lot of cultural assimilation and also a lot of diversity of religious practices between sects. Very few people of the Jewish faith traditions were ever exposed to esoteric Judaism until recently. Kabbalah is actually only one flavor of Jewish mysticism but it is the best recognized by name just as the Tree of Life is so widely presented now its almost mainstream.
Esoteric Judaism played around with all kinds of Tree of Life diagrams and how to apply the concepts of the Sefer Yetrizah and other Kabbalistic writings to them. Different Kabbalists presented it all in different formats. They played with it as a conceptual framework.
The specific Tree of Life glyph that is now the convention for all forms of QBL? That is not Kabbalistic in origin. It is Cabalistic in origin. It is now generally attributed to German-born Catholic humanist Johann Reuchlin for the Latin translation of the Sha’are Orah (The Gates of Light) in 1516 and then borrowed and expanded upon much later by the German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher as an engraving in Oedipus Aegyptiacus in 1652.
So you are not stealing directly from Kabbalah to use it. If using Hebrew letters for pathworking feels appropriative? Don’t use them. Substitute something like the Major Arcana or the astrological planets, signs, and modalities instead and don’t do it in a way that links to the Hebrew alphabet at all.
How Could Qabalah Be Useful To Wiccans?
Qabalah is a philosophical framework that can be integrated into any spiritual or magickal practice. The modern authors of the Qabalah (most of the books on that table are from modern Qabalistic authors) have made that extremely clear. It is inclusive, it has no inherent racism, bigotry, sexism (even if there were/are plenty of racist, bigoted, sexist occultists). There are plenty of authors and books on the Qabalah that I disagree with; I’ve shaped my own Qabalistic paradigm but I had to spend a lot of time in contemplation about other people’s personal truths in order to develop my own.
I self-initiated into Wicca at age 14 (back in 1983, three years before Wicca was recognized as a religion in the United States) and was a voracious reader of Wicca, historical witchcraft, and folklore from 1983 to 1990. Trying to read tarot books during those years by folks like A.E Waite and Aleister Crowley failed miserably because I didn’t have the context for what they were talking about. That came in 1990-2000, post-Wicca.
Wicca taught me to love myself, humanity, the living planet and deities plural. It taught me how to be a magickal girl and then a magickal woman, unashamed of her sexuality and beliefs in spirits great and small. It didn’t provide me the appreciation for the psychology of spirituality and magic that I picked up from the places that Golden Dawn-style occultism took me next. It didn’t introduce me to the metaphors of alchemy, the power of the laws written into the Kybalion or the powerful message of tikkun olam as a metaphorical mandate for all human beings to take personal responsibility for making the world better by being better.
If you like what Isaac Bonewits had to say in Real Magic? You will like Qabalah as a philosophical system. And if you haven’t ever read Real Magic? Go do that. Isaac Bonewits was not only brilliant but he had the same eclectic background like mine in all flavors of occultism and neo-paganism and brought the wisdom of the many paths into one in a very understandable way.
So in closing, I hope this was a helpful and interesting read. I truly think adopting at least some Qabalistic principles into a Wicca-based practice could bring a lot of insight and some new tools for self-empowerment and emotional resilience. I would say the same about Qabalah and any faith tradition.
This episode takes the classic four elements and associates them with the Tetragrammaton and the Qabalistic four worlds. A helpful diagram of a simple Kircher Tree of Life Glyph depicting the Four Worlds as described in this episode has been added to the Tarot Esoterica webpage.
Carl Jung introduced the concept of The Shadow as an element of human psyche. He taught that The Shadow consists of those parts of ourselves we subconsciously choose to repress or hide. We begin this process of stashing them under our metaphorical bed in childhood but they aren’t gone, only condemned to an internal netherworld where they shapeshift and become what I call our inner demons. Adversarial to our wellness, our inner demons- when left unacknowledged and untempered- surreptitiously turn us into own worst enemy. I will be writing a lot more about inner demons and how to successfully temper them throughout 2021.
Shadow Work is a collection of psychoteric techniques to temper The Shadow into a form where all those inner demons are discovered and slowly infused into a more sustainable, authentic, realistic self-perception and personality.
One of the popular Shadow Work techniques is using self-analyzing writing prompts to write in a daily journal. One of the people that I enjoy following on Twitter, Ashley N. Jackson@iamshwee published her own Shadow Work 31 Day Journal last month. I told her that I would use it myself (I’m now at Day 120 of keeping an active Tarot Journal- my longest success at that) for all 31 days, starting on Sunday the 17th. My weeks start on Sundays, end on Saturdays for completely personalized reasons 🙂
The 31 Days of Shadow Work Calendar
While the work itself is private, I’m going to list the Thoth tarot cards I drew each day in association with each of those prompts 🙂
Day One: Am I in love with illusions and fantasies or truths & realities?The High Priestess (Upright)
Day Two: Have I forgiven myself for my flaws, failures, and limitations?The Tower
Day Three: Do I live mostly in the past, present or future?Page of Swords (Reversed)
Day Four: Am I afraid of being alone? If so, what am I avoiding in myself? 8 of Swords Interference
Day Five: Do I easily allow myself to be happy or does it take a lot to make me happy? The Magus
Day Six: When I make a mistake, do I accept it or do I heavily judge and criticize myself?Knight of Wands
Day Seven: Do I tend to overload myself with other people’s burdens/pain?Queen of Swords
Thoughts So Far
Incorporating a daily Shadow Work prompt into my morning journaling fit in smoothly. I liked the way it provided a topic for me to write about. It was a perfect format for me to incorporate my personal card for the day into (which is separate from the one I do on Twitter for the Twitch streamer community).
I found the choice of topics (Love, Self-Love, Mindful, Solitude, Happiness, etc.,) to be interesting. If/when I make a calendar of my own, I would probably create just seven that would be in association with the classic planets + days of the week. This is just the occultist geek in me; there’s nothing wrong with the broader range of them that Ashley picked.
The questions themselves were well-scripted to be useful for a wide audience. I think they’d be perfect for someone who was just getting their first taste in doing shadow work journaling. I found myself on certain days using them as a launch pad for a deeper, harder question. For example, I absolutely let myself be happy and it doesn’t take a lot to put me there- and if that was true in 2020 despite the pandemic and everything else? Then I expect 2021 to be even more so (it is so far). But I was able to take that question and write about my gratitude to the life circumstances and special people that have brought above average happiness into my life over the last 2-3 years.
So I can say that so far? This 31 Day Shadow Work Calendar has been a rewarding experience. Best of all, it gave me the opportunity to delve a little into something psychoteric and blissfully apolitical for this blog, which I’m thrilled about. The days since the Inauguration have been so wonderfully normalizing. I want this trend to continue.
Building on Episode Four, this episode integrates Chinese yinyang, Western alchemy, and astrology to describe Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. Laurel explains how all of this shapes what she associates with the four Minor Arcana suits.
It has been a sad day for me. I got the news that Storm Constantine died yesterday after suffering from a long illness. She was someone I liked very much and who very much Found Herself at a -much- younger age than I did. Even if I was ambivalent about the Wraethu books in general, I loved how they explored sexuality and gender. I thought of Storm as part of my own generation (she’s a bit older than I realized) and certainly part of my “tribe”.
This is why I’m really glad that today’s random article from Medium was the 3 days old “The Neuroscience of Hate” by Dana G. Smith. It brushes on why I would consider someone I’d fallen out of touch with and even painfully forgotten about over the chaos of what was 2018-2020+ for me still part of my tribe.
Storm Constantine published her first novel when I was 18; by the time Wraethu was gathering a cult following among the goth & LGBT communities (there were fewer letters in our queer alphabet soup back then), I was deeply involved in the Puget Sound goth & LGBT communities. In my own fictional m/m writing, one of my protagonists had the first name Storm. The other had the surname Constantine. This was merely synchronicity but it made my brain focus sharper on any conversation or article or bookstand that had her name on it. My brain claimed those names and it claimed her and Wraethu was not exactly ~right~ for me, but I sure as hell was going to defend it against people detracting on her explorations into alternative sexualities and defend Storm and all she represented as an author from conservative sensibilities.
The same way Joe Biden was someone I didn’t identify as part of “mine” during his time as Vice President but after everything he’s endured from the ex-Potus and the Alt-Right, after he’s shown himself to be “presidential” in how my mind translates that word, in everything from his relationship with Dr. Jill Biden and his sons (living and dead) to his struggles with a stutter to his rescue dog Major to him being a biker, not a golfer… I have come to more than respecting my new-POTUS. I ~love~ him. Because he makes me think of West Wing the tv show. What I see when I look and hear him (which is perception-based and subjective) is a career politician with some checkered events in his past that I. as his supporter can brush off as “he’s grown up since then. He’s evolved.”
And I hope that is true. I will certainly be judging him by his actions and maybe that is the difference between someone with my character traits and someone in MAGA/QAnon. I might be ignorant of what someone has actually done or not done and I might believe things about their actions that aren’t true. But when I see any human being speak in the way that I’ve witnessed people like Donald Trump, Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Sen Josh Hawley, I don’t care what political party they belong to.
Being an actual Democratic Socialist and happy to claim the title of Antifa since I’m Anti-Fascism, I get annoyed at Alt-Right mislabeling anyone in the Democratic party as those things. I also get annoyed at people lumping everyone loyal to the GOP as MAGA/QAnon. Most people in my country are not DemSoc/Antifa — or MAGA/QAnon. They’re in the long, wide spectrum between.
My side has not attempted to kidnap and do Very Bad Things to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last October or killed two police officers and threatened the lives of countless people in the Capitol one week ago. My side believes that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity. The other side believes that black people being treated as people as important as them is incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity. The other side… embraces the kind of hate-based totalitarian ideology that IS terribly, shockingly, like what I understand of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
Reading Smith’s article was hard. It didn’t make me more angry at MAGA/QAnon than I already am. The only people who make me angrier at MAGA/QAnon on any given day than I am when I start reading the news or scrolling Twitter is a member of that ideology opening their mouth and attempting to communicate. I’m sure that what I have to say has the same effect on them.
But if hate can and should be defined as “Hate is a mixing of both intense dislike with moral contempt and disgust…” do I hate them?
… I don’t want to. Because I brand myself as anti-Hate. I have an extreme dislike for their behavior, their attitude, and what I hear them say. And I do get completely disgusted by fervently self-proclaimed Christians who have absolutely no adherence to the social conventions that Jesus in those four gospels espoused in just about everything he had to say.. Those conventions, you see, were about giving away your excess stuff and putting taking care of the less fortunate as a priority, healing the sick, protecting marginalized people from angry mobs, lobbying against corruption in Church and State… you know, all that wacky humanitarian stuff.
Trump is a qlipothic-aspected psychoteric magician. Qlipothic is magic for malicious and selfish purposes and calling it black magic is bad form. Its been too long and rough a day to talk about the Qlipoth tonight. Just know that they are a kabbalistic concept to explain why there is evil.
Smith wrote, “Finally, hearing hate speech, like the kind spouted by President Donald Trump, can increase prejudice toward an out-group and even prime the brain for violent actions.” She goes on to quote Arizona State University psychologist Arthur Glenberg who wrote in an article for The Conversation“Words themselves are enough to trigger simulations in motor, perceptual and emotional neural systems. Your brain creates a sense of being there: The motor system is primed for action and the emotional system motivates those actions.”
It is also to late to get into the metaphysics of language but I wrote some stuff for Tarot Esoterica episode 4 that I am going to shamelessly steal before the exhaustion wins.
Air is Yangyin and in alchemy, it is symbolized as an upright triangle with a line through the tip and given the traits of Hot and Wet. In astrology and tarot, air is associated with communication, hierarchies, information, and intellect. In my other projects, I talk a lot about psychoterica, mental alchemy and mind magic. Mystical, spiritual magic with a k comes from a place of fire. Psychoteric magic with a k comes from a place of air. They are just different sets of blocks in an occultist’s toy box just like there are these different suits of cards in a tarot deck.
For me, swords are the suit that expresses how information is transferred and when information transfer glitches and suddenly there’s a conflict either between people or within a single person’s mind. This would be a good place to talk about the Law of Mentalism but for today, I’m just going to mention it and encourage you to write it down and do some personal research.