In 1991 I was talking by invitation to a group of pagans, mostly Wiccans, and someone raised the question of rituals like the Banishing Pentagram and Hexagram and other practices which seemed to be connected to magickal work based on the Kabbalah.
His question was: What does Kabbalah have to do with Wicca? Isn’t that all just Jewish stuff? My reply, though necessarily long, is still relevant, and may interest some readers. Here it is.
Josh Billings once said “It isn’t what folks don’t know that’s the trouble…it’s what they do know that ain’t so.”
EVERYBODY knows that witches worship Satan, kidnap babies for sacrifice, desecrate the Host, and enjoy cursing their innocent neighbors and anybody who offends them. And none of this is true.
How can you even begin to correct such misunderstandings when not only the facts but all the assumptions, unexamined since birth, are wrong. Particularly since in this television age you must do it to a hostile audience in six seconds, or they’ll change channels.
Now this audience knows that all the garbage about witches, known for sure by the public, is due to centuries of hostile propaganda by the Church authorities, who have had a vested interest since the year 325 in not having the historical facts of the Jesus story made known to the common folk.
The same kindly and unbiased authorities have produced anti-Jewish propaganda for the same period of time, and for similar reasons.
Wiccans and other pagans of every sort must be careful not to make the same mistake about Jewish matters as the Christian fundamentalists make about Wiccans and pagans. Else how different are you, and what have you learned from the merciless persecution of the Old Religions by the dominant Pauline school of Christianity.
Most of you probably already know that Wiccan and much pagan magick and traditions are called Low Magic, not because of inferiority or low standard, but because it originated in the low and fertile lands of Europe, where people worked on the land and lived by agricultural activities, with very little leisure.
There were smarter ones among them who figured out how to plant by the phases of the Moon, and who found a Goddess connection through shamanic work. These Wise Ones were a great asset to country folk, and usually passed on their gradually increasing hoard of earth wisdom to relatives. So superior agricultural and seemingly magickal knowledge tended to accumulate in specific families.
High Magick, not superior magick, was so called because it originated in the high places, the cities and fortified towns, almost always on high ground for protection. Here lived the merchants, scholars, priests and specialized master craftsmen such as masons and members of guilds.
They did not work from sun up to sun down like the country folk and the magick produced by the more leisurely study of the library and scriptorium had other aims and methods than those of the Low Magickal practices.
Many city dwellers despised the country people, even as they do now. The modern developer really would like to see the whole country under concrete. Prime agricultural land is vanishing fast under parking lots and new sub-divisions with names like Lakeview and Pleasant Valley.
The children from these sub-divisions think that eggs come from refrigerators and bread comes from shelves. The web of life is invisible to them and their parents. But they know all about witches.
Now the Jews had been persecuted for centuries under the various Christian regimes. They couldn’t hold office in some places, or land in others, and were constantly prepared to move on to some other place when the next pogrom began. After all, they killed Jesus, said the Church.
There were many trades absolutely forbidden to the Jews so they often ended up by default in those trades where their tools and possessions could be portable. These were trades such as money changers, as dealers in precious stones, or the more portable commodity of knowledge.
This came about because the Jews were constantly forced to move from country to country over centuries in which other people often lived and died in the same village without going anywhere. They took on the local culture as protection wherever they went and became the experts in foreign languages and foreign exchange because of the circumstances forced upon them.
The Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Greeks left great buildings and artifacts behind them when they disappeared from the current scenes. But their peoples are gone. The Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks would probably despise the people now living in the lands they once called home, or Empire.
Remember that the Jews, Hindus and Chinese are the only people who have survived as a people for over four thousand years, and the Hindus and Chinese didn’t have to leave their country and wander all over the world, homeless and persecuted. The ones who left monuments disappeared. The Jews created ideas, and survived.
My wonderful history teacher used to say, “Unless you quantify your history you will never understand it.” Let’s look at the numbers. There are currently (1991) about 17 million Jews in a world of over 5 billion people. They shouldn’t even be noticed, statistically speaking. That’s about 1 person in 300 is Jewish.
Yet 12%, about 1 in 8 of all Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine have gone to Jews. One in 8 as against 1 in 300. The Jews have valued learning more than any other people in history, not least because the mind is portable and cannot be confiscated by the latest dictator or his mobs. Just think how the work of four of them: Moses, Jesus, Freud and Einstein has changed the world.
I once asked a famous Jewish violinist why so many of the world’s greatest violinists were Jewish. He spread out his hands in the gesture that everyone knows and said, “It’s easier to carry a violin than a piano when you have to leave a place at an hour’s notice.”
The contribution of the Jews to the world of ideas, music, mathematics, philosophy, finance, religion, movies and the entertainment media is out of all proportion to their numbers.
Some excited people are working now to have a great celebration next year of the voyage of Columbus to this country. Countries and cities thousands of years old are looking on with some amusement. Only a few in this historically challenged country will remember that in 1492 Queen Isobella of Spain doomed her country to mediocrity by decreeing that the Jews in Spain must leave, convert, or die. A typical choice of the Catholic Church.
The rest of Europe absorbed thousands of Jews. It is not a coincidence that Spain has never had an internationally acclaimed scientist of any note, and is regarded as an academic backwater in Europe.
Now here is where the pagans and Wiccans come into the picture. Bear in mind that to the Spanish and some other Catholics, anyone who wasn’t a Christian was labeled as a pagan. Jews and the followers of any other non-orthodox faith were all lumped together and treated abusively by the followers of the One who taught, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Many Jews found a refuge and a welcome among the ranks of the pagans of Europe. The exodus of 1492 included orthodox Muslims, Sufis, Jews and gypsies. Some of the Jews and Sufis knew of things considered magickal in those days and the elementary Kabbalah and alchemy were shared with their benefactors. The gypsies had some folk magick.
Kabbalists were considered as heretics by orthodox Jewry, so they had a double whammy everywhere. One important reason was that they held to an ancient belief of Hebrew mystics that God manifested as a feminine power as well as a masculine power. This was a no-no to the patriarchal orthodox.
The Kabbalists considered the Shekinah, God’s feminine aspect as of primary importance. They intuited what the Kashmiri Shaivites did when they consider the god Shiva as the Lord, and Shakti his power as the goddess found dormant in all humans as Kundalini. Throughout Hinduism the goddess is the power of the god.
The early Gnostic followers of the teachings of Jesus knew that there was a feminine aspect of God. The Holy Spirit was feminine. They worshiped her under the name of Sophia, the Greek for ‘Wisdom,’ which is the name she is given in the Psalms and Proverbs. This Wisdom helped in the Creation of the world according to the Old Testament, and she also built her house on seven pillars. You all here know about the seven chakras of the body, and that same body is the Temple of the goddess Wisdom, and contains the inner goddess of each of you.
There were many sects among the early followers of the teachings of Jesus, the Gnostics, the Pauline Christians and the Johannne Christians among others. When the Pauline sect came to secular power it persecuted all the others out of visibility, and almost destroyed all their scriptures and teachings completely.
The orthodox in all the patriarchal religions have conspired to conceal the goddess of their original version of the religion. Scholars who tried to insist that there must have been a feminine component in Christianity and Judaism were hard put to it to make a case against an overwhelming consensus. So for centuries the goddess in the two religions was dormant and almost unknown.
Then in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt was uncovered a cache of Gnostic scriptures from the 1st century. These were gospels that the Church thought it had completely obliterated. There was the gospel of Thomas, and the gospels of Philip and Mary, and the Pistis Sophia, and many other pre 325 gospels showing that women were very important to the early followers of the teachings of Jesus, were preachers and bishops, and that Sophia was worshiped as a goddess by the Gnostics.
There were unsuccessful attempts to squelch the findings by the usual suspects but they were not as blatant, or successful as the current suppression by the Catholic scholars of the Dead Sea scrolls discovery, the publication of which they have hindered for forty years.
Esoteric observers saw the astral ablaze with light when the discovery at Nag Hammadi became known. It was from this date that the Return of the Goddess began, and all over the world simultaneously, like the explosion of a spiritual time bomb.
That was a little background to show the questioner of the possibility of Kabbalistic principles applying to Wiccan and pagan work.
The ancient and now popular methods are in good company speaking from the point of view of the rebirth of Wicca.
This began in England when the Witchcraft Act was repealed in the fifties, and it was no longer a criminal offence to be a witch, or to call someone a witch. The British Parliament repealed the centuries old Act because several of the members of the House of Lords were spiritualists, and their religious practices included communion with their dear departed relatives, using a medium. Under the Witchcraft Act this was totally forbidden as witchcraft. The members of Parliament just knew there were no such things as witches nowadays so they repealed the Act.
I was a member of many occult societies and brotherhoods in those days and communicated with Gerald Gardner about his books. He asked me, as a practicing magician, to teach his niece Monique the elementary stuff of the priestess duties, like calling in the quarters and casting the circle…the ritual magick stuff.
He wanted this lady to found the first coven in the South of London in the suburb of Streatham, where I lived. Though I have suspected since that the lady I taught was not the Monique he and she said, I agreed to help her out. That was in 1955. One of the first things I did for the growing group was to write out in Old English Black Letter script the Book of the Shadows that Gardner sent them to use. His writing was the most appalling I have seen from an adult human, and quite indecipherable by Monique. Some of the names of the deities in it she wouldn’t have known even if she could have read it.
It was while I was doing this calligraphy that I mentioned to Monique how some of the rituals reminded me of the Golden Dawn stuff, based on the Kabbalah. She used the identical words of the questioner today. “Isn’t that all just Jewish stuff?”
Anyone familiar with the Golden Dawn material would see resemblances in the Gardner Book of Shadows of that year. Let’s note immediately that the Golden Dawn, the most famous magickal society of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was founded by a woman, Anna Sprengel.
The best written Kabbalistic work of the same period was also written by a woman, Violet Firth whose magickal name some of you know as Dion Fortune. The pathworking of the Tarot on the Tree of Life material was discovered and explored by the women of the Golden Dawn. The feminine energy has been there all along, just waiting.
It was no surprise to occultists when Wicca took off like an express train and is still expanding in spite of the campaigns organized by fundamentalists against the totally fictitious witches they have invented. In the fifties I used to receive heart rending letters from women in America who wanted to know how they could access the Old Religion in the strange religious climate of the States. Gardner, in his usual pragmatic way had passed any such letters he received onto me. There wasn’t much I could say except that there were definitely witches in America who came over with the emigrants.
Now maybe we can talk a little about the Kabbalah without the misunderstandings and assumptions of the mundane. What is it? It is a system discovered during the spiritual investigations of brilliant and dedicated Jewish heretics. By meditation and contemplation and practical verifications they discovered a way to draw a map of the energies of the human psyche. THEREFORE, by the dictum ‘As above, so below and as below so above.’ they had also discovered a map of the energies of the psyche of God.
The pattern they produced is now familiar to many as the Tree of Life. An aside about the story in Genesis is needed here. Remember that it was Eve, the second wife of Adam, who chose consciousness when the beneficent snake told her about the lies of God.
The serpent, the benefactor of humanity, whose advice got them out of the little zoo of Yahweh, got the same bad press from the Church as the Jews, witches and wolves. One lie after another for centuries.
In just about every other religion or culture the serpent is an emblem of wisdom and helpfulness. In the Judaic myth it was punished by having to crawl on the ground. What then did it do before? Did it fly like a dragon, or the winged serpent of the Incas? Follow that lead if you will.
The Tree diagram shows how the different energies of the universe change polarity as they move from one of life’s areas to another. It as a fantastic filing system on which you can place the whole of mythology, of any nation, the whole of astrology, the whole of Tarot, the whole of experienced, not dogmatic religion, and much, much more, as the ads say.
There are places on it for all the gods and goddesses of pagans and Wiccans, and even an elementary skill in pathworking would enable a covener actually to encounter the Triple Goddess and Moon goddesses from all religions past or present on the island in Yesod.
Remember that a Jew discovered the physics of relativity, which is used by scientists of any or no religion, for the benefit or bane of humanity. The theory of relativity isn’t Jewish just because a Jew proposed it. Similarly it was the rishis and yogis of Ancient India who spent lifetimes in the laboratories of their bodies discovering the laws of yoga, the ways in which the chakras work and Kundalini manifests.
Any spiritual seeker can use these laws with benefit. They are not just Hindu laws as the fundamentalists want us to believe. They are for anyone using a human body. Kabbalah and Alchemy similarly are not just Jewish and Muslim. They are for any seeker who realizes that the names he gave his divinity in his childhood are not the names by which the same divinity is known elsewhere.
It is possible to get along fine in everyday life knowing that apples fall off trees and hit the ground. But until humans understood the laws governing the fall of the apple they couldn’t put a man on the Moon. You too must go deeper into the laws of your practices to achieve discoveries.
The virtue of the Tree for Wiccans and pagans is that it tells you at a glance just how the energies you are studying relate to the whole, and how to balance them. Many Wiccans I have met are very analytical, and have an intellectual outlook on the practices. They benefit from this of course, but miss out on a lot that is easy for those who are more emotionally free. The Tree shows how to balance the intellect with the emotions and awaken the dormant emotional and creative side.
And then there are Wiccans and pagans who are emotional yo-yos and need to balance their stuff with the abilities of reason and rational thought. Such folk can easily balance their stuff using the Tree.
Elementary ways of doing these things were part of the magick taught by the emigrant Jews in Europe. They were magick because they produced healing, which is a balancing of unbalanced energies as the experience of acupuncture indicates.
The Kabbalah and Alchemy are the basis for just about all Western High Magic, and for reasons now obvious I hope were at first confined to the cities and towns.
Jews acquired great reputations as magicians in the Middle Ages and then endured centuries of lies again. The Jewish Kabbalists were spiritual adventurers trying to attain the Divine Presence by Kabbalistic practices. Incidentally, and along the way, some of them acquired unusual powers. This always happens when following a spiritual path with perseverance.
It was the Christians again who saw in these powers many opportunities to use them for self advancement. By the usual projection they thought that this must be the reason for the Jews getting them. It’s the same reason that had the CIA studying astral travel and far viewing. The Russians were doing it, so there must be a military advantage there somewhere. The priests thought the same about the Kabbalists and did with them what they did with rune masters and magicians everywhere. They learned all they could about the practices, persecuted the magicians and stole their materials. The Vatican library contains without doubt the greatest collection of ancient magickal manuscripts in the world.
As a final note let’s look at a universally used magickal symbol…the Star of David, or the Seal of Solomon. You know about it from the Hexagram rituals in Wicca. It is formed when the god triangle penetrates the goddess triangle. To the Hindu it is Shiva penetrating Shakti. The resulting hexagon is the child Ganesh, and the devotee. The Lord penetrates the Lady and the hexagon is the covener who knows this is his inner self.
Fire penetrates Ice in the Norse legend and the child is the universe.
One reason that quartz crystals are so powerful in many magickal practices is that their cross section is a hexagon, and the silicon component is related in the Periodic Table to the carbon component of the bodies and plants involved in the ceremonies.
Wiccans tend to use the elements better than the ritual magicians and would have no trouble using the stuff from the bottom triangle of the Tree. Do some reading. As our own group’s rune master says, “Use everything and anything, but remember the roots and the source.”