Tree of Life in Wicca
Article ID: 13541
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Alfred Willowhawk, DMsc, RMT, CTM, Shaman [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: September 20th. 2009
Times Viewed: 6,720
A query on the net for the 'Tree of Life' will bring a plethora of information from Kabbalah, to New Age. Each of these searches gives very specific and detailed discussions from their perspective. While working on Arianrhod Silver Wheel I utilized the understanding of the three-column system, (Male/Female/Androgynous) to show how an understanding of this can assist in understanding this Goddess.
Many individuals within the Craft have e-mailed me and discussed on various message boards how to better crystallize their understanding, (and, of course, my own) on the inter-relation of these concepts.
A second outcome of those discussions was the practical understanding and usage of this powerful system within one's own workings.
In order to create this synthesis I utilized many sources that are listed at the end of this article, however, as primary sources, I utilized are the writings of Aleister Crowley, Rabbi Isaac Luria, and the Farrar's. All of these works are in publication and available to the general public. On a side note, there is an "e copy" of 777 and other Kabbalistic (change in spelling mine) Writings of Aleister Crowley, revised available on-line here that may be of interest.
Other aspects of the research that have gone into this are my own utilization of these tools in my own practices.
A word about Secrecy and the Craft
While researching, writing and editing, Arianrhod Silver Wheel, I spoke with my own elders within the Craft with regards to secrecy. The general consensus was that as long as the material is available, whether on-line or in print, then the material is NOT Oath Bound. This has become the measuring stick that I use to determine what I write and publish. Therefore, while the synthesis presented in this article has been a result of my own research, integration, and usage of the information, I am most likely not the only individual to come to these conclusions, and share them as the fruits of my own labor, and guidance from the God/ (ess) and hence, willingly shared with others.
The Tree of Life
The Spherot and the Three Columns
The Tree of Life or as it is known in Hebrew, The Etz Chaim, is a functioning system developed to be used by all individuals as a “conduit” to the Divine utilizing the ten Spherot. The Divine, in a sense is another term for the Universal Consciousness that IS all. This consciousness is tapped by individuals from every culture and can be utilized in every aspect of one's life and “magickal” workings.
This article utilizes the Hebrew names of the particular points (Sepherot) of the Tree of Life. They are (Spherot to English Elemental Correspondence) :
Kether: Crown, root of Air
Chochmah: Knowledge, root of Fire
Binah: Wisdom, root of Water
Da'at: Understanding, root of Earth
Chesed: Lovingkindness, Water
Gevurah: Sacrifice, Fire
Tifereth: Beauty, Air
Netzach: Victory, Fire
Hod: Glory, Water
Yesod: Foundation, Air
Malkuth: Kingdom, Earth
Taking the position of each of the Spherot we see that Kether, Da'at, Teferet, and Yesod and Malkut are the center column, Chochmah, Gevurah, and Netzach are the right column, and Binah, Gevurah, and Hod are the left column.
Each of these columns also have names, the right column is known as the Pillar of Mercy, the left column is the Pillar of Severity, and the center column is the Pillar of Balance.
Just like people, energy flows through the Spherot, and their columns. Therefore, each column, according to Rabbi Isaac Luria, (the father of the system) , as the name infers creates a different flavor to the energy that flows through the column. The Pillar of Mercy is outgoing, and embracing. The Pillar of Severity is restrictive, applying limits to the outpouring from the right column.
As with any energy system, these, like Yin and Yang, are in equilibrium, and if left on their own, would stagnate and no energy would move. The center column, is the combination of both, and therefore creates the equilibrium necessary to allow for the flow of energy in BOTH directions.
Gender of the Columns
Kabbalists, utilize sexual imagery, like other systems, to elaborate on the characteristics of each column. These are archetypes, not physical manifestations of each gender, therefore in their understanding they established that the male is the “giver” of seed and the female is the “receiver”, nurturer, grower of that seed. Hence, the right column is male, and the left column is female. Therefore, the center column is the balancing column that actually manifests the creation or the energy flow.
The Triangles within the columns
Examining the spherot as left, right, center, we find that Kether, Chochmah and Binah form an upright triangle. As Kether is the crown, it “splits” in two to create the first separation into male and female. In Kabbalah this is known as the first restriction of the “light”, or divine consciousness.
Chesed, Gevurah, and Tifereth, form the first downward pointing triangle but unlike the triangle spoken of above, this one results in a unification or manifestation of center column balanced energy.
Tifereth, Netzach and Hod result in another Upright triangle that is a “reflection” or second manifestation of the separation of the male and female aspects of the energy. This separation like the first separation “creates” or sets the stage for the second “balancing” or conjoining of the spherot.
Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, form yet another downward pointing triangle resulting in yet another balanced outpouring of energy.
So, we have two upward and two downward pointing triangles within the Tree of Life. These triangles are utilized by certain groups within Wicca, to signify the different degrees an individual has obtained.
The Last of the Spherot
Malkut is represented either as being directly connected or not connected to Yesod in most diagrams of the Ten Spherot. This Spherot is the actual manifestation of the physical world. This leads to an interesting philosophical discussion on the “universe” or “universes” that the energy both emanates from and is returned.
According to the AriZal, (Rabbi Luria) , when one receives the energy of the universe one should “return” it as manifestation both in one's daily life, and as “thanksgiving” to the universe. This is the same thing that we discuss in Reiki and other holistic healing disciplines. In Reiki the “Universal Energy”, is all around us and is in us. The practitioner of this particular discipline utilizes the ability, with training, to channel this energy to self-heal and heal others. This is a similar process that the Kabbalist uses to “connect with God”. The dictum commonly known as “The Golden Rule”, do unto others as you would have done to you, is another manifestation of the same practice of “showing forth” the universal consciousness, universal energy, etc.
The World that we Feel and See
In the first chart we see that each or the spherot has an elemental correspondence. The first or what I call the Upper Triangle is comprised of Kether, Chochmah, and Binah. This triangle is above what is known as the Great Divide. According to Sefer Yetzirah, purportedly to have been written by Abraham the Patriarch, and translated and explained by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, states that these spherot are located within the Universal Consciousness.
The “restriction” or birth of the next triangle, Chesed, Gevurah, Tifereth, is the first manifestation within the perceived universe. This perceived universe is not the manifested physical universe, but the INNER Spiritual one, or True Self.
The next triangle, Tifereth, Netzach, Hod is the second birth, and is the second manifestation within the perceived universe. It is the EMOTIONAL/LOGICAL self. This is the seat of emotion, and manifests as Ego.
The last triangle of Netzach, Hod, Yesod, is the third birth or the Physical Self.
Malkut, according to Kabbalah is actually the reflection and return of the Divine oneness, or as the Judeo-Christians say prayer, Hindu's utilize the term Nirvana, Buddhists the term Enlightenment, and Wiccans spells, magick or workings. As we think on this as a definition of Kingdom, we see that it behooves us to honor and respect the world around us, as well as each other as a reflection of the Universal Consciousness in all its manifestations. The Goddess as the Divine Mother, whatever name one uses, IS the Kingdom and we are all Her children.
Elemental and Gender Correspondences and the 4 Triangles
The First Birthing
The Upper Triangle of Kether, Chochmah, and Binah, are the Root of Air, Water, and Fire respectively. Air is the element of the East, connected to spirit. Water is the element in the West a feminine energy , and connected with passion and emotion. Fire is the element in the South a masculine energy, and connected to strong will and energy. Utilizing our “birth” analogy, we see that Air in this case gives “birth” to Fire and Water. Fire heats water, water puts out fire. As these are the “roots” of these elements, Air then which feeds fire and can carry water, could indeed be the “birther” of both Fire and Water. Notice also, that Fire is traditionally thought of as male and water is traditionally thought of as female.
The Second Birthing
The Second Birthing, or second triangle, of Chesed, Gevurah, Tifereth are Water, Fire, and Air. Notice that it is consistent with the Upper Triangle, the CENTER COLUMN, is AIR, and is a result of the coming together of the very elements, (Fire and Water) , that were “birthed” by Kether.
The Third Birthing
The Third Birthing, or third triangle of Netzach, Hod, Yesod, are Fire, Water, Air. This is a crossing over of sides of the elements of Fire and Water. This shows that there is a female aspect to fire, and a male aspect to water. Veronica Cummer in her work, Sorgitzak, discusses the God and Goddess aspects of each element in detail. This is important to remember in our workings within these elements as this shows that the balance is maintained within each element as well as the spherot.
Utilization of the Tree of Life in our workings with ourselves and the Divine in all its manifestations can enrich and enhance those workings. This is a way to realize our purposes and heal ourselves and the world.
777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley, Aleister Crowley, Samuel Weiser Inc, York Beach Maine, 1997
Sorgitzak Old Forest Gods, Veronica Cummer, Pendraig Publishing, Sunland, CA, 2008
A Witches' Bible, The Complete Witches' Handbook, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Phoenix Publishing, Blaine WA, 1984
Witchcraft, A Mystery Tradition, Raven Grimassi, Llewellyn Publishing, 2004
Sefer Yetzirah The Book or Creation, In Theory and Practice, Aryeh Kaplan, Weiser Inc, York Beach Maine, 1997
The Pri Etz Chaim, Isaac Luria, Chevrat Ahavat Chinam , 1999
Shaar HaKavanot , Isaac Luria, Public Domain
Bhagavad Gita, Ramananda Prasad, gita4free, 2004
Arianrhod Silver Wheel, Alfred Willowhawk, Willowhawk Press, 2009
Copyright: All Universal Rights Reserved by Author, 2009
Alfred Willowhawk, DMsc, RMT, CTM, Shaman
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