There are a few versions of the Tree of Life out there, so I want to show you here which one I’ll be using. It’s the most well-known version, with spheres arranged geometrically by Athanasius Kircher in 1652. It’s undergone some changes since then in terms of interpretation, but we’ve kept the structure. This one, as illustrated above, is the version used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
A quick note about the image above. I like this version because it shows the Major Arcana on their paths and that’s really helpful. It also gives us the mystical title for each Sephira, for example, Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, etc. These tell us about what happens in that Sephira, and you don’t often find a Tree with these on it. The drawback of this image is that it doesn’t give us the Hebrew names for the Sephiroth, and we need those. So please look a bit further down this post where you’ll find a Tree of Life with the Sephiroth numbered and named. Here is a list that you can check with it:
You can see the Sephiroth are also each associated with a specific colour. I don’t think the Rider Waite Smith deck uses these colour associations as much as Aleister Crowley does in his Thoth deck, but they really help in understanding the energy of the Sephiroth.
In fact Aleister Crowley switched two paths on his Tree … and here’s maybe the only place I disagree with him. If you look at the top image, you’ll see that the Emperor connects Sephiroth 2 and 6 and the Star connects Sephiroth 7 and 9. Crowley switches these and I’m sure he had his reasons but it just doesn’t make sense to me. So I use the Golden Dawn version.
Let’s have a recce. Here’s what you need to know to start to get a feel for how the Tarot cards work on the Tree of Life:
The Minor Arcana all go in the sphere with their number: Aces go in Sephira 1, Twos go in Sephira 2, etc.
The Major Arcana all go on the paths that connect the spheres. In the image at the top, the cards are placed on the path where they reside.
The Court Cards: this is a little complicated because it’s different for RWS-based decks and the Thoth deck.
For the RWS, Kings go in Sephira 2, Queens go in Sephira 3, Knights go in Sephira 6, and Pages go in Sephira 10. This is not set in stone the way it is for the Thoth deck, and I’m sure there are those who would argue a different order. But I think this arrangement makes the most sense – in fact, the only sense – especially when we compare the RWS with the Thoth deck.
For the Thoth, Knights go in Sephira 2, Queens go in Sephira 3, Princes go in Sephira 6, and Princesses go in Sephira 10.
In my post tomorrow – in fact a set of three posts – I’ll show you how to build your own Tree of Life and draw down its magical energy!