If this is your first visit to goldenpomtree (Welcome!) there are a couple of posts on the Tree of Life before this one that you might also like: Introduction and Welcome and Talking about the Tree of Life is a brief list of terms.
Grab your favourite Tarot deck! It can be any deck at all, as long as it is a Tarot deck, i.e. it needs to have 78 cards with 22 Major Arcana, 16 court cards, and 40 Minor Arcana.
Now you need some space. Find a place where you can recreate the Tree of Life in the picture below. You’ll have ten piles of cards with room for one card laid lengthways in between. You’re going to build a Tree of Life and create a connection between you and Divinity, right there.
Divide your deck up into Minor Arcana, Court Cards, and Major Arcana. Next put them all in numerical order – in the case of the Minor Arcana and Court Cards, organise them by suit.
The Minor Arcana reside in the Sephiroth, the spheres. They’re easy to remember because they go where you think they should go: the Aces go at the top, the 2s go in the 2nd Sephira, the 3s go in the 3rd, etc. Follow down the Tree of Life in a zig-zag, like a lightning bolt. This is how the energy flows down the Tree of Life:
Aces belong in Kether, Sephira 1
Twos belong in Chockmah, Sephira 2
Threes belong in Binah, Sephira 3
Fours belong in Chesed, Sephira 4
Fives belong in Geburah, Sephira 5
Sixes belong in Tiphareth, Sephira 6
Sevens belong in Netzach, Sephira 7
Eights belong in Hod, Sephira 8
Nines belong in Yesod, Sephira 9
Tens belong in Malkuth, Sephira 10
See which way of laying the cards down is most meaningful for you. You can put all four Aces in Kether and then move on to Chockmah and put all 2s there, and move on to Binah and put all 3s there. Or you can arrange the cards suit by suit: starting with Wands you would put your Ace of Wands in Kether, your 2 of Wands in Chockmah, etc, and then start again with your suit of Cups, then Swords, then Pentacles. In that case, you would go down the Tree of Life four times – once for each suit.
Once they’re in place, you can already start to see new connections between the Minor Arcana, in the way they are laid out on the Tree of Life: 2s to 4s for example, and 5s to 8s.
Now that you’ve got your Minor Arcana all set out, you can add the Court Cards*:
the Kings go in Sephira 2, Chockmah
the Queens in Sephira 3, Binah
the Knights in Sephira 6, Tiphareth
and the Pages in Sephira 10, Malkuth.
This associates Kings with 2s, Queens with 3s, Knights with 6s, and Pages with 10s. I don’t know about you, but that is the opposite of what I would have expected. In Tarot, we usually think of the Pages as beginning energy and Kings as being very accomplished and confident, so I would instinctively assign a lower number to the Pages and a higher number to the Kings. But … I can also see how, if you see Kings as ‘higher’ they would be 2 and Pages at the ‘bottom’ at 10. So which is it? It’s both. The Tree of Life reflects cycles, and whether your movement (as you draw cards) is up or down, it’s progression and development – offering you advice and guidance as you move toward your goal.
*If you are using the Thoth deck:
The Knights go in Sephira 2
The Queens go in Sephira 3
The Princes go in Sephira 6
The Princesses go in Sephira 10
The courts in the Thoth deck are quite different energetically than the court cards in a RWS deck. Princesses manifest accomplishment and a sense of ‘making it real’ that Pages don’t, and placing a Knight in Sephira 2 is very different from placing a King there. You can read a previous post here that explores what it means to place a King vs a Knight in Sephira 2, ‘King to Knight 2: Strategic Switch in the Thoth Tarot’.
The Major Arcana
You can see on the picture above that each Major Arcana card is assigned a path that connects two Sephira. Now place each of your MA cards on its own path.
Just a reminder here that this is the Tree of Life as designed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. There are other versions which assign the Major Arcana to different paths – not least the Tree of Life used by Aleister Crowley, who reversed The Star and the Emperor. As unhappy as it makes me to diverge from something he suggested, this change just doesn’t work for me. So I have kept the Golden Dawn version. You will also notice, if you have a look on the internet for the Jewish ‘Kabbalah’ Tree of Life, that even the structure of that Tree is different: they don’t include the bottom two paths which here are ruled by The Moon and Judgement.
What do you think? Do the locations of the Major Arcana make sense to you? If you were doing a reading that involved, say, a 7 and a 9, what would the connecting path between them have to add?
Now you have joined up all the Minor Arcana and the Court Cards in the Sephiroth with the Major Arcana cards on the connecting paths, and have one complete Tree of Life! It’s pretty magical, isn’t it? If you take a picture, I’d love to see it. What deck did you choose? Do you think it worked well? Or will you try it again with a different deck?
It doesn’t ultimately matter which RWS-based Tarot deck you use because your Tree of Life is a masterpiece, and I think lots of fun to create with Tarot cards in person, as it were. It brings something that is so theoretical and notional into our physical space, here, in Malkuth.