Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle
by Cherry Gilchrist
Eddison Books, 2020
I’m very interested in Kabbalah and its application in the western Hermetic tradition (Qabalah) and especially when it comes to working with Tarot, so I was absolutely delighted to come across this Oracle deck. In fact, I didn’t really read the deck description very carefully, I was so excited! Kabbalah, an Oracle deck, and the author is clearly an expert, so what else did I need to know?
Well. I was even more delighted when the deck arrived and I pulled out the guidebook. Its two-page introduction to the Tree of Life and Qabalah is one of the best I’ve come across. It’s like a mini course on Kabbalah on its own. The guidebook also gives a fascinating insight into the renewal of interest in the study of Kabbalah in the late twentieth century which led to the creation of this innovative method of working with the Tree of Life, designed around a newly conceived way of grouping the Sephiroth.
In my study of Qabalah, I learned to look at the Sephiroth as nodes, or portals, or windows. The energy from Kether at the top flows down the Tree of Life in a zig-zag, moving from one Sephira to the next, and bringing the energy of all the previous ones along with it. They interact in a linear fashion. When I work with Tarot on the Tree of Life with, say, a Minor Arcana card, I look at the Sephira where it resides and the paths that connect to it.
Equally, I am drawn to look a bit further, at the other Sephiroth that are connected to it via those paths. For example, if we are looking at the 4 of Disks, which resides in Chesed, the 4th Sephira, it is connected to four paths: the paths ruled by the Hierophant, the Hermit, Adjustment/Justice, and the Wheel of Fortune. We can look at what influence those cards have on our 4 of Disks. But we can also move a bit further along, because the nature of the Tree of Life to always be in motion. Then we see that the 4 of Disks is in a direct relationship with the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Sephiroth. When we look at this kind of arrangement, we see a circle starting to form.
What might happen, these Kabbalists in the 1970s wondered, if we create groupings like what I describe above, so that we can work with several at once? In a circular fashion? And how might those groups arrange themselves meaningfully? This makes perfect sense to me.
The cards of the Kabbalah Oracle reflect this concept of relating the Sephiroth to each other in a new way. For each card in the deck, a grouping is made by arranging Sephiroth in a wheel around a central hub (also a Sephira).
There are 14 wheels in total. The number of Sephiroth in each wheel varies. There are four in Wheel 1, which is comprised of four Sephira at the bottom of the Tree of Life. By contrast, there are eight Sephiroth in Wheel 7, which covers in the middle section of the Tree of Life including Tiphareth and Yesod.
Each of the 14 wheels is then divided into the 4 elemental levels: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, so that you now have 14 wheels examined in each of the four elements, for a total of 56 cards (actually it’s 57, see below in ‘Extras’). The cards are each given a name, or a theme, which is explored in the text in the guidebook. We have four cards, then, for Wheel 1, four cards for Wheel 2, and so on.
For the 1st wheel, we have: The Beloved (Earth), The Servant (Water), The Seed (Fire), and The Head (Air). On the guidebook page for The Beloved, there is a drawing of the card and a drawing of the Tree of Life showing the grouping of Sephiroth represented by the card. Both are very helpful – the Tree of Life illustration in particular gives you a sense of being located so you can get a feel for the Sephiroth’s energies as they relate to each other:
The text is also really helpful. The ‘Oracle’ paragraph gives an explanation of what the deck creators see going on in that wheel. ‘Commentary’ offers some mystical food for thought, and the ‘Interpretations’ box helps with readings.
The Kabbalah Tree of Life Oracle box includes a fold-out reading chart. The sheet gives placements for a fourteen-card reading, with each of the main twelve corresponding to one of the Houses in Astrology. When I was getting ready to try it the first time, I was prepared to be completely confused and overwhelmed with information – I thought, a Celtic Cross but with added Astrology, yikes! – but that didn’t happen. The cards are so clear, and the notes given on the Houses so helpful, you move along like you’ve always being using the deck.
You don’t have to use the chart of course. You can draw one-to-four cards for your reading like you would with any other Tarot or Oracle deck, and there are hints on how you can work with these smaller readings, too.
The deck includes a ‘blank card’ which is a control that lets you know that there is an obstruction of some kind that needs to be addressed before you go on with the reading. It really comes into play with the reading chart: if it appears in any of thirteen of the positions, you’re being asked to work through something before proceeding with the reading. But if it appears in one of the Significator positions on the reading chart, it can mean that options are wide open. I love having this extra touch included in the deck – anything to do with Kabbalah is necessarily quite structured, and this allows some space for play, and for messages to come in from outside the structure you create.
This is an intuitive, beautiful … and flexible deck. As with the Tree of Life itself, you don’t have to use everything that’s offered. You can draw a card and refer to the guidebook for the meaning, and off you go. I did that for my first reading and it was fantastic. Going deeper with it, though, is just magic. I did the full reading with the chart and it was amazing. Use it for daily draws, definitely! But also, do take the time, sometime, to sit down and work through the chart. It’s wonderful. Let it work its magic.
The publisher, Eddison Books, doesn’t seem to have a website that I can refer you to, but the deck is available on Amazon, and from Blackwells and Waterstones, and the Book Depository.
 I’m using Aleister Crowley’s arrangement for the Major Arcana on the Tree of Life.
 This is different from the typical order for Qabalah, which is Fire, Water, Air, Earth – but I assume it relates to the original Jewish form of Kabbalah.