Kabbalistic Tarot | Deck Review

Kabbalistic tarot box, booklet, and deck

by Eugene Vinitsky and Frater North
Tarotmania, 2018

Say we want to consciously apply Kabbalah to our Tarot reading. How can we possibly remember all the associations that are there? Or even know what we’re possibly missing or forgetting?

When we’re learning Kabbalah, it’s ideal to have lots of information right there at hand to remind you what you could be working with. When you put that into practice in your readings, you might not use them all – you might choose one or two to use as themes to create a coherent story. Will it be the Hebrew letters that create your story for this particular reading? Maybe the elements will be the most important clues. You can decide as you go, but wouldn’t it be just a dream come true to have all the options there on the cards for you so you can check and compare?

Well, dream no more! This is exactly what you have in the Kabbalistic Tarot. Here are a couple of my favourite aspects of the deck.

The Tree of Life showing the paths of the Major Arcana (Thoth arrangement)

Every Tarot card has a place on the Tree of Life, and in the Kabbalistic Tarot, every card has a Tree of Life on it which is used to show where that particular card belongs. For the Major Arcana, this means that the relevant path is highlighted, including the two Sephiroth it connects. Check out where The Devil resides on the Tree of Life above, and then look at the image of the card, further along in this post.

The four elements: their position and associated colours, as usually depicted in the Sephira Malkuth

The Minor Arcana reside in the Sephiroth and so the Tree of Life on these cards highlights one Sephira. But the four elements or Four Worlds also give important information about the Minor Arcana, so the Sephira is divided into quarters – one for each element. Then the relevant quarter is highlighted. For example, the 4 of Wands shows a Tree of Life with the left-hand quarter of the 4th Sephira, Chesed, highlighted to reflect its association with Fire, the western element. I haven’t seen this approach before and I love it.

The Kabbalistic Tarot 4 of Wands and Devil

Looking at another clue in the 4 of Wands for its meaning, there is also Daleth, in the upper left-hand corner. We know that the Hebrew letters are associated with the Major Arcana cards and the paths where they reside on the Tree of Life, but what do they have to do with the Minor Arcana?

Daleth (i.e. Door), the fourth letter, corresponds to the Empress, the fourth Major Arcana … although of course the card’s number is III. But we also see the letter Daleth on the 4s of the Kabbalistic Tarot. This gives us something more to think about when we draw our 4s in a Tarot reading! It associates The Empress with Chesed (4th Sephira) and all the Tarot 4s, when we might have naturally associated her with Binah (3rd Sephira) and all the 3s.

I like to calculate a Major Arcana ‘card for the year’ and in 2021 that number is 5 (2+0+2+1=5), so we go with the Hierophant, at V. But his letter is Vav, or Nail, the 6th letter in the alphabet. If we want to work with the Kabbalistic meaning of the cards in this way, 2021 would be the Emperor and his letter Heh, the 5th letter of the alphabet, meaning Window. Makes a difference!

The Major Arcana and Court Cards include little figures whose style is based on the 16th-century Rosenwald Tarot – or rather, three uncut printer sheets with (most of) the images from this deck. I am not an expert on the Marseilles Tarots, but the artwork is similar, especially the Fool, with his cat just about to cause him some real trouble. The Knights are all depicted as half-man, half-horse – noble centaurs – something I’d never seen before.

The Kabbalistic Tarot Knight of Cups and 3 of Cups

One final thing that I love about this deck is the two squares of colour on the left and right borders. For Major Arcana, which belong on the paths between two Sephiroth, the square on the left represents the first Sephira and the square on the right represents the second. So if you remember the colours of the Sephiroth, you can work out from the card what path it’s on.

The Devil has yellow on the left and orange on the right. We know that yellow is for Tiphareth, the 6thS, and we know that orange is for Hod, the 8thS, so that means the Devil is on the path between them. I really like this because it’s a way of quizzing myself from a different perspective – working out where the card belongs just by the colours, before I check the Tree.

The Minor Arcana have two squares of the same colour because they don’t move around. The Four of Wands, for example, has two red squares because Wands = Fire. The 3 of Cups, above, has two blue squares so we know that we are in the element of Water, the World of Briah, creation.

So, what does it look like in real life? The deck is standard size. It comes in a beautiful sturdy box with a separate lid, a brilliant guidebook, and an extra card depicting the Tree of Life that you can use for reference. The card front is designed to look like an antique paper manuscript, with a darker frame picked out with gold. They shuffle best using the hand-over-hand method, when you get that lovely, raspy sound from the matte finish.

The Kabbalistic Tarot is a unique and innovative deck that anyone interested in Kabbalah would love to work with. It is particularly well-suited for anyone learning about Kabbalah because it brings so much imagery together on each card. You can look at each image separately, or bring them all together and see what that gets you, and explore … and this is so much fun, just looking at the cards and wondering why the deck creator did one thing or another gets you thinking, gets you researching, and gets you connected to this spiritual tool that forms the backbone of all Tarot decks.