In 1855, Eliphas Levi published Dogma et Rituel de la haute magie, in which he assigns the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the Tarot Major Arcana. The correspondence was first mentioned in 1781 by Antoine Court de Gébelin, but Levi arranged the associations more closely to the system that we use today: he assigned Aleph, the first letter, to le Bateleur, the Magician, and proceeded from there. It makes sense, since the Magician is Trump 1. Because The Fool is numbered 0 – essentially being ‘unnumbered’ – Levi didn’t place it at the start of the Trumps. It wasn’t until the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn started to work with Tarot that The Fool was moved to the beginning of the Tarot and then assigned the letter Aleph.
The associations matter because the Hebrew alphabet is more than a phonetic system for pronouncing the language. Kabbalah assigns each letter a number value, and esoteric and exoteric meanings, and it is these that add so much to how we can work with the Tarot.
The Deck of Hebrew Letters is a set of 22 beautifully illustrated cards, one card per letter, with its numerical value, and its association – either a planet, a zodiac sign, or an element. The cards are lovely stock and they shuffle well. They are an unusual size – more square than rectangular. I love using them with Tarot and when I do, they give me the feeling that there’s a secret they’re showing me, one that I wouldn’t have seen without them. But it can be a lot simpler than that, too.
You can use The Deck of the Hebrew Letters as an Oracle deck. Draw a card for the day, to ask for advice, and then check the leaflet for the key phrase. Say I’ve got a presentation to give at work. It’s a new idea and I’m confident in it … but really worried about how people are going to react. What kinds of questions will they ask and will I be able to answer? I draw Zayin, number 7, ruled by Gemini:
The leaflet tells me ‘Get your ideas out there. Let your mind adapt’. Beautiful encouragement first and then a tip – get out there and deal with the questions. Adapt to what they say – be flexible, and that makes perfect sense with Gemini as its ruler. I read the number 7 in Tarot as a card of individual work, so I know to have faith in myself. I can answer those questions, so bring them on!
If you like to work with numbers, The Deck of the Hebrew Letters is definitely your gig; it works brilliantly as a discrete system of divination. The leaflet offers a suggestion for how you can get started, and once you do, other possibilities occur to you very quickly. It is an infinitely flexible deck. I was taught that numerology is malleable, and that nothing you ever add together or subtract, or whatever, is ‘wrong’. If you can do it, it has meaning. So play around. As a Tarot reader, I use the deck primarily in relation to my cards. For example, say I draw the Star:
The Star is the focus of a debate about whether it should be assigned the letter Tzaddi or the letter Heh, so in this reading, I have brought in both to see what happens. Just look at all we have to work with now. I have Aquarius and Aries, and I have the numbers 90 and 5. I am not a Gematrist (not sure this is a word but you know what I mean!) so I’m going to stick with the number symbolism I know from Tarot. I can reduce 90 to 9, and then think about the 9s in Tarot along with all the 5s, and see what that tells me. I can also add the numbers 90 + 5 = 95 and reduce that to 14 (Temperance / Art) and even further to 5 again.
Is that meaningful, to come right round again to 5? Does it tell me anything useful to include Temperance in my reading? If so, I’ll use it. If not, nevermind. This is a big part of how I read Tarot more generally – I look for associations and correspondences and what blends together neatly is my answer. What doesn’t blend, or sticks out, is for another time maybe.
I can also look up the meaning of the letters in the leaflet, or online. There are lots of fantastic websites that discuss the Hebrew alphabet. For our Star, the leaflet tells us that Tzaddi asks us to ‘be clear-minded. Follow your own ideas’ and for He, ‘Get things moving. Initiate the process’. So if your question was whether to go forward with that amazing inspiration you had, the answer here is a big Cosmic Yes!
And I am using The Deck of the Hebrew Letters for something else as well. I’m using it to learn to recognise the letters. If I draw Adjustment, I might say to myself, “Okay, Adjustment is Lamed”. But when I look at the card, at that little letter Lady Frieda Harris added in the bottom border, do I know what it is? Nope. Not yet. But I will.
These are only the approaches I have discovered so far, and I definitely have the feeling The Deck of the Hebrew Letters is keeping a few more secrets, for later. And I can’t wait to explore it further and find out!
The Deck of the Hebrew Letters is available from creator Mick Frankel. Email him for details and to order yours: firstname.lastname@example.org