What is Tarot?

The tarot cards that are used for divination or inner spiritual work today evolved from decks of cards used for games—the earliest examples documented are from 15th century Italy. This ancestry can be seen in the images on the deck most in use today, the Waite-Smith deck, which refracts the imagery of the Renaissance through a late Victorian/early Edwardian lens. I sometimes refer to this deck and others in this tradition as a Renaissance Rorschach test that utilizes the warehouse of western symbolism. As developed by 19th and early 20th Century occultists, the Tarot deck was designed to be part of a path to inner wisdom.


What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is one of several Jewish mystical traditions. It is not a book—though often when people talk about the Kabbalah they are referring to the most famous Kabbalistic text, the Zohar.

Kabbalah simply means “received” in Hebrew, and is used to mean the knowledge of Jewish esoteric teachings and meditation practices that were transmitted orally from teacher to student.  Sometimes it also refers to knowledge that was received through direct revelation and then passed down teacher to student. The earliest writing that is considered to be a Kabbalistic text is the Sefer Yetzirah—the date of its origin is disputed, but it has been narrowed down to somewhere between the 2nd Century B.C.E and the 2nd Century C.E.

The Sefer Yetzirah is the first written reference to one of the essential concepts in Kabbalah, the 32 mystical paths, which is made up of the ten Sephirot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Kabbalistic teachings were eventually appropriated by Christians during the early Renaissance, and by occultists in the latter part of that period. You can read more about this history here. {LINK}


Is there a connection between Tarot & Kabbalah?

Yes and no. Both systems developed separately. However, in the 18th Century, French occultists made all kinds of claims for a connection between Tarot and Kabbalah, or Tarot and ancient Egyptian religion.

One of these occultists, Court de Gébelin claimed that the Major Arcana were numbered to correspond to the 22 letters in both the Egyptian and Hebrew alphabets. It didn’t seem to trouble him that at the time different versions of the deck that were in circulation sometimes had more than and sometimes less than 22 Major Arcana cards. Or that ancient Egyptian didn’t use an alphabet. But then the leading French occultist of the day, Jean Baptiste-Alliete, known as Eteilla, printed a “rectified” deck with the Hebrew letters on the Major Arcana cards.

Eteilla also printed a list of divinatory meanings for the Minor Arcana cards that seems to have been influenced (knowingly or not) by the writings of a 13th Century Jewish Kabbalist. Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla explained the ten Sephirot in his classic Kabbalistic text “Gates of Light” (hence the name of this site) and it appears that some of what he wrote was appropriated to list the meanings of the cards numbered one through ten in each suit, corresponding to the Sephira of that number.

The ten Sephirot make up a diagram called the Tree of Life. And there are 22 paths in between each Sephira. Each of those paths corresponded to a Hebrew letter, which meant that for each path there was a Major Arcana card.

So while historically there was no connection, a connection was forged over time by these earlier occultists. And their work was further solidified by the 19th Century British Hermeticist Eliphas Levi. All this influenced A. E. Waite, who with artist Pamela Colman Smith, in 1909 created the Tarot deck most in use today.

So while there was no original connection, today, by studying the meaning of the Sephirot, one can reach a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of each of the minor cards in decks that come out of, or were influenced by, the Hermetic tradition. Similarly, by studying the Kabbalistic teachings on the Sephirot and the Hebrew alphabet, one can come to a deeper understanding the Major Arcana.


What is the difference between Tarot and Kabbalistic Tarot?

The occultists of an earlier era forged many connections between different wisdom traditions and divination systems. For example, if you’re interested in Astrological Tarot, you can study all those correspondences, and that will color your understanding of the meanings of the cards and your readings.

Some people don’t work with any corresponding systems—they study books with meanings for the cards and simply go with that. Some people are intuitives, and they simply use the cards to tap into their intuition.

For me, working with the Kabbalistic correspondences in Tarot is a way to explore the spiritual path that has its origins in Jewish mysticism. This means that in a reading, no matter the subject matter or question at hand, there will be a spiritual component to the answer. I use the term Kabbalistic Tarot to distinguish the way I read from other styles and systems of reading.

Both the tarot and the Kabbalah are systems that provide the practitioner with psycho-spiritual tools for inner development. I believe that an understanding of the Kabbalistic organization of the tarot deck, as well as the many Kabbalistic symbols employed in the deck, gives me the ability to respond to questions on multiple levels.


Do you have to be Jewish to study or understand Kabbalistic Tarot?

 

No.


What is the Jewish position on Tarot cards?

Divination is prohibited in the Torah, so that using tarot cards to divine the future would be prohibited. However, I don’t use the cards to predict the future. That said, there are many examples of divination in the Torah, perhaps most famously the story of Joseph interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh.

Tarot cards are also graven images—and images that make use of not only Jewish, but also Christian symbolism. So from a traditional, orthodox Jewish point of view, Tarot would be prohibited. As you may have guessed, I am not a traditional, orthodox Jew.

There are decks that are advertised as “Kabbalah” decks. One, created by Ron Feldman and now out of print, could be considered “kosher” since the only images on the cards are the diagram of the Tree of Life and the Hebrew alphabet. Edward Hoffman has a similar deck. Both decks are Judaic. You can read more about these decks on the blog section of this site . 

The most interesting recent development in Judaically influenced Tarot is the new Raziel deck, created by Rachel Pollack and illustrated by Robert Place. While not a Kabbalah deck per se, it takes into account many Kabbalistic myths and symbols. As of this writing, only the Major Arcana is available.


What kind of deck do you use?

I generally use a Waite-Smith deck, since it’s the deck I started working with when I was 16. When it was designed, Waite was mindful of Kabbalistic correspondences, so that you can see Kabbalistic symbols in many cards. This is also most widely used deck in the world. However, I do have many other decks and in some situations, I will use another one of those decks for a client.


Do the cards tell the future?

The cards are keys to help unlock your own inner wisdom. They can help you see possible futures. They can help you see a situation from different points of view, giving you an opportunity to make a more informed decision about something you’re considering. But the future isn’t written in stone—and I don’t make predictions in my readings. My goal is to help you unlock the gates to the wisdom that lies within you.


Are you psychic?


No. I make no claims to see the future, or read your mind or have any supernatural powers.


If the cards don’t tell the future, and you’re not psychic, what can I expect from a Tarot reading with you?

A tarot reading is a collaborative experience. While I have knowledge of many levels of the card meanings, you will have associations and projections you bring to the images that will bring the reading to life—these associations and projections tap into your unconscious mind and your deeper wisdom. So I may ask you questions about your response to some of the images to draw this wisdom out.

In this way, a tarot reading is an opportunity to access information that is within you that you don’t usually have conscious access to. Tapping into your personal unconscious and the transpersonal unconscious and then making conscious connections with the question at hand can help you make clearer decisions free of projection.


What is the best way to ask a question?

Tarot can offer you clues on ways to handle a situation or ways to consider different choices you are being presented with. This may center on relationships, personal or professional. On career path or spiritual path. Or on almost anything. Think about and formulate your question in advance—be as specific as possible. If I think it would be helpful to modify or sharpen your question in some way, I will suggest ways to do that. 

One of the best ways to ask a question is by beginning with the phrase “what do I need to know about _______?” This opens you to information that might otherwise remain unconscious or hidden.


What if I have another question?

There are two types of “another question.” There is a question that can happen in the middle of a reading about an interpretation, or a request to say more about a card. This is what I call a deepening question, about the issue of the original question, and that’s part of the process. It’s about clarification

A different kind of question—a follow-up question that picks up from what this reading says and wants to go off on a branching issue is another question and another reading. I discourage doing several questions or readings in quick succession. My goal is for you to find your own wisdom within rather than become dependent on the cards for an answer.


Are there kinds of questions you won’t work with?

Yes. I don’t work with Yes/No questions unless the purpose is solely for entertainment, since I do not make predictions of outcomes.

I don’t work with questions about 3rd parties—your question is about you, not about a friend or relative. That said, you can ask about the nature of your relationship with another person. For example, you could ask: What can I do to improve my relationship with my mother? But I would not work with “Why is my mother angry with me?”

I don’t answer questions about gambling, health, litigation outcomes or the stock market. As I said, I don’t make predictions and I don’t know the future. If I did, I’d have won the lottery and retired a long time ago.

If you’re uncertain if your question is appropriate, you can always ask. In fact, it’s better to discuss your question in advance, so that when it’s time for your reading it’s phrased in a way as to elicit the best answer possible.


How do I book a reading?


Fill out the Contact form. But be sure to go to the Readings page first to learn a little more, and so you understand the Terms of Service.


Can I get a reading over the phone or by email?

Phone, email or Skype readings are not available at this time.


Do you refuse to read for people?

Yes. There are some people I do not read for. I don’t read for anyone under the age of 18. I don’t do readings for anyone in immediate emotional distress. I don’t read for people who ask me to predict the future. If I feel that a querent’s motivation is to gauge the accuracy of a psychic ability (which I make no claims of having) or to humiliate or troll me, I will refuse service. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. For more, please see my Code of Ethics and Terms of Service.


Do you provide a guarantee or refunds?

I make no guarantees, since I make no predictions of outcomes.

I require a 24-hour notice for cancellation for appointments for readings. With a 24-hour cancellation, you receive a full refund. If you do not give me 24-hour notice, your fee for the appointment is forfeited.

On the rare occasion when I find that I am unable to read what the cards are saying, I will offer a refund.


What is your cancellation policy?

You can cancel a reading at any time—however you must give me a 24-hour notice of cancellation for an appointment if you want to receive a refund.

For class/study registrations, please see the policy for that class.


Can I use Tarot cards for Kabbalistic meditation?

Yes. There are a variety of techniques you can use. If you would like to study some of these techniques, I offer opportunities for both individual and group study: Learn more.


Do you offer individual study or classes?


Yes. Please see my pages on Learning Opportunities.


What do you do with my personal information?


See the Gates of Light Tarot Privacy Policy.