I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Qabalah for Wiccansby Jack Chanek (it comes out December 8, 2021), and it straight-up made me shriek with joy and shout “YES!” on multiple occasions while reading it. This book was so good, it made me giddy.
Chanek elegantly weaves Qabalah basics with Wiccan lore, but the bulk of the book is an accessible introduction to the Tree of Life appropriate for anyone who who is new to its study: I’d commend this book to anyone interested in Qabala, even if they aren’t Wiccan. Chanek offers a well-paced, easy-to-understand walk through the Tree, and repeatedly reassures the reader that you don’t need to understand the whole Tree to work with it.
Here are the top four reasons I think this book is brilliant:
Rather than introducing each of the Sephiroth in order, starting from the top or the bottom of the Tree, Chanek introduces one triangle at a time: first discussing the pairs of spheres that sit across from each other and how they relate to each other, and then talking about the sphere on the Middle Pillar that unites and transmutes their energy. This strategy allows the reader to better understand each sphere in context. He also describes the polarity between the spheres on the pillars of force and form as two poles that strengthen and reinforce each other, yet also contain seeds of each other, which I love.
As part of the Wiccan focus of the book, Chanek describes how deity worship and workings can be enhanced by work with the Tree of Life. I particularly appreciated his assertion that all the gods can be found in all the Sephiroth, though various aspects of individual deity may have more of an affinity for specific spheres. Chanek offers practical and simple ways to enhance one’s existing magickal practice with Qabala, e.g. chanting an affirmation the number of times that corresponds to the number of the appropriate Sephiroth.
Chanek has a more expansive view of gender than you’ll find in most Qabala and Wicca books. His more-nuanced explanations of the masculine/feminine energy binary prevalent in Wiccan practice leave room for genders and sexualities outside cisheteronormative culture, and acknowledge that masculine and feminine are not opposites. He gives nods to the existence of intersex people and the overall complexity of biological sex, and challenges the reader to look deeper than oversimplifications of patriarchal gender dynamics when considering polarity in magick.
Chanek’s description of the Four Worlds and his description of the paths on the Tree are the clearest and easiest-to-understand I’ve ever seen, and for that alone he deserves a huge award. (Are there Qabala awards? There probably should be.)
Do yourself a kindness and get this book for your collection, or request it at your local library. It’s a great read, full of lots of “aha” moments and wonderful, thought-provoking insights. I’m glad I pre-ordered a physical copy, because this is one of those books I’m going to repeatedly pull off the shelf and refer to as I continue my Qabala studies and writing.
I just did my first interview as a queer pagan author! This post is a great way to get a quick overview of what my forthcoming book is about.
QueerQabala.gay Offers Inclusive Spirituality
Enfys J. Book (they/them) is the author of Queer Qabala, forthcoming from Llewellyn Books. The book and their site, which you can visit via www.QueerQabala.gay, is dedicated to exploring queerness through the spiritual, magickal practice of Qabala. While you’re waiting for your copy of Queer Qabala to arrive, you can enjoy Enfys’ writing via their blog. There are reviews of books on queer and mystical subjects, detailed posts exploring topics of Paganism and Qabala, and helpful guides for understanding LGBTQ+ issues. (Topics include self-care, a guide for parents of non-binary adults, gender-inclusive language tips, and stories to help allies better-support and understand their trans and non-binary friends.)
Read the rest of this #DotGayQAndA interview to get a crash course in queer Qabala, plus a special musical bonus at the end!
What does your forthcoming book, Queer Qabala, offer to LGBTQ+ readers that other spiritual guides don’t?
If you want two key takeaways from this book, they are:
Qabala is a powerful magickal tool fit for modern magickal practitioners of all sexualities and genders; and
Qabala is already queer, and we can make it even more so.
Through a friendly, simplified, easy-to-connect-with, and extremely queer introduction to the Tree of Life, I want to help queer people see themselves in Qabala, and help Qabala teachers of all sexualities and genders to be more inclusive in their teaching methods.
Qabala, after all, is supposed to represent the entirety of the universe and the full range of human experience, and that includes queer people and queer themes.
Give us a crash course: What exactly is Qabala, and what’s the difference between “magic” and magick?
Qabala is a framework for understanding and experiencing “life, the universe, and everything”—to quote sci-fi author Douglas Adams, wildly out of context. It is a tool for elevating consciousness, for deepening understanding of oneself, and for discovering and embracing the whole of manifested and unmanifested reality. It’s also a pretty badass magickal tool that can be used for all kinds of practical spellwork.
On my website and in my book, I specifically write about Hermetic Qabala, which has its roots in the Jewish study of Kabbalah, which itself was influenced by Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. The Jewish devotional practice of Kabbalah is focused on the ten aspects of the Divine God, and is largely understood to be a closed practice within the Jewish community.
The occult practice of Qabala, however, is an open practice for mystics of all spiritual backgrounds, and is focused on levels of consciousness, magickal systems, and the inner and outer landscapes.
The two practices share some components in common—the Tree of Life glyph, Hebrew names of spheres, and Hebrew letters on the paths, for example—but have completely different approaches to, and uses for, the same spiritual tool.
The spiritual practice of magick is the act of exercising one’s will to change reality in a way that isn’t easily explained by a clear chain of cause-and-effect. (That definition is from the book Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice by Misha Magdalene, which I highly recommend.)
Magick is sometimes spelled with a “k” to distinguish it from stage magic (pulling rabbits out of hats, card tricks, etc.). I personally like the “k” spelling, but usually the context will tell you which version a person is referring to, even without the “k.”
What is it about Qabala that makes it inclusive of LGBTQ+ practitioners?
Qabala has so much potential as a powerful and distinctly queer magickal tool. The more I looked at the Tree of Life through the lens of queerness, the more I realized that queerness isn’t just a lens. The Tree is, at its core, fundamentally queer. Representations of nonbinary and fluid gender and sexuality can be found throughout the Tree, and you don’t even need to look hard to find them.
First, we have the three pillars: The Masculine Pillar (AKA Pillar of Force, Pillar of Mercy), the Feminine Pillar (AKA Pillar of Form, Pillar of Severity), and the Pillar of Balance in the middle – effectively, the nonbinary or agender pillar. And on this Pillar of Balance, we have, arguably, the most important spheres of the tree: those spheres representing ultimate unity/potential and ultimate manifestation. In this way, the glyph acknowledges that these powers transcend gender and binary polarity.
Second, each sphere has a Hebrew name, with either a masculine or feminine ending. And interestingly, you have feminine names on the masculine pillar and vice-versa. Each sphere also has a magickal image, which is a picture to meditate upon to get to know that sphere better. These images are often of people presenting as masculine or feminine, and they don’t line up with the gender of the sphere’s name or the pillar it’s on.
For example, the magickal image of the seventh sphere, Netzach, is that of a beautiful naked woman. It’s aligned with the planet Venus, but it’s on the masculine pillar and has a masculine name. And even more interesting, the telesmic image for Hod is that of an intersex person. Intersex representation has been part of Qabala for over 100 years, and yet we still struggle to see intersex representation in pop culture today.
One of my favorite notes about the Hebrew names is that Chokmah and Binah—the spheres that are supposed to represent “ultimate, divine masculine and feminine powers”—are both feminine names in Hebrew. I like to call them the lesbian power couple of the Tree.
Finally, each sphere both projects and receives energy, effectively acting in what certain magickal circles would refer to as “masculine” and “feminine” capacities at the same time. So there’s bisexual and genderfluid representation on the Tree as well.
The ultimate point of my book is that I don’t need to queer the Qabala, because the Qabala simply is queer. I wanted to show the Tree of Life to people without all the unnecessary trappings that generations of patriarchy have hung upon its branches. I was surprised no other authors seem to have tackled the subject in this way, so I decided to write a book myself, and thankfully, Llewellyn decided to publish it.
I’m excited to share these ideas with the world, and hopefully inspire a whole new generation of queer Qabalists, who can adapt and build on my ideas and write even better books on the subject in the future.
My middle-aged adult friend just announced they are a different gender than I thought they were, and asked me to use a new name and new pronouns for them.
Why are they just realizing this now? They never seemed to react badly to their original name, gender, and pronouns before. Was it really bothering them so much they had to change?
Even the most well-intentioned ally can get confused, or even frustrated, when someone in their life comes out as nonbinary, transgender, or with a new name and new pronouns. Respecting that person now requires additional effort and practice. You have to rewire your memory a bit, and take extra care when speaking to or about that person until you get used to using the new name and pronouns. (I assure you, the effort is both worth it, and appreciated!)
You may have noticed this blog has been a bit quiet since the end of last year. I have a good excuse: I’ve been working on a book!
I’m pleased to say that Queer Qabala: Nonbinary, Genderfluid, Omnisexual Mysticism & Magick is coming to bookstores July 8, 2022, published by Llewellyn. I expect it’ll be available for pre-order in November or December this year — stay tuned! I’ll be sure to let you know when you can pre-order it. (Join my mailing list so you are among the first to know!)
I’ve expanded significantly on the Qabala content from this blog to bring you a book I’m extremely proud of, one that I hope will be a springboard for future books on Queer Qabala by a wide array of people.
The book is broken into three parts:
An overview of Qabala and queerness in magick
A walk through each of the ten spheres through a queer lens
Lots of Qabala-based workings for queer magickal practitioners
I’m extremely honored that the Foreword will be written by none other than Christopher Penczak, author of over 20 books on magic and mysticism and founder of the Temple of Witchcraft tradition. I’m a big fan of Christopher’s work, particularly his work with Qabala, and am so excited and humbled that he will be penning the Foreword.
I’ll keep you posted as there is more news to share, but I’m so excited I finally got to tell you all this wonderful news!
Barker and Scheele tell the story of of how humanity understands sexuality and why it’s so complicated, while acknowledging complexities, disagreements, and problematic elements within the evolution of our understanding of sexuality over time. Their approach is intersectional, acknowledging how race, culture, disability, and wealth are inseparable from one’s experience of sexuality; and they note the heavy influence capitalism and white supremacy have had on controlling people’s sexual desires and actions throughout the ages.
Other topics covered in the book include asexuality, BDSM and kink culture, sexual pleasure vs. function, sex disorders, and consent. The authors also dive into the much-debated topic of sex work, showing the harm done by stigmatizing sex workers.
I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Barker and Scheele’s other graphic guides, as well as anyone looking to get a deeper understanding of sexuality as a concept.
Hello, friends! I’ve recently polished up my Genderqueer Tree of Life workshop, and recorded it for all to enjoy.
The Hermetic Qabala is often perceived as an old-fashioned, patriarchal magickal tool full of absolutes and gender binaries. However, a deeper look within reveals all kinds of complicated, multi-faceted, and fluid gender and magickal polarities. This class will provide a brief introduction to Hermetic Qabala, including a pathworking where participants can experience the energy of each sphere on the tree, followed by an analysis on the use of gender and polarity in magick. We will then look at the use of gender and polarities on the Tree of Life and consider how this can relate to our magickal perspectives and practices. The class will conclude by offering a sample model for applying a queer lens to the Tree of Life, offering participants the tools necessary to develop their own.
I originally wrote this for an internal blog at work, and my colleagues and friends requested I repost it publicly to be shared more widely. I’ve adapted the original post with some minor updates and stripped out the stuff that was specific to the workplace.
Big thanks to my colleagues Tallulah and Basil for their help in assembling and editing this post!
There are lots of commonly-used phrases in English that are gender-exclusive. Because many English-speakers are used to hearing and using these phrases, it may not occur to people that these phrases are unintentionally exclusive. But knowledge is power, and we can do better!
For example, references to “men and women” exclude those of us who are nonbinary. Here are some helpful substitutions that are more inclusive:
I started this website almost exactly one year ago, and I’m so proud of everything it has become. I’ve kept up blogging every week (with a couple exceptions here and there), and I hope I’ve provided you with some helpful resources and ideas for your life and magick.
I’m going to take a little hiatus to refuel my creative juices, but rest assured I will return.
In case you missed it (ICYMI)…here are all the posts from this year, grouped by category:
Most resources about non-binary or genderqueer people coming out are aimed at teens and their parents. Resources for parents of non-binary adults are, unfortunately, sparse. I’ve pulled together the ones I’ve been able to find.
I’m using “non-binary” as an umbrella term for “identities outside of ‘male’ and ‘female.'” Your child may use a more specific term, like “genderqueer,” “genderfluid,” “bigender,” “agender,” or “xenogender.” We’ll get more into terminology later in this post, so don’t worry!
Step 1: When your child comes out, listen with an open mind.
For many non-binary or genderqueer people, telling our family members about our gender identity, even when we’re adults, is really scary. We fear we won’t be understood, or won’t be taken seriously. We worry that we won’t be able to express ourselves well. We are terrified our parents may reject our new names and pronouns.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to come out to those who raised us. Even if you don’t understand fully what your child is saying, even if you are hurt by your child saying they are something other than what you think they are, and even if you don’t believe their identity is real, resist the urge to push back in the heat of the moment, and try to take pride in them doing a very scary, courageous thing.