Learning Qabala through story

Last week, I wrote about some good starter texts on Qabala, for beginning your journey to understanding this amazing, super queer spiritual tool.

Today, I’m going to take a small step back and share with you a very short story I’ve written to describe the Qabalistic Tree of Life to someone brand-new to the subject.

I wrote this story as a quick “crash course on Qabala” to include in my Genderqueer Tree of Life workshop in 2018.

This story describes a journey down the “lightning flash,” through the spheres in order from 1 through 10, from Kether to Malkuth, which is the process by which things come into manifestation.

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Learning Qabala: Where to start?

Admittedly, I’m a huge Qabala nerd (see previous post: Qabala is queer, and it isn’t even sneaky about it). I love how the Qabala gives me a framework for understanding our relationship with divinity and a clear path for personal growth. I love how you could study it for a lifetime and only begin to scratch the surface of understanding it. I love how it’s incumbent upon every generation of Qabalists to add to the depth of knowledge and understanding of the Tree.

Unfortunately, when it comes to learning the Qabala, many budding Qabalists may find themselves frustrated. A lot of the notable and comprehensive works on Hermetic Qabala are densely written and were self-published over 50 years ago, which means they didn’t have a solid editor. What we’re left with are rambly screeds that have some great pearls of wisdom, but to get those pearls you have to slog through a ton of content that’s either difficult to connect with, irrelevant, or just plain infuriating, including rampant homophobic, sexist, racist, xenophobic, and ableist beliefs.

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Rethinking the Great Rite

The symbolic Great Rite, used in many Wiccan traditions, is meant to symbolize the unifying of opposite polarities, represented by an athame dipping into a chalice.

The Great Rite is also meant to symbolize the “pure energy of creation.” It can be seen as a metaphor for penis-in-vagina sex (the quintessential IKEA-esque “insert Tab A into Slot B” routine), so it has a veneer of being about heteronormative fertility as well.

This type of imagery can be uncomfortable and alienating for people in magickal communities who identify outside the gender binary or whose sexuality isn’t heteronormative. (See previous post: “Masculine” vs. “Feminine” energy: Why is this still a thing?)

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5 reasons why “Tarot for One” by Courtney Weber is my favorite Tarot book

A few years back, I was blown away by Courtney Weber’s book on the goddess Brigid. Shortly after that book was published, she published a book on Tarot called Tarot for One: The Art of Reading for Yourself – and my already high expectations for her writing climbed even higher.

Why do I love Tarot for One?

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This weird office tool makes learning new spiritual concepts easier

Years ago, I bought an office tool I thought I’d use once in awhile for random creative projects, but it turned out to be a critical component of my spiritual practice.

This simple object has improved my ability to learn and retain new things, including chakra colors and tones, Qabala spheres, basic grounding/centering/shielding, chakra cleansing meditations, and more.

What’s more, it helps me learn new stuff without having to add any additional time to my already-packed schedule.

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Tarot tip: Use your phone’s wallpaper

In January, my partner and I committed to doing monthly, single-card Tarot draws for ourselves.

We’re both working to live our lives more intentionally, and this seemed a good way to keep some guidance in the back of our brains for the duration of the month.

When we decided to do this, one of our big questions was: How would we keep these cards top-of-mind throughout the month? How could we avoid forgetting them amid all the other stuff going on?

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“Masculine” vs. “feminine” energy: Why is this still a thing?

A few days ago, I was reading a newly-published book on Tarot. I just about threw my e-reader across the room as I read a detailed explanation about how binary gender depictions on Tarot cards are important because masculine vs. feminine energy is a thing and the cards need to show that and we should just stop getting worked up about the gender binary because it’s, like, valid on a spiritual level.

Comedian John Stewart looking confused, then horrified, then putting his face in his hands.

Okay. Let’s take this from the top.

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Magic and the physical art of release

Those of us involved in mystery traditions are routinely compelled to examine our inner landscapes and confront our own bullshit, in the name of making ourselves better humans and better magical practitioners. We call this “self-work” or “shadow-work.”

But it’s easier to talk about how important those concepts are than to actually do them. Over the years, I’ve had good success with talk therapy and journaling, but something always seemed missing. Despite these intellectual approaches, I still struggle to let go of hurts and anger sometimes, which can be deeply distracting from other things I’d prefer to focus on, like magical work.

Like many practitioners (and people living with anxiety disorder), I recognize the importance of mindfulness in working with our less-pleasant emotions. I have an almost-daily meditation practice, which has been really helpful, but I also wanted a physical component to my mindfulness practice, which is why I keep being drawn to yoga classes.

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Upcoming event: Sacred Space/Between the Worlds 2020

Every year, the Sacred Space Conference serves up top-notch esoteric and occult workshops and ritual, and 2020 is no exception. This year’s conference will be special, however, because it’s joining forces with the Between the Worlds (BTW) Conference, only held every few years. The last time the two conferences merged was 2015.

The conference will be held April 9-12, in the northern suburbs of Baltimore.

What I love about Sacred Space and BTW is that I get to geek out in both intellectual and experiential ways about magick with a wide array of people, and learn from teachers with a wide array of perspectives and backgrounds. There’s plenty of opportunity to chat with practitioners from all over the world, too. And when the two conferences merge, the main rituals and gala are particularly grand.

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Qabala is queer, and it isn’t even sneaky about it

Many magickal practitioners are turned off by Hermetic Qabala because, at first glance, it appears to be a deeply patriarchal and hierarchal tool with strong Abrahamic underpinnings: something both familiar and often repellant to those of us brought up in conservative, Abrahamic faiths. Today, we seek tools and traditions that are egalitarian, inclusive, and empowering – why bother studying this dusty, complicated, old magical tool?

In my work with the Tree, however, I’ve found that both the glyph and its associated imagery and energy flows are decidedly queer.

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