Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

The following article is part of the Tarot Tree House, an online class that teaches tarot and qabalah. If you’d like more info, and to pledge as my patron so you get additional materials like tarot spreads, meditations, and webinars, please visit me on Patreon.

TTH pt 4 final

Kether Correspondences

  • Title: Crown
  • Briatic Color: Pure White Brilliance
  • Divine Name: Eheieh (I am)
  • Astrological: Primum Mobile, the First Mover; First Swirlings
  • Elemental: Air
  • Path Text from Sepher Yetzirah: The First Path is called the Admirable or Hidden Intelligence, for it is the Light giving the power of comprehension of that First Principle which has no beginning; and it is the Primal Glory, for no created being can attain to its essence.
  • Cross-Cultural Gods: Ptah, Amon-Ra, Zeus (Jupiter), Brahma
  • Magical Image: The faint outline of a human face looking toward the viewer’s right, seen through brilliant light. No details, not even gender, can be made out.
  • Symbol: The point, the crown, the point within a circle, swan, hawk
  • Tarot: The Four Aces
    • Ace of Wands: Root of the Powers of Fire
    • Ace of Cups: Root of the Powers of Water
    • Ace of Swords: Root of the Powers of Air
    • Ace of Pentacles: Root of the Powers of Earth
  • Correspondence in the Microcosm: Yechidah, the spiritual essence of the self
  • Correspondence in the Body: Above the crown of the head
  • Perfume/Plant/Flower: Ambergris
  • Stone: Diamond
  • Animal: God

Kether and the Tarot Aces

In days of yore, a metal band with spikes or stylized leaves radiating from it was placed on the heads of the rulers of state and nation.

crownThe spikes symbolized the rays of the Sun and connected the King to solar light and the divinely delegated right to rule. The crown extended above the head to connect the one who wore it to a higher power. The crown is the primary symbol of the first sephirah, Kether, which likewise is seen as above human consciousness, yet touching human consciousness. Kether represents lifting us up toward a higher level of awareness.

Kether is the first sephirah, or enumeration, of the Tree of Life. It is considered to be concreted from the Limitless Light out of the Veils of Negative Existence as the first emanation our consciousness can grasp. Kether means “Crown.”

Kether has a nebulousness to it—it is beyond our normal state of awareness and is seen only vaguely, like looking at something lit so brightly that the details become faint and faded, like an overexposed photograph. Kether is closer to the Divine than it is to our everyday reality, and so there is much of it that is beyond our comprehension. This concept is reflected in the magical image associated with this sephirah: The faint outline of a human face looking toward the viewer’s right, seen through brilliant light. No details, not even gender, can be made out. It is as if something is just coming into being, stepping forward from the complete obscurity of a mist of light, but not yet fully visible.

PhanesThere is another version of the magical image that reflects more of a Judeo-Christian image of God, or perhaps just the hierarchy of temporal authority: An ancient bearded king seen in profile. The first image given, in which no details, not even gender, can be identified, is much more accurate to the essence of the sephirah. In some ways, the image is more reflective of the Orphic primordial god Phanes, who was the first being hatched from the World Egg, brooded over by Time and Inevitability. The magical image has some similarities to Phanes, whose name means “bring to light,” and who is usually depicted as a beautiful, golden-winged, hermaphroditic deity wrapped in the coils of a serpent. But even as the image of an ancient bearded king is too specific to represent the essence of Kether, so too is the image of Phanes too detailed, too manifested into the physical realm, to be an accurate representation of the indeterminate first sephirah.

The path text for the first sephirah is, “The First Path is called the Admirable or Hidden Intelligence, for it is the Light giving the power of comprehension of that First Principle which has no beginning; and it is the Primal Glory, for no created being can attain to its essence.” The title “Hidden Intelligence” can also be understood as “Mystical Consciousness” and refers to Kether as stemming from a level of awareness that is veiled from us. Through working with and contemplating this symbol, we can achieve understanding of that primal source which itself has no beginning but from which all else arises. The text also reminds us that the Divine essence is beyond our reach.

Ptolemaic systemAstrologically, Kether is associated with the primum mobile, the first moving sphere in the Ptolemaic construction of the cosmos. In this system, the earth is centered amidst a series of concentric spheres. Beyond the earth are the elements, then proceeding outward are the seven classical planets from fastest moving to slowest–Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Beyond the last visible planet lies the fixed stars, and beyond that the primum mobile, which whirls extremely quickly and sets all the other spheres in motion.

The title First Swirlings brings to mind anything that arises from rotational movement, from the origins of stars and celestial systems to the twirling stick that ignites the spark in primitive fire-making techniques to the spindle that shapes the amorphous fiber into the long, strong thread.

The tarot’s four Aces, the four initiating forces, correspond to Kether. The Golden Dawn titles are as follows:

  • Ace of Wands: Root of the Powers of Fire
  • Ace of Cups: Root of the Powers of Water
  • Ace of Swords: Root of the Powers of Air
  • Ace of Pentacles: Root of the Powers of Earth

Each Ace is called the Root. This is directly related to the symbolism of Kether as the principle which has no beginning. In terms of our tarot Aces, the Root is not the element, but rather the source of that element, and arises from the unmanifest, shown by a hand coming out of a cloud. All four Aces are themselves arising from a single source, the source that has no beginning. The Aces represent the initial coming into being of the beginningless.

Each suit of the tarot works on one of the planes represented by the Four Worlds. The Wands are the level of Atziluth, the World of Emanation. The Cups work on the level of Briah, the World of Creation. Swords embody the World of Formation, Yetzirah. And Pentacles are symbolic of the World of Assiah, Manifestation. So while each number refers to the corresponding sephirah of the Tree of Life, each suit places that number in the descending sequence, from the most ethereal and Divine to the most solid and practical, of the Four Worlds.

Ace of Wands: Kether of Atziluth

Wands01The Ace of Wands is Kether of Atziluth. This is the highest, most rarefied of all the cards of the tarot deck. It is the source of the power that the Magician’s wand reaches up to, and is the inspiring essence represented by the white sun (an image of Kether) in the Fool card.

It is standard for us to think of Aces or the number 1 as beginnings, and this is certainly true in every system of numerology. But in qabalistic numerology, the sense of beginning is much more clearly defined, not as an action—Dion Fortune says the Kether is being without form or activity—but as an inspiration or stimulation of beginning—it is the cause of beginning rather than a beginning in and of itself.

Kether in Atziluth, which is the highest level of Kether and is directly emanated or crystallized from the Limitless Light of the Veils of Negative Existence, is the very first glimmer of something coming into form, which does not yet have a definite shape, and yet is more than the nothingness of non-being.

To help create context, qabalists say that Malkuth is the Kether of a new Tree. Malkuth, the tenth and lowest sephirah of the Tree of Life, is the resulting manifestation of the energy that descends the Tree as it comes into form. This resulting manifestation then begins a new Tree in the next lower world, with the final form of the previous version being the prototype of the new version, the Kether of a new Tree. So Kether of Atziluth arises from the Ain Soph Aur, the Limitless Light, and at the bottom of the Tree in the world of Atziluth we find Malkuth of Atziluth, which in turn becomes Kether of the Tree in the world of Briah. Then the energy steps down through the ten sephiroth of the Briatic Tree to find final form in the Malkuth of Briah, which then becomes the Kether of Yetzirah, and so on and so forth.

So understanding this, we can begin to place the Ace of Wands in a context that differentiates it from the other Aces. Not all the Aces represent the first crystallization of the Limitless Light—only the Ace of Wands does. The other Aces will represent various degrees of solidity (the Ace of Pentacles, Kether in the world of Assiah, being the most concrete), while still retaining the concept of stimulating beginning rather than being a start, as we shall see.

Ace of Cups: Kether of Briah

Cups01The Ace of Cups represents Kether in the world of Briah. Because the conclusion of each Tree in one world gives rise to the Tree of the succeeding world, (Malkuth is the Kether of a new Tree), Malkuth of Atziluth, the Ten of Wands, gives rise to Kether of Briah, the Ace of Cups. Now our conception of Kether, while retaining the essence of its symbolism, no longer arises from the Ain Soph Aur, but at this stage comes from the finality of the Tree in the world of Atziluth. So the world of Emanation, of arising from nothing, becomes Briah, Creation, the world of imagination. If Atziluth/Wands is inspiration, Briah/Cups is the emotional engagement that receives and nurtures that inspiration.

Think of it this way—how many times have you had a flash of brilliance and then couldn’t imagine how it might work or weren’t emotionally engaged enough with it to carry it out? Those are examples of the spark of Atziluth fizzling out and failing to translate into the next step of the world of Briah. But when that spark of inspiration grabs your imagination and excites your passion, then it successfully moves from the world of Emanation into the world of Creation.

Symbolically, the Ace of Cups represents the receiving of inspiration and its gestation or cultivation. It stimulates the beginning of emotion and relationship. It is the safe space in which radical ideas can gain the trust and support from within and from the community in order to continue the manifestation process into the next level.

Ace of Swords: Kether of Yetzirah

Swords01Malkuth of Briah, the Ten of Cups, forms Kether of Yetzirah, the Ace of Swords. The world of Creation and imagination gives way to the world of Formation and limitation. The initial spark of inspiration becomes imagined so clearly that a specific form is initiated. Yetzirah is the world of measuring and cutting, the analytical element air. Kether of Yetzirah is the spark that initiates formation; it is the emotionally desired, perfectly imagined culmination of the world of Briah, translating into the root of the element air: the clarity of vision that allows us to begin to map out, sketch, or draw plans for our creation.

The World of Yetzirah begins to place limitations on what could be. In this world, determinations must be made as to the size and scope of the dream. Briah is a vast sea of infinite possibilities, and Yetzirah is the funnel that directs and focuses the wild array into a finite space, losing as little as possible, but also establishing a cutoff point between what works and what doesn’t, what will fit and what won’t.

Kether of Yetzirah, the Ace of Swords, represents the focused clarity that moves us beyond vision and initiates scrutiny. It is the clear choice to move forward with a specific part of the dream. It triggers the need to measure, cut, size, and count. It limits our dreams based on what can realistically be accomplished. It chooses the direction for our first step.

Ace of Pentacles: Kether of Assiah

Pentacles01The World of Yetzirah ends at the Ten of Swords. All the layers of the sewing pattern have been cut out and pinned together. Mistakes have been made and fudged (pins are great for fudging). If a problem didn’t get identified and fixed, now is where it will really become a liability, as we descend into the World of Assiah. Assiah is the world of Manifestation and Action. It is the final series of steps that brings our spark of inspiration all the way into completion in physical form.

As an example, imagine if you will, an empty lot, perhaps in the Green Mile of South Broadway in Denver, Colorado. If you were an entrepreneur, you might notice this lot, and observe the dispensaries north and south of it, and out of the blue you think, what a great spot for a business. And you go home and tell your family, and they say, “Yes, that sounds like a great opportunity. But of all the things in the world, what do these people most need?” And you reply, “I bet they need donuts.” And thus is born out the Veils of Negative Existence the inspiration for a business, and out of all the possibilities that can be dreamed of, you settle on a donut shop. Or maybe you initially think of a pizza place, but the World of Yetzirah points out that the lot is too small and there are at least four other pizza places in a one mile stretch of road, and you must refine your vision. But a donut shop will work, and will fit the lot, and fulfill the needs of those who drive up and down Broadway. And we enter the World of Assiah, the world of action and manifestation, of foundations and bricks and mortar and signs and set prices and limited parking spaces. Yes, a drive-through would work nicely here. And thus you dash the locals’ dreams of an independent coffee shop with hip, bored, cleverly snide baristas and the artwork of neighborhood talent hung on the wall.

The Ace of Pentacles is Kether of Assiah. It is the Malkuth of Kether, the completely constrained and immovably defined culmination of the process of limitation, now ready to be sewn together. Malkuth of Kether sparks the action that leads to completion. It is taking the first stitch, laying the first brick, removing the first bits with hammer and chisel, and there is no turning back.

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Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a psychic and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

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Introduction to Tarot and Qabalah: Kether and the Tarot Aces