Qabalah for Wiccans

We’re only one week away from the release of my first book, Qabalah for Wiccans. This time next week, it will officially be out in the world, for anyone to read. Honestly, it doesn’t feel real. I’m excited, and nervous (so extraordinarily nervous), but not nearly as excited or nervous as I thought I would be—largely because on some level, I still don’t believe it’s happening. I wrote a book. And got it published. And it’s a real, physical thing, and people who don’t know me are going to read it. Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

I started writing this book right when the pandemic hit. To be honest, I was mostly doing it to distract myself from what was happening in the outside world. Death was raining from the skies, I couldn’t leave my house, and I needed something to do other than sit at my computer refreshing CDC statistics about hospitalizations and deaths. So I sat down and started writing. At first I thought it was an essay, a sort of apologetic for why I think it’s worth a Wiccan’s time to learn Qabalah. As I kept writing, I realized that I had more to say, and it quickly turned into a book.

I tend to keep my cards close to chest about works in progress. I don’t like to tell people what I’m going to do; I like to tell them what I’ve already done. I don’t think I told anyone at all that I was writing a book until I was 20,000 words deep in the manuscript and sure that I would finish it. Even then, I only told a handful of people: My best friend, my High Priestess, my boyfriend at the time, and maybe one or two others. People in the Pagan community love to say “I’m going to write a book,” especially because there’s this weird background idea that having written a book somehow makes you a Legitimate and Knowledgeable Pagan,* but most people never follow through. I didn’t want to tell people I was writing this manuscript until it was done, finished, and real. In fact, I didn’t tell my broader circle of friends about it until after I’d sold the manuscript to Llewellyn.

I’m so, so proud of this book. Even if it flops completely, nobody reads it, and the people who do read it all hate it, I, personally, couldn’t be prouder. I wrote a book! So as we enter the final week before Qabalah for Wiccans goes out into the world, let me tell you a little bit about what this book is, what it’s about, and why I wrote it.

I came into Wicca through Qabalah, and into Qabalah through Tarot. I started reading Tarot when I was eleven years old, because I was entranced by Jane Seymour’s Tarot-reading character in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. I grew up reading Tarot, and as I matured as a Tarot reader, I started to look for deeper ways to engage with the cards. Not having a lot of money, I relied primarily on public domain sources that were available to me for free on the internet—and so, I ended up reading a lot of material from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I was drawn into the Golden Dawn’s system of Tarot, with its dazzling, complex sets of correspondences. And, of course, as with anything in the Golden Dawn, the Qabalah was the keystone that held it all together.

At first, I hated Qabalah. It was complicated and messy, and there were all kinds of terms I didn’t understand. I looked at it and didn’t know what the hell was going on, how it connected to Tarot, or why I should care about it. I would read a Qabalistic text, get frustrated, mutter “Screw this” to myself, and walk away.

But I always came back. Something about the Qabalah captured my attention, and I could never stay away from it. I would always come back, look at the text a second time, and slowly begin to forge an understanding of it.

My interest in Qabalah eventually led me to an interest in magic and witchcraft, and was an enormous contributing factor in my seeking out a Wiccan coven. And as I was trained in Wicca, I couldn’t help noticing how cleanly Wiccan ideas and rituals fit with a Qabalistic worldview. This, in itself, is no surprise; both Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente were familiar with Qabalistic magic, and they explicitly talk about Qabalah in their published works. Valiente identifies the Wiccan Gods as aligning with the Qabalistic principles of force and form (Chokmah and Binah). Although Wicca is not blatantly and inescapably Qabalistic the way Thelema is, there’s no question that Qabalah was an influence on the people who were instrumental in shaping Wicca in its early days. It’s not in your face, but if you look for it, it’s there in Wicca.

I’ve been a Qabalah apologist in the Wiccan community pretty much since I first joined. My standard line has always been that Qabalah is in no way necessary to the practice of Wicca (some of the most extraordinary Wiccan priestesses I know don’t know or care about Qabalah at all), but it can be enriching and edifying. Knowing about Qabalah, and thinking of things in Qabalistic terms, can give us a new perspective and deeper insight into our rites and our theology. No Wiccan has to be a Qabalist, and I don’t begrudge anyone deciding that Qabalah is not for them. Nonetheless, I maintain, for anyone who is interested in Qabalah, choosing to explore it will only benefit their Wiccan practice.

For years now, I’ve been standing on this soapbox, both in one-on-one conversations and in workshops I’ve taught. But I’ve always run into a problem. Every now and then, I’d win a convert, and someone would say, “Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m interested in learning more about Qabalah. Where do I start?”

The problem is, I didn’t have a good introductory Qabalah book to recommend to a Pagan reader. Qabalah and Paganism go together beautifully, but almost every introductory book on the market is designed for people who are interested more in Golden Dawn ceremonial magic than in witchcraft and low magic. Qabalah books are filled with tables of correspondences, Hebrew names of God, angels and archangels, and all sorts of other things that feel decidedly not Pagan. As an outsider trying to get into Qabalah, it really looks like Qabalah is antithetical to a Pagan worldview, so it’s no surprise that most Pagans are uncomfortable with (or uninterested by) the subject. The one exception is Ellen Cannon Reed’s The Witches Qabala, which is a lovely book—but even that book places a great deal of emphasis on angels, God-names, and correspondences. I wanted a simple, non-threatening book that said, “Here’s what Qabalah is, and here’s how it’s relevant to what you do.”

So that’s the book I wrote.

Qabalah for Wiccans is, in some ways, a straightforward introductory book. It walks through the structure of the Tree of Life, the ten Sephiroth and the twenty-two paths between them, and shows how the Tree can be understood dynamically. But rather than getting bogged down in tables of correspondences (and especially correspondences that might feel alien or useless to many Wiccan readers), I focus on the core concepts at work, and then try to show how those concepts appear in Wiccan ritual and theology. For each Sephirah on the Tree of Life, I talk about how that Sephirah can be found in Wiccan ritual. I talk about relating to the Gods in Qabalistic terms, casting a circle, and doing magic—not “let’s all sit in colorful robes and visualize the sphere of Mars” magic, but practical, results-oriented spellcraft of the sort Wiccans commonly use.

The real goal of the book is to show a novice reader three things: What Qabalah is, how it overlays on Wicca, and why it’s worth their time to study. It’s hard to judge my own work accurately (and once the book is out, I’m sure the Amazon reviews will do plenty of judgment for me), but I think I’ve accomplished all three of those things. If someone reads this book and decides Qabalah isn’t for them, that’s perfectly all right. As I say, no one needs to know Qabalah in order to practice Wicca. But at the very least, I hope, readers will walk away from my book with a core understanding of what Qabalah is, why I love it, and why I, at least, find it so foundational to my work as a Wiccan.

Qabalah for Wiccans releases on December 8th. You can buy it starting from next week, or you can pre-order it now and have it shipped to you on the release date.

As a final note, Amazon reviews are incredibly important to a book’s sales. If you read the book, please take the time to leave an honest review on Amazon, even if you bought it elsewhere. There is no better way to help other readers find it.

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*I have many thoughts about this, but that’s a subject for another time. The short version: Writing a book says more about someone’s ability to sit in front of a computer for hours on end than it does about their legitimacy as a magical practitioner.

4 thoughts on “Qabalah for Wiccans

  1. “The problem is, I didn’t have a good introductory Qabalah book to recommend to a Pagan reader. Qabalah and Paganism go together beautifully, but almost every introductory book on the market is designed for people who are interested more in Golden Dawn ceremonial magic than in witchcraft and low magic.”

    Extreme same. While I also love Ellen Cannon Reed’s book, it does lean so heavily on those tables of correspondences, archangels, and choirs of angels, and I feel like I need to apologize for it when I recommend it to people. I’m so glad you wrote this book, because it fills a definite need within paganism as a whole, as well as Wicca.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your book isn’t released in the UK until 8th Jan 2022, but that’s ok, I can wait for my Amazon pre-order! I rarely read tarot these days – but having followed your blog for a few years (which helps keep the tarot light burning) I’m genuinely interested in your take on the subjects you’re covering. The tarot teacher I had when I took some training, did incorporate a few Qabalah aspects which was fascinating, but much of it I’ve not recalled well, so hopefully your writings will jog my memory. Good on you for getting into print!

    Like

  3. Looking forward to reading this because I know how passionate you are on the subject, and to try to challenge my own bias against Qabalah (as one does).

    I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and see just what kinds of emotions stir. Thank you for grappling with this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

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