Tzaddi is not The Star

During the Second World War, Aleister Crowley, working with his friend, student, and artist Lady Freida Harris, created one of the most visually stunning and Qabalistically potent Tarot decks the world had ever seen. Named after the Egyptian god of magic and wisdom, the Thoth Tarot was both mind-blowingly beautiful and brilliantly conceived. In addition, Crowley decided to do something that broke pretty heavily from the Golden Dawn tradition – he switched the Qabalistic correspondences of two cards – the Emperor and Star. He did this due to a mystical text he “received” during trance* known as Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law. Within the first chapter, dedicated to the sky goddess Nuit, we find the following:

“Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.
All these old letters of my Book are aright; but 
צ is not the Star. This also is secret: my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.”

The Book she spoke of was the Tarot, referred to by Crowley as the Book of Thoth. Crowley racked his brain in an attempt to figure out why צ – Tzaddi – was suddenly not the Star. However, instead of assuming that the card should merely be renamed, he decided instead to take an already Qabalistically assigned card and make a switch.

The Emperor card having been assigned to the Hebrew letter Heh was problematic for Crowley. Within the confines of the Tetragrammaton, that is, the holy four-fold name of God (YHVH/Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh, sometimes transliterated as Jehovah), Heh is used twice, and as far as the Qabalists were concerned, both times were assigned to denote the passive elements (Water and Earth). This made little sense to Crowley, who viewed the Emperor, assigned to the Cardinal Fire sign of Aries, as aggression and machismo personified. In addition, Uncle Aleister then began playing a pretty lame game of sound-association in an attempt to pass his new attribution off as genuine word etymology.

“This card (Emperor) is attributed to the letter Tzaddi, and it refers to the sign of Aries in the Zodiac. This sign is ruled by Mars, and therein the Sun is exalted. The sign is thus a combination of energy in its most material form with the idea of authority. The sign TZ or TS implies this in the original, onomatopoetic form of language. It is derived from Sanskrit roots meaning Head and Age, and is found today in words like Caesar, Tsar, Sirdar, Senate, Senior, Signor, Senor, Seigneur.”

 Firstly, apart from a few rare cases of borrowed words, Hebrew is not derived from Indo-European Sanscrit, but from its own Proto-Semitic language roots. This might explain, to begin with, why “Tzaddi” means “Fish Hook” in Hebrew and not “Old Head” or something of the sort. Also, it should be noted that in Hebrew the word Caesar is spelled Qoph-Samekh-Resh**, with the “Tz” of Tzaddi nowhere to be found.

Secondly, even pushing aside the misogynistic notion that energetic aggression is solely masculine, stereotypical machismo itself would be absolutely nothing without a feminine element added to the equation. Isn’t testosterone’s base primary purpose to drive its possessor to secure an ideal mate, no matter who stands in the way? Also, does there exist within our collective minds a single “macho man” who doesn’t have some weird Freudian mommy issues? Crowley’s own Oedipal difficulties certainly shine through his writing fiercely, and the man could become downright petulant in places where “the fairer sex” was concerned.

I feel our Emperor can be as rugged and butch as he wants to be without being embarrassed to hold hands with the Empress in public, or tell his mother he loves her, or spoil his young daughter with gifts. Heh is a perfect letter for him, since it is for such passive elements that he theoretically rises to the occasion time and time again.

Tzaddi can comfortably remain as the letter associated with Aquarius and the beauty of the card once called “The Star”. Aquarius is the water-bearer, but not Water itself. It is the fixed and most stable of Air signs. It is the expansive Sky, the vault of the heavens, that which bears life-giving rains to the soil, rivers and oceans below. It is no wonder that the litany of the Sky Goddess Nuit was where the misnomer was proclaimed, for a star is a mere freckle upon Her skin. Thus, in the Dream Logic Tarot, the card associated with the sign of Aquarius and the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, is named The Sky.

The Sky



*This is merely one possible interpretation of the events that transpired during Crowley’s 1904 Honeymoon with his first wife Rose. Some say it was Rose who went into trance and dictated the piece, others that the God Horus himself appeared behind Crowley and commanded him to write. Whatever the case, Crowley treated the “received” book with reverence, even to the extent of founding Thelema, a religion (of sorts) with Liber AL as its central holy text.

**This is of particular importance to anyone interested in Crowley and/or Revelations. Certain scholars believe that the ominous Number of the Beast — 666, which held so much importance and Qabalistic significance to Uncle Aleister, was an attempt at transliterated gematria involving the name of Emperor Nero. In Greek, the lingua franca of the Levant at the time, Nero is usually spelled with a final “nu”. Thus NERON CAESAR, transliterated into Hebrew would be spelled NRVN QSR (Nun-Resh-Vau-Nun Qoph-Samekh-Resh), which would yield 666. The oldest versions of Revelations, however, have the Beast’s number as 616, which means the name would have been transliterated from Latin, which did not include the final “n”. The Hebrew “n”, or “Nun”, equals the number 50 in gematria.

The Empress

The Empress
The Empress

“For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.” -Liber Al vel Legis, Chapter 1:28.

Ruled by the perpetually fecund planet Venus, the Empress represents verdancy and bloom personified. She is the agent of molecular congress – attraction, magnetism, gravity, love and lust all fall under her joyous dominion. She is the goddess Hathor, with a solar glyph drawn upon her chest in blood. On the Tree of Life, her path stretches between the pillars of Mercy (Gedulah or Jakin) and Severity (Geburah or Boaz), represented by the white and black spheres floating above her palms, her body uniting them above the Abyss. The Hebrew letter associated with this path, Daleth, means “door” or “portal”, a gateway of divinity.

Possible chanting heard on premises.

Landlord: “What’s that you’re holding?”
Jay: “A goat skull. It’s for an art project.”
Landlord: “I expected that, since you’re not allowed to do any Satanic Rituals on the first floor.”
Jay: “That wasn’t in the lease- I’m just not allowed to be noisy about it.”
Landlord: “Yes, no chanting. I don’t want demons pouring out of the fireplace.”
Jay: “No loud chanting, you mean.”

The Fool

The Fool
The Fool
Creative energy, its its purest form, does not know division nor gender. Such concepts eventually solidify as energy gains experience. The Fool symbolizes this raw potentiality: energy not yet focused in a specific direction.

Many believe the Fool represents stupidity or idiocy, but this is not the case. On the contrary, its associated element of Air rules the mind. The card can thus also signify naive curiosity and childlike fascination — intellect untarnished by opinion or bias. Each thought is recognized in its pure, undiluted beauty and wonder. The Fool therefore epitomizes the blissful moment of experience free from judgment and/or preconceived notions.

Tarot Creation

(as seen at

When I talk to people about the Dream Logic Tarot, they commonly ask me about the process of creating a tarot card. I’ve therefore decided to write a little bit about said process, and shall use the card of the High Priestess as an example.

Each tarot card has a series of traditional correspondences. In the case of the High Priestess, those correspondences are the Moon and a path on the Qabalistic Tree of Life known as Gimel.

The Moon, as many of you know, has a whole slew of interesting and beautiful symbolic analogies all its own. The power of the tides, feminine sexuality and fertility, menstrual cycles, “lunacy”, nocturnal mysteries, and the “astral plane” all fall beneath the Lunar banner.

Now we can look at Gimel. Gimel, is a Hebrew letter that means “camel”, and is associated with the longest and arguably most dangerous path on the Tree of Life. You see, there is a hidden sphere on the Tree known as Daath, or “knowledge”, though most people tend to call it “The Abyss”. This Abyss represents, among other things, the complete annihilation of the spiritual seeker who wishes to reunite with his/her divine source. It is the Void manifest as the destruction of the ego, and most people who spend too much time there find little more than gibbering insanity awaiting them. The path of Gimel travels directly through it.

This is where the “camel” comes into play. The path of Gimel has been likened to a vast, inhospitable, desert wilderness. As such, no human can cross this expanse alone without perishing. However, with aid and spiritual guidance, one might be able to traverse it. Desert nomads relied upon camels to travel great distances over deadly terrain, and specifically relied upon the female camel when supplies were scarce. On exceedingly long journeys, when water was terribly rare, the nomads would drink the camel’s milk to sustain themselves.

As such, the High Priestess represents the ultimate field guide, initiating the seeker into the heart of some of the darkest and most secret mysteries. She is inspiration and spiritual sustenance personified.

As I was musing over the card, I was simultaneously reading The Spartacus War by historian Barry Strauss. In it, he explains how Spartacus was in love with a Thracian priestess who inspired and guided him during his slave-rebellion. Thracian priestesses tended to not only be tattooed, but also snake handlers.

Now, the serpent has a slew of its own concurrences. One of these is that of the “initiator” into secret wisdom, while another is that of yogic kundalini, the spiritual “fire snake” that climbs the spine of the yogi, uniting with his/her crown chakra. If we superimpose the Tree of Life over the human body, the path of Gimel becomes a portion of the spinal column itself. The highest sephiroth, or sphere on the Tree, which Gimel leads to, is known as Kether, or “Crown”. In addition, priestesses of Apollo at Delphi were known as Pythia, referencing the monstrous Python slain by the Sun God. The other sphere on the Tree that Gimel connects to, Tiphareth, is deemed by most to be the sphere of the Sun.

Immediately, the perfect model came to mind. For a period of time, I had worked a relatively mundane job with the incredible visual artist K Lenore Siner. K, a priestess in her own right, was not only stunning, but also had colorful snake tattoos on her arms perfect for the symbolism I was going for. All I needed now was a real snake. Conveniently, my friend Pete Murphy (himself a model in the tarot deck as the 4 of Swords), owned a beautiful and friendly albino corn snake named Glen. All necessary parties were called, picked up, and brought to Jay’s studio. The photo shoot went very smoothly, and many wonderful conversations (occasionally involving giraffes) were had.

Jay created a series of wonderfully interesting and colorful Mandelbrot fractals to work as the background, some that looked much like the chamber nautili, adding to the Lunar connection to the seas. I was also reminded of the myriad microscopic shells found in the desert sands when magnified. A picture of the dark and mysterious crescent moon was placed behind K’s head like a nocturnal halo. In addition, two trees, one black, one white, were placed flanking her. This is due to certain classic tarot decks that would place the Priestess between two pillars which represented the Qabalistic pillars of Mercy and Severity, or Jachin and Boaz, to the Freemasons. The Priestess, the path of Gimel, signifies the longest section of the Middle Pillar, the pillar of balance and equilibrium. Thus, a Dream Logic Tarot card is completed.

The High Priestess
The High Priestess