top


feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC


feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

feri TOC

The Pentacles and the Tree:
Are There Crowleyian Influences on Feri Lore?

by valerie walker
©2005
Previously published in Witch Eye magazine

Scratching my Initials in the Tree Of Life

Despite the incessant nagging on the subject I received from my friend Ennien over the last year or so, I had been avoiding the study of Qabala for many years. She had been studying Qabala for almost ever, and has the correspondences of each Sephira and path at her fingertips; and she never hesitates to refer to these, whether I know what she's talking about or not. I was almost ready to bite the bullet and begin reading about the subject, when I attended Pantheacon. At the Fields bookstore booth, there sat Lon Milo Duquette, peddling his books. So I gave in and bought a copy of The Chicken Qabala of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford. Hey, he autographed it for me himself...such a deal.

I ripped through the book with my yellow highlighter, and then again with my red pen, until my copy is now completely covered in marginal notes, highlighted passages, and comments saying things like "Yeah! No SHIT!" and "I love you, Lon Milo." This was something like it! Finally, FINALLY, something that my ancestors have been doing for centuries, presented in a way that not only made me smile, it made me think. Hard.

For anyone who doesn't know, Qabala is a study of the significance of numbers, words and letters, whose most famous representation is that of the Tree of Life, the Emanations of the Divine. It all begins with (as Duquettte says) "three kinds of Nothing": Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur. These give rise to Kether, the Crown, the first emanation of God Him- and Herself. In short order, as the process of creation goes on, we end up with ten Sephiroth and 22 paths between them, thus:

The names are significant. In descending order, they are Kether/the Crown; Chochmah/Wisdom; Binah/Understanding; Chesed/Mercy; Geburah/Strength; Tiphareth/Beauty; Netzach/Victory; Hod/Splendor; Yesod/Foundation; and Malkuth/Kingdom. There is also an eleventh Sephira, known as the "false Sephira." Daath (Knowledge), which makes its home in the Abyss-- but more about that in a bit.

The general idea is that we live in Malkuth, the physical plane, the home of the four planar elements Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and that the spiritual life consists (at least for Qabalists) in attempting to get back up to Kether, to see the Face of God/dess. Jewish Kabbalists do it one way, Christian Cabalists another; this article deals with Magickal Qabalists. (Note the spellings--it helps sort out who's who in the literature.) Magickal Qabalists such as the Golden Dawn and the spiritual heirs of Aleister Crowley are usually to be found trying for the middle path, straight up the tree: Malkuth to Yesod to Tiphareth, safely avoiding Daath and up to Kether, do not pass go, do not collect $200. However, on looking at this, and on checking more Qabalistic books (see, I'm hooked!) such as Clifford Bias' Qabala, Tarot, and the Western Mystery Tradition, I found a very interesting schematic. If you draw a line through each of the Sephiroth in order, it makes a crooked path, like this:

The Path Of The Lightning Flash/Sword

This path of descent from heaven to earth ("how we fell," as Bias says) is known as the Qabalistic Sword or the Path of the Lightning Flash.

"Okay," I hear you say, "but what does all this have to do with Feri?"

My friend and co-religionist Kalessin and I were having a chat in Cora's kitchen one day when he said, "look at this--you can put the Pearl Pentacle on the top half of the Tree of Life and it fits!" If Power (Liberty) is placed at Strength, Law at Mercy, Wisdom at Wisdom (duh!), Love at the Crown, and Knowledge at Understanding, reversing the track of the Path of the Lightning Flash, it makes a perfect set of Qabalistic correspondences. I was struck by this; I had long wondered why Victor had placed Wisdom before Knowledge, and had, indeed, adopted the version of the Pearl Pentacle which shows knowledge as preceding wisdom in my own practice. But here was a clue to why Victor might have structured the Pearl Pentacle the way he did. Could there have been Qabalistic or Thelemic influences at work in his thinking? It wouldn't be the only example.

"But what," asked Kalessin, "about the Iron Pentacle? How would you go about placing the points on the Tree--I'm sure there's a way to do it."

Enter Ennien once again. When presented with this question, she said, oh that's easy, you just put them like so:

Ohhh, you simply do the same thing with the Iron Pentacle that you did with the Pearl, reversing the track of the Path of the Lightning Flash, starting with Power at the bottom in Malkuth (because we get our power from the Earth), then Pride in Foundation, Passion in Splendor, Self in Victory, and ---yep, Sex in Beauty. Perfect!

The Pentacles On the Tree

These ideas are far from new. In Lon Duquette's interpretation of Crowley's "Liber Vel Reguli" in The Magick of Thelema, Duquette puzzles over Crowley's directions of superimposing two pentacles on the tree of Life, one of which is described as an "averse" pentacle. This sounds similar to the model just described. And Duquette is quick to point out that there are a large number of arrangements when it comes to pentacles and the Tree. So Pentacle arrangement and re-arrangement has a goodly long tradition in Western Ceremonial magick.

There are hints in Victor's original ordering of the points of the Iron and Pearl that he was working with Thelemic/Qabalistic ideas. For example, why put Wisdom before Knowledge when going around the points? Wouldn't Knowledge necessarily precede Wisdom? If placement on the Tree is taken into account, it makes perfect sense, as we are working backward, and come to the Knowledge point before getting to the Wisdom point. In fact, "Knowledge" might not even be the most appropriate term, as the jump from Law to Knowledge in the above schema has to cross the Abyss, where there is no path, and there is the danger of falling into Daath, the "false Sephirah," whose name translates as "knowledge." The Sephirah attained beyond Daath is actually Understanding, which is a whole different kettle of fish. Daath is the trap of over-intellectualization, of resting in false knowledge, of getting stuck in Talker, of not proceeding past one's own knowledge to understanding, and then onward to wisdom.

And why did Victor make no elemental attributions for the points of the Iron Pentacle? Could it be because Malkuth, the earth, is represented by all four planar elements?

Phoenix Willow's research has dug up a lot of other Thelemic elements in Feri, some original to Victor and others added by teachers downline from him. The most egregious example is the use of a chanted adoration to the Peacock Angel which is taken directly from a much longer poem by a Captain Fuller, a friend of Crowley's, and which appears in its entirely in Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend.

Phoenix points out similarities among a) Crowley's Gnostic Mass: "...not unto Thee may we attain, unless Thine image be Love. Therefore by seed and root and stem and bud and leaf and flower and fruit do we invoke Thee."

b) Gardner's Drawing Down the Moon: "...I Invoke and beseech Thee, O mighty Mother of all life and fertility. By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by Life and Love, do I invoke Thee to descend into the body of thy servant and High Priestess [name]." Compare these with c) Feri Invocation of the Goddess: "Ever faithful sustainer of all life, descend upon us now! By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit. By life and by love I invoke You to descend upon the body of thy servant and Priestess."

So What?

Good question. This is all incredibly Talker-ish, and doesn't, as someone pointed out to me when I was trying to describe it, "get the dishes done." However, it does have some specific implications for Feri practice. The ten Sephiroth correspond very nicely to the Earth, the seven personal chakras, and two transpersonal chakras, and fit in quite well with my Ladder of Hestia (which is a meditation I evolved over thirty years or so, and which is complicated enough to demand an article of its own.). There's a nice set of affirmations which goes with it, and since they're short, I'll give them here:

Malkuth: we get our power from the Earth.
Yesod: we are unstoppable.
Hod: we are creative.
Netzach: we are brave.
Tiphareth: we are loving.
Geburah: we are able to speak truth to power.
Chesed; we are clear about our true Will.
Binah: we hear and understand the messages of the gods.
Chochmah: we have a mission in life.
Kether: we are everywhere!


This model is but one of many constructs made by human beings in order to better map and understand the ineffable. Please regard it as such. Take it and use it, or discard it. You don't have to look at the same thing in the same way all the time. It's a gift.

[Note: Since writing the above, I have been made aware that in People of the Earth: the New Pagans Speak Out by Ellen Hopman and Lawrence Bond (1996), Victor Anderson says, "I studied Kabbalah extensively in Spain in previous lives. In this life I teach Kabbalah." And I am also told that Victor was heavily influenced by Gershom Scholem, his favorite Kabbalistic author. Scholem produced the hypothesis that the source of the 13th century Kabbalah was a Jewish gnosticism that preceded Christian gnosticism. He believed in the power of the Hebrew language to invoke supernatural phenomena, and considered the Kabbalists as interpreters of a pre-existent linguistic revelation. (source: Wikipedia) Sounds, he said, have power on their own. Kabbalah, Scholem said, "reflects the attempt to discover the hidden life beneath the external shapes of reality." I can see why Victor would have liked that!

Recently I was re-reading Robert Graves' The White Goddess and found something rather interesting on p. 468 (of the 1975 edition).

"The Holy Trinity doctrine was pre-Christian, founded on Ezekiel's vision, the Trinity consisting of the three main elements of the Tetragrammaton. The First person was the true Creator, the all-Father, 'Let there be Light,' represented by the letter H...the lapis lazuli symbolizing the blue sky as yet untenanted by the heavenly bodies....The Second person was comprised in Ezekiel's Enthroned Man--spiritual man as God's image...he was represented by F, the fire-garnet....But only the lower half of the Man's body was fire-garnet; the male part. The upper half was amber: the royal part, linking him with the Third Person. for the Third Person comprised the remaining six letters of the Name, six being the Number of Life in the Pythagorean philosophy...representing the spirit that moved on the face of the waters in the Genesis narrative....The Third Person was thus androgynous: 'virgin with child', a concept which apparently accounts for the reduplication of the letter H in the JHWH Tetragrammaton."

So we are looking at an Ideal Man whose lower part is red, and whose upper part is yellow, connecting to the dark blue of the deity. This corresponds exactly to Victor Anderson's color attributions to the three souls: Vivi red, Emi yellow, and Ori deep blue. (not to mention a deity and twin children, plus a few other important correspondences.) Victor was obviously very much inspired by Graves. There are copies of both the 1946 and the 1960 editions of TWG in his library; one of his poems bears a striking resemblance to the dedication of TWG; plus other clues which should be obvious. There's a lot of vibe in Victor's teachings that can be traced to Raphael Patai's The Hebrew Goddess as well, another book in his personal library.]

[Thanks to Kalessin, Ennien, Phoenix Willow, dbananza, Aleister Crowley, Lon Duquette, Cliffford Bias, Victor Anderson, and everyone else who helped put new thoughts in my head. Which, come to think of it, includes everyone I've ever read, met, circled with, loved, hated, respected, played with,fought.... Well, you all know who you are. Many thanks. Ashe.]