RPG Library

Kabbalistic Magic
On How to Use the Mystical Interpretations of the Jewish Holy Books in Adventure Role-Playing Games
by Simcha Kuritzky

Central to any fantasy role-playing game is the concept of magic. Magic influences battles, sustains or destroys nations, and adds a special quality to game playing that differentiates it from the mundane world. Of course, the idea of magic is far older than the fantasy role-playing game; it dates back to when Man first attempted to explain the workings of the universe. Thus, a fertile source for ideas concerning magic is Man's own past, and among the various philosophies which have not been thoroughly explored for fantasy role-playing games is the Jewish Kabbalah.

The Kabbalah is a group of works which present mystical interpretations of the Jewish holy books, known as Tanakh, which consist of the Torah (5 books of Moses), Novim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). The literal meaning of the term Kabbalah refers to the act of transmitting secret knowledge, and as with all forms of mysticism, Kabbalah explores the secret or hidden meanings of the universe. However, because these aspects of the universe are so complicated and difficult to understand, the authors of Kabbalistic works rely heavily on symbols and analogies to make their point. One way of distinguishing the symbolic from the literal is by knowing which ideas are acceptable and which are taboo. For example, one book describes God's physical proportions in great detail; however, an important belief in Judaism is that God is completely incorporeal, and thus these measurements are really symbols for God's power. Other basic tenets of Judaism are that God is indivisible, eternal and has alone complete authority over the universe; there are no intermediaries between God and Man; and God is the creator of the universe and all men.

As mentioned earlier, mystics of all cultures attempt to explain how the universe works and why. Unlike rationalists who explore the physical aspects of the universe, the mystics try to understand the spiritual aspects. The Kabbalistic view of the universe is much different from that held by most Western scientists. First of all, the "true" universe consists of the En Sof (literally the infinite or the incomprehensible), which is the spiritual universe. The spiritual universe is inseparable from God, and has no beginning and no end (unlike the physical universe). God has many characteristics, but they can be logically separated into ten groupings. When these characteristics are all present in a particular "region," that region is perfect. However, God has several times removed certain characteristics from a point in the En Sof (the act is called tzimtzum, contraction) thus creating a point of imperfection wherein a physical universe can exist.

Our current universe is not believed to be the first, but it may be the longest-lived. It was created by removing Law from a point and filling the "vacuum" with Kindness. This was necessary for it was God's desire to give Man free will or the power to decide good or evil, and this would not be possible if Divine Law permeated the universe. The act of creation itself was accomplished through ten emanations (esher sephirot in Hebrew).... First, Keter (Crown) was emanated as a projection of En Sof into the physical universe. From this sphere of emanation came Khokhmah (Intelligence), called the father sphere, and Binah (Wisdom), the mother sphere. The remaining seven spheres come from Wisdom, and represent each of the seven days of Creation. The six "active" spheres are: 1) Khesed (Kindness) also known as Gedulah (Greatness), 2) Din (Law) or Gevurah (Power) or Pakhad (Fear), 3) Tiferet (Beauty) or Rokhmim (Mercy), 4) Netzakh (Victory or Endurance), 5) Hod (Glory or Majesty), and 6) Yesod (Foundation) or Tzaddik (Righteousness). The last sphere, which represents the physical universe, is Malkhut (Kingdom), also called Knesset Yisroel (Community of Israel) or Shekhinah (God's female aspect). The variety of names for some of the emanations reflect the multitude of ways one can interpret God's characteristics.

It should be noted that these spheres are inseparable. They merge, divide, reflect and act as catalysts for one another, and have different amounts of influence at any particular time or place. Some mystics have gone into great detail to explain the various influences the emanations have on each other. From a fantasy role-playing game standpoint, these spheres of emanation are the root of magic. Knowing the relative influence of the spheres [one can tell] the future, and exercising any control over the spheres will influence future events.

The spheres themselves are often grouped in various ways, such as by triangles or columns. To view the tree of emanations (in Hebrew Etz Khayim) as triangles, imagine the top nine spheres as one triangle pointing up over two triangles pointing down. For this interpretation, neither Crown nor Kingdom are used, as they represent the spiritual and physical universes, respectively. The top triangle consists of Intelligence, Wisdom and Da'at (Knowledge, or a combination of Intelligence and Wisdom). Knowledge is the external or more physical aspect of the Crown, and is often placed directly between Intelligence and Wisdom and beneath Crown. These top three spheres are more intertwined and interdependent than any other combination of spheres. Sometimes Crown is referred to as "the knowledge," Intelligence as "that which knows," and Wisdom as "the thing known." Thus it is not surprising that the first triad is known as the Intellectual triad, or the brain of the tree of emanations.

The second triangle consists of Kindness, Law and Beauty, and is called the moral triad. As mentioned earlier, the current physical universe is believed to have been created by an act of both Law and Kindness. These two characteristics are viewed as the archetypes of the duality of good versus evil, where Kindness is good and (unrestrained) Law is evil, but many of the mystics who developed this principle further borrowed heavily from the Zoroastrians, and thus their ideas tend to be inconsistent with the other philosophies of Judaism. This triad also defines the three columns of the tree of emanations, these being the right side (Intelligence, Kindness and Victory) which signifies mercy, the left side (Wisdom, Law and Glory) which signifies judgement, and the center (Crown, Beauty, Foundation and Kingdom) which mediates.

The third triangle is known as the natural triad. It contains Victory, Glory and Foundation. This triad is seen as baser or more physical than the others due to its proximity to Kingdom, which represents the physical universe.

The ten emanations are seen as the means by which the universe was created and maintained. They are occasionally represented as a wheel with Beauty in the center, or as ten concentric circles which either begin or end with Crown. There are also ten "intangible" spheres, a shadow of the tree of emanations, which consists of 1) Rom (Height), 2) Mizrakh (East), 3) Tzofun (North), 4) Tove (Good), 5) Ra (Evil), 6) Reysheet (First, 7) Durem (South), 8) Mariv (West), 9) Akhrit (Last), and 10) Takhat (Depth). The relationships of the spheres of emanation, particularly in their tree structure, is constantly referenced or alluded to in mystical works, as we shall see.

The physical universe itself is composed of four worlds, which are not planets, and correspond to the four stages of Creation. These stages are another aspect of the creation process and do not conflict with the six phases or "days" of Creation listed in the beginning of the Torah. The four worlds, and their related stages of creation, are: 1) Olam HaAtzilut (World of Emanation), which represents the archetypal ten emanations and the creation of primeval light; 2) Olam HaBeriah (World of Creation), which contains the Divine Throne and symbolizes the spiritual universe apart from God, and Man's divine "spark"; 3) Olam HaYetzirah (World of Formation), wherein reside the angels and men's souls, and symbolizes the concept within creation of individual existence (i.e., number, measure and form) as opposed to archetypes or ideas; and 4) Olam HaAsiyah (World of Activity) which is the material universe.

There are many theories concerning the relationship of these four worlds to the ten emanations. In one, the four worlds are all part of what we call the physical universe, and thus they reside below the emanations, which are more spiritual in nature. Another theory states that there is a set of ten emanations within each of the worlds, and while the names and positions of the emanations within each tree stays the same, their inter-relationships within each tree does not. Yet another view has each of the first three worlds associated with the three triangles mentioned earlier, and the fourth world identified with the emanation Kingdom.

Judaism was the first religion to conceive of time as linear: the physical universe has a beginning, a life-span, and an end. Yet in Kabbalah some cycles are mentioned. Of course there is the seasonal cycle, the most important seasons being Spring (the time of planting) and Autumn (the time of harvest). Spring is associated with Kindness, for it represents the re-birth of nature. It is also the time when the Jews celebrate Pesakh (Passover), which commemorates God's Kindness in intervening to free the Jewish slaves of Egypt more than 3500 years ago, even though they had not shown themselves worthy. Autumn, on the other hand, is associated with Law, for it is then that one reaps what one has sown, and the Jews observe Rosh Hashonah (Spiritual New Year) when God judges men and determines their fates for the coming year. It has been postulated that the world was conceived in Autumn, and that this was when Law was removed from the supernal point which was to become the physical universe; and the world was created in Spring, when Kindness moved in to fill the "vacuum."

Yet another theory postulates cycles occuring on a much grander scale. In this theory, one of God's days is 1000 of our years. His week is 7000 years, and His jubilee is 50,000 years. Each of the seven creative spheres (all but the Intellectual triad) dominates a week, and the interpretation of the Torah changes with each week. Thus the time of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) was dominated by Kindness, but Moses' receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai marked the beginning of the week controlled by Law. This conveniently explains why the early Jews did not have to follow all of the various restrictions in the Bible (particularly the dietary laws), and expresses the hope that in the future these rules will be less harsh. After each of the spheres has had its week, the Messianic Age begins and all souls are forgiven. There is then a millenia of reshaping, in which a new physical universe is created complete with a new set of souls and the process starts over. The number of cycles, while limited, is not known.

An important principle in Jewish mysticism is the power contained in letters, words, names and especially in the Torah. While the Jews did not invent the alphabet, they were one of the first people to use it and even to this day tend to be obsessed with it. Each letter was originally a symbol for the first sound in that word. In addition, the Semitic alphabets also serve as numerals. Thus was established the principle of secret meanings behind each letter.

The Kabbalistic view of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet is that they represent the 22 "gates" or "pathways" between the ten spheres of emanation. Thus letters can be used to "enter" or understand the emanations.... It should be noted that since there are only ten emanations, Knowledge should be ignored (alternatively, Crown could be ignored and Knowledge take its place).

The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are also linked to different parts of the universe, parts of Man, or other symbols. The Hebrew alphabet is often divided into three classes: the three mother letters, the seven double letters and the twelve single letters. The mother letters each correspond to a different element (Earth was not considred an element by most Kabbalists), as well as the three triangles of the tree of emanations. The double letters each represent a different day of the week, facial orafice, direction, noble metal and heavenly body (only five planets were known then). Each single letter represents a different sign of the Zodiac, month, complex direction, ancient Israelite tribe and stone in the breast plate of the High Priest. [See Appendix]

One line of mysticism, called Gematria, interchanges letters based on order of numeric value. For example, the tetragrammaton is sometimes spelled with the letters which come directly after the true letters. Another example is that since the name of the demon Ashmodai (Asmodeous in Latin) has a numeric value of 355, which is the same as Pharoah, it is believed that Ashmodai is a king of demons. Many similar associations between words or phrases have been found by [Kabbalists]. In addition, sometimes the values of the lettes cycle around from 1 to 9 and then back to 1 again, or the value of the letters' names spelled out is used, or the values of the letters are squared and then compared to the value of a word whose letter values were not squared. Of course this form of mystical analysis requires fluency in Hebrew. Hebrew has a special advantage over many other alphabets in that the frequency of use varies little from letter to letter.

The main use that Gematria is put to by Kabbalists is understanding the hidden meanings of the Torah. The Torah is perceived by Jews as Man's interpretation of God's blue-print for the universe. Because of Man's and his language's inherent inability to grasp the complicated secrets of the universe, many details were hidden in the words transmitted to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Thus the words themselves, as well as the ta'amim (musical symbols), nekudot (vowels), Tagim (seriphs), and Otyot (letters) all contain hidden meanings. The anagram Pardes (lit. orchard but translated into Latin as paradise) was used to describe this principle. Every phrase, word, letter or stroke has four meanings: poshit (simple), remel (hint), drash (concept) and sod (secret). The mystics were, of course, more interested in the latter meaning.

It is believed that the spiritual Torah (i.e. not translated into any human language) existed before the created universe. Some even state that the physical universe was created to give life to the Torah. As mentioned earlier, it has been postulated that the Torah changes every cosmic week. This change has been described as the re-assembling of the letters of the holy books, and thus their numerical values would remain unchanged.

Names are of particular importance in Judaism, especially those of the Deity. It is often held that the entire Torah is simply one long name of God. Most names, however, are much shorter, and thus often refer to only one aspect or view of God. Probably the best known name of God is the tetragrammaton, represented in English as YHVH (because the printing of certain holy names on anything which may be destroyed is considered blasphemous, all names given here are transliterated...). This name is often mistranslated as Yahweh or Jehovah. Neither of these translations are really Jewish, for YHVH is not pronounced in Hebrew (the word HaShem, meaning "the name," or in prayer Adonai is substituted instead). The tetragrammaton is often linked to the ten emanations as follows: the serif of the yod is Crown and its body is Intelligence; the first heh is Wisdom; the vov, which has the numerical value of six, stands for the next six spheres; and the second heh is Kingdom.

Another system used by Kabbalists links a different name of God to each sphere. Thus Crown is EHYH, pronounced Ehyeh, which refers to being, and Intelligence is linked to YH (Yah), a simple name for God. The name spelled YHVH but pronounced Elohim is linked to Wisdom, and stands for the emanations. Kindness's name is ELHI (Elohai), literally "my God." The name EL is also associated with Kindness, and is often appended to the names of angels to signify their service to God. Another misunderstood name is ELHIM (Elohim), which is linked to the Law. The name itself refers to God as the unifying force behind the universe's multplicities, but it is often mistakenly interpreted as a symbol for multiplicities within God Himself. The tetragrammaton is placed in the middle of the tree of emanations with Beauty. Victory is symbolized by the name YHVH TzBAOTh (Tzeva'ot) and its counterpart Glory by ELHIM TzBAOTh; Tzava'ot refers to the angels as a group or army. Both the names EL KhY (El Khai) "living God" and ShDI (Shaddai) "the all-powerful" are associated with Foundation, and Kingdom's name is ADONI (Adonai), which means "my Lord."

The names just mentioned are recognized as God's names by all Jews. Several others, however, were introduced by Kabbalists and have meanings only to them. Four of these are known as the names of 45, 52, 63, and 72. All of these spell out the letters in the tetragrammaton in different ways, and the numbers refer to the total numeric value of the letters in each name. Another popular name consists of 42 letters and is often used in charms. Its pronunciation is uncertain.

A major area of Kabbalistic magic consists of amulets and seals. It is important to note that these terms are used differently by Jews than by others. The term amulet refers not to a container of a demon's soul but rather to an enchanted item bearing various names of God and of angels in an attempt to bring their desired characteristics into play. For example, an amulet for protection in child birth will often bear the names of the three angels who once captured the demon-Queen Lilith, who swore she would kill all human children. On the other hand, a seal of a particular angel or demon can be used to gain some (but not absolute) control over them. In the case of angels it is possible that they comply with the wishes of the seal-bearer out of respect for their knowledge, as evidenced by their writing of the seal, and not because the seal itself holds power.

Amulets can be designed in a variety of ways to appeal to the beings listed thereon. One of the simplest is the magic triangle.... Sometimes an entire passage from the Bible is taken and each word is placed in a magic triangle. It is also possible to select a word whose meaning changes as one lops off or adds on letters. A famous example of this principle is one version of the golem story where the word emet (truth) was written on the golem's forehead, and in order to deactivate it the first letter was taken off so that it read met (corpse).

Another, more complicated construct is the magic square. In its most straightforward form, the magic square contains a name and switches the positions of the letters.... A more complicated version involves the use of different words and names so that no matter which direction one reads, there is a word or name....

Popular among later mystics were amulets in the shape of a hexagram, also known as mogen David (shield of David). A few centuries ago this became the symbol of Judaism, replacing the more complicated menorah, or seven branched candelabra, which is now believed to be what King David really did have painted on his shield! The hexagram symbolized (1) protection from the six directions (north, south, east, west, up and down); (2) a man's body (head, two arms, two legs, and either soul or female aspect), and (3) Heaven. The latter association is [somewhat] complicated. The word for Heaven in Hebrew is Shamayim, while the Hebrew for fire and water are esh and mayim. Thus it is believed that Heaven is made of fire and water. The alchemical symbol for fire is a triangle, and water's symbol is an upside-down triangle, and if they are super-imposed on each other one has a hexagram. These amulets are commonly found with the names Dovid Melekh (King David), Mogen Ben-Dovid (shield of the son of David, i.e., the messiah), and Yerushalem (Jerusalem).

Other amulets are drawn in various shapes (especially hands or menorahs) and contain names, words or combinations of the letters of a particular biblical passage.

In the Middle Ages no distinction was made between devices of protection and holy items. In order to fulfill the commandment "... these words, which I command thee this day... thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thy house and upon thy gates" (Deut. VI, 6-9), Jews place boxes containing this passage on their door posts (called mezuzah) and in morning prayers place smaller boxes on their left arm and forehead (called tefilin). It was often believed during Medieval times that these devices warded off demons, and so Jews often wrote additional names and symbols upon the parchment containing the biblical passage. This belief was held by many Christians as well, for they called the tefilin phylacterys, Greek for amulet, and often tried to purchase these protection from the Jews!

A variety of creatures are mentioned in mystical works. There is adne hasadeh, a [man-like] creature with an umbilical cord attached to the ground. These beings die when their umbilical cords are cut, and are probably a symbol for how Man's ultimate ancestor is the Earth (even today's scientists believe that life started from chemicals in the ground). Another strange creature is the barnacle goose, which grows on trees using its bill as a stem until it finally breaks off and flies away. The shamir is a tiny worm which splits even the hardest rocks, and the takhash is a type of unicorn which is spiritually clean (kosher). Among the largest animals are the leviathon, king of the fishes; sis, the largest of all birds (rocs); and the behemoth or reem, which are fantastically huge oxen. These oxen are so large that their hoofbeats cause earthquakes. The female of the species always gives birth to a male and female set of twins, and both parents die in the reproductive process, for if there ever were more than two behemoth at the same time, the other species would be placed in jeopardy. Other animal myths developed along the same lines or were adopted from other cultures.. Se'irim or satyrs are goat demons, basisks and cockatrices can kill all but weasels with a touch or a glance, the rahab or tannim is an evil dragon, and a werewolf is a sorcerer incognito.

Three groups of beings mentioned most often in Kabbalistic works are angels, demons, and souls. Belief in a soul is probably the oldest religious idea, dating back 10,000 years or more. Jews believe in three souls, each successively more spiritual. At the top of this hierarchy is the neshomah (lit. life or spirit), which is linked with the intellectual triad of the spheres of emanation. It is believe by some that these souls never leave Heaven, but move closer to God as their associated humans become more pious, and move away from God when the human breaks commandments. Next is the ru'akh (lit. air), related to the moral triad, and responsible for sentience. After the body dies, the ru'akh stays on Earth for between a week and a year, and then goes to Heaven. The lowest form of soul, which even the animals have, is nefesh (lit. breath), which stays on Earth and haunts the location of its body's death. It is connected with the natural triad of spheres.

At the time of Creation, only a limited number of souls were made. Their purpose is to reunify God's characteristics within the physical universe, and they do so only by fulfilling the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Bible (the souls of Gentiles are not required to fulfill some of the commandments which are unique to the Jewish religion). Those souls which do not succeed perform gilgul (transmigration) and reappear in a body of a human infant. If a soul has but one commandment left to fulfill, it may become an ibur, which means that it takes temporary possession of the body of one who is in a position to fulfill that commandment. On the other hand, a soul which is very wicked may be banished from God's presence altogether, and in order to become corporeal, take possession of another's body by force (generally while that person is ill) and is known as dibbuk. When this occurs, the victim must undergo an exorcism, and in order to prevent the evil soul's regaining control, the victim's name is changed, since names are external reflections of one's soul.

It is believed that the original souls are complete, i.e., both male and female. These two sections split when they incarnate, but if the corresponding humans find and marry each other they will have a perfect marriage. It should not be assumed, however, that a male soul always takes a male body and a female soul a female body. If the genders are mixed then some imbalances occur, and the body is usually barren or impotent. If, however, a man with a female soul weds a woman with a male soul, then procreation is possible. The institution of marriage itself is seen as an important part of the soul's work, for the union of the two people and their souls is analagous to the unifying of God's characteristics as well as the unifying aspect of God (Elohim).

Death is usually interpreted as a natural and necessary part of life. There are, however, two forms of death with supernatural implications. One is known as the Kiss of Death, whereby God rewards those who are extremely wise (as in Moses) or those who are so pious that they have completed the 613 commandments in an unusually short time (this explains the demise of certain sages). Opposite to this form of death is karet, whereby one's soul is removed by the Angel of Death as punishment for grave sins.

Another form of unnatural death is that of sorcery, or biting off more knowledge than one can chew. It is difficult to say whether this form of death is bad or good, for the soul is liberated from the body by the knowledge which has just been learned, similar to the Kiss of Death except that it is enacted from below instead of above. On the other hand, the Talmud and other works forbid the teaching of mystical works to any younger than a certain age, usually between 20 and 40, in order to prevent this form of demise.

Related to humans in a sinister way are the demons, called sheydim (violent ones), mazikim (destructive ones), and ru'akhim (spirits). It has been postulated that demons come either from the left-hand side of the tree of emanations, called Sitra Akhar (the other side), or from a perverted opposite of the tree of emanations, composed of impore kelifot (shells) instead of spheres. It is widely held that Lilith is the Queen of demons, and that she was created for Adam as his wife. However, it was found that two separately created individuals were incompatible, so she flew off (she has wings) and God created Eve from Adam's rib. Lilith never forgave Adam, however, and she seeks revenge by killing infants and women during and shortly after child birth. Lilith is associated with the Kingdom in the tree of impurity.

The physical make-up and attitudes of the demons differs greatly, though they are all mortal. Some are quite physical but also cold and can become invisible; thse are said to be the offspring of Adam and Lilith, and they carry on the tradition by mating only with humans. Others are said to be formless spirits, made solely of fire and air, and feed on incense and flames. The latter are particularly useful to witches, for black magic can be learned from them. Those demons who have wings are said to live in the upper atmosphere and "speak" with the Princes of the Zodiac, and therefore know in advance what will be.

The main king of the demons is Som, also known as Samael (lit. blind to God), who is associated with the equivalent of the emanation Glory in the sinister tree of emanations. He is quite evil, often committing the sins of adultery and murder. However, it should be noted that not all demons or demon kings are evil. They, like Man, have both good and evil inclinations, called yetzer tove and yetzer ra, respectively. The best known example is Ashmodai, who studies Torah with God. While he is still rather mischievous, he has perfect foresight and is generally beneficial.

Different from both men and demons are the m'lakhim (angels). The term m'lakh literally means messenger, and the angels are the servants of God. Unlike demons and men, angels have no free will, tend to specialize in their functions, and can assume both spiritual and physical forms. It is believed by some mystics that the gods of the pagan religions were actually angels.

Angels can take on a variety of physical forms. The Torah often mentions angels who take the form of men, and Ezekial describes ofanim, angels in the shape of wheels. In addition to these there are serafim with six wings, symbolized by fire or snakes and serve as God's messengers; cherubim who are part human, lion and bull, and accompany God; and khayot (lit. living things) who surround God on His throne.

The four archangels, associated with the khayot, are Michael (lit. who is like unto God), Raphael (lit. God has healed), Gabriel (lit. strength in God), and Oriel (lit. light of God). Though interpretations vary, these four correspond to the different Greek elements, directions, colors, precious metals and worlds. Michael, made of snow, is the angel of south, gold, fire, World of Emanations, red and symbolized by the lion. Oriel is the angel of east, copper, air, World of Creation, yellow and symbolized by the eagle. He is also known as the angel of mercy, and is believed to have taken the form of a lion and accepted offerings made to God. Rapheal is the angel associated with west, iron, earth, World of Formation, green, symbolized by the ox, and is the angel of healing. Last and in no way least is Gabriel, whose symbols are north, silver, water, World of Activity, blue and man. Gabriel is an avenging angel, made of fire and responsible for the destruction of Sodom and the taken of the souls of kings when their time has come.

Many angels serve as guards for spiritual places and the heavens, while others have specific tasks. The angel Sandalfon weaves a crown for God out of the prayers of the faithful. The infamous Satan (lit. adversary) points out the faults of Man to God, and encourages their punishment or extermination. The angel Samael, sometimes identified as the demon Som, is the main angel of death. The angel primarily responsible for the revealing of secret knowledge is called Raziel (lit. mysteries of God), and the heavenly scribe is Metatrone (lit. in Hebrew, keeper of the watch; in Greek, behind the throne).

There are also angels who guard over and personify the different nations. The Kabbalists believe that there are 70 nations, each descended from a particular son, grandson or great-grandson of Noah (the nations which existed previously were wiped out in the Great Flood). Whatever activities occur on Earth between nations are preceded by similar activities in Heaven between the respective guardian angels. Michael is the guardian of the Jews, and often intervenes on their behalf. Satan, on the other hand, is the guardian angel of Rome, for the Roman Empire was the agent of the Diaspora (exile), which is widely held to have been imposed on the Jews as punishment for their infidelity to God.

One work divides the angels into two categories: the angels in God's name, led by Totarkhiel, and the angels of God's countenance, lead by Suriyah. [See Appendix]

To the dimensions of height, width, length and time the Kabbalists have added the dimension of spirituality. In the positive spiritual direction are the seven heavens. Farthest from Earth is Araboth, which contains uncreated objects and is the permanent residence of men's souls. It is associated with the emanation Greatness (Kindness). Makhon, the second heaven, contains the precipitants rain, snow, hail, fog, and dew. Makhon is presided over by Moses the Law Giver and the emanation Law, and emits a lightning bolt into Ma'on, the third heaven, presided over by Father Abraham who alters the bolt into four "rays of foundation" corresponding to the four spheres of emanations along the central axis and are colored black, white, red and green. The third heaven is filled with harmonizing lights and sounds that sing praises to God, and is symbolized by the emanation Beauty. Above this is Zebhul, a spiritual Jerusalem corresponding to the emanation Victory which is the positive aspect of cosmic power. In this city is a tabernacle, personified by Metatrone, with Michael as high priest, surrounded by the souls of martyrs. There is also a heavenly tribunal of seven lights. The fifth heaven is called Shekhakim and is associated with Glory. It contains millstones whch grind manna for the righteous and is presided over by Jacob and the twelve heads of the Israelite tribes. It is surrounded by a river of fire wherein reside the angels of destruction, and this river is held back by a colorless light of monotheism, which is fueled by prayers from below and projected out from Shekhakim as an archetypal alphabet of 22 colors. Next is Rakiya, the firmament. Symbolized by the emanation Foundation, this heaven supports the heavenly bodies, which are endowed with divine knowledge. The lowest heaven is called Vilon (lit. veil), which shields the heavens during he day and "rolls" down each night. It is associated with the Kingdom, is the main source [of] prophetic visions, and is presided over by Joseph, the interpreter of dreams.

Below the Earth spiritually are seven abysses, known as Gehenna, Death's Shadow, Death's Gate, Filth, Destructive Whirlpools, Place of Perdition and Sheol. Interpretations on these vary considerably; however, it is generally held that they are made up of tohu (impure earth), bohu (impure water), and darkness (opposite of fire).

Associated with the heavens, and perhaps above them, are the seven hekhalot (palaces) in the merkavah (Divine Chariot). The seventh palace leads to the Throne of God, symbolized by sapphire and emerald. Here the souls of mystics travel outside of their bodies and rise up to the Veil of God. The veil is not physical, for God has no physical form; it is a symbol for the limitations of Man's comprehension of God.

These palaces are dangerous, and the mystics who travel them must carry with them the seals of the two angels designated for each gate to show to the eight angels who guard each of the seven entrance ways. Those that do not have the proper seals are said to be swept away in a fiery tornado. The sixth palace is particularly hazardous, for it is made of sparkling marble, and if the traveller mistakes it for water the angels chastise and punish him for his ignorance.

The goal of the Kabbalah is to obtain a complete understanding of God, the universe and their inter-relationships. It strives to achieve this understanding through the use of symbols and analogies, particularly the Jewish holy books. These symbols and ideas are useful to fantasy role-playing games and fantastic literature as a source of magical concepts. Rejuvenating old ideas through new uses has long been a means of keeping a genre alive, healthy and growing. The Jewish Kabbalah can and should be used to expand the horizons of the fantasy role-playing game and modern fantasy in general.


The Hebrew Alphabet


E/A aleph ox head 1
B/V beys house 2
G gimel camel 3
D dalet door 4
H heh window 5
V/O vov nail 6
Z zayin sword 7
Kh khes fence 8
T tex snake 9
Y/I yod hand 10
K/Kh kaf palm 20
L lamed goad 30
M mem water 40
N nun fish 50
S samekh support 60
A ayin eye 70
P/F fey mouth 80
Tz tzadi fisher 90
Q kuf back of head 100
R resh head 200
Sh shin teeth 300
Th tof (cross) 400
Kh/K final kaf 500
M final mem 600/20
N final nun 700/40
F final fey 800/80
Tz final tzadi 900/90

Mother Letters

aleph mem shin
Element air water fire
Soul ru'akh nefesh neshomah
Triad moral natural intellectual
Body chest belly head
Planet Pluto Neptune Uranus
Emanation Intelligence Wisdom Crown
Temperature moderate cold earth
Universe ether earth heaven

Double Letters

beys gimel dalet kaf fey resh tof
Day Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Direction height depth east west north south middle
Orifice R eye L eye R ear L ear R nostril L nostril mouth
Heavenly body Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
Metal gold silver iron mercury tin copper lead
Foundation wisdom wealth fertlty life dominion peace beauty
Emanation Beauty Kingdom Victory Foundation Law Glory Kindness
Person Messiah Joseph David Isaac Moses Jacob Abraham
Heaven Araboth Vilon Zebhul Rakia Makhon Shekhkm Ma'on

Single Letters

heh vov zayin khes tes yod lamed nun sameckh ayin tzadi kuf
Zodiac Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius Capricorn Aquarius Pisces
Month Nisan Iyar Sivan Tammuz Av Elul Tishri Kheshvan Kislev Tevet Shevat Adar
Activity sight hearing smell speech taste coition work movement wrath mirth meditation sleep
Body R hand L hand R foot L foot R kidney L kidney liver spleen gall stomach colon bowels
Tribe Judah Isskhr Zebulan Reuben Simon Gad Levi Joseph Benjamin Dan Asher Naphtali
Stone carbuncle sapphire emerald ruby topaz amethyst smaragd onyx jasper jacinth beryl agate
Stone Power strength constitution properity fertility sensuality will wisdom charisma stop bleeding overturn idols good digestion dexterity

Various Angels by Group

Rulers of the Angels

Name Subjects' Name
Metatrone Khayot HaKodesh
Ratziel Ofanim
Tzafkiel Arelim
Tzadikiel Khashmalim
Somael Seraphim
Michael M'lakhim
Haniel Tarshishim
Raphael Beni Elohim
Gabriel Cherubim
Sandolfon Ishim

Leaders of the Angels (According to the Essenes)

Name Occupation
Oriel guards the abysses
Raphael controls human spirits
Raguel takes revenge
Michael watches over Israel
Sariel (not specified)
Gabriel rules the Garden of Eden
Yeremiel guards souls in the abysses

Angels of the Heavenly Bodies

Name Heavenly Body
Raphael Sun
Gabriel Moon
Michael Mercury
Eniel Venus
Somael Mars
Tzadikiel Jupiter
Kaftziel Saturn

Angels of the Living Creatures

Name Creatures
Raphael ox: king of herbivores
Gabriel man: king of all animals
Michael lion: king of carnivores
Oriel eagle: king of birds

Dark Angels

Name Occupation
Satan prosecutor of Mankind
Belial angel of darkness
Gabriel angel of death for kings
Kaftziel angel of death for youths
Mashbir angel of death for children
Mashbit angel of death for animals
Khemah angel of death for men

Copyright 1984 Simcha Kuritzky
This article taken from Different Worlds, Sept/Oct 1984.

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