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exact meaning of Boaz & Joachim

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 21 Jun 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

isthmus nekoi  21 Jun 2003 
I was looking through some alchemical texts the other day, and came across the pillars of B&J (the ones depicted in Rider-Waite's High Priestess). I was wondering what sort of significance these names held outside the Bible.

One of the illustrations was very fascinating. It had the two pillars, sun on one side, moon on the other. The luminaries shone light onto a table where there was a sphere w/a cross which looks a lot like the sphere w/Maltese cross depicted in Empress or Emperor in the Thoth deck. The sphere of matter/Saturn sat on a round table where 7 elements (er... memory fails me.... vitriol is the only one I recall) are spaced evenly below, and the base is the circle of the zodiac.
It also contained the following description: Boaz represents the feminine, upper water and lower earth, while Joachim represents the masculine, upper fire and lower air. Together, through the union of inferior/superior (upper/lower), they form the lapis (philosopher's stone).

I was wondering if anyone stumbled across any other alchemical references (or anything symbolic!) to B&J, and if there is some connection to pomegranates (depicted in RW's HP and also mentioned in the Bible 1 Kings 7: 15-22). 

HudsonGray  21 Jun 2003 
I think it depends on what time frame you're researching, which group had the info long enough to change it & what passed to other groups for their interpretation. This is just a little that I found online---------

The two pillars, one white and one black, are the pillars that stood before the door of Solomon's Temple. They represent polarity and duplication, united by the veil. The cross on the Priestess' chest is another symbol of unifying and balancing opposites.

B & J on the pillars stand for the biblical names of Boaz and Joachim, references respectively to Severity and Mercy, the twin pillars on which all creation rests.


Off a Fremasonry site: Rosslyn chapel also has connections with freemasonry, in the from of two pillars that are said to represent the pillars of Boaz and Joachim, which stood at the inner porch way of Solomonís Temple in Jerusalem, and that Rosslyn chapel itself is said to be a reproduction of the temple.


A connection to Virgil: we should look at the twin pillars of the temple: Boaz and Joachim. One is black and the other is white, corresponding to the Horn and Ivory Gates of Hades in Virgil's Aenead.


According to the Masons: We find the twin pillars Boaz and Joachim. Boaz denotes strength. The strength of God supporting HIS children. JAOCHIN is the pillar of beauty. These are on each side of the entrance into King Solomon's Temple.


From a St. Vincent De Paul site: In Scripture, the veil in Solomon's temple rent when Christ died on the cross, revealing the truths of the Holy of Holies to all. Further, this suggested the two columns which flanked the entrance of Solomon's Temple. They were called Joachim and Boaz, respectively translating to "Maker" and "Redeemer."


On a writer's site: Joachim & Boaz are names given to the twin positive and negative pillars of existence in some occult systems, and are included in some versions of the Tarot.


Historical site: Presumably the building had a length of about 30 m., it was 9 m. wide and was built on an elevation of nearly 3 m. At the Eastern side a staircase was constructed, leading to the entrance door. On both sides of this two pillars were erected, named Jachin and Boaz, the first on the right hand side of the entrance and the second at the left hand side.


Freemasons legend of the temple:

For freemasons the Solomonic Temple was an example of divine architecture. Vitruvian ideas and Classical Architecture derived from this structure, and the three orders (Corinthian, Doric, Ionic) of the Temple were brought to Greece and the West by Pythagoras. According to the legend, after the flood Pythagoras found the two pillars on which the secrets of Geometry were inscribed and he, together with the great geometer Hermes Trismegistus, told these secrets to the Greeks. These pillars, among others, were set up by Solomon to build his temple. The right-hand column was called Joachin and it was associated with establishment and legality; the left-hand column was called Boaz and symbolized strength (7). Thus the idea of Geometry, the root of Masonry, as an exclusive and secret art and science handed down from the deities to an ťlite of people, originated from these legends, which in the eighteenth century became influential in shaping the characteristic masonic self-conscious mythology embedded in ritual..


The ĎCompassí meant here are not the masonic measuring compasses, but the guiding lodestone, which leads the seeker towards the spirit which rays down from the higher world, mediated through the planets, Sun and Moon, the Father and Mother at the head of the Joachim and Boaz pillars of the Masonic temple. These pillars are also seen in du Chenteauís Carte philosophique of 1775 (see item 54), which had the same intention of presenting hermetic, alchemical and Rosicrucian philosophy to a masonic audience.


Background on the temple, with dates:

The same mythologizing happened with the Temple, that was built on the rocky plateau in Jerusalem in 968 BC and which construction was inaugurated in the year 961 BC with great festivals and burnt offerings.

After the destruction of this Temple in 586 BC by Nebucadnezar and his army not a single stone was left on its place. But the descriptions of this building and the legends around it, have made the Temple the idealized symbol of beauty in architecture, which influenced religious and worldly building in Europe for centuries.


More actual history:

This was the first largest building erected by the Israelites and since they had no experience in the practice of architecture Solomon sought the help of Hiram, the Phoenician king of Tyre. In return for 20,000 measures of wheat and 20 measures of pure oil a year Hiram supplied cedarwood from Lebanon and skilled builders. Accordingly the Temple showed the characteristics of Phoenicians architecture: details like the pillars called Boaz and Jachin in the forecourt have their exact counterparts in the temples of the pre-Israelite. Canaanite population (e.g. the temple of the 20th-19th century BC at Hazor) As well as in much later temples of Baal like the one at Palmyra.


And take a look here (tarot):

Cool info on Solomon: 

Macavity  21 Jun 2003 
That's wonderfully useful information (sic). Hopefully not to be too irreverent, each time I see the letters, something in my mind still says "Joan Bunning" ... or Billy-Jean, Joan Baez, J&B (Whiskey) etc. etc. Ooops ;) I suppose it's because they are so explicit and visible in large Arabic type?


firemaiden  21 Jun 2003 
Well, Hudson Gray, your extensive research reveals such divergent findings!
  • establishment and legality; vs. strength
  • twin positive and negative pillars of existence
  • Maker and Redeemer
  • Strength and Beauty
  • Severity and Mercy

How can these differing meanings be reconciled?

Macavity must have the answer! :D 

jmd  21 Jun 2003 
HudsonGray has certainly combined some wonderful extracts for deeper research...

As to how the apparent discrepancies, it may be worth recalling that, as pillars, whether of fire and smoke, or stone, or hollow and cast in the plains of the Jordan, whether reminiscent of the left and right hand parts of the Kabalistic Tree of Life, whether as supports or as beacons to the entrance to the Temple, or whether topped with terrestrial and celestial spheres, as pillars they have a base, a middle, and a top.

Each part, presumably, is related, though may give different symbolic and esoteric understanding when reflected on.

As masculine and feminine characteristics may be variously expressed, any list would give the appearance of discrepancies. This is the breaking down, analytic, part-making of the process. The other, the synthesising, bringing together, holon-making needs to also be accomplished in order for the apparent discrepancies to dissolve... 

HudsonGray  22 Jun 2003 
Whoa! My brain hurts! Where's my Pepsi, I think I need more sugar...


It was only a 15 minute search, and yielded so many different answers. I'm actually going back to that historical one about the original building, it was a great site (the one with the URL given).

I'm not sure if the Rosricans, Masons, Hermetics or that religious site connection came first, but I'm sure the ones that made use of the pillar names later probably changed things to reflect their own interests. Maybe they're all right. Maybe they're all wrong. Maybe the pillars were named after the children of the original architect, we'll never know, but there's a bunch of educated guesses that'll work. 

jmd  22 Jun 2003 
In terms of the Waite/Colman-Smith cards, it's worth remembering that Waite was a Freemason (as were most members of the early Golden Dawn). 

isthmus nekoi  22 Jun 2003 
Oh wow, thanks for all that info HudsonGray ^_^

I've read stuff about the pillars representing opposites - white/black etc. but hmm... some of these binaries are not so obvious ie. the Maker-Redeemer, or Strength-Beauty..... there's a relationship there, but it's different. What the relationship *is*, that is what I'm now curious about. Is there even a common relationship? (Give me time to ponder this!) 

Minos  26 Jun 2003 
The pillars as opposites (mercy/severity) is one way of looking at it. A popular one that seems to have a basis in Qabalism, but not the only way.

The meaning of their names in Hebrew is (according to Masonic ritual at least, which has been know to make errors in Hebrew) 'strength' (Boaz) and 'to establish' (Jachin). Together, they are supposed to allude to God's promise to David: "In strength shall I establish thy kingdom." The traditional Masonic interpretation has been to take them as a unit, and not divide them into opposites.

Back to the occult angle again, there is a still further facet to the Golden Dawn interpretation (mercy/severity, opposites and all).

The lodge-room in the Neophyte ritual, which represents the cosmos as a whole, is supposed to be the "hall of dual manifestation" (which I think is from the Egyptian Book of the Dead). It is so called because things in this world inevitably manifest as opposites: dark/light, good/evil, etc. Above the abyss, it's a different story.

The pillars therefore not only represent opposites, but are the preconditions of manifestation under which alone things can appear (inevitably as opposites).

They are the gate through which forms become concrete and intelligible in our world, the poles between which the possible happens.

Thus when a candidate is made a Neophyte in the Golden Dawn, the 'making' occurs between the pillars. When a GD magician consecrates a talisman, the final and effective 'charge' of it is given between the pillars. They are the matrix in which things become

isthmus nekoi  26 Jun 2003 
Originally posted by Minos

The pillars therefore not only represent opposites, but are the preconditions of manifestation under which alone things can appear (inevitably as opposites).

They are the gate through which forms become concrete and intelligible in our world, the poles between which the possible happens.
become .

That makes so much sense, Minos. When you have duality, you have form and these do not have to be strictly 'opposites'. Thanks!! 

Trogon  27 Jun 2003 
Very interesting discussion... much food for thought. Now, I'll toss a monkey wrench into the works;

What about the shape of the pillars on the RWS High Priestess card? I seem to recall having read (somewhere :| ) that they were drawn with the capitals in that particular shape to represent something in particular. Unfortunately I can no longer remember where I read that.

I bring this up for a particular reason. I am still (slowly) working my way through a comparitive study of the RWS and RŲhrig court cards. The other day I was looking at the King of Cups and noticed that this same shape appears on the King's throne (the corner - supporting the arm) as well as his scepter! So... since this is unlikely to be an accident, I'm wondering about the significance of that specific shape... Any ideas? 

Umbrae  28 Jun 2003 
13 King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, [7] 14 whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was a man of Tyre and a craftsman in bronze. Huram was highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.
15 He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, [8] by line. 16 He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits [9] high. 17 A network of interwoven chains festooned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. 18 He made pomegranates in two rows [10] encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. [11] He did the same for each capital. 19 The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits [12] high. 20 On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. 21 He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin [13] and the one to the north Boaz. [14] 22 The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.
23 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits [15] from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits [16] to measure around it. 24 Below the rim, gourds encircled it-ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.
25 The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. 26 It was a handbreadth [17] in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths. [18]

( in a prior post I had mentioned that the view shown in the W-CS deck, MUST be from the Inside of the temple looking out, as opposed to the standard view of the HP guarding entry. The above passage illustrates this, in addition to answering the Trogonís question). 

HudsonGray  28 Jun 2003 
Wow, someone actually recorded this all historically?

A cubit, wasn't that a measurement from the tip of your middle finger to the elbow? I bet it would vary from person to person, but at minimum it would probably be 15-18 inches long. That would make the initial pillar height anywhere from 22 to 27 feet tall before adding the upper decoration. About 2 stories tall. 

Trogon  28 Jun 2003 
Thanks Umbrae... that gives me a lot to work with! Uh..... where was that information from? And what are the numbers? 

Umbrae  28 Jun 2003 
The source was 1 Kings, chapter 7, sections 13-26 

firemaiden  28 Jun 2003 
Originally posted by Umbrae
The source was 1 Kings, chapter 7, sections 13-26
...for the benefit of those, like myself, entirely bereft of even the slightest whiff of religious education ... (and here we add a pregnant pause)
    [/size]for you, you can check it out. :) 

    Umbrae  28 Jun 2003 
    I much prefer the NIV - the traslation is closer to the origional... 

    firemaiden  28 Jun 2003 
    ???? :confused:


    jmd  29 Jun 2003 
    'NIV' stands for New International version. Here is a site for 1 Kings 7, as quoted by Umbrae.

    Personally, I prefer either a Tanakh Hebrew/English rendition or the New Jerusalem Bible. 

    Silverlotus  29 Jun 2003 
    Originally posted by HudsonGray

    Off a Fremasonry site: Rosslyn chapel also has connections with freemasonry, in the from of two pillars that are said to represent the pillars of Boaz and Joachim, which stood at the inner porch way of Solomonís Temple in Jerusalem, and that Rosslyn chapel itself is said to be a reproduction of the temple.

    I am a descendant of Sir William St. Clair on my mother's side. While I knew of the Chapel's connection to Freemasonry, the Templar's, and the like, I did not know of this connection. This has really peaked my interesting in this topic now. :) And just as I was getting into studying the Kabbalah. I love synchronicity! 

    Trogon  30 Jun 2003 
    Okay... I'm a bit stumped here... I think I'm having a little trouble seeing how the lilly shaped pilars in The High Priestess connect with the lilly shaped scepter and arm support on the throne (in the King of Cups) connect with each other and how they connect these two cards. As far as the symbolism of the lilly goes, in "The Mystical Tarot" by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, she says "Lilly. Purity. Also sweetness and virginity. In Christianity, a symbol of the Virgin Mary." In "A Complete Guide to the Tarot" by Eden Gray, "Lilly - Abstract thought untinged by desire" and she relates this only to 1 The Magician.

    So... I'm wondering... the King of Cups is in control of his emotions, correct? I mean, he has a high level of emotional maturity. Is this part of what these lilly symbols are referring to? And if so, does the High Priestess show this same emotional maturity?

    Come to think of it, I reckon that she does. She has reached a certain level of enlightnement and she couldn't have done so if her emotions were constantly running amok.

    Does this make sense? Any one else have any other ideas? 

    jmd  30 Jun 2003 
    There is also a tradition which uses the Lily and the Rose as the main two symbolic flowers. As such, the first is said to have six petals, the latter five (or a multiple of this).

    Reflecting on the number of petals, as well as their colour (white and red respectively, unless wome specific point wants to be made - as in the Rose of Sharon) leads to various considerations.

    If the pillars, as left and right, are also considered as somehow connected to the left and right pillars of the (Kabalistic) Tree of Life, and the flowers somehow inform us also af particular attributes, it can be seen how the right-hand pillar, at its base, can be seen to have the passion of the Rose, and the left-hand one the calculated reverberance of the Lily.

    When looking at the Waite/Colman-Smith deck, many such considerations would have overlapped in its design... 

    The exact meaning of Boaz & Joachim thread was originally posted on 21 Jun 2003 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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