Tarot based on the Averse Sephiroth?

Essence of Winter

This idea is a mental exercise rather than an actual endeavour but I was thinking about the fact that a number of Tarot decks are based on the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life and started to wonder what a Tarot based on the Averse Sephiroth would look like. Presumably, there would be 22 'keys' in the Major Arcana but they would of course represent the path between spheres in the Tree of Death rather than a traditional Kabbalist Tarot. I also wondered what the purpose of such a Tarot would be - given that Golden Dawn Tarot system and derivatives were intended to assist in spiritual enlightenment, would a Tarot based on the Averse Sephiroth be intended to assist in debasement and gratification of the ego? Would it be the ultimate symbolic expression of the Left Hand Path?

Another thing I started wondering about was what would the Minor Arcana look like. Would it be the same given that the Golden Dawn Tarot and derivates use astrological associations or would the meanings have subtle changes to reflect that the numbers and court cards refer to a different set of spheres?


I'm not an expert on the Qliphoth, and I haven't really ventured down that path, so there are probably other people on this forum who can be of more help to you. That said:


There are more links somewhere on the internet from when I did my first exploration of the Qliphoth, but I seem to have lost them. I'll see if I can dredge them up again.

Working with the Qliphoth has always seemed difficult to me, because it forces a practitioner to form specific theological ideas about the existence and nature of evil. The Tree of Life is generally taken as a glyph to represent the entirety of the universe, not just that which is good, and as a consequence, we should theoretically be able to find the source of evil and the balance between light and dark in the traditional Tree of Life itself. From what I've seen (and, granted, my experience is limited), people who take this view will claim that evil in the world is caused by an overabundance of the energies of Gevurah--excessive cosmic punishment for minimal crimes, reminiscent of the Book of Job.

However, this doesn't feel entirely satisfactory, or at least not to me. Gevurah is severity, but it doesn't really capture ideas like malice, sadism, wanton destruction and the like, and for this reason we turn to the Qliphoth--a completely separate tree to represent evil and darkness. Now, we're not just dealing with the left-hand path (meaning the left-hand pillar of the Tree of Life, the Pillar of Severity), but with a completely new tree to explore these darker themes.

But then how are the Qliphoth themselves defined? The word "Qliphah" means "shell" or "husk", and the original theological idea around the Qliphoth was that they presented an obscuring of (or inability to perceive) the purer energies of the Sephiroth. Thus, the Qliphoth might not be considered true energies unto themselves, but simply blockages of the creative energy of the Tree of Life. (We see this, for example, when the unity of Kether is turned into the duality of Thaumiel.)

And (for me, at least) this presents a problem of its own. Because now we've defined the Qliphoth negatively--we've essentially said that evil is the absence of good, that destruction is the absence of creation, and so on. And, frankly, if we're going to have an entire Qliphotic Tree dedicated to exploring these energies, well, they should be more active than that, more positively defined. Otherwise, we fall into the same theological trap as St. Augustine.

There's also the problem of the balance between good and evil, and where exactly that balance should lie. Having just the Tree of Life on its own seems to skew the balance in favor of good, which is inconsistent with the largely unjust universe in which we live; but the presence of the Qliphotic Tree skews the balance in favor of evil. Whereas the Tree of Life has Gevurah, which can be seen as a seed of evil or suffering in the emanations of the omniscient and (theoretically) omnibenevolent Godhead, the Qliphoth have no corresponding Qliphah which can be viewed as a source of good in that mass of destruction.

Plus, in Abrahamic theology, even where a destructive devil figure is present, he's shown as a creation of the benevolent God, and ultimately inferior/subservient to him. And I would think that this should reflect in the balance of the two Trees.

So anyways, in working with the Qliphoth, you really have to have figured out where you stand on all of these issues and how you want to integrate them into your perception of the Qliphotic Tree and its relation to the Tree of Life. Some people see it as the Tree of Death or the Tree of Evil, for example, whereas I would personally be more inclined to view it as the Tree of Knowledge that accompanied the Tree of Life in the Eden myth. (There again, though, we have problems, because that sort of assumes that all knowledge is inherently dark.)

And this could all work its way into the Tarot with any darker deck, I think, although some (like the one linked above) explicitly use the Qliphoth. Using the Qliphoth is a matter of exploring uncontrolled destructive energy, which can be useful in limited quantities. Regarding your question on how the Minor Arcana might change, I really have no answer. Sorry.


Okay, I've done a bit more research, and here's what I've come up with.

Liber 777 has correspondences for the ten Qliphoth (VIII and CXXIII) and the names of the demons that rule them (CVIII; CLV-CLXV). This is a good place to start, because it gives a good impression of the energies surrounding the Qliphoth and how they differ from the Sephiroth. You may also want to look at the Ten Hells in Seven Places and the Seven Hells of the Arabs (CVI-CVIII), but if you're unfamiliar with some of the more obscure aspects of Abrahamic theology, this might not prove useful to you.

The elements and planets assigned to the Qliphotic orders are the same. However, elsewhere in the book, there's a set of correspondences of the seven planets to the seven deadly sins (L) that could inform your translation of the planets and their corresponding cards into Qliphotic terms. Likewise, while I didn't see any explicit mention of there being a different set of four worlds for the Qliphotic orders, there is a mention of the demon kings that rule in each of those worlds (LXVIII).

This helps to set up the basic Tree, and once you have that in place, you can derive meanings of the cards from their placement on the Tree and their correspondences. So for example, the Magician is still essentially the energy of Mercury, but is overshadowed by the sin of envy and lies on the path between Thaumiel ("Dual contending forces") and Satariel ("Concealers"). So the energy of the Qliphotic Magician is one of false duality, divisiveness, and deceit.

(Interestingly enough, this actually parallels some of the nastier meanings that the Magician can adopt when he comes up inverted in a reading. You may not read with reversals, but I do, and this sticks out to me for sure.)

In the Minor Arcana, I would derive meanings the same way they're found from the Tree of Life, using the corresponding Qliphah, the world of the suit, and appropriate astrological correspondences. Let's take the Two of Swords as an example. It's the energy of Ghagiel ("Hinderers") in Yetzirah, so it represents an obstruction of the thinking and communicative abilities represented by the suit of Swords. In addition, it's ruled by the Moon and the sin of idleness; the zodiacal sign of Libra translates to the Qliphotic order of A'abiriron (עבירירון), which, according to this quasi-legitimate-looking source, means "Clayey" (which I'm going to interpret as "of or related to clay"). So the peacefulness of the Two of Swords in the Tree of Life system (in the Thoth deck, that is) has now became a very heavy, slothful, almost indolent energy in the Qliphoth.

Once again, this is actually a very similar meaning to what the inverted Two of Swords could be. I chose both of these examples at random, so I don't know if this is a larger trend or if I just got lucky with the two I picked, but I'm beginning to wonder if a Tarot deck based on a Qliphotic tree mightn't look an awful lot like a deck made up entirely of reversals (which would make sense, given the relationship between the two trees). I shall have to experiment further with this.

I hope this post was helpful to you. I'll have to think some more before I can say what I would consider a deck like this useful for, but this is how I would derive the cards' meanings were I to create such a thing. (I'm not actually terribly familiar with the Shadow Tarot that I linked to in my previous post, and I don't know how the deck creators went about that process.)

Finally, I came across two more links that I thought I might as well share. This one left me largely unimpressed, in part because it tied Kabbalah into the Necronomicon and that's just not my jar of beans. However, a quote did stand out to me, from the order of the Dragon Rouge:

The Qliphoth is the principles of the shadow and the antitheses that are hidden behind everything. The side of light in the Qabalah represents mathematical/ geometrical principles through which God created the world. The Qliphoth corresponds to fractals and principles of chaos. The Qliphoth are the dividing and destructive forces. The Qliphotic Qabalah uses the forces of destruction to free the adept from the limitations of creation. Through these forces we can learn to create. In the Qabalah, Lucifer and the fallen angels are those who first used the Qliphotic forces to free themselves from God. The principles of light are keeping the angels and the rest of creation in their firm, predetermined circles. The dark forces break these circles and make a free will and an individual existence outside God possible. The most common occultism usually warns against these forces. Under the surface of the bright occultism the dark tradition has sometimes appeared, often as a warning or as unspoken insinuations. There are three main levels of knowledge, in which the first one is our mundane knowledge and the information that the mundane science presents. Under this level we can find the light esoteric knowledge that has been transmitted through the classical occult societies. Under this level we can find the dark esoteric knowledge.

1. Esoteric knowledge: Mundane science.
2. Light esoteric knowledge: The bright tradition
3. Dark esoteric knowledge: The dark tradition.

The dark initiation is extremely rare, since it leads out into chaos and few people are able to wander this path. The light Esoterism leads to a melting together with the divine, while the dark Esoterism leads beyond the divine. The word “draconian” can also be translated as”harsh” and this is too a very fitting description of the Draconian Path. It is a harsh path but it also leads into worlds of singular beauty and power. The bright Esoterism leads to a unity with Jahve or Marduk and the ideas that they created the world from. The dark Esoterism leads out to Tehom or Tiamat who existed long before the light gods and who exists in infinity outside the light of divinity. For the initiated adept on the Draconian Path this darkness is a light, so much stronger than the light of the gods of light, that their light is experienced merely like darkness.

This might be useful in directing work with the Qliphoth, through Tarot or otherwise.

I also found this link, which I quite liked, but it's in French, so you'd have to translate it and it might not be worth the effort. Still, I thought I'd share.

Essence of Winter

Thanks for those replies - they are very interesting and informative. I do intend to reply more substantively but I am still collecting my thoughts on the ideas discussed.

I did notice that Shadow Tarot not long after I posted my original article. I also found articles on what purported to be 'Qlippothic magic' but with no provenance. There is a book that focusses on the subject called 'Liber HVHI' that looks like an interesting read but since I have no interest in practising any of the magic it focusses on, it's not on my priority list.

La'al quiet fella

Sephiroth and qlipoth as sides of a sphere

In the 'mystical qabalah' Dion Fortune Writes about viewing the qlipoth as aspects of the same globe as each sephirah, a duality that rounds out to an overal conception of the each sephirah:

'...if a pendulum swinging between Geburah and Gedulah overreached itself in either direction it would commence to circle round to the reverse side of the globe and come into the sphere of influence of the corresponding averse Sephirah. If it swung to far towards Geburah it would come into the sphere of the burning and destroying forces of hatred; if it swung too far in the direction of mercy it would come into the sphere of the permitted of destruction...'

If you take this perspective, both the spehiroth and qlipoth are dual aspects of the same tree, the idea of the qlipoth as fallen shells, in this perspective, is more aligned to the original process of creating the sephiroth, and seems to be saying that their attributions remain as alter-aspects of each sephirah?

In some respects some of the representations in the Thoth deck might be seen as qlipothic aspects of their associated sephirah and the paths open to exploration of these aspects using the major arcana as traditionally allocated?

The 'globe' idea suggest that a qabalistic deck would allow for an exploration of qlipothic attributions using the same tree?