Monday, January 08, 2007

Kabbalistic Mysteries Of The Incense 1

In a previous post describing a ritual I've written for Shabbat (on my Craftwork of A Hewitch blog), incorporating into it elements of witchcraft, the blessing over incense is:

Blessed is She, Mistress of the mysteries of spices and perfumes, the One over Death, and She who loves me.

Ritually, the smoke of incense represents the element of air. Unlike the other elements, in both Celtic witchcraft and Zohar (an ancient kabbalistic text of the Jewish mystical-magickal tradition), the element of air corresponds to the eastern quarter-watchtower. Among the kabbalistic sefirotic correspondences, the east likewise corresponds to the sefirah Tiferet located along the central (air) axis of the sefirotic array.

If we look at the 3-letter root TVL (תבל) for the Hebrew word for "spice", tevel (e.g., incense spices used during Temple service), we see a connection to both the transcendant feminine sefirah Binah (Understanding, the Higher Shechinah) operating above the 7 lower sefirot of normal consciousness and the most immanent feminine sefirah Malchut (Kingdom, the Lower Shechinah) operating within the domain of the 7 lower sefirot of normal consciousness.

From a Hebrew Lesson in the root T-V-L:

Then there is the fact that two distinct words use the three letters of our root ת-ב-ל (tav, vet, lamed). We have תבל (tevel, accent on the first syllable), a masculine noun meaning "spice," and תבל (tevel, accent on the second syllable), a feminine noun meaning "the world." The first meaning probably derives from an older, primary root, ב-ל-ל (bet, lamed, lamed), meaning "to mix." When you add spices to food you are creating a savory mixture; alternatively, many spices added to foods are in fact mixtures of different spices. As to the second use, the word (tevel), world, comes from the root י-ב-ל (yod, vet, lamed), to be fruitful, that also gives us the noun יבול(yevul), "produce."

Linguistically, first we can see that the feminine form of tevel pertaining to the "world" corresponds to Malchut (the Kingdom of the world - in other words, the physical world of action). Second, we can see that the primary root י-ב-ל of tevel is also the root of the word yovel, meaning (the) redemptive Jubilee (of the 50th year) . Sha'are Orah (Gates Of Light, R' Yosef Gikatilla) teaches us that yovel יובל corresponds to both the sefirah Binah and to redemptive mystical consciousness - in other words to Goddess/God-consciousness.

Thus, we can see that ritual incense "spices" (using the masculine emphasis) serves to connect the Higher Shechinah (Binah) with the Lower Shechinah (Malchut) through Tiferet, the sefirah "focused" in the east but which is kabbalistically symbolic of all 6 spacial directions in the physical world - north, south, east, west, up and down.

Taken together, the sefirotic correspondences are:

the elemental spices of the incense itself -> Malchut
the smoke - Tiferet
the smell of the incense as it burns - Binah

Note: Din is also called Gevurah and Shechinah is aclso called Malchut.

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