Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, by Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur
Eddison Books, 1859064658, 144 pages, September 2020

KABBALAH – the word itself sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? The word itself always sounded like a mantra in itself, as if just saying it will bring gifts. In fact, the word itself means “to receive” Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur write in Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, and that is the best spirit in which to use this oracle.1 In order to properly receive, you must make room – in your mind, heart, in your being, and in your life. That’s what I found to be true for myself as I set off with this deck because the system presented is complex and takes effort to understand. As with any esoteric art, you must have the deep willingness to experience it for yourself, and for that, you will be richly rewarded. 

This oracle deck and book is a new branch born of a tree with ancient roots in Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition of many centuries. Only about fifty years ago in London, two Kabbalists came up with a novel placement of the twenty-two Hebrew letters on the Tree of Life, the key symbol of Kabbalah. The Tree of Life is a symbol that once seen will be remembered, even if one has no idea what it is really about.

It has ten circles (sefirot) and twenty-two paths (connection between two sefirot) that connect them. From that new juxtaposition of letters, these Kabbalahist articulated a complete divination system, known as Galgal, meaning “wheels.”2 There are fourteen wheels, centered on the various sefiroh of the Tree of Life, and four words from each wheel, comprising, therefore, a total of fifty-six cards, plus a blank one, for a total of fifty-seven.

The four words correspond to four suits: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. In Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle: Sacred Wisdom To Enrich Your Life, Gilchrist’s gives new life to this divination method, by expanding on the earlier work of early 1970’s, when she was one of the original authors who wrote the instructions for the oracular method of Galgal.

When I first held the deck, the red and white and gold design and coloring made it look and feel somewhat like a jewelry box. Opening it, it felt compact and easy to hold, but sparkling an energy of compressed clarity – like stone. It felt worthy of careful attention. Cherry Gilchrist is a striking name and I wondered if Cherry herself has chosen red as the predominant color because of her name.

I looked her up and discovered that she is quite a character! She has traveled widely, including over fifty trips to Russia, has run a vintage clothing shop and Russian arts businesses, and has performed and taught singing and writing. Gilchrist’s deep interest in astrology and divination, her passion for writing and teaching, and her wide range of life experiences suffuses this deck. 

This book is organized into three parts: Introduction, The Cards, Reading the Cards. Her succinct introduction to Kabbalah and the Tree of Life impressed me with how much information it contains. Given my relatively recent introduction to Kabbalah, I find it worthwhile to keep re-reading that passage.

Each card is explained in three sections: Oracle, Commentary, Interpretations. She explains that the Oracle meanings have been adapted from the original versions by Eddie Prevost and that she has added writing in Commentary and Interpretations for fuller explanation.

The section Reading the Cards presents the unique spread that this deck offers, using the symbol of Tree of Life and astrological houses. Thankfully, the spread is presented in a big sheet that can be unfolded for use. 

As I familiarized myself with the fifty-six concepts, it made me ponder how each oracle deck presents its own map of reality. Tarot uses 78 cards to present its map and symbol of the universe; this Tree of Life deck uses 57. Depending on how you count, almost two dozen of the cards represent people or archetypal characters. For example there is The Beloved, The Servant, The Eater, The Warrior, The Disciple, The Gambler, and the list goes on. There are three body parts: The Head, The Skeleton, and The Heart. The other half of the cards run the gamut of personal to social to spiritual concepts, from the very concrete to interpersonal to the most metaphysical. For example, there is The Seed, The Applause, and Causality. 

This may sound like a lot. So, let me share a reading I did for one of my best friends that was of profound importance to him: how can I find the best wife for me? This reading was of particular importance to me as well because he had helped my partner and me tremendously through our own convoluted path.

As I am more versed with more free-form methods of oracle readings, having the strict structure of this oracle required that we set aside significant time to truly focus and work with this new deck. Since this query concerned the most important project of the year for him, we did the full fourteen card reading. The first card is the First Significator, which speaks to the essential situation or nature of matter. Then comes the twelve cards for each astrological house. Last is the Second Significator, which is the Point of Action or Hope

 My friend’s first card was The Myth. That was fitting because his quest for a wife is at a mythic level of importance. Gilchrist lists among possible meanings “A question concerning religion, an ideal or a cause.”3 The last card of his reading was The Benefactor: “The person who cares and is anxious for the welfare of another.”4 This outcome card felt useful and meaningful since it bespoke the need to work with others who care about his situation and to find allies for his search.

Notably, the only fire cards were in the 9, 10, and 11th houses – all relating to the time frames of the future: far future, future, and near future. Gilchrist notes that the elements are similar to those in astrology, and fire is creative and energizing. I took that to mean that he needs to look where he may not have looked before and that it is important to take action.

Six out of the fourteen cards were earth cards, congruent with the very practical nature of his actions on this project during the past few years. His return to his country of origin after spending the bulk of his adult years in the United States and learning about the marriage institution there has been a sobering experience of learning that it is truly difficult, nearly impossible, to be seen for who he actually is, rather than what his culture fears of people who have lived in the United States. 

Because Kabbalah: The Tree of Life Oracle requires focus to learn, I would recommend this deck to those who are already somewhat familiar and interested in the Kabbalah. From my initial experience, I can see that this is a deck through which deep wisdom will flow to those who are motivated to work to receive it.