Soror Tzadkiel's Blog

Reflections on the Three Mother Letters in the Hebrew Alphabet

MotherLetters

These Tarot Keys hold the teachings of the Three Mother Letters. Here are some Qabalistic teachings on them for your reading pleasure compiled by yours truly!

The Sepher Yetzirah, or Book of Formation, mentions that there are three special Hebrew Letters, known as Mother Letters. These are Aleph (א), Mem (מ), and Shin (ש), and they correspond to The Fool, The Hanged Man, and Judgement. The elements attributed to these Tarot Keys (and the letters) are Air, Water and Fire. It is of note that the stylized form of Shin is very reminiscent of a flame. In addition, the Sepher Yetzirah says that the Mother Letters represent the three climates (seasons). Aleph is the temperate climate (Spring and Fall). Mem is the cold climate (Winter). Shin is the the hot climate (Summer).

It is of note that the element of Earth isn't included amongst the Mother letters. I have always interpreted us, the earthly beings, as the embodiment of the Earth element in the process of connecting with the Qabalah (though it is embodied, in some sense, throughout several cards in the Major Arcana, as well as in the suit of Pentacles, and in the Page/Princess Keys through their association with Heh/Assiyah).

In the holy Hebrew alphabet, sometimes referred to as the Aleph-Beth, or the Sacred Alphabet of Flame, Aleph is the first letter. There is a Midrashic tale explaining why Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet that goes as follows: all of the sacred Hebrew letters came before God, every one giving a convincing argument on why each should be the first in the alphabet, everyone save for the letter Aleph. Since Aleph is a letter with no sound, the letter expressed no desire to speak. God deeply respected Aleph’s humbleness, and decreed the letter to be the first of the alphabet!

Interestingly, Aleph is silent unless it has accent marks that specify a pronunciation. This is indicative of why Aleph is deeply associated with the ineffable mysteries. According to Kabbalistic lore, the upper Yod of the Aleph represents the infinite, concealed nature of YHVH called Ain Sof, which is translated as “without end” or “infinite nothingness.” The lower Yod represents the divine revealing of YHVH to humankind. The elongated, diagonal facet of Aleph is said to be Vav, which means “hook or nail,” and conjoins the upper and lower Yod together. As we will explore later, Vav is associated with the inner hearing of the Higher Self, so it is appropriate that the Vav is the linking point between concealed and revealed mysteries. Vav, meaning hook or nail, symbolizes that which conjoins, and Vav is also the conjunctive article in Hebrew, like the english “and.” Vav is associated with the astrological sign of Taurus, the bull, which is also an archetype of Aleph, which means “ox.”

א is spelled Aleph-Lamed-Peh, or Aleph (א), Lamed (ל), Peh (ף). Because Peh is the last letter composing the word, the final form is used. When one adds the number associations of Aleph (1), Lamed (30), and Peh final (80) together, one arrives at 111. In a sense, there are three Alephs in one! According to Ageless Wisdom, the trifold force in Aleph is likewise made manifest through how it is drawn. It is comprised of three Yods (י). Aleph is associated with Kether, The Primordial Will center on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and to Kether is attributed the depiction of a point. It is said that when one writes any character, the first mark is a Yod; thus is the teaching that all letters have their origin in primordial flame of Yod. This is one explanation of why the dot or point is associated with Kether. The triune nature of the holy Hebrew letter Aleph is exemplified through the three supernal Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, and it can also be perceived through the Christian archetypes of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Mother Spirit, or Shekhinah.

מ is attributed to water in ancient Jewish teachings, for Mem signifies the fountain of nourishment that springs forth from Torah (though Qabalists may view it as the fountain of nourishment that springs forth from Tarot). The stylized version of the letter even looks akin to an ocean wave. The name of the letter מ is spelled Mem-Mem, and written מם. You can see that there is a final form of the letter Mem due to it being the last letter in the word. The open form of the letter represents the revealed Mysteries (exoteric knowledge) and the closed form of the letter represents the concealed Mysteries (esoteric knowledge). By adding a letter Yod in between the two Mems, you create the word for water, מים, or Mayim. מ has the numerical value of 40. Of import is Genesis 8:12: “And the rain was upon the Earth for 40 days and 40 nights.” And so, the archetypal link between water and 40 is indeed profound! The Hanged Man, which is blue in color, has been associated with Water since time immemorial.

In Hebrew, the word for water is spelled מים. If you add a ש to the beginning of the word, you get the word for heaven, מיםש! And so, the tantric union of Water and Fire manifests Heaven! It is interesting that so many rituals place significance on water and fire, through purification and consecration, and also through various officer positions embodying those elements.


The third Mother Letter is ש, and as many of you Tarot practitioners are aware, Judgement has quite a fiery vibe (hence the association with the color red). ש (Shin) is the twenty-first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and its numerical value is 300. It is interesting that it has three spokes in its formation, and it is attributed to 300. The three facets of ש symbolize a trifold flame (also a nod to the three supernal Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, like the symbolism in Aleph). This shape is known in many traditions by the trident of Neptune, and it is also linked with the trishula of Shiva, who is the God of change and destruction (rooted in benevolence, of course). This is the weapon of the Gods. Don't forget that Deuteronomy says, "God is a devouring fire." The Most High has the power to consumes and transmute all impurities in us! We simply must call on the power of divine fire of ש.

Through exploring the vast mysteries of Aleph, Mem, and Shin, one brings the internal elements into balance. For the mysteries embodied in the Tarot and the Hebrew Alphabet reflect the purity underlying human experience, and working with them through meditation, contemplation, divination, and intellectual exploration will have a powerful impact on your psyche!

I will write more on this soon!

 

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Soror Tzadkiel