The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford
An unusual and humurous look at the usually dry topic of the Qabalah, the Jewish mystical system that has influenced many tarot decks.
By Lon Milo DuQuette
Book - Published by Weiser Books
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
Like many in the Tarot world, the Qabalah (in any of its numerous spellings) strikes terror into my heart! How in the heck am I supposed to make sense of anything this complex? I can barely follow a very basic discussion concerning the Qabalah - which in ways, may be a blessing, as no two people in these discussions ever seem to agree on anything, and tangents break off all the time!
OK I have to admit, I have had some bits of luck with getting a basic understanding of the Qabalah as it relates to the Tarot - specifically through the works of Ellen Cannon Reed ("The Witches Qabala: The Pagan Path and the Tree of Life, Samuel Weiser, Inc, 1997) and Alexandra Genetti ("The Wheel Of Change Tarot", Destiny Books, 1997). These ladies have done a marvelous job of presenting their work - my hat is off to both of them. This is where my personal study of the Qabalah began.
To get past the very basics was not easy - the material is complex, dry and ... well, not easily palatable! And then the good Rabbi came along. The very first thing that he did was to expand my vocabulary and sense of literature - all in one fell swoop of chicken feathers! I quote:
Revered Hebrew scholar, Gershom G. Scholem wrote: For a long time we have known that literary forgeries represent a flight into anonymity and pseudonymity just as often as they indicate trickery; and not for nothing have we retained the foreign word "pseudepigrapha" to designate in particular a legitimate category of religious literature ... the Zohar is the most important but by far not the only example of such love of masquerade in Jewish literature."
What does this mean in plain English? It means that Lon Milo Duquette presents this as the work of Rabbi Lamed Ben CLifford, of the "Zerubabbel Institute of Philosophical Youth" (ZIPY), with introductions to each chapter in Mr. Duquette's own words. Quite frankly, this was the only way that the good Rabbi could be kept in check!
While a sense of humor and the Qabalah at first glance do not seem destined to be in the same room, I found this presentation heartwarming, palatible, tremendously funny (picture me in my living room, with only my cat as company, laughing so hard that I have tears running down my cheeks) ... and very instructive. The reason that you cannot read this book straight through is not that the material is so difficult, it is that you have to take time outs to wipe your eyes and blow your nose.
The Rabbi himself takes over the FAQ chapter of this book. It is quite important that we understand who Chicken Qabalist's are, and where they fit into the scheme of things. There is also an authentic certificate in this book that the reader may fill out and present as Qabalistic credentials. The problem here is that the certificate is IN the book - i.e. part of it. I considered making a photocopy, but that seemed like a sham. I mean - I want to see the real thing when I am checking someone's credentials. I haven't quite decided how I am going to handle this one yet.
The "Ten Command Rants" is a nice introduction to the work in this book. Here we begin to glimpse the divine nature of the Qabalah - according to the Rabbi, of course!
Without even realizing it, in the ensuing chapters we are led through the formation of the Sepher Yetzirah, the Hebrew alphabet (not a small study in itself), the Four Qabalistic Worlds and the Four Parts of the Soul , the Tree of Life ... and much, much more.
The key here is the journey - the journey is important, not where it leads you. Enjoy the journey, learn from the journey - but do not become the journey. There is a great deal of material presented in this book - and it is intended only as a beginning. The reader is encouraged to work with the information, to allow it to become part of them.
There are many excellent graphs and charts presented here. The path is made very easy to create one's own workbook, and bring the Qabalah into reality. If you allow it to, the Qabalah readily takes a three dimentional form - it has a face, it has a sense of "being".
I recommend this book to all levels of students. Why all levels? Because if you think that you understand it, you might not, really. And, if you really do understand it, by reading this book you may see a whole new way to present it to your own students.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.