An innovative, spiritual workbook that integrates the Tarot and the Kabbalistic tradition of Counting the Omer
• Explores the origins and meaning of the 49-day Kabbalistic meditative practice of Counting the Omer and how it can lead to spiritual revelation, personal insight, and connection with the Divine
• Reveals the correspondence of the Tarot’s minor arcana with the Sephirot of the Tree of Life and explains how both relate to the Omer meditation
• Provides a daily practice workbook that explores the related Sephirot and Tarot cards for each day, examines their Kabbalistic and spiritual meanings, and provides questions for daily reflection and meditation guidance
The 49-day mystical practice known as Counting the Omer is an ancient Jewish ritual observed between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot (also known as Pentecost). As practiced by Kabbalists, it is designed to cleanse and purify the soul in preparation for spiritual revelation and a personal connection with God. The ritual creates a spiritual inner journey that follows the path of the ancient Israelites from the moment of their physical freedom from slavery in Egypt to the establishment of their spiritual freedom forty-nine days later when they arrived at Mt. Sinai.
Adeptly integrating this mystical practice with the transformative symbolism of the Tarot, Mark Horn uses the ritual of Counting the Omer as a template for a guided meditative practice that gives readers insight into their personal life journey and help in overcoming the issues that hinder their growth and spiritual awakening. Examining the correspondence of the Tarot’s minor arcana with the Sephirot of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, he shows how using the cards in connection with Counting the Omer can unlock the gates to a deep experience of the sacred. In the detailed daily practice workbook section, Horn provides day-by-day descriptions of the 49-day meditative practice of Counting the Omer. He divides the journey into seven week-long segments, which in turn are broken down into seven daily practices. For each day, he explains the related Sephirot and Tarot cards and their Kabbalistic and spiritual meanings, providing the reader with questions for daily reflection, guidance for meditation, and insight from traditional Jewish texts as well as teachings from Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions.
Unveiling the relationship between Tarot and the Kabbalah, Horn shows readers how uniting these two practices can open them to a deeper experience of the Divine.
Introduction: Kabbalah, Tarot Cards and Counting the Omer--What’s This All About
The Forty-Nine Steps of Spiritual Refinement
How long does it take to make an important change in life? For most of us, making a major change to the direction and compass of our lives takes time and practice. You might want to change a bad habit or build up the discipline to start a daily spiritual practice. You may want to break free of an addiction or overcome negative thinking. You might need time to consider a new direction in life or to heal from a personal tragedy. Whatever your motivation, the many wisdom traditions of humanity offer a wide range of effective practices for personal and spiritual growth. One that has resonated for me personally is the forty-nine-day period known in the Jewish tradition as Counting the Omer, culminating on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, also known as Pentecost, the fiftieth day.
Pentecost is the Greek word Hellenized Jews used to name this period of observance because it simply means “fifty days.” If you’re Christian, you may know Pentecost as the first time the Holy Spirit descended on a group of Jesus’ disciples, including the Apostles. What both traditions share is the connection between Pentecost and revelation. Whatever tradition you come from, this forty-nine-day period of reflection and meditation is a spiritual discipline that can bring great benefit.
When you practice Counting the Omer, you will work to draw down the Divine energies known as the Sephirot in a practice of purification and meditation designed to strengthen your spiritual container. This will gradually open any spiritual blockages so you can feel the Divine flow that is always available to us. The forty-nine steps work in a graduated order, in a kind of spiritual workout regimen, day by day. It is designed to prepare you for a more direct experience of the Divine on the fiftieth day.
Using the Cards
The heart of this book is based on the forty-nine paired combinations of the Sephirot that occur during the Counting of the Omer. For each day of the count I also provide paired combinations of corresponding tarot cards. Because the four suits correspond to the four worlds, there are at least four possible pairings for each day, so that each day you can explore how the Sephirotic combinations affect the energy of that day in each world: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and actively.
Each day, read the interpretation for the pair(s) you’re working with that day. In these interpretative essays, I share my own experience with this practice. After each pair you’ll find several questions associated with that pairing. Use those questions either for reflection or your own Pentecost journaling exercise.
You’ll probably want to write your own interpretations, questions, and journal entries based on your own life experience. Each Sephira can be approached from a variety of angles. You may wish to focus on a different facet of the day’s pairing than I have. Go for it!
Week 1: Chesed
The first day of the Counting of the Omer is the second day of Passover--the first full day of freedom for the ancient Israelites escaping the bondage of Egypt. What better place to begin the count than from a place of freedom and gratitude for the loving-kindness (Chesed) that pours forth from the Divine and sustains the world in every moment. This love colors the experience of each day and subsequent Sephira of the first week.
Day 1: Chesed of Chesed--The Fours of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.
The first day of the count is Chesed of Chesed--to remind us that on this path it is essential to start with a heart of Loving-kindness for ourselves. Because this is a journey that will take us through all the dark places in our hearts, and we need to remember that, just like the Jews in the desert, we’re going to slip sometime. We’re going to forget to count some days. We’re going to go unconscious in response to the issues the Sephirotic energies can bring up. I’ve done this many times. That’s human nature, and nothing is more in need of Loving-kindness than that. On the second night of Passover, we are figuratively free of Egypt. This was the first day our ancestors were no longer slaves, and since one of the Passover commandments is that we tell the story as though we ourselves were freed this day, we too are no longer slaves. The question is, what are we free from, and what were we enslaved to?
It took a forty-nine-day process for the ancient Israelites to learn how to be free from slavery before they could take on the spiritual responsibility of the Torah. In the next forty-nine days, another of the questions to ask might very well be, what am I enslaved to that I am not yet aware of?
In the tarot suits, the cards that correspond to Chesed are the fours, and the first card to look at on this, the first day, is the Four of Wands, or Chesed in Atzilut. It’s appropriate that the image on this card captures the outpouring of Loving-kindness into the world.
The four wands, with a garland of fruit and flowers, looks like a chuppah. Thus, this image looks forward to the marriage of Israel and the Divine on Shavuot, the ultimate expression of Love and Mercy. Today is a day to meditate on the energy that is released when we go from bondage to freedom. And, it’s a day to bring our expression of Love into the world in ever more creative ways as we join with the Divine as partners in the ongoing act of Creation. Of course, I’m not always feeling so expansive, so when I consider this card I often ask myself where am I reflexively unwelcoming in my life and how is that keeping me enslaved?
Mark Horn has studied Kabbalah with academic, religious, and practical teachers, including Professor Elliot R. Wolfson at NYU, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at Elat Chayyim, and Jason Shulman at A Society of Souls: Spiritual Healing School. He has studied Tarot with many of today’s leading teachers, including Rachel Pollack, Mary K. Greer, Robert Place, Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, and Ferol Humphrey. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Metrosource. A teacher of Kabbalistic tarot, he lives in New York City.
“ Tarot and the Gates of Light will undoubtedly rise in ranks to become an authoritative text on Kabbalistic tarot. It is one of the most accessible guides for Counting the Omer. Tarot and the Gates of Light is itself encoded with the power to augment and deepen any tarot practice. Easily one of my favorite tarot books.”
– Benebell Wen, author of Holistic Tarot
“This is not a book you will want to part ways with after 49 days, rather it serves as a lifelong guide, emblematic talisman, and faithful companion for your ever-unfolding journey on the path of enlightenment.”
– Sasha Graham, author of 365 Tarot Spreads
“Mark Horn’s brilliant new book opened up a new world for me. I was familiar with both fields of tarot and Kabbalah, but I had never viewed them through the larger lens Mark provides. This unique synergy offers rich psycho-spiritual insights and provides practical processes anyone can apply. May it change the lives of millions of readers.”
– New York Times bestselling author Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., author of The Big Leap
“Mark Horn has distilled decades of study and practice into a journey of archetypes and images that is powerful, healing, and transformative. Tarot and the Gates of Light is a road map for anyone of any background to follow. So sit, read, study, and follow this step-by-step path from bondage to liberation, and you will find yourself growing into the wise, embodied soul you really are.”
– Andrew Ramer, author of Fragments of the Brooklyn Talmud
“Perfect for those who want to follow a spiritual practice that combines tarot, Hebrew Kabbalah, and personal meditation. It is also a great way to explore the deeper meanings of the Minor Arcana.”
– Mary K. Greer, author of Tarot for Your Self
“Spiritual disciplines are like prisms, refracting the ineffable light into radiant diversities of human imagination. This makes Tarot and the Gates of Light a prism within a prism, glittering with Mark Horn’s insights, histories, wit, and wisdom.”
– Rabbi Jay Michaelson, author of God vs. Gay?
“By using a traditional Jewish devotional system, the 49-day spiritual exercise known as Counting the Omer, and then matching each day with the appropriate tarot images, Mark Horn gives tarot readers a way into both Jewish Kabbalah and the contemporary Jewish Renewal movement and gives concrete form to some of the more abstract ideas about the Tree of Life. This book is rich in both information and practice. A valuable and innovative contribution.”
– Rachel Pollack, author of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom
“Mark has given a profound gift and ‘technology’ to the serious seeker: an erudite, yet highly accessible and engaging, compendium of knowledge and wisdom teachings and, most importantly, a dedicated path of transformation--one self, one soul, one day at a time.”
– Professor Katherine Kurs, M.Div., Ph.D., editor of Searching for Your Soul
“Offers a spiritual practice for self-transformation, based on the tarot and the mystical practice of counting the 49 days prior to the revelation holiday of Shavuot/Pentecost. For each of the 49 days, Horn offers a combination of tarot cards as a meditative opening to growth and self-knowledge. Horn’s work displays a deep appreciation of tarot as a language for the soul and applies that language to a mystical technology for daily transformation. His book will appeal to diviners and spiritual seekers, Kabbalists and New Age practitioners. The practice laid out in this book is openhearted and challenging, ecumenical and ethically astute. It has the potential to set us on the path to enlightenment.”
– Rabbi Jill Hammer, Ph.D., author of The Jewish Book of Days
“Mark Horn courageously provides an autobiographical approach to teaching the Kabbalistic practice of Counting the Omer. Tarot and the Gates of Light gives Jews and Christians alike a powerful, accessible tool for advancing personal spiritual growth and development.”
– Rabbi Goldie Milgram, author of Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice
“Horn has shattered the old saying ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ with this unorthodox and ambitious work. Tarot and the Gates of Light presents the rare opportunity to find liberation through a serious and meaningful ancient practice refined over the centuries. Tarot and Kabbalah are wedded together as never before--in perfect harmony and beauty.”
– Angelo Nasios, author of Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana
"Tarot and The Gates Of Light is an artfully creative book that is inspiring in its originality. Blending the ancient wisdom traditions of Judaism and Buddhist practice with the oracle cards in a novel and practical way, it is an essential volume for a wide range of readers--ideal for tarot readers who are new to Kabbalah as well as those, like myself who consider themselves lifelong students of the mystical."
– Heather Mendel, author of The Syzygy Oracle, Dancing in The Footsteps of Eve, The Sacred Mandala Tar
"I am deeply impressed by Mark Horn’s book. Although there are many paths to healing the human spirit so that the immanence of the divine becomes apparent, what joins all of them together is heart. If a path has heart, you can follow it with the assurance that its intelligence will guide you well. Mark’s book has heart. You can feel it in the writing, you can hear it in the song that flows through it. It will guide you well."