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Gender in Kabbalah

By Judith Laura

I first started delving into both Jewish Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah in the 1990s, after friends told me these forms of mysticism included both female and male representations of divinity and therefore were gender equitable. They were right about the first part: Kabbalah/Qabalah contain both divine masculine and feminine imaging and male and female images. But as far as gender equity goes, to use today’s slang, not so much!

Though they are both transliterations of the same Hebrew word, as is common I use “Kabbalah” for the Jewish versions, and “Qabalah” for the Hermetic version, best known through its association with the British Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which began in the 19th Century. The word means “that which is received,” with the understanding that it was “received” from ancient times. Though there is one tradition that says Adam was given Kabbalah in the Garden of Eden, the first written material for Kabbalah, Sefir Yetsirah (Book of Creation), is dated to between 200 and 500 C.E. Kabbalistic concepts changed over the centuries, with writings becoming more significant in the 13th century and even more popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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