Cosmogony of the Compass – Yetzirah Mysticism

Cosmogony of the Compass – Yetzirah Mysticism April 21, 2022

The universe that is created by means of the sefirot and letters is constituted according to the law of correspondences between the astral world, the seasons that mark the rhythm of time, and man in his psychosomatic structure. [1]

Professor Georges Vajda (1908-1981)

Within the Jewish heritage of mysticism that is the Merkabah Tradition, the Sefer Yetzirah holds an important position. This book is both a cosmogony and cosmology, defining how the macrocosm came into being through the metrics of geometry, sound, letters and numbers. Furthermore, it informs how one might utilise such information for adopting the role of creator within the microcosm. Therefore, this is a mystical work with magical implications. It is, perhaps, for this reason that it has played an important role within Kabbalah throughout the last two millennia.

Thought to have brought Babylonian Jewish philosophy and esoteric ideas together, somewhat reluctantly, with the Palestinian traditions that survived the exile years, the Merkabah tradition is believed to belong properly to the Talmudic period. Inevitably, this included influence from Hellenic philosophy (most identifiably Platonic) and Gnosticism – although the Jewish mysticism emphatically asserts the monotheist standpoint and rejects any suggestion of a demiurge entirely in the authorship of Sefer Yetzirah.

How this relates to the compass is an area of study that is both rich and seemingly endless. For our purposes however, it is necessary to understand something of this ancient tradition.

Engraved illustration of the “chariot vision” of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, after an earlier illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian (1593-1650), for his “Icones Biblicae” (a.k.a. “Iconum Biblicarum”).

The Compass in Traditional Witchcraft can be envisaged similarly to the chariot, or Merkabah, of mystic vision (such as Ezekiel) and which is noteworthy in Enoch. In this respect, and with particular reference to the above quotation, the Witch’s Compass works with the correspondences that function as marker points, anchors, between the worlds, measuring and observing the seasonal times, whilst also playing upon the “Psychosomatic structure” of each of us who engage it [2]. This latter point indicates how the Compass relates to the relationship between mind and body in mankind, reflecting upon the psychic interactions of creation. Importantly, this infers the mysticism of the system and how it works upon those who engage directly in this work.

Strikingly, this means that the Compass, as in the Merkabah of the Sefer Yetzirah referenced by Vajda, operates fundamentally upon the plane of the astral (pneuma), the worldly/temporal (hyle) and the mind (psyche). These tripartite structure finds its reflection in the Valentinian Gnostic ideas of creation through emanation. As Shani Oates, Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain, has posited in her early writings, this tripartite cosmogony is perpetually located in some strands of Old Craft, particularly where Gnostic leanings are located.

[1] Vajda, Georges. “Chapter 1. Jewish Mysticism .” Essay. In Understanding Jewish Mysticism, 8. New York, New York : Ktav Publishing House, 1978. [2] Vajda, Jewish Mysticism

The Witch Compass: Working with the Winds in Traditional Witchcraft, is published by Llewellyn  and due for release summer 2022. It is available to preorder from Amazon (, all good book sellers and your independent bookstore (please support these important resources in our community).

“This book invites you to explore the Witch Compass, an important ritual tool at the heart of traditional witchcraft practice. Traditional Witch Ian Chambers takes you through the origins, history and uses of the compass and other magical circles, comparing their many forms and how they work.”

“A scholarly, inspiring, and eminently informative work. I give it my highest recommendation.”—Lon Milo DuQuette, author of The Magic of Aleister Crowley

“…This is a sorely needed book that gets to the heart of the inner workings of the Compass and provides a wealth of most valuable material for both the beginner and more experienced practitioner alike. I congratulate Ian on producing an approachable and understandable book which will add greatly to the sum of available knowledge on a sometimes obscure and difficult subject”—Nigel G Pearson, author of Treading the Mill

“With this invaluable book, the aspirant unto traditional Craft and the seasoned practitioner alike are carefully guided through the workings of the Compass as the map, via which the Crafter may traverse magical realities, encounter spiritual presences, and commune with ultimate Truth.”—Gemma Gary, author of Traditional Witchcraft

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