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Table of Shewbread issues

table of shewbreadThe Table of Shewbread is an important diagram within the Golden Dawn’s 1=10, and yet when anyone is required to draw it, they discover that it creates more questions than anyone can supply answers.

In the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea we used a colour version of the 1=10 as shown in Pat Zalewski’s Inner Order of the Golden Dawn (pictured).  The colouring of the diagram came from a Whare Ra member and was based on an AO paper. However our order also requires people to draw the diagram in a workbook and from that a member came back to me with the following question:– Why does it differ from the Stella Matutina version printed in Israel Regardie (pictured)? The AO version has flipped the two Kerubs in the middle from East to West.

Why is only the Kerubic head of the Eagle shown and not the others?

The Nisi manuscripts do not have a drawing of the Table of Shewbread but the AO ritual clearly says that the Kerubs should be represented by their heads and not their astrological signs.  But curiously this follows the Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram which only places the Kerubic faces in the Western pentagram.

Showing up Shewbread

Table of Shewbread Regardie
Regardie Table of Shewbread

The immediate question was why was this the case?  Not having an answer, I approached the doyen of Golden Dawn material Tony Fuller and he went through his historical collection of material and found that the Golden Dawn and Stella Matutina were only partly consistent on this point.  The Regardie version of it was the most official flavour and he found it what appeared to be an original Morgan Rothe 1=10 which ended up in New Zealand. But Tony found other rituals where the Kerubs were in different places and his own teacher Frank Salt put them somewhere else (which we will look at later).

So it was back to the drawing board and extra thought was required.

Shewbread to the Israelites

official table of Shewbread

The most obvious suggestion was that the arrangement of the table was based on the camp of the Israelites. The 1=10 ritual is all about this particular camp with the descriptions of the Levite priests entering the tabernacle. The connections with the planets representing the 12 tribes of Israel, which are named on the Table seems to suggest this. Looking at diagrams of this camp based on the Book of Numbers, it would appear that the Tabernacle was placed in the centre, surrounded by the four Kerubim who were then surrounded by the Tribes according to directions.  On this basis we would appear to have winner.  The diagram places the East and West signs on it so we are clearly looking at the camp of the Israelites.

But the problem is that we are not.

Camping with Shewbread

                   Camping with the Israelites

Below is a diagram of the camp of the Israelites based on Numbers and calculated by John Dee. He did not need to put the kerubs in the picture but the normal attribution was  lion East, man South, Ox in the West and eagle in the North. So not only are the Kerubim in different places, the Tribes of Israel are not lined up in their correct place.   Manasseh would be in the East and Issachar would be in the West. So it is pretty clear that the Table of Shewbread cannot be connected to the Camp of the Israelites.  Samual Mathers own writings on the Tablet specifics also give no real clue, other than to say that the tablet was placed in the North of the GD temple because bread represented earth. He gave no explanation as to why the Kerubim were arranged that way.

No clue can be found in the Cipher manuscripts either, where the GD’s table of Shewbread was first described.  In fact all it says is that the “elements” are placed in the internal circles.  It is, in my opinion, one of Mather’s signs of genius that he could turn this description into a workable diagram.

However if the Table of Shewbread is not supposed to show the camp of the tribes of Israel then we have a “free for all” of possibilities.  The most obvious, shown in the AO version of the diagram is aligning the kerubics to the winds.  This follows the patterns of the “winds” and coincides with the Golden Dawn Temple lay out.  It explains why Mathers put in an East West instruction if the positioning of the tribes of Israel were not required.

Shewbread with Salt

Table of shewbread low resThe other version was the flavour suggested by Frank Salt.  One of the most important parts of this diagram are the triplicities.  These are the triangles which link the zodiac signs together by their element. However, if you use the patterns of the winds, the kerubs end up in triplicity triangles which are not their element.  Frank Salt thought that the only way around this was to place the Kerubs in front of their fixed element.   This places the elements on the Cross Quarters (much like they appear on Key 21 which the candidate sees in the the 2=9 grade).  This makes for an elegant solution as it hints of what is to come in the 2=9 grade… it is starting to align the candidate’s sphere of sensation ready for the next grade.

The only problem is that it ends up wildly different from the original and official GD version. The cross quarters do not exactly work out either (they are astrologically correct but just not particularly accurate for a diagram. It would also imply an elemental attribution in the cross quarters which was different to the temple layout (although to be fair the temple layout does not work for Key 21 either) which makes Mather’s East and West insistence look a little odder.

So that leaves the official version and its curious symbolic message which has not only been lost to time, but also lacks much of the way of reason.  Obviously you can come up with any reason to place elements anywhere in this diagram. Alchemical is an obvious reason, after all in the GD whenever something silly is happening it is usually put down to being alchemical (when often it could just be a much repeated mistake). For it to work, it would have to solve the problem of the triangles.

Shewbread with Fudge

It would also have to answer the question: why has there been no written explanation of what has been a fairly obvious question. The answer to the last can be seen as simply this. Those who form GD groups have a tendency to put information out there and hope to God no one questions it or have fudged coming up with an answer for 122 years.  I am fudging it.  I still have no answer I am completely satisfied with.


Pat Zalewski has pointed out that the Whare Ra version he used  came from is the ORDER OF THEIR BIBLICAL APPEARANCE – which is commonly called the zodiac associations.  It comes from Ezekiel 10:14.

“And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.”

The first face was the face of a cherub [bull-cancer– summer solstice], the second face was the face of a man [Autumn Equinox – Capricorn], the third the face of a lion [Winter solstice-, and the fourth the face of an eagle [Spring Equinox] .

So the four faces represent the earthly seasons and the zodiac the heavenly ones, typical macrocosm microcosm, which makes a lot of sense too.  As he points out though, the GD world will not end if you flip a few cherub about. After all the GD itself could not agree completely.

Aaron Lietch adds  that if you follow Ezekiel  and you are in the GD Hall, standing over in the North and facing North (looking at the diagram). The Man face is toward (closest) to you – facing South. The Eagle face is furthest from you – Facing North. The Lion is “to the right” so it’s facing East. And the Ox is “to the left” so it’s facing West. He said:

“Our Temple Pillars, painted by Moina Mathers, have the Kherubim arranged in the exact same pattern. I love to stump neophytes by telling them to rotate a Pillar until the Kherubs line up with the Quarters – which of course they don’t. “

Table of Shewbread arranged in the position of Ezekiel… the candidate would be in the south looking towards the North.

Aaron points out that if you take the Throne from Ezekiel’s Vision and put it in the Hall facing East (instead of coming from the North and facing South which is in the Bible) – then the Kherubs end up in the Official GD shewbread positions. So what we end up with is two different ideas based on the fact that the Early GD decided that when it came to the Temple the Vision of the Throne would end up in the east (facing west) and this would shift the kerubs accordingly. Others perhaps not knowing this, either looked back to the bible (which works better with the or came up with their own solutions).

Magically Aaron’s version is interesting.  It puts the candidate in the position of Ezekiel facing North as the throne of God comes towards him and the Kerubs facing him in their correct positions. Chatting about it he wonders why the ritual never mentions the fact.