A few months back, an email dropped into my inbox from Rebekah Erev, asking me if I’d like to stock her beautiful Malakh Halevanah (Moon Angels) oracle deck. Intrigued by her abstract, evocative paintings, I followed a trail of links and fell in love. The deck is now for sale in my shop, right here.
Rebekah’s art is abstract, deeply spiritual and draws on her Jewish heritage – yet it is also accessible to all, regardless of faith or culture. Introducing the Moon Angels deck, she writes:
In Judaism angels are feelings. Feelings are seen as helpers, as guides along a path. The moon is the time marker instead of the sun…We’re tied to the moon no matter our gender; our bodies respond to its cycles. If we pay attention, often our feelings (angels) move us along in time, in synch with the moon’s cycles. They remind us to make the moves that move us, and take the moments that take us.
The 29 cards in the Moon Angels deck follow a complete cycle of the moon, beginning with the new moon and the possibilities it brings, moving through the shifting energies of each phase, culminating with the full moon, before retiring to the dark, new moon once again. Card descriptions in the small guidebook feel like angels whispering in your ear – strange, open to interpretation, symbolic and profound.
In creating the Moon Angels cards, Rebekah is not only drawing on her heritage, but her present work as a Kohenet – a Hebrew Priestess.
Having interviewed Rebekah for Autostraddle last month, I was really excited to talk more with her and dig deeper into her spiritual practice and work as a facilitator of ritual and ceremonies.
Hi Rebekah, how’s your day going?
Hi Beth, it’s going really well. I had an amazing meeting with the Money Witch this morning, feeling excited about manifestation of abundance. Besides that I’ve been taking care of tachlis (details, practicality), sending out follow up emails, organizing my files, updating my Wedding Wire account. All the glamorous things of running a small business.
So, after sharing your awesome Autostraddle interview in April and hearing how you approach your work with such devotion and such a sense of calling, I really just wanted to talk a little more about your work as a priestess, and especially find out how you approach ritual creation.
Could we begin with the meaning of ‘Kohenet’? What does that mean, exactly, and how do you interpret the role?
A kohenet is a Hebrew Priestess. The Hebrew word kohen means priest. Kohenet is a new word, the feminine of kohen. I know others may not completely agree but to me, a kohenet is anyone who wants to be one, regardless of gender, regardless if they were born Jewish at birth or converted. I interpret it for myself as a feminist, earth-based clergy person who practices through making art and creating ritual to bring healing and beauty. In ancient times there were many priestesses and phophetesses whose stories we only have glimmers of in the Torah (Bible). To be a kohenet is to remember those female-bodied and gender queers whose stories need to be lifted up through our own lives.
I recently made a little video for a project I’m getting ready to launch called, “Hebrew Priestess TV.” In the video I say, “The thing is, we’re radical, queer, earth-humping priestesses so we don’t really care about the rules.” That’s how I interpret the role.
In our earlier interview, you talked about feeling called to your role as a priestess in a really full-on way. I’d love to hear more about that, how it felt, and how did you know that you were a Kohenet as opposed to a different kind of priestess?
Being Jewish and identifying as Jewish are both really important to me. As are being feminist and queer. Being a priestess is completely intertwined with those identities. Magic exists. It just does. That’s where the priestess part comes in.
Almost seven years ago my dear friends asked me to officiate their commitment ceremony. It was an amazing experience for me. At the time I was in a bad situation in life. I was in a cult, experiencing some pretty severe emotional and phycological abuse from that and simultaneously, breaking up with my girlfriend and my uncle had just passed. The day of the wedding my girlfriend (who was also in the wedding) wasn’t speaking to me and I had maybe slept two hours the night before.
Anyway, as soon as the ceremony began I was altered into some kind of trance. The whole ceremony I felt I was channeling something, it wasn’t exactly me. Especially during the part where I chanted the seven blessings (a traditional part of a Jewish wedding they chose to incorporate).
After the wedding my friends family didn’t stop calling me rebbe (an affectionate term for a rabbi). It really got me thinking. I seriously considered rabbinical school but eventually decided the Kohenet Institute training and learning to be a Hebrew Priestess was better suited for who I am. I kind of already was a Hebrew Priestess. Three years ago I completed my training and was ordained. It’s been a part time thing and almost a side thing but now I’m really starting to integrate it into all I do.
When I decided to go through training to be a kohenet through The Kohenet Institute, I honestly had my doubts. I identified as gender queer and remember feeling really uncomfortable when they asked me if any part of me identified as a woman. I didn’t have a positive feeling about that identity at the time. Being a part of the kohenet community has really been transformational for me. It’s helped me understand parts of myself that got disappeared through my trauma and living in a patriarchal society. And being in the program, getting ordained and most recently showing up in a lineage of kohanot (plural for kohenet) for the most recent ordination has taken it to a new level. I’m Jewish, I always will be and I always have been. I’m a priestess, I always will be, and I always have been. I can’t just be a priestess, I have to be a Hebrew priestess, because my people were the red sea pedestrians.
As well as the more ‘traditional’ ceremonies (weddings, baby naming, bat/bar mitzvahs) you also create and facilitate ritual for other important moments of change in people’s lives, such as gender transition and movement in or out of illness/ability. Could you talk us through your process, how you approach this, how you put together and perform your rituals?
Creating a ritual is as unique as an individual. No ritual I create with my clients or my community is the same. I talk with people about their individual needs and story. I definitely have some tried and true components that I’ve used a bunch of times but never exactly the same. The important thing is to use words, objects, images, locations, prayers that will create an imprint and hold particular meaning to the people involved in the ritual.
In Judaism, the highest form of prayer is to make up your own. It’s a high form because it feels authentic. Ideas for ritual come easily to me once I get to know people a little bit and hear their stories. It happens pretty instinctively to me and very in the moment. It’s more a process of getting to know people and receiving the information that comes through when we connect with each other. It’s a very creative process, much like art making or doing a tarot reading. When you create space and time to connect, divine creativity flows through. The divinity is the creativity, it’s always there. It’s the work of getting out of the way to receive it.
I would say most of my process has to do with the personal work I do to be open to receiving ideas. It’s my daily practice and work I do to try and be my most authentic self. I imagine you were looking for a more concrete answer but the truth is, this is how it works for me.
What I love most about the Malakh Halevanah cards is their focus on marking time and the continuous shifting cycle of the moon. How do you frame the passage of time within your spirituality, and what is the significance of the moon to you?
I love the moon! She’s so cute and sweet and pretty and beautiful and wise! Just thinking about her right now, I can’t wait to see her smile tonight.
The moon is my rock, my lover, my whimsy. My friend Nomy Lamm made a movie about the moon being her lover, like in a sexual way. I love that. I’m in a relationship with the moon. It’s a relationship of unconditional love though, like I never think the moon isn’t into me. Sometimes I forget how into me she is. I actually remember that when I remember how into her I am.
Haha, I got a little off track with that. The passage of time. Time is completely linear and completely non-linear. Isn’t that funny? What’s great about the moon is that she’s keeping a steady ritual for us each night, week, month. Everyone, everywhere (on earth) is involved. It’s completely bewildering to me that all of us earth beings have the same time keeper. There’s no way we aren’t all deeply connected. I really believe if more people just even stared at the moon every night, that would bring about the dismantling of capitalism.
Lastly, can you tell us how you personally like to use your Malakh Halevanah cards? Any tips on how folks can approach and use them?
Beth, you ask really good questions. You should really do this professionally ;)
I almost always use my cards with clients, to help guide our ritual creation. So, that’s a personal work use. I also use them to make decisions. I’ll ask, “If I make this decision what will be the result?” and then pick a card. I’ll repeat that for the other options and then interpret them.
I also use them for setting intentions. Like, if I want to let something go, I’ll draw a card to give me hints to tools for that release. Sometimes I interpret the cards using the descriptions I wrote in the book. But often something about the number or the image, not referenced in the book speaks to me. I really encourage that in people’s use of the deck. Individual moments and interpretations can be really rich.
I also use the cards every morning as part of my morning ritual. After I tend my altar, I pick a card to guide my day. I love to see how it shows up in my day and the synchronicities that occur.
One of my favorite stories is a time I picked the boobs card. So, I picked the boobs card and I was like psyched, I mean boobs make me happy! A friend picked me up to go to this ecstatic dance thing in Oakland. Usually I have some qualms with this event, I’m not that into the music a lot of the time and loads of cis men are shirtless which can bother me. But I love to dance and I love the energy of being around others free dancing, during the day, without drugs or alcohol. So, I was there being slightly annoyed with the shirtless cis guys and I look over and someone with boobs had taken off their shirt! And as the dance progressed, more and more boobed people took off their shirts. I had seen it happen with one or two people before but this time it was a lot! Such a literal boob moment. It made me very, very happy. More boobs more of the time please.
Wow, what a brilliant person!! For an inside look at Rebekah’s working life and more on how she runs her two businesses, read our Follow Your Arrow interview here.