1. The Hebrew letter, Lamed (meaning Ox-goad), embodies in its shape the letters Yod and Kaph to represent the descent of the seed of wisdom from the Divine (Yod) into the human heart (Kaph) to bring understanding and enlightenment. A similar connection with Divine energies is made through the position of this Path on the Cabbalistic Tree, where Sephira 6 is joined directly to Sephira 1 and stands in relation to it as the human Son does to the Divine Father. Sephiroth 5 and 6 also combine with Sephira 4 to form a triangle which is the mirror image of the Divine triangle of 1, 2 and 3 at the Tree’s apex, thus reflecting the Divine energies in the lower Worlds.

2. In numerology, 5 (Gevurah) + 6 (Tiphereth) = 11, the number of equilibrium and the number of the Tarot card of Strength. The potential for enlightenment is represented by the number for the path of Lamed, which is 12 - the number of completion. There are 12 Zodiacal signs which govern the Paths of the Tree and also govern our lives.

3. This is the crossed out title on a list of changes which Ted sent to his publishers prior to publication.

4. Daniel Weissbort tells of this in his own poem: ‘Pity The Man Whom All Men Love’, Letters To Ted, Anvil Press, 2002.

5. The legend of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Wolf of Gubbio demonstrates a Hermit’s particular strength in controlling the wolf energies, although Cabbalists and Christians may interpret this legend differently.

6. Skea, A. ‘Wolf Masks’. First published in Scigaj, L (Ed.), Critical Essays on Ted Hughes, G.K.Hall & Co, New York, 1992.

7. Ficino, Letters, Shepherd-Walwyn, London, 1978. Vol.2, letters 5 and 6; Vol. 5, letter 114.

8. Ficino (Trans. Boer), The Book of Life, Spring Publications, University of Dallas, Texas, 1980. p.190.

9. Sylvia, at this time, blamed her mother for many of her problems and did compare her mother’s power over her to that of “the old witches” (SPJ 27 Dec. 1958).

10. George Ripley, ‘Of Congelation’, The Compound of Alchymy, London 1591.

11. Sylvia’s journal entry for 18 Sept. 1958 notes her visit to the tattoo shop and her resolve to “spend all next morning writing it up”. She first mentioned the story on 28 Dec. 1958, when she called it “imagey static prose”, but by 31 May 1959 she included it amongst her successes.

12. The eagle on the Great Seal of the United States was chosen to represent one of the primary national groups to migrate to America and, in the first suggested designs, it was a double-headed German Imperial Eagle. Ultimately, the American bald eagle was chosen, but it is still a double bird: One representing Many, but also combining Heaven (the Sun bird of Zeus) and Earth; War and Peace.

13. “Dinner parties all this week”, Sylvia noted in her journal on 19 Feb. 1959. And many of the people she mentioned at that time either lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or worked there, generally at one of the universities.

14. Sylvia was very aware of the pressure to conform to the conventional expectations of family and friends. She wrote in her journal of “the pragmatic American world’s cold eye” and of the “expectation of conformity”, especially in “this part” of America [Massachusetts] (SPJ 11 Dec. 1958).

15. In Cabbalistic numerology, the 12 of Lamed, which indicates the completion of a worldly cycle of preparation, must be joined with the Divine power of 1 from the Apex of the Tree, to make 13, the number of rebirth.

16. In other Birthday Letters poems (e.g. ‘Costly Speech’ (BL 170 - 171) and ‘The Inscription’ (BL 172)), Ted suggests that Sylvia never learned the balance and the selfless love which are necessary for a true rebirth. In particular, he shows that the Power (of words), which she did gain on this Path of Lamed, was contaminated by the ‘Vice’ of Gevurah, which is cruelty.

17. The Void or Abyss is, again, a place about which Cabbalists hold differing and complex views. For some, it is the place where God’s earliest creations, those which failed due to lack of balance and judgement (and which, interestingly, are called “broken vessels”) accumulate as Shells (Qlippoth). It is often called the “dark” Abyss, but this darkness is metaphorical and indicates only that the Abyss is a place inhabited by Demons. Some understand it is the Void which was left when God created the All by contraction of the Ain Soph, and this Void is a place of scattered light, Qlippoth and potential Form.

18. In particular, in Pietre Breughel the Elder’s painting, ‘The Triumph of Death’, to which Sylvia referred in ‘Two Views of a Cadaver Room’ (SPCP 114), where she wrote of the “smoke and slaughter”, the “carrion army” and the “desolation” to which only two lovers (a small detail in the corner of the painting) are oblivious.

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