And the young shepherd said to him, “It is Cain our grandfather, whom you have killed, my lord!” (1)
There has been a great deal of speculation and interesting cogitation with regards the first Biblical smith and his significance in Craft circles. With Robert Cochrane’s craft legacy drawing much attention in the public arena, theories abound and the internet makes available all information, whether it is plagiarised or plain wrong. Outside of the Clan of Tubal Cain, the name also appears in some other Craft circles being considered perhaps relevant to Masons as well as the Society of the Horseman’s Word. Many discourses on the origins and nature of the name seem to neglect the simplicity of truth within its meaning from the Hebrew original. Whilst it is useful to include alternate associative titles and significance relevant to the mythic figure, these do not penetrate to the heart or essence of Tubal-Cain and his especial relevance within some branches of the Old Craft.
Occurring in ancient times as a Biblical name, it is apt that our first port of call is the Hebrew original. This is not as straightforward as many might think as Tubal-Cain was one of three brothers and one sister, Na’amah. Tubal-Cain and Na’amah’s two older brothers were born of a different mother, their father, Lamech, being one of the first polygamists recorded in the bible; his predecessors, the seven generations of Cain, taking only one wife each. Jabal, Jubal and Tubal all originate in the same Hebrew root word yabal לבי (2), the definition of which is given as ‘being lead’, ‘carry’, ‘conduct’ or ‘convey and ‘bear along’. All of these definitions are suggestive of a moving force that transmits, although it is not the source of its own drive or motion.
While this opens a number of possible applications in ancient Hebrew, it allows us to generally draw some small conclusions with regards the names Jabal, Jubal and Tubal. For example, yabal לבי (3), suggests watercourse (as in conveys water), while yobel(4) implies a wind instrument (carrying sound or air). Both would appear relevant to the brothers Jabal and Jubal who are Biblically described as wandering nomads and fathering musicians, while their half-sister Na’amah is credited as the inventor of the lament and, some say, music itself(5).
The name Cain has received much attention over the years in those few writings on traditional craft and most familiar with this literature will know that it originates in the Hebrew word qayin(6) , קיו, which means ‘spear’. There are some Biblical scholars who take the root meaning of the first part of Tubal-Cain and that of the second and equate the name to mean “bring a strike”. This title is indicative of the role Tubal-Cain plays in the demise of Grandfather Cain by means of an arrow launched from Lamech’s bow (7). According to the Biblical account, Lamech had become blind and, as Tubal-Cain forged many implements and weapons, the father requests his son take him out hunting to demonstrate his creation. Being without sight, Lamech required Tubal-Cain to point his arrow toward the prey before loosing the dart. Unfortunately, the arrow flies toward ancestor Cain, mistaken for a wild beast.
If we translate Tubal to its Hebrew root word ‘to bring’, and the word for Cain ‘spear’, we can see the logic employed as a name denoting the one who brings about the weapon of murder, or implement of death. Tubal-Cain is said to have forged weapons and brought these to mankind, while he also brings about the death of Cain with a small spear, or arrow. Still another scholarly theory is that Tubal-Cain means, “thou will be brought by Cain”, being merely a name that indicates the lineage of Cain. Alternatively, the name means “brought by the spear” or “spear bringer”.
“I am the First and Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Farmer and Ploughman
Rather curiously, another related word is yĕbuwl(8), which means ‘to produce fruit’, or ‘to make [the earth] fruitful’, suggestive of a farmer’s activity. This makes the first part of Tubal-Cain assume some pertinent relevance to the Craft, particularly given the association of Cain and Tubal within the rites of the Ploughmen and Society of the Horseman’s Word, and possibly among Masons.
In one Legend of the Horsemen, Tubal-Cain is taught half of the secrets of the horse by a woman, some say Lilith, whilst traversing a river. Lilith offers Tubal-Cain the choice of knowledge of horses or women and Tubal, being cunning, chooses one half of each. Consequently, Lilith becomes swept away in the river before she can complete the teaching and we learn that Tubal acquired only half of the knowledge of horses and none of that of women. We may see, here, the reflection of an Old Craft tradition with regards lost knowledge, particularly pertaining to female mysteries. Former Magister of the Clan Tubal Cain, Robert Cochrane, claimed in his letters that the Craft has three traditional mysteries, relating to male, female and priestly groupings. He purported to be in possession of the male mysteries but not the entirety of those pertaining to the female mysteries, which is strangely familiar in the story of Tubal-Cain and the lost knowledge of women carried away by the river.
Cain and Tubal-Cain are both cited in some Horseman material as being the first ploughman and the Bible texts indeed suggest that Cain was the first agriculturist, as opposed to his brother Abel who was the patron of shepherds while their father, Adam, was the first gardener. The root word meaning ‘to bring’ is clearly evident in yĕbuwl, which denotes bringing forth from the soil or clay, as in taking the tree to fruition, as well as the continuance of the cycle at the death of that which produces the seed. The combination in the definitions given thus far, and the legends associated with Tubal-Cain, unavoidably throw up themes of life and death throughout.
The Hebrew Tubal, although originating in the same root words as the names of his brothers, develops in the Hebrew tebel לבת(9) and is a feminine noun that quite simply means ‘world’. This means that Tubal-Cain can literally translate as ‘World Spear’, suggestive of a representation of the world centre and the mythic King of the World. Here, the image is conjured of the spear being brought to the cauldron, maypoles and the axis mundi.
To early nomadic peoples, the central tent pole looked skyward toward the rotating celestial canopy. Form the axiom “as above, so below”, we project the world centre, the omphalos, upward and observe the Nowl star of the heavens above. We first encounter the constellation of the plough in ancient Babylonian star lore, placed in the heavens by the earliest agricultural peoples who used the blades they made to cut into the body of the earth. The plough, when not in use, would be hung on a nail and became immortalised in the stars above, taking on a central position in the night sky, as did the nail upon which it hangs.
“I am a spear”
Finally, Tubal-Cain is rendered in Hebrew as Tuwbal Qayin קיך לבות. The symbol of the spear could be viewed as a solar representation depicting the ray of the sun both emitted from and returning to the cosmic axis at the heart of a wheel of six (or eight) spokes, the Holy Palace, the seventh ruach(10) of dimensional space(11) in Kabbalah. The relationship with the sephiroth and spatial dimensions is expounded in the Sefer Yetzirah, the Kabbalistic ‘Book of Formation’:
Seven Doubles: BGD KPRT (תרפכ ךנב)
Up and down
East and west
North and south
And the Holy Palace precisely in the center
And it supports them all.
(Sefer Yetzirah, 1:14)
Here, the six directions each correspond to their appropriate sephirah and develop outwardly from the “…Mystery of the Three Mothers…”(12) . The Holy Palace, Hekhal HaKodesh, is interpreted to denote Malkuth, the Kingdom, but is also the destination of, and directly connected through the tree, with Kether, the Crown. Therefore, the Holy Palace in these Kabbalistic spacial dimensions is the Central Axis as Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, both the point of departure and return. Like the mystic spear of diverse legends, then, the solar ray, be it spear or golden arrow, is launched at its target, but ultimately returns to its owner.
With an active point in the metal tip, the spear of legend is usually depicted either in a state of motion, moving towards its target or returning to the hand of the originator, or alternatively fiercely baying to be loosed. The mythic spear is prevalent in many traditions spanning the globe, including the Spear of Longinus, the Spear of Lugh, Odin’s Gungnir, Arthur’s Rhongomyniad. The Gáe Bulg of Cúchullain is said, in one rendition of the legend, to have seven heads of seven barbs and one translation of the name is “lightening spear”, a mystic weapon indeed and linking it with the lightening bolts of other mythological representations of God, such as Zeus(13).
The Spear of Longinus, or Holy Lance, is purported to be the weapon that pierced the side of Christ at the Crucifixion, causing blood and water to issue forth from his side, and which was captured in the Holy Grail. This story links with Grail lore whereby the spirit of the Christos is transmitted in blood between the conjunction of the spear and the cup. All the ritual elements of Eucharistic type ceremonies are present in the legend, with the blood and water being brought by the spear and gathered into the cup which then bestows blessings (Arabic baraka, in Sufism denoting the flow of Grace).
The image of the bloodied spear and cup was later used as a symbol for the Sangreal Sodality of magician Bill Gray. The Spear of Longinus later developed an occult significance as the Spear of Destiny, unfortunately associated in the latter half of the twentieth-century with the Nazis and Hitler. The symbol of the spear, then, could be argued to denote destiny if we consider it spiralling outward, bringing forth fruit from soil, before returning to its source and fulfilling its destiny.
Robert Cochrane(14) wrote to Joe Wilson (15) of the reference made to the ‘Caldron Mystery’ within a single line taken from the Song of Amergin (working from Robert Graves’ The White Goddess): “I am a spear”. According to Cochrane, the cauldron, the “original Holy Grail”, was “activated originally by a priest bearing a spear who, like Sir Gawain, performed the sacred marriage by thrusting the spear into the cauldron. (16)” Of interest here is the reference to the “priest bearing a spear”, which title in Hebrew might be understood as Tuwbal Qayin rendered in all its glory as “he who brings forth the spear”.
Using Gematria, the Hebrew Qayin קינ has a value of 160 and other words associated with Cain include ‘tree’, as well as words meaning ‘fall’. Tuwbal, ותבל, shares the value of 438 with words meaning ‘to bind’ and ‘to spread’ or ‘reach’. In conclusion, therefore, the name Tubal-Cain has alternate meanings as ‘reaching tree’, ‘spear bringer’ and ‘world spear’. The total value of the name Tubal-Cain is 598 and shares a value with the Hebrew for ‘unhewn quarry stones’, which is reminiscent of the “unhewn dolmen” in Taliesin’s riddle from the Song of Amergin: “Who, but I, know the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?”(17)
All the definitions of Tubal-Cain given thus far are, therefore, complementary, being the active King of the World harnessing the fiery spears, both energies of fruition in the ash stave (Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life in bloom), and destruction (the steel point tempered by fire). The true meaning of Tubal-Cain, then, is the potency of that which yokes the twin pillars of life and death in the priestly act of sacred marriage, Heiros Gamos, combining the female and male mysteries in a Union of Love.
“So this same dolorous knight served them all, that at the leastway he smote down horse and man, and all he did with one spear…”
“…and Sir Pelleas [the Fisher King] was a worshipful knight, and was one of the four that achieved the Sangreal…” (18)
(1) Second Book of Adam and Eve, chapter 13, part 3
(2) Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke . Word Ref. No. 835
(3) (TWOT) Word Ref. No. 835a
(4) (TWOT) Word Ref. No. 835b
(5) See Siren Song – quid Sirenes cantare sint solitae?, published in The Hedgewytch Issue 49 (February 2010) for more regards Na’amah and the lament of the soul.
(6) (TWOT) Word Ref. No. 2015a
(7) The Song of the Sword, lost Hebrew poem partially evident in Genesis 4:23-24 is suggestive of this narrative, while Talmud and Midrash sources present the extended legend.
Word Ref. No. 835c
(9) (TWOT) Word Ref. No. 835h
(10) The Hebrew word for “direction” is ruach, the same as that for “Breath”.
(11) The others being above, below, east, west, south, north.
(13) Sharing an Indo-European root with Latin deus and Norse tiwaz.
(14) Late Magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain, a traditional witchcraft covine.
(15) Joe Wilson founded the 1734 tradition of witchcraft.
(16) The Robert Cochrane Letters, Capall Bann
(17) The White Goddess, Robert Graves, Faber & Faber
(18) Le Morte D’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory,