It’s likely that the prototype for the breaking of the vessels of the original ten Sephirot created by God was the breaking of the tablets with the Ten Commandments that were written by the hands of God. We’re told that “when Moses drew closer to the camp and saw the (golden) calf and the dances (that the Jews were engaged in), his anger was kindled, and he flung the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain” (Exodus 32:19) as the letters contained there all flew about  like sparks of fire. And it undoubtedly also draws upon the themes of the sundering of the human connection to the Garden of Eden, to the destruction of the Holy Temples, and more.
Nonetheless the text that Ar”i drew upon for his depiction was the section of the Zohar known as Idra Rabbah, The Great Assembly (3, pp. 135a-b) which refers to the death of the original kings of Edom (Genesis 36:31-39) and connects their deaths to the creation of worlds that were then destroyed before our known universe came about .
 Avot d’Rebbi Natan 2:11 (also see Avodah Zara 18a and Zohar 1: 216b-217a for flying letters).
 See Midrash Tehillim 90:13, Zohar 1, pp. 24, 154a, 262b.
(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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