Day 253: The Law of Threefold Return & The Wiccan Rede (part 3)

A poster detailing the Theban alphabet and its Latin equivalents.

A poster detailing the Theban alphabet and its Latin equivalents.

For whatever reason, Roderick incongruously ends Day 253’s exercise by giving an introduction to the Theban alphabet. This particular alphabet was first published in Johannes Trithemius’s 1518 work Polygraphia, where Trithemius attributed it to Honorious of Thebes (which is why it is also known as the Honorian Alphabet or the Runes of Honorius). Trithemius’s student Agrippa also included it in his de Occulta Philosophia. Francis Barrett later transcribed it in his own text, The Magus. Likely because it looks weird, has a one-to-one correspondence between it and Latin letters (modern characters J, U, and W are transliterated using the Theban characters for I, V, and VV), and has magical associations thanks to appearing in Agrippa’s and Barrett’s texts, nineteenth- and twentieth-century magicians adopted it into their own bag of tricks. The Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientalis adopted the alphabet into their practices, and that is likely that Gerald Gardner was introduced to it though them. Subsequently, most contemporary pagans are aware of its existence and–if they don’t use it themselves–can easily find a decoder sheet like the one above to help them read the Theban-written texts of others. Because it is the Witches who use it most frequently today, the alphabet also goes by the name of “The Witches’ Alphabet.”

Obviously, Witches don’t use this alphabet for all their writings. It’s only used to obfuscate our own magical texts. While some witches might go so far as to write their entire Books of Shadows using the Theban script on the grounds that it would prevent non-witches from reading their secrets, most find this overkill as it is not an easy script in which to write. In fact, its penstrokes are not practical to writing efficiently and–if it had been the alphabet of any culture–it would have almost certainly naturally evolved into more simplistic characters or eroded away altogether. The letter K, for example, is almost impossible to write left to right in a single stroke.

More commonly, Witches use this alphabet for very discreet purposes, such as inscribing a power word onto a candle or writing a charm onto a petition paper or creating a talisman. The reason for using such a strange alphabet here is that its unnatural, strange shapes force you to really slow down your thoughts and hands and really concentrate on every aspect of that inscription and its meaning.In general, I have very little patience for the Theban alphabet. Thanks to the peculiar way I learned to read, I have a very difficult time reading anything that isn’t in the Latin alphabet. I also have no patience for these tiny little flourishes on each letter. If I want to use a magical alphabet for concentration purposes, I turn to the Runes. While using the Runes requires a bit more though about how the phonetics of the word might work out, the characters are far easier to write without pulling out all your hair.

Who doesn't love a good rune?

Who doesn’t love a good rune?

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