Magical Scripts

The written language is powerful.  Imagine: with the spoken word, we can talk from person to person, but the words, once spoken, must be heard immediately by someone nearby or are lost to the winds forever (barring telephony, repetition, and echoes).  With the written word, however, we can leave words in a physical medium, transmitting them across time and space to people we may never know or see.  The ancients understood this; Thoth, the god of writing, gave men a power of the gods when he gave the Egyptians hieroglyphs, and the Jews have kept their scriptures written since Moses first had them inscribed on Mount Sinai.  Writing is something from the gods, and we usually take it for granted.

Occultists in the Western tradition, derived from Hermetic principles, never quite lost that reverence for the written word.  They also held writing as something magical in its own right, which led to the tradition of grimoires and spellbooks that had power in and of themselves.  We have sigils derived from angels’ names, we have writing systems derived from the stars themselves, and we use them to communicate to entities that go so far beyond our comprehension that it’s a miracle we can communicate with them at all.  Of course, the writing systems that the occultists of yore used had another purpose: keeping the occult occult.  Magic was never universally welcomed, and was sometimes persecuted and burned wherever orthodox zealots could find it cropping up.  Special writing systems used to keep certain texts private or secret served their purpose, too.

Although the Roman and Hebrew scripts, and occasionally the Greek script, suffice for many occult tasks and practices, sometimes a certain task calls for a different kind of writing, either to cloak the intent or purpose of a certain text or to have spirits of any rank understand it easier for them.  Below is a selection of writing systems I find myself using from time to time.

The Theban script is a magical script, still in use in some Wiccan circles today.  Both Johannes Trithemius and Cornelius Agrippa give versions of the Theban script, which was supposedly developed by the mage Honorius of Thebes to write his “Sworn Book of Honorius” in.  Given the one-to-one correspondence with the Roman alphabet in use at the time (I and J were considered the same letter, as were U, V and W), the Theban script was likely developed as a cipher for the Roman script for alchemical texts in medieval Europe.  It is used to cipher texts written in languages written with the Roman alphabet, such as Latin, French, or English.  Although I tend to use the Roman script instead of the Theban when writing occult texts, I’ll switch to Theban when I require secrecy or protection from prying eyes.

Runes of the Liber Runarum

Another writing system used in Europe, and is popular today with lots of neopagans and Nordic reconstructionists, are the runes, the angular letters used in Northern Europe.  Although runes aren’t normally my preferred system of writing, a special set of runes was developed in medieval and Renaissance Europe to work with stellar, zodiacal, and angelic magic in its own kind of system.

The Celestial or Angelic script was used by Agrippa to write the names of angels and other celestial beings.  Agrippa based this off the Hebrew script, with which it shares a one-to-one correlation (save for the final forms of the letters kaph, mem, nun, peh, and tzaddi, which aren’t present in this script).  However, since Agrippa intended to use this script to communicate with angels and other celestial beings, he used forms of the letters that he derived from constellations in the sky, hence the angular nature of the letters with the little “star points”.  The Celestial script shares some similarities with two other scripts Agrippa derived, Malachim and Passage du Flueve, which also share “star points” but the letterforms are much different.  I prefer this script when inscribing or writing anything dealing with supralunar entities or planetary tasks.  For information about Celestial and Hebrew, check out the post Celestial versus Hebrew.

The Alphabet of the Magi is another magical script used for Hebrew texts.  It was developed by Paracelsus, an alchemist and magician in the 16th century, for inscribing on talismans and other magical objects.  It, like the Celestial script, is based on a cipher of Hebrew, and might be thought of as a Hebrew parallel to what the Theban script is to the Roman script.  I haven’t seen it used in any but a few astrological talismans, so it’s one of the more uncommon scripts, but it’s definitely a different kind of script than Celestial and might be suited for different purposes.  Although I prefer the Hebrew script to deal with mundane magical things as opposed to the Alphabet of the Magi, this is still a useful script.


21 Responses to Magical Scripts

  1. Angeline says:

    I love your site. So does a good powerful pendant exist? For good purpose that is.

    • polyphanes says:

      If you’re talking about magical pendants, they exist for a lot of purposes, and lots of purposes can be called “good”. It depends on what you’re looking for, what tradition of magic you’re looking for, and many other things. A pendant like this is no more than a talisman one wears around the neck, and talismans can be made in many different ways with different effects and materials.

  2. Dark weasel says:

    Cool, thank you i had lost my original

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  4. Kai Skyward says:

    I hadn’t encountered any other magical use scripts until now, I’ve always just used Ogham shorthand. Its neat that there are others out there that can also be used!

    • polyphanes says:

      Plenty! Nigel Pennick’s book on magical scripts (one of his few worthwhile books, I might add, but YMMV) has dozens and dozens. All writing is sacred, in a way, so any script can be used for magical ends. I normally stick to using Greek, Celestial Hebrew, and Terrestrial (normal) Hebrew in my own practice, mostly because they’re suited to their associated languages. Ogham is good for Celtic languages, but is poor for other languages. In other words, it helps to find things, tools, or techniques that “grew up” in the same field or tradition of something you’re already using (e.g. using Hebrew letters for Judeo-Christian angels). Omniglot, as always, has a small section on magical writing systems you might also be interested in, but any archaic, old, or fanciful script will also do.

  5. Taysha says:

    i can see them on peoples skin

  6. Jim says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen this. 3 days ago I had an interesting dream while taking a light nap to help get rid of a migraine (these only happen 2-3 times a year thankfully!). I continued to see a strange alphabet and language on a black backdrop and the characters were of thin font, but certainly glowing, probably burning. Although awake, i continued to see this every time I closed my eyes (I was sitting up). Perhaps I was still “sleeping”, but this did continue for a minute,maybe, until the realization of it all sort of “shocked me”. I’ve never dreamed or saw anything like this before. Any ideas? Thanks for your time.

  7. A while ago I have ran into a carpet of which the link to some photos will be included in this message. I have been looking for information about it to understand the history. Like, how old it is, what it has been used for etc.
    I am interested in spirituality and have experienced a lot of energy resonating from the carpet. Also other friends of mine have noticed the same.

    The previous owner told me that she received it from someone who told her that he got it from a woman telling him that it was a special carpet of which he should take care of.
    I am not interested in the value, but have the impression that the script on it is an ancient one, which I would like to have translated.

    It would be great, and I would be grateful if you would have a look at it and share your thoughts.
    Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,
    Alessandro Damino

    • polyphanes says:

      This got caught in the spam filter, due to the links. In the future, if you have a specific question, you might consider sending me an email; see the Contact page on my site for that.

      I assume you mean the black-and-white mottled text in the borders around the shapes on the carpet. It doesn’t quite look like writing to me, personally; if you notice on the second image, the two “bars” around the four-petaled flower are mirrored around the center. While Arabic calligraphy can be known to include mirrored tet, I don’t think that’s the case here. To my eyes, it looks more like the stripes of a zebra or a tiger rather than actual letters, but I have been known to be wrong. Arabic art isn’t something I specialize in. The zig-zag border underneath it could be a stylized, “old” form of Arabic calligraphy called square/geometric Kufic script, but it doesn’t look close enough to my eyes. Again, this is not something I can answer appropriately.

      The third picture you linked to has the standard Islamic crescent moon/star motif, plus an elaborate angular style of Arabic written in the middle. However, I don’t read Arabic, and cannot translate it. Beyond that, the image isn’t clear enough for me to get a good view of the other details of the carpet.

    • If it’s like 2 feet by 4 ft or a little more, it could be a prayer rug. Polyphanes is right about the Islamic theme, and that if the lettering is anything, it’s probably block Arabic. If that’s the case, it’s likely to be the Shahada or some Qu’ranic verse.I also have a little Latin, a couple of words of Greek, and no Arabic at all.

      Also — Google “Polygraphia Trithemius” — the whole book is available on Google Books. The next alphabet after Theban is the alchemical script used to write the GD cipher manuscript.

  8. Well, it is more like 8 by 6 feet, 230cm x 190cm to be exact.
    Thank you for the information. So far the best from both of you above any other. In case I get anywhere I will update this post with a comment. :D

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  10. Paula says:

    Love the scripts. Glad I happen to find them. Thanks so so for sharing.

  11. oneoflokis says:

    Hail all magical scripts! Tell me: is Theban slow to write, even when you’ve got it down pat?! Looks very curly… :-) I can do runes without looking at a book – but they’re all spiky! Futhark I mean. So which are the medieval zodiacal runes then? Do you mean Scandinavian ones, or some other kind of rune?

    And is there any way one can download a set of any of these – futhark would be my preference – to use on the virtual keyboard of a smartphone? Even if it ends up in the emoji section. Just so long as I don’t have to load a whole separate program each time…

    Love to know if you have some thoughts/solutions.

    • polyphanes says:

      I don’t ever really use Theban; it’s an alphabet, brought forward by Cornelius Agrippa, based on earlier “alchemical” alphabets that were in vogue for encoding magical texts. The “medieval zodiacal runes” can be found on the Liber Runarum page on my site at this link, and I talk more about it in this post. These are much more recent inventions than Futhark, which are much older, and shouldn’t really be thought of in the same way. It is an alphabet, all the same.

      Fonts and encodings are always a pain to work with; you’d need to share a font with someone else so that, when you use the font to write something, they actually see the font for the thing that’s written and not something else. This also gets into Unicode encoding and this, that, and the other; to make it short, no, there’s no short, easy, or uncomplicated way to get such a thing working on a smartphone. (There are ways, but they’re not for the faint-hearted, and even I don’t bother with them.) I just generally use the Roman script (what you’re reading right now), Greek, or Hebrew to get my point across when discussing magical things, or if I must, write it out with pen and paper and send a picture of it.

  12. Always drawn to such topics in life always find myself playing with mirrors candels and sitting in darkness. Wondering and thinking and always repeating parts of my life as if i were reliving a dreamoften knowing a second to late wats going on somethings change often in small vareations wats up could someone tell me??

  13. Cara Estevez says:

    There’s no letter U..

    • polyphanes says:

      The letters U and V are considered to be the same letter before 1700 or so (and even afterwards, and in very limited cases in monumental inscriptions in the modern day), so just treat U and V the same. For W, which is literally a double u, just use UU/VV (which is also how it was done in the early modern period).

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