Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Theban Alphabet

Entering high school I read and enjoyed Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. I began writing notes in runes and then in the mysterious Theban Alphabet. All I knew about the Theban Alphabet is that it's used by many Witches AND IT LOOKS COOL!

This lasted only a few months and then I moved on to other things.

Recently, though, I have decided I should write my journals in some kind of alternate script. One script I am considering is the mysterious Theban Alphabet. So I thought I'd make a little blog post about the script.

And that's what it is, a script. It appears to be an alternate script for use with the Latin Alphabet.

The oldest known book containing the Theban Alphabet is Johannes Trithemius' Polygraphia (1518)

The Latin reads:
“Sequitur aliud alphabetum Honorii cognomento Thebani, cuius ministerio suas in magicis fatuitates abscondit, sicut Petrus de Apono testatur in suo maiore libro quarto" (Here follows another alphabet of Honorius surnamed the Theban, and the use thereof is for hiding the foolishness of his magic, as Petrus de Abano testifies in his greater fourth book.)

The 1561 edition shows the following forms for the letters:

Trithemius' student Agrippa would later include the Theban Alphabet in his Three Books Of Occult Philosophy (book 3 published 1533) (Read it online HERE)

Agrippa has the following to say of the origins of the Alphabet of Thebes:
"Ex horum itaque characterum genere sunt, quos notat Petrus Apponus ab Honorio Theba no traditos, quorum figura est talis ad nostrum alphabetum relata:"
“Of this kind of character therefore are those which Peter Apponus notes, as delivered by Honorius of Thebes, the figures whereof are such, being related to our Alphabet.”

Trithemius and Agrippa claim to have read about this alphabet in an older book of magic attributed to Peter Abano. In this book Peter Abano gives the alphabet and tells how its creator, Honorius the Theban, used the alphabet "for hiding the foolishness of his magic".

I wish I had Trithemius' library. It seems the book he and Agrippa cite has not survived down to the present day. So for now the source of the Theban Alphabet is Trithemius' Polygraphia.

The Theban Alphabet appeared in Francis Barrett's The Magus

It is this form of the Theban Alphabet that was used by the Golden Dawn and from there passed down into Wicca by Gerald Gardner.

The last character of this alphabet contains the Alpha and Omega and is used as a period or full stop.

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