9 magickal alphabets

I love linguistics and the way language morphs and changes over time as peoples carry it from one location to another, mixing and adding new words and ideas.

We can see a little of this in alphabets and how they share commonalities, but also in how they differ.

And alphabets that are commonly used for magick or occult practices share some of those same characteristics, especially those that once (or still) functioned as linguistic alphabets, such as Greek, Hebrew, and Runes.

So here’s a quick run down (in no particular order) of what alternative alphabets are out there that you might encounter in your occult or witchcraft studies or practices:

Hieroglyphs

This is arguably one of the oldest alphabets or systems of writing documented that has been used in spiritual, occult, or magickal writing, dating back to at least 4000 B.C.E. Hieroglyphs were the formal and intricate writing system used by the Ancient Egyptians until sometime around 600 C.E., at which point all traces of Pagan spiritual or religious writings and references were abolished, banned, or suppressed in that region, and they were essentially lost until later in the 1800s when discovered by archaeologists.

Ogham

The origins of ogham (also can be spelled ogam) are unknown, but it appeared in the Celtic world first on stone markers such as memorials, burial stones, and stones at crossroads. It is a script based on trees in the Celtic world and each of the original 20 symbols represents a letter or sound, but also a type of tree. Ogham can also be used as a divinatory method, similar to Runes.

Ogham is often referred to as the ‘oracle of the trees’ and as an artistic script its quite beautiful. Legend tells of its creation by Ogma, the Celtic god, and one of the legendary Tuatha De Danaan. Part of the divinatory element of the ogham symbols is knowing what characteristics and correspondences are possessed by each tree, but also the folklore associated with that tree. Ogham, when read as divinatory symbols, can be read upright or reversed, similar to other systems like Runes or cartomancy.

For instance, Ailm represents the pine or fir tree, which is a tree of ecstasy and elation. This is a symbol of letting joy and elation lead you through an experience. Adopt a sense of wonder, as you’ll be struck by many realizations. The pine varieties are all evergreen, bringing their color to even the coldest winters. They pre-date most other trees in the Celtic region, as they are part of an ancient group of conifers. Pines are revered as protectors, mystical, enduring, and even terrifying in their size and breadth.

Hebrew

Long used by occultists due to its use in some of the earliest writings in mysticism, such as the Qabbalah, Hebrew has even earlier origins dating to possibly even before the 10th century B.C.E. Those forms of Early Hebrew vary significantly from what became the more commonly used Hebrew script around the first or second century C.E. Modern Hebrew alphabet was influenced on the Early Hebrew alphabet, but is more closely connected to Aramaic, which it eventually replaced as a dominant form of writing.

Hebrew is a worthwhile alphabet system to learn and understand if you follow Qabbalistic writings or practices, as well as if you want to be able to read some of the original Judeo-Christian writings and not rely on the (heavily mistranslated) Christian bible. It also comes in handy when working with any of the deities, angels, or demons which have Solomonic seals or sigils.

Greek

The Greek alphabet, originally derived from the Phoenician alphabet, has been around since about as long as the Hebrew alphabet, dating to around the 9th century B.C.E. Greek differs from all other ancient alphabets due to its inclusion of letters representing vowel sounds, which none of the other older alphabets did.

Greek also spawned Latin, which is the alphabet used by most Western societies, or those who speak/write any language based on any of the Indo-European languages such as English, French, Spanish, German, and Gaelic. Greek was also the first alphabet to denote upper- and lower-case letters.

Prior to the Roman conquest of most of Europe and part of the British Isles, Greek was the dominant alphabet used to write pretty much everything, but especially religious texts. There are original versions of the Hebrew texts and what would eventually become the New Testament books of the Bible written in Greek, as well as many other mystical writings, especially concerning the Greek and Egyptian pantheons of deities. If you want to be able to read these in their original context, Greek may be worth your while to learn.

Runic

Runes date back to ancient Germanic tribes and practices, estimated to appear around the 1st century B.C.E. and lasting for another 800-1000 years until the Latinization of language occurred across the region as Rome gradually conquered peoples and converted their linguistic and spiritual practices to those of the Romans.

The type of runes most commonly used today for divination is the Elder Futhark runes, however, at various points in history, multiple runic alphabets existed due to a lack of homogeneity among the broad lands covered by Germanic tribes and peoples. Other runes systems that were common were the Anglo-Saxon (Futhorc) and the Younger Futhark varieties. There are still some traditions that use those other two runes systems for divination.

Similar to the Ogham script, each rune represents a letter or sound, but also represents a spirit of a concept. They can be read upright or reversed, and even the way that you can read the bones, position of where they land when throwing them lends further interpretation.

Astrological and Planetary Symbols

I bet you didn’t immediately consider that the astrological and planetary symbols are an alphabet unto themselves, but they are! Think about how many people’s IG profile reads something like this: ♋︎☀︎♏︎☽♋︎⇑♑︎⇓ ? Well, I basically just described myself in detail for you with a set of symbols.

The astrological and planetary symbols used in the western astrological system date back to codices in the Byzantine period. These were symbols assigned to represent celestial planets (which includes the Sun and Moon, even though from an astronomy perspective stars and moons are distinctly different from the label ‘planet’).

The system we use today was solidified in Greece sometime before or just at the beginning of the Renaissance period. These were, and still are, commonly used to note the positions of the planets upon the zodiac at specific time points relating to a notable event or during a particular ritual or magickal working. Many old grimoires and Book of Shadows will have these notations letting the reader know under what astrological conditions something occurred, in case one wanted to correlate specific occurrences or outcomes to that.

Angelic/Celestial

This alphabet was created by H. Cornelius Agrippa, specifically for occult use. He based the Celestial alphabet on the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, hence why it may look familiar to you, even if you’ve never read it before.

Agrippa used this alphabet primarily to communicate with angels and higher beings, an application that is still in use today. Another element that may seem familiar to you is that the symbols are based on star constellation patterns.

Theban/Honorian

The Theban alphabet is also attributed to Agrippa, even though there is no documentation definitively proving its origins or creator. It was used mostly by occultists and witches to disguise the content in their Book of Shadows or grimoires before it was safe to be publicly ‘out’ about being an occult practitioner.

Theban is still commonly used by many occultists and witches today, even though there is less need to hide these aspects of our lives in the Western world, many of us still face prejudice and bias in our communities or families who are not open-minded or do not share our beliefs or an open tolerance for beliefs that differ from their own.

Theban script is still taught in many Wicca 101 type of books for that reason, as many witches still use it, having learned it as a new witch a long time ago, and, therefore, you may encounter a mentor or teacher who wants you to learn it simply because its something they use to communicate.

Enochian

Enochian script or alphabet was created or recorded by John Dee and Edward Kelley. They allegedly wrote it and recorded it from visions and work in which they invoked or commanded spirits. It is important to note that it is not derived or written by the same source as the famous biblical text the Book of Enoch, but it is related in that Dee and Kelley developed the script in order to uncover the secrets they felt the Book of Enoch was hiding from all but the most astute readers.

John Dee’s journals stated that the Enochian alphabet and script was the language God created for man to speak with God, and also which was used to create the world and all of its inhabitants and contents. Enochian waas later discovered and began to be used in the late 19th century by members of the Golden Dawn.

There are lots of other alphabets that have been used in magickal or occult practice at various points, so this list is not completely exhaustive, but the ones I left out are more obscure and used by a more limited number of people, and, therefore, not as likely to be encountered frequently by occult practitioners in the modern era.

goddess spotlight: calliope

Calliope (Kalliope) is one of the nine Greek muses (the others were Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomeni, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, and Ourania), and is associated with the mastering of beautiful, epic, and eloquent poetry and writing. She can also be helpful to those who are songwriters or musicians.

The muses, who resided on Mt. Olympus, were raised and taught the arts by the god Apollo. Calliope is the oldest of the nine daughters/muses and considered to be the supreme muse. She helped and guided kings, emperors, and leaders in justice and rhetoric.

She is the daughter of Zeus and the mother of Orpheus and Linus. It is rumored that she was the actual muse to Homer, who wrote the Illiad and the Oddysey.

Correspondences of Calliope

Arts and crafts, dance, eloquence/power of words, inspiration, judgment, music, poetry, public speaking, courage/confidence, writing, Ostara, Beltane, tablet, stylus, scroll, lyre,

Color: Orange, Yellow, Blue,

Element: Air, Water

what is hermeticism?

Ok, buckle in. This is another post where I will attempt to condense a huge amount of information into a blog post, whereas you can read volumes of books on this. And if this post interests you, you should read those volumes of books.

History

The Hermetic system of theology, philosophy, and tradition is based on writings (collectively referred to as the Hermetic Corpus) by the pagan prophet Hermes Trismegistus. Hermes Trismegistus was possibly a real person, or possibly a collection of people writing, depending on who you ask.

And, its not likely we’ll actually really know this, as the writings attributed to him are difficult to truly date and could have been written anywhere between approximately when Moses was alive and the 1st or 2nd century CE.

Regardless of when the writings of Hermes Trismegistus actually were composed (which I think is probably not an incredibly important point to argue right now), they contain a wealth of esoteric information that is credited with creating or organizing the beginnings of things such as:

  • alchemy
  • ancient occult practices
  • foundations of Western esoteric magickal traditions
  • the basis of modern Western astrology
  • spirit conjuring/invoking/evoking
  • Gnosticism
  • probably the foundations or inspiration of almost every occult or ‘secret’ society we know of
  • plenty more arcane magickal subjects

Many people actually believe that Hermes Trismegistus was actually a humanized figure representing the combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth being syncratized, as they represented similar characterizations to these two cultures which borrowed and overlapped each other heavily during the period of antiquity.

The term ‘hermetic’ is also often used interchangeably with the term ‘occult’, which means hidden or obscured.

Major Tenets

I hesitate to call these tenets in the formal and rigid sense, as one of the overarching principles of Hermeticism is a denial of or resistance to complete ‘doctrinal faith.’

(Meaning, they saw the emergence of the major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, then Christianity, and, finally, Islam, as problematic to their findings that there was one universal deity present in all religions, rather than only one religion with a deity that was ‘real’, whilst all others were ‘wrong.’)

God is everything and within us but also apart from us

This belief essentially states that the universal unifying force of all beings, matter, thoughts, and so on is god. And this force is both within us and apart from us. We are god, but we are also apart from god. And everything else is too.

This makes Hermeticism a monotheistic system, however, it also recognizes that there can be other deities and beings born of that ‘god,’ which seems contradictory initially, but when you understand that these other deities are also ‘god’ and ‘not god,’ then I guess it begins to make sense 😉

There are some beliefs within Hermeticism that are based on texts found describing the universal force of god creating the other gods and goddesses to rule over various aspects, areas, planets, or concepts. Which, again, still falls within the framework of a monotheistic ‘supreme creative force’ view.

As Above, So Below

This is where many people got this extraordinarily famous saying. It comes from the Emerald Tablet, a writinng of Hermes Trismegistus.

The Hermetic writings teach that whatever happens on one plane of existence, also happens on all other planes of existence. Also, whatever has already happened, will happen again. And we can know what will happen on Earth if we can know what has already happened throughout the universe (the stars and other planets).

This is also a commentary on the microcosm and macrocosm concept. What has happened around us will also happen within us, and we are the universe, therefore what happens within us, also happens across the universe. Everything is god, and inter-connected.

Astrology Can Be Harnessed to Understand Our Lives

One of the central concepts taught is that what the stars and planets do are influenced by the universal god, and their influence can be studied and understood to better understand how to operate our lives in synchronicity and symbiosis with our current world, and the universe around it.

Alchemy as a Symbol of Life Cycles

The study alchemy is heavily symbolic, and, apart from literally trying to change lead or other less precious metals into gold, it also speaks to the metaphor of birth, life, death, and reincarnation into the next life cycle, all the while, the energy of the spirit, interconnected as it is with the greater consciousness and the universal god, remains intact. Reincarnation is obviously a key point and belief within Hermetic philosophies.

Theurgy vs. Goetia

Hermetic principles state that the study of magick and accessing it through higher spirits such as angels and gods, is the noblest of studies. The study or pursuit of ‘black’ magick through association with demons or dark spirits is viewed as undesirable, and thought not to lead to spiritual enlightenment.

I think this is a point of contention with some who argue over the definition of ‘demon,’ and what type of being or spirit specifically qualifies as this based on historic and modern interpretations.

Reincarnation and Physical Embodiment

Another central part of the Hermetic belief system is that of the physical embodiment of spirits is due to the universal god being displeased with the souls or spirits in their original form and sentencing them, for lack of a better word, to life in the physical world as a trial the souls must undergo in order to achieve higher levels of spiritual growth, so that, eventually, they can fulfill the requirement of purity to be able to exist permanently on the spiritual plane.

Until each soul reaches that enlightenment, it will continue to reincarnate in human form and undergo the trials and struggles that which is human life.


I would like to point out here that Hermeticism was initially tolerated, and even embraced by, some early Christian sects and churches, as it was actually quite compatible with the early Christian teachings.

It wasn’t until the Christian religion began to organize and stamp out competing views, or views which give too much power to the common man to commune directly with deity or spirit, did Hermeticism come under fire and disappear from mainstream, becoming an ‘occult’ or underground practice until very modern revival in the late 18th century through present.

The Christian church was particularly disturbed by any religious approach that encouraged the common person from knowing and entering into enlightenment, scholarly undertakings, direct communication with a deity, religious education, and critical thinking, which might lead to their rebellion against a quite controlling religious organization and carefully crafted doctrine designed to place the communication with a supreme god squarely in the hands of only a select few, rather than make it accessible to all.

At this point, I want to reiterate that you should read many many sources on this subject if you’re interested in learning more.

As an ecclectic witch, I borrow from and work with concepts of many different schools of thoughts or paths of teaching, and I think the Hermetic philosophy is probably equally as influential in many of the paths we consider ‘modern’ as other sources.

A large part of the Wiccan system is based on Hermetic principles, as is chaos magick, shadow magick, and green witchcraft. You can see elements of the Hermetic system appear almost universally, which is probably not coincidence, given its core belief that everything is interconnected.

A great, short, and mostly easy-to-understand book to whet your appetite further is The Kybalion, as well as you can purchase translated copies of the Corpus Hermeticum, which is the compilation of some of the more important writings of Hermes Trismegistus, at least the main ones that have been translated.

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