Magical Alphabets

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In some traditions, it’s common to use a magical alphabet when writing spells, rituals or incantations in the Book of Shadows. 

Many people like the idea of using a magical alphabet because it’s something that will keep information secret. Think of it as a code language – if the average person who might look at your Book of Shadows can’t read the language, there’s no way for them to know what you’re writing about. So, if you’ve got the time to learn Theban (or some other magical alphabet) and become fluent enough that you can read it without having to check your notes every time you want to cast a circle, then you may want to use it in your writings.

That said, many Pagans today no longer feel a need to hide who they are or what they believe. Many of us live openly, without fear of persecution. So, is it necessary to use a magical alphabet to hide your writings? Not at all – unless you feel it’s important, or you’re part of a magical tradition that requires it.

Theban Alphabet

Theban Alphabet
Patti Wigington 

One of the most popular magical languages in use today is the Theban Alphabet. Its origins are unclear, but it was first published around the early sixteenth century. German occultist and cryptographer Johannes Trithemius wrote about it in his book Polygraphia, and attributed it to Honorius of Thebes. Later, Trithemius’ student, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa included it in his Three Books on Occult Philosophy.

In general, although this alphabet is popular among Wiccan and NeoWiccan paths, it’s not typically used by non-Wiccan Pagans. Cassie Beyer at Wicca For the Rest of Us points out,

"The purpose of using an unfamiliar alphabet is to abstract it from the writer's native language. This causes the writer to concentrate more fully upon the inscription and the greater task at hand. Because of this, the Theban alphabet is mostly employed in the makings of talismans and other ritual work. Some use it in their Book of Shadows as a code so no one else can read it – another throwback to the Burning Times myth."

Norse Runes

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The runes are an ancient alphabet used in Germanic countries. Today, they are used in magic and divination by many Pagans and who follow a Norse path. There are a number of different types of runic alphabets in use, although the most commonly known are the Elder Futhark, which is believed to be the oldest of the runic alphabets.

Daniel McCoy at Norse Mythology for Smart People explains that it's not just the runes themselves that are magical, but the act of creation as well. He says

"The carving of runes is one of the primary means by which the Norns establish the initial framework of the destiny of all beings (the other most often-noted method being weaving). Given that the ability to alter the course of destiny is one of the central concerns of traditional Germanic magic, it should come as no surprise that the runes, as an extremely potent means of redirecting destiny, and as inherently meaningful symbols, were thereby inherently magical by their very nature."

The Celtic Ogham

Ogham Staves
Patti Wigington

The Celtic Ogham alphabet has long been shrouded in mystery, but many Wiccans and Pagans use these ancient symbols as tools of divination, although there's no real documentation of how the symbols were used originally. You can make your own Ogham divination set by drawing the symbols on cards or notching them into straight sticks, or you can use them as a magical alphabet to write down spells and rituals.

There are 20 original letters in the Ogham alphabet, and five more that were added later on. Each corresponds to a letter or sound, as well as a tree or wood. In addition, each of these symbols has come to be associated with various meanings and elements of the human experience.

Celestial or Angelic Alphabet

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Derived from the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, the Celestial Alphabet is used by some ceremonial magicians for communication with higher beings, such as angels. It is believed that this alphabet was invented by Agrippa in the 1500s.

Angels Expert Whitney Hopler says,

"The letters of the alphabet correspond to constellations of stars in the night sky, because in the mystical branch of Judaism known as Kabbalah, each Hebrew letter is a living angel that expresses God’s voice in written form, and the shapes of the stars form shapes that represent those letters... Later, the letters in the Angelic or Celestial Alphabet took on occult meanings, with each letter representing a different spiritual characteristic. People would use the alphabet to write spells to ask angels to do something for them."
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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Magical Alphabets." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 27). Magical Alphabets. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Magical Alphabets." Learn Religions. (accessed May 30, 2023).