Talk:Theban alphabet

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Comment 1[edit]

I changed "with origins lost to the flow of time" to "with unknown origins." There is a quote on the omniglot webpage (external link) that says "The origins of the Theban alphabet are lost in the mists of time." Come on, change the wording a little bit more so you don't flagrantly violate someone else's intellectual property rights.

I've removed the "word separator" that was included in the transliteration list. This is not a traditional way of separating words written in Theban. I suspect that the font used for the images is a font that I created a few years ago (here), which included a couple of "separators" for decorative purposes. If words are going to be separated with anything other than spaces, it is generally for the purpose of disguise, making the cipher that much harder to crack. In this case the separating characters are very similar in style to the alphabet letters. Fuzzypeg 12:32, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

In my defence, I wrote the article pretty much from scratch using the font itself and a few hand-written notes taken at various Agrippa talks, so that resemblance is purely co-incidence. --Veratien 21:17, 2 April 2006 (UTC)
I'm very sorry, I believe my accusation was quite unjust, and I've retracted what I said. I shouldn't jump to conclusions like that. I guess the phrases just looked very similar. I'm gradually learning to be a bit less judgemental on Wikipedia. Please accept my apologies. Fuzzypeg 03:36, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

A possible precursor alphabet: but I've lost the reference![edit]

I was going to add in some information about an alchemical alphabet that I believe predates Agrippa, and bears a strong resemblance to Theban. This is it, as I copied it down (being quite careful with the shapes):

Alchemical Script Anonymous 3.jpg

Unfortunately I've lost my record of where I found it. It may be in one of Nigel Pennick's books, or it may be in a rather large book of magical alphabets in my old university library (unfortunately in a different city, and I can't remember what the book was called). Can anyone help? Fuzzypeg 09:33, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

Searching through Otago University's catalogue, I think I've found the title of the "rather large book of magical alphabets": Gettings, Fred (1981), Dictionary of occult, hermetic, and alchemical sigils, London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0710000952.
The Pennick book, which I think is the most likely possibility, is: Pennick, Nigel (1992), Magical Alphabets, Weiser Books, ISBN 0877287473. Possibly even on page 177: An "search inside" search revealed Fig. 48 as a likelihood, but it won't show me the page for some reason.
A third possibility I can think of (though unlikely) is Drucker, Johanna (1995), Alphabetic labyrinth : the letters in history and imagination, New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0500016089.
Thanks, Fuzzypeg 10:13, 31 March 2006 (UTC)
Have you found back which book it was? Nyctophilia 09:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Finally tracked it down, at least another couple of steps: The Lure and Romance of Alchemy by C.J.S. Thompson. Page 130: "Secret alphabets and ciphers were employed for recording processes which were regarded as of special importance. Three of these alphabets, taken from manuscripts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are here reproduced.". The following page has three alphabets, one being the one shown above. I might try to upload a better image. Of course the (inexact) dating of it would tend to suggest it is a derivative of Trithemius' script or another earlier script, not a precursor. Fuzzypeg 05:23, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Theban isn't the only alaphabet we use[edit]

I edited the portion about Theban being *the* Witches' Alphabet, as we use several. Some use Malachim as well. Some create their own. Blessings, Morgana

Hi. I've changed the edit you just made: the Theban Alphabet is called "The Witches' Alphabet" as a proper name, and this shouldn't be taken as meaning that it's the only alphabet used by witches, or even that all witches use it. It's just a name. BB, Fuzzypeg 06:03, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
Hiya Morgana,
Whilst Theban is not the only Witches' alphabet, it is known as The Witches' Alphabet, as Fuzzypeg above has noted. --Veratien 13:28, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

First printing of theban alphabet[edit]

Heya. In fact, the first known (to my knowledge) document describing Theban alphabet wasn't in Agrippa's book (1531) but in Johannes Trithemius' book V of his Polygraphia (1518). He also credits it being from Honorius of Thebes (possibly legendary). You can found easily on Google PDFs and scans of the Polygraphia, both in latin (1518) and the french translation from 1651. 16:27, 12 December 2006 (UTC)Ben

I've so far only managed to find scans of Polygraphia book VI. I've also found a webpage saying that Theban was attributed to Trithemius (and possibly to Peter de Abano), but this attribution has not yet found any supporting evidence. Can you point me to some scans? Thanks, Fuzzypeg 04:04, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

There, I uploaded scans of Agrippa's Of Occult Philosophia (1538) and Trithemius' Polygraphia (1518). Agrippa cites Peter Apponus (Petrus d'Abano, etc) as his source for theban, while Trithemius cites just Honorius of Thebes.

Here are Agrippa scans, from the english translation (Ff3, pages 437-438, Book III)

Here is Trithemius scan, from the french translation of 1561 (page 184, Book V) (rough translation : "Another alphabet, by which Honorius, alias Thebanus, describes "occultly" his rules and ordonnances of magic")

I couldn't find the link today to the pdf, but I can send you via email. I have seen a scan from the latin edition of Polygraphia, in which the name of Petrus d'Abano is also cited while it has been removed in the french translation. So far from what I've found, all points to that guy, but I was yet unable to find pdf or books of his works.

Another thing to look into would be Steganographia by Trithemius (1499), which apparently contain ciphers and alphabets, it may have Theban.

(I have not edited the wikipedia article yet, I think it would be good to get as much information as available) 14:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)Ben (edit : registered at wiki Nyctophilia 16:41, 13 December 2006 (UTC))

Brilliant. I've changed the article to reflect this. I don't suppose you have any higher resolution scans? I'd be interested in making a Theban font based on Trithemius' letter-forms. I made several of the freeware magical cypher fonts that are floating around the internet — it's a bit of a hobby of mine... Fuzzypeg 23:31, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I'll try to take a larger scan of that page (can't on this comp, it's on my laptop) and post it, but it probably won't be much better. It'll be there by tomorrow.

Also, here's from Trithemius' latin version of Polygraphia : Which, as you see, contains explicit reference to Petrus d'Abano as well. "... dixit what Petrus de Apono testifies in his major book IV" I don't know to what book it refers, but it would be very interesting to check. As well as the Steganographia. I've had a chance to check Petrus d'Abano's Heptameron, but it contains no reference to Theban. I added some minor stuff to the page like links to Trithemius and Abano, plus dates of birth and death. Nyctophilia 08:18, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Here is a larger version of Theban from Polygraphia. I also edited a bit the text, since in old latin, letters j, v, w simply didn't exist, hence the profusion of alchemical alphabets calqued from latin who appears to have no character for those letters and the same as i and u are used instead. Also, "W" as a letter was invented quite recently, old english texts always use 'vv' instead. Nyctophilia 09:40, 15 December 2006 (UTC)


I removed this line from the page:

The Theban character set also contains an 'end of phrase' character, or full stop, with no other punctuation being specified either in Agrippa's original publication, nor any publications drawing on subsequent documents.

So how come this image (from the 1651 French version) lists an equivalent of the ampersand, and not the full stop character? --Ptcamn 00:50, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

The (much later) equivalent alphabet is found in Francis Barrett's The Magus; you can view it here. This is where I believe most people have encountered the alphabet, or else in derivative works. This includes one non-alphabet character, different to the ampersand given by Trithemius; Barrett doesn't explain what it's for. Barrett's alphabets are copied from Agrippa of course. I don't have Agrippa in front of me, but I believe from memory that Agrippa labels this character with the Greek omega ( Ω ), presumably indicating end of sentence, or 'over-and-out'. It looks like the ampersand is an extra character that not many people are aware of. Fuzzypeg 05:18, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

November 2008[edit]

This page ONLY contains the contents of the French Agrippen Theban and should not be confused with the Latin. Also, this page contains the "AGrippan," Version that is not the original Theban. These letter are slightly inaccurate due to the miscopies that were transcribed off of the prints that were made from the broken wooden plates. Thus this version that you see are slightly inaccurate. To learn more, contact the NWC, Intl.; PO Box 162046, Sacramento, CA 95816 USA. -- 07:49, 13 November 2008


Nice work! AnonMoos (talk) 04:06, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Last paragraph of the introduction[edit]

"The Theban alphabet is also known as the Theban Script or Angelic Script, and it is said[by whom?] that it's one of several different scripts used to communicate with angels. It's also said[by whom?] that, when someone wants to petition an angel for help, it's more powerful if written with this script. The Theban alphabet has been said[by whom?] to be used by witches, pagans, and wiccans to cast spells, either by writing out the glyphs and then burning the paper, or carving them in ceremonial stones. It also is rumored that Theban script is what the Demonic Bible is written in, which is contradictory to the use of the script to commune with angels and is more likely to be propaganda against magical practices"

- I'm removing this as, apart from being obviously bollocks, It is unsubstantiated, irrelevant and unsourced. (talk) 15:52, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

What if you could see where the secondary sources went wrong? (Meta-discussion)[edit]

To avoid confusion and hurt feelings, I should state clearly what my objection is not: Theban alphabet is an entirely uncontroversial, well-edited presentation of what all the trusted, published, paid-for secondary sources have been saying for decades on the topic, entirely in accord with Wikipedia's policies.

A frequent problem in "occult" topics is that secondary sources may have echo-chambered each other for decades or even centuries, thus setting a claim in stone as far as Wikipedia is concerned — but its foundation may truly be sand.

Meanwhile, others might be able to cite specific evidence, say "No, look here and here for yourself, with your own eyes" — and settle the matter, among the reasonable. ... Except on Wikipedia, where that's rejected out-of-hand as "original research", so that the old misconception remains enthroned. Let's see if this is a case in point. – Raven .talk 17:02, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

Is "the Runes of Honorius" a misnomer, because "Theban is not a runic alphabet"?[edit]

From the earliest to the current version of this article, we are told Theban is also the "Runes of Honorius" — but "is not, however, a runic alphabet."

Well, that's confusing, isn't it? Is our runes runic or isn't they? (And is our children educated?) May I suggest one short simple path to the light, so you could if you like revise the article accordingly? (I have no wish to edit-war, so I won't edit it at all.)

Follow that little blue link to Runic alphabet and ponder the actual meaning of "runic". It isn't limited to the angular-shaped Norse/Germanic carved letters. And I quote:

The name runes contrasts with Latin or Greek letters. ... The name is from a root run- (Gothic runa), meaning "secret" or "whisper". ... The name rune itself, taken to mean "secret, something hidden", seems to indicate that knowledge of the runes was originally considered esoteric, or restricted to an elite.

Was Theban a secret alphabet? Then it was in this sense a "runic" alphabet.

Perhaps you think I'm playing modern word-games with you. No. Go read "Runes and Runic Magic in Old Germanic Religion" by Diego Ferioli at the New Antaios Journal (excerpt):

(W)hen Wulfila (4th c. AD) translated the Bible from Greek into Gothic, he rendered Greek μυστήριον (mystérion) "mystery", συμβούλιον (symboúlion) and βουλή (boulé), meaning "counsel", with Gothic runa.

Thus when Paul tells the Ephesians (3:4) of "the mystery of Christ," in the Gothic text that's "runai Xristaus." (The rune of Christ doesn't mean he was an angular carved Norse or Germanic character, does it? Outside some people's imaginations, that is.) Any more questions whether Theban was likewise "runic" — in the non-angular/carved sense? – Raven .talk 17:02, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

"The Theban alphabet bears little resemblance to other alphabets...."[edit]

Superficial visual resemblance? Well, not much to the Latin alphabet, anyway. But what does that prove? Latin and Hebrew and Arabic and the old vertical Mongolian/Uighur script don't share superficial visual resemblances (they're written in three different directions, and two of them aren't even technically "alphabets" in their original form), yet in fact they're all related, descended from Phoenician script; sometimes you just have to look closer to discover the links. (And... if we do discover visual resemblances... what will that prove?)

Let's kick that poor dead "runic" equine some more: look at the Theban character w that does triple duty for U/V/W, sort of angular/carved-looking.... Now go look at the rune w (Wunjō) that does triple duty in Norse for U/V/W; oooh, does that mean Theban is at least partly a carved-runic alphabet after all? (Not really: cf. Nabatean waw (Waw), a very old and widespread Semitic character.) But now, d'you want to take another look at the Theban "L" l and the rune l (Laguz), flipping one or the other vertically? Or compare the Theban "F" f and "A" a to the corresponding runes f (Fehu) and a (Ansuz), flipping them horizontally? Or the Theban "E" e and rune a (Ehwaz), no flips at all?

For more kicks, consider the shapes, if not the values, of a few Georgian (Mkhedruli) letters, e.g. (requires Unicode support):
ი ლ ო რ ს უ ღ vs, say, Theban dgikopr
Is there a similar aesthetic at work? And if there is... so what? Given that the reputed script creators (Mesrop Mashtots of Armenia and Honorius of Thebes, whichever "Thebes" the latter denoted) came from the same religious culture (Eastern Christianity) and part of the world, some kinship would have been about as surprising between their scripts as between the superficially visually different Glagolitic and Cyrillic. – Raven .talk 17:02, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

Which "Theban alphabet" are we discussing anyway?[edit]

The problem with making this "little resemblance" argument is using the nice big clean "Theban glyph" SVGs shown in the article, which frequently differ even from the original Theban letters shown in the old diagram at its upper right corner. (You can see for yourself the differences between old and new there on the page just by looking; it doesn't depend on anyone believing my assertion or "original research.")

This is a modern script devised to help modern readers, by making the glyphs not so terribly alike (e.g. notice the closed top loop on the modern "B", compared to the old y-like character's open top which left A and B almost identical).

That's a perfectly honest and honorable reason to develop a new font; typographers compete all the time to accomplish more legible, useful, and beautiful scripts, and are justly celebrated when they achieve it. However, these are not usually then also presented elsewhere as being the original historical script.

If Wikipedia is showing readers a new version (which has letters made not to resemble each other too much) in order to demonstrate that the older version (not shown so big and clear) "bears little resemblance to other alphabets," isn't that manipulating the evidence?

In fact, given Wikipedia's influence as a reference source, isn't this quiet switcheroo unduly popularizing the modern script in place of the historical script? People can come here, copy the chart, and think they're learning the Olde Ways — not realizing they're learning to handwrite a computer font designed by someone who was dissatisfied with the original glyphs. When the product's not clearly labeled, I think at some level they're being cheated. And that makes this a stereotype of shoddy New Age marketing.

FYI, please note that the old script has not been universally abandoned, e.g.: – Raven .talk 17:02, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

Oh, those "angular" runes weren't always![edit]

Runes were straight-edged and sharp-angled when carved into wood or stone, yes, that was a feature of the medium, along with avoiding horizontal lines to keep from cutting along the grain of the wood and thereby splitting it. But the same letters were also used for writing with ink-and-quill for extensive documents, and there was no such straight-and-angular limitation then: e.g. see the Codex Runicus (ca. 1300), and note that the runes are rounded rather than angled. You surely know that English writing continued to use Thorn (Þ þ) and Eth (Ð ð) long after the Conquest, still visibly curved in their manuscript form, and they can now be found in many standard English publishing computer fonts, as well as in the HTML entities Þ þ Ð ð -- still curved, not straight.

As Theban is an ink-and-quill, manuscript-lettering alphabet, naturally it doesn't look like wood-carved glyphs; but calling it "not runic" for that reason would require calling the runic manuscript Codex Runicus "not runic", which seems just a bit senseless to me. – Raven .talk 01:33, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Baseless claim that unicamerality suggests origin as cipher[edit]

The article states: "Theban letters only exist in a single case. This suggests an origin for Theban as a cipher calqued on Latin,...." — This is a non sequitur: the first statement in no way suggests, implies, or supports the second. Earlier above, we saw a few examples of Georgian letters; well, Georgian is unicase; should we likewise deduce that Georgian originated as a cipher calqued on Latin? And Hebrew, and Arabic, and Tamil, and Hangul? Those are unicase too!

And the Ge'ez script used to write Ethiopian-regional languages, that's unicase as well... so is it also a cipher calqued on Latin, rather than (as everyone had thought) based on ancient South Arabian consonant-glyphs but attaching vowel-signs to create a syllabary? Well, gee, that might explain yet another odd similarity in letter-shapes to Theban!
·A ·B ·C ·D ·E ·F ·G ·H ·I ·L ·M ·N ·O ·P ·Q ·R ·S ·T ·U ·Y ·Z ··· ·.
Truly amazing how there are no scripts anywhere in the world with glyphs bearing resemblance to the Theban letters... until you actually open your eyes and look for them... right?

And is it clear now that the above-quoted suggestion about unicase scripts originating as ciphers (like other claims in the article) has no basis to be made by Wikipedia to its trusting readers? – Raven .talk 07:51, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Old font vs. new[edit]

So I'm not the first one to notice that the glyphs of the SVG files that someone made are rather different than the original Theban glyphs. Some are similar (A, K, O), while others look like the SVG artist pulled them right outta their ass (B, E, Y, and Z). My question is, why are they on here? If I (or someone else) re-created the glyphs to look more like their original counterparts, I think they should be on the page too. Eridani (talk) 19:06, 22 October 2014 (UTC)