The witches’ alphabet is also referred to as the Theban alphabet or the Honorian script. Its origins remain unclear, and some believe this was done deliberately by the author, who meant to stay hidden.
The Theban alphabet is most often used by Wiccans, although these symbols are not exclusive to their practice.
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History and Origins of the Theban Alphabet
The first known recordings of the alphabet came from the astrologer Johannes Trithemius who included it in his 1518 published book Polygraphia. Trithemius stated the alphabet came from the Theban Honorius and it was revealed by Petries de Apono (aka Pietro D’Abano).
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa studied under Johannes Trithemius. Agrippa started referring to this script as the Theban alphabet in his book Three Books of Occult Philosophy and said it was from Honorius of Thebes.
So who is Theban Honorius or Honorius of Thebes?
Since Petries de Apono was close with Pope Honorius IV, some believe him to be the source; or his granduncle, Pope Honorious III. However, there is no proof of this because there has not been any work from either of them that contains this alphabet, including the manuscript written by Pope Honorious III called Grimoire du Pape Honorius.
Another belief connects to the fourteenth-century manuscript The Sworn Book of Honorius authored by Honorius of Thebes. According to lore, Honorius of Thebes was a scribe who complied this information together during a large assembly of deeply knowledgable magical practitioners. However, this is still speculation because the only copy of The Sworn Book of Honorius that remains today states that the Theban alphabet’s origins are from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa.
Yeah, that’s right, the student of Johannes Trithemius. Are you confused yet? I’d also like to note that there’s no way to know if he’s referring to Thebes, Greece, or Thebes, Egypt.
The time period as to when the Theban alphabet was constructed is also a bit murky and unproven. Here are a few likely possibilities:
- 1500-1000 BCE inspired by an alchemical cipher from the Avestan scripture, which originates from Aramaic script
- During the beginning of the middle ages, due to its close correspondences with Latin letters and no corresponding symbols for J, V, and W (these letters had not been invented yet. Johannes Trithemius combined them using one symbol in his book Polygraphia).
- Around the 10th century BCE, because it may have been sourced from Hebrew, which also provides only one letter for I and J and one for U, V, and W.
Modern Comeback of The Witches Alphabet
In 1801 Francis Barrett created the Magus (which I wrote about in the article – What is a Grimoire or Wiccan Book of Shadows?) which consisted of 3 books contained in a single volume. His goal was to modernize information from ancient and obscure texts and make them more accessible. This helped to assist in the resurgence of magical theories and beliefs including The Theban alphabet from Johannes Trithemius and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa‘s publications. His concept of updating ancient traditions and folklore is most likely where the idea of customizing your Grimoire originated from.
Around the late 1800s and early 1900s, English occultists and magical groups began to assemble, like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn who used the Magus as a source for their spiritual practice.
Gerald Gardner, the creator of Wicca, was influenced by Trithemius, Agrippa, Barrett, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and incorporated it into his Wiccan spiritual practice.
Theban Alphabet Translator
Note – not everyone uses PP for W (as shown above), and may instead include W with the symbol for U and V.
Uses for the Theban Alphabet
One of the most common reasons someone uses the Witches alphabet during ritual work is to require the spiritual practitioner to intensely focus on the matter at hand since it is not a language they’re fluent in. Some believe using the Theban Alphabet will increase the power of your intentions or spells. Here are a few more ideas to incorporate the Theban alphabet into your practice:
- Inscribe Talismans or amulets
- Write in your Wiccan Book of Shadows or Grimoire (I would not recommend this if you are not fluent in the Theban alphabet)
- Carve into candles
- Write spells or intentions
- Use it to create sigils
- Place on your altar
- Use in your spiritual artwork
- Draw on your body with Moon water or oils
- Carve into homemade soaps
I hope you found this post about the Theban and witches alphabet helpful, lots of love to you, and remember as always…