The Witch’s alphabet is most commonly known as the Theban alphabet. Some other lesser-known names are the Honorian alphabet or the Runes of Honorius. It’s exact origin is unknown, but many occult historians date the work to the 14th Century. There is some controversy as those beliefs are based on a single reference from an old legal document. It’s been attributed to Honorius of Thebes, a Middle Age figure shrouded in so much mystery that some consider his existence to be a myth. Others believe the Theban alphabet dates back much further, to before the 11th Century, originating as an alchemical cipher with an Avestan influence. Avestan is oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language and it’s closely related to Vedic Sanskrit. But this theory is also undocumented and unproven.
If we look at the shape of the characters and corresponding curve patterns that define Theban, they show an unmistakable resemblance to characters found in the Avestan alphabet. The major differences are fewer characters and the inclusion in Theban of a symbol to denote the end of a sentence. This was likely necessary due to the fact that Theban has only one case; no capital letters. There is a one-to-one correspondence between letters of the Witch’s alphabet and Latin alphabets with the exception of the letters j and u; these letters are represented by the letters for i and v. It’s been called a runic alphabet but it’s not; runes are characterized by straight lines and sharp edges, while the Theban alphabet is mostly based on arcs and curls.
The Theban alphabet has been used by witches, pagans, and practitioners of Wicca as a way to conceal magical writings or spell work, but there is no firm date on when it was adopted. Many point to the fact that Wicca is a relatively new discipline as a discounting factor, however it is based on thousands of years of tradition and should be given the proper respect. There are accounts of many old grimoires written in the Witch’s alphabet, but they are shrouded in secrecy and none are available for the viewing public. Today the Theban alphabet is used in pagan rituals to inscribe talisman and record spells. The letters are often carved into candle wax, added to amulets, sometimes on pieces of sacred wood, or written on stones.
The Sworn Book of Honorius
The Sworn Book of Honorius (Liber Juratus Honorii Latin) is the one of the oldest and influential surviving Medieval grimoires in existence. It’s attributed to Honorius of Thebes. The book is surrounded in mystery and its exact date of publication is unclear. The earliest documented record dates back to 1347 where it was referenced in a court case The oldest manuscript is held in the British National Library and dates to the 14th Century. What makes the book so alluring is the fact that its 93 chapters cover such a wide range of topics, including controversial topics related to magic, demon summoning, and possible descriptions of what heaven looks like. It is believed to be the compilation of a group of Medieval magicians who attempted to combine all their knowledge into a single tome. It is classified as a Solomonic Grimoire due to the heavy reliance on seals and angelic powers such as the ones found in The Key of Solomon, another well-known work from the same time period.
Understanding Substitution Ciphers
In cryptography, substitution ciphers are quite common. A made-up alphabet or code, is associated with units or letters of an existing alphabet. Each letter has a corresponding letter or symbol in the new language which can be substituted when creating any written works. Those who understand the secret language translate the writings by using the key, which shows what corresponds to what. Pagans across the ancient world used cipher languages to preserve magickal writings, spells, and ritual instructions from prying eyes. Throughout history, owning a Book of Shadows was dangerous. The Christian Church worked tirelessly to eradicate all of the ancient religions and practices, so writing in code was necessary to avoid persecution and possibly torture and death. Even if the book was seized by religious zealots, the owner could argue on what was written inside.
The Theban Alphabet in the Modern Era
Paganism and the practice of witchcraft in the modern world is still a controversial topic, however it is no longer shrouded in secrecy. Modern-day witches are open and proud about their personal practices and witchcraft has found its place in popular culture. It’s no longer a necessity to encode writing related to the craft, so many practitioners don’t really seem to focus on it anymore. Regardless, the script will forever be studied and serious historians will continue to look for additional clues in determining its true origin.