Monday, November 12, 2012

The Theban Alphabet

A few days ago, someone asked me what I knew about the Runes of Honorius, to which I replied honestly that I had never heard of them, but I would look into it and see what I could find.  To help me with my search, this person showed me a picture of the Runes.  Here is what they look like:

 I have to confess, my first thought when I saw them was, "These are not Runes."  After doing a few online searches, my suspicions were confirmed.  Virtually every site I visited agreed that this alphabet is not runic.  They are not Runes.  Remember, Runes are angular shapes, because they were carved primarily on objects made of wood, bone or antler.  Making straight lines on such objects was easier than trying to form curves.  In looking at Honorius' Runes, the only letters that resemble the Futhark are the ones for U, V and W, which look like slanted versions of Wunjo, which serves as V and W in Runes.  Uruz would be U.  The origins of the the Runes of Honorius or the Theban alphabet in form appear to be related to the Latin or possibly Hebrew alphabet.

Honorius of Thebes, whose own origin is cloaked with mystery, is said to be the creator of this alphabet.  There is no information on his life or when he lived, only that he was from Thebes and apparently authored a book called The Sworn Book of Honorius.  (I feel it is very important to distinguish this book from The Grimoire of Pope Honorius, which dealt with very dark, black magic.)  The Sworn Book of Honorius is also where the mystery intensifies, because the book appears not to use the Theban alphabet (though I cannot confirm that to be the case).  Moreover, the earliest extant copy of this book is from the 14th century and, I believe, attributed to someone named Heinrich Agrippa, who was the student of an Italian named Pietro D'Abano, who was tried for heresy.  This last point brings us to the next interesting aspect related to the Theban Alphabet - its magical properties - and its potential link to Runes.

Although none of the extant writings by D'Abano contain the Theban alphabet, D'Abano was a professor of medicine, an astrologer, and philosopher in Italy.  He was accused of heresy and atheism by the Inquisition and tried - twice.  Given his background and the charges against him, it is likely that he was, at the very least, familiar with magical spells and, according to Johannes Trithemius, the man who first published the alphabet in the early 1500s, D'Abano knew of the Theban alphabet.  In addition, we know that the Sworn Book of Honorius was a grimoire, a magic textbook, and the oldest extant copy of the book is attributed to one of his students.  Somewhere therein probably lies the real story of the book and alphabet's origin.  Regardless, this book forms the foundation for the use of the Theban alphabet by many modern-day Wicca for spell-casting, wearing on amulets, and carving into wood or stone.

Having said that, I tried to find out the meaning for each of the shapes, such as the Runes have, but had no luck (though downloading a Theban font is quite easy).  The closest I came was finding a suggestion to write whatever you wanted to rid yourself of, jealously, for example, in Theban script and sewing it shut in a poppet with certain herbs, and burning it.  So, I don't know if one can do readings using the Theban letters.  If anyone has insight into this, I would love to have you share with those of us who have no experience with this alphabet.

Well, there it is.  The Theban alphabet (a.k.. Honorius' Runes) has a mysterious and intriguing origin, and, although it is not a member of the Runic family, its letters are linked to Runes through magic.

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