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Alphabets with esoteric meanings

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Dave's Angel  Dave's Angel is offline
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Question Alphabets with esoteric meanings


Happy Saturday everyone

I'm fascinated by the way that certain alphabets of the world have more meaning than just the sound they make.

For example in our alphabet, "M" is just the sound /mm/, but in Hebrew and Greek it was also the number 40, in lots of systems it denotes the sea, in Egyptian hieroglyphs it was represented by an owl, in the runes it's "Man", and so on. In these alphabets there's so much more in the letter than just the sound it makes.

I'm trying to study all this and especially find something (website or book) that tells me more about the correspondences of each letter in any alphabet that had this extra dimension. I'm not so interested about learning the history of the alphabets outside of any esoteric meaning (if that's possible). I'd like to focus as far as is reasonable on each letter: ie in any alphabet, what is "wrapped up" in the idea of the letter "M" for example?

So far I've come across these alphabets that have (or may have) esoteric connections:

- Greek (I'd be particularly interested in this)
- Runic
- Ogham
- Hebrew (obviously a wealth here, but please don't swamp me in Qabalah)
- Egyptian hieroglyphs
- Sanskrit (? - does it?)
- Arabic (? - does it?)

Can anyone give me directions? I'm looking for reliable resources that can tell me more on the correspondences of each letter, be that for alphabets already listed, or for any I don't know about. I'm a comparative beginner, but not shy of something that I need to get my teeth into.

Thankyou!
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jmd  jmd is offline
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One source worth reading as a 'starter' - and certainly not a bad one at all - is Johanna Drucker's The Alphabetic Labyrinth: the letters in history and imagination, isbn 0500280681.
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Dave's Angel  Dave's Angel is offline
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Thankyou jmd - I've had a look on Amazon and it sounds as if it covers my kind of thing.

I was a bit put off by the first review there though - it says that the author hasn't checked her sources, leading to some historical clangers. It worries me a bit that I might not necessarily realise where the author is dropping a clanger, so I'm not sure how far I can trust the book. What do you think? Is this fair or is the first reviewer being picky?

One book I did enjoy and it's exactly my cup of tea, although some people on this forum have expressed misgivings about the book in a similar way, is "The Greek Qabalah" by Kieran Barry.
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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Hi Dave's Angel (does he have a devil too?)

I think the book you are looking for, with all of the alphabets you mention and more, fully described with plenty of references, is called "The Key of It All" by David Allen Hulse (Llewellyn, 1992 and 1994 IIRC).

There are two volumes in large softcover (one for East and one for West), and they are reasonably priced I think.

Ross
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Sweet Irish Angel  Sweet Irish Angel is offline
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Smile Hey


Hiya Dave,

Very intersting post, have been facinated about it for years too, the only one im aware of is Ogham because it is very well knows in Ireland, it was used by a lot of peope here throughout history, it is facinating!

hope you get the book you are looking for and will keep my eyes pealed for one for you!
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Dave's Angel  Dave's Angel is offline
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Hi Ross and SIA,

Thanks for replying, Ross those books look like an absolute Godsend, in fact I've found them both very cheaply (both for about £22 total) and ordered them - howzat! Now there's something I don't do very often.

There's lots of books that cover occult stuff, and lots of books that cover the alphabet, but few that do both!

SIA -

A good book I got recently on Ogham is "Ogam: The Celtic Oracle Of The Trees" by Paul Rhys Mountfort. He's obviously immersed himself in Irish literature and myths and his interpretations of the Oghams draw on that a lot - he'll say for example "Idho is the yew, here's what it symbolises, and in this myth the yew tree appears in the same kind of sense...." and give you the myth. There's 2 or 3 pages for each letter with an exhaustive intro section on the historical stuff. My only quibble is that he doesn't make it clear after the excellent history that what follows are his own interpretations, as is unavoidable with Ogham. But that really is a small quibble.


PS - my screen name - It dates from when I used to post a lot on Depeche Mode related forums (lead singer Dave Gahan). So I'm not actually called Dave although it's fooled stacks of people over the years!
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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave's Angel
Hi Ross and SIA,

Thanks for replying, Ross those books look like an absolute Godsend, in fact I've found them both very cheaply (both for about £22 total) and ordered them - howzat! Now there's something I don't do very often.

There's lots of books that cover occult stuff, and lots of books that cover the alphabet, but few that do both!
Great! That's a good price for both volumes.

Hulse isn't a PhD academic, you'll notice, but for each section he gives his bibliography (at the end of the second volume) so if you want to know where he got his information, it's there.

As a fan of his books, I got to know him, and told him about some of the alphabet-number-symbolism systems he had missed that I knew (e.g. cuneiform, Armenian, Gothic). I don't know if he's put out a second or newer edition with this information included.

I'm sure you'll be pleased with them. Happy reading!

Ross
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Dave's Angel  Dave's Angel is offline
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Gothic???

ARMENIAN?????

I had no idea about any symbolism behind either of these and you've got me insatiably curious now. Where on earth did you find out stuff about those? I've bought the older edition of each book and although the reviews don't tell me about any difference in content, the second edition of the Western volume has gained about 100 pages. Damn! Oh well....!

I'm glad about the author being up front with his sources. I can put up with most things if I can at least see where they've got it from and take up the threads myself.

By the way - two books that have grabbed my curiosity (but not my debit card - yet) recently are -

"Complete Magician's Tables" by Stephen Skinner
"Archetypes on the Tree of Life: the Tarot as Pathwork" by Madonna Compton

Any opinions on either of these, anyone?
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Don't have long just now, but Drucker's book has one invaluable contribution to make, and that is the tables illustrating the 19th-century theory of Semitic letters originating in hieratic (not Sinai pictographs or some such, as modern bungling would have it).

But (skipping, I would say, Arabic and Sanskrit for now, these being secondary or derivative languages in my classification system[Edited to say: Mein Gott, I didn't mean languages, I meant alphabets, and moreover I got mixed up and was thinking Brahmi alphabet, as Sanskrit I know little about and its forms are opaque to me -- apologies (happens when rushed).]), you should check out also Libyan, and Tifinag -- both early Scandinavian version and later north African version -- and ogam consaine (earlier, consonants-only ogham), which three can mostly only be studied accurately through the works of Barry Fell, though other scholarship on Tifinag and Libyan used to be available on the web. (See Bronze Age America and America B.C. by that author.)[Edited to add: I suggested these, even though they concern the history of inscriptions, as sources of the forms of the letters, which are the main key as I see it, literary survivals of esoteric letter-tradition being quite sparse.]

I will return here and try to 'enrich your diet' with stuff you probably will not find anywhere on the web. Love to see your interest in my favorite subject! I'll be back.

Ciao,
Gary
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OH, and Meroitic: this contains some JUICY keys and IS findable on the web (my computer crashed, or I'd give you websites). The T, which is a shaman-priest seen from above facing to our left with bird mask on and lines connecting his ears to what approaches within earshot, confirming its station 30-degrees below the horizon (in bardic Kabbalah, so to speak), while D is the 'sound eye' (of Horus), which clearly shows its station as the horizon seen (horizon without, sign preceding T). (Gotta run now, for which you are probably grateful.)
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