This book shows how to use the 24-letter Theban Alphabet, which was often included in old grimoires, as an oracular or divinatory tool.

The author begins with an introduction to medieval metaphysics and a chapter on the history of the Theban alphabet. The problem is – there just isn’t much in the way of verifiable history for this alphabet. The probable source is Honorius of Thebes, an occultist and occult encyclopedist (circa 800 CE). The alphabet appeared in Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s “Three Books of Occult Philosophy,” published in 1503, and in subsequent grimoires, and was used as a code in some magical books. The author offers a lot of theories about the origins of the alphabet, all of which are conjecture. The alphabet all but disappeared, only to pop up again in Francis Barrett’s book “The Magus.” It continues to be included in contemporary occult compendiums like Bill Whitcomb’s “Magician’s Companion.” The Theban alphabet is sometimes included in witchcraft books for use in candle-scribing and tool-marking, so it will be familiar to many readers.

In Chapter Three (page 35), the author describes how to use what he calls The Theban Stones. In general, books describing how to use new oracles begin by giving the meanings of the individual oracle items (cards, letters, shapes), and then proceeds to the rules for using them, so this is a bit backward. Examples of spreads are given for one, three, six, and nine-stone readings, a hand-cast reading, and a Tree of Life spread. The spreads are both shown and interpreted, so readers can get the gist of how the author intends for his oracle to be used.

Chapter Four, from page 69 to 182, supplies interpretations for the twenty-four Theban letters. Each letter is named for a famous figure in occult history. There are only three women included, a disappointing decision that leaves the interpretive material imbalanced. The author’s selection of occultist-letter pairings puts a heavy bias on the stones, and this might not appeal to all readers. Each letter is given a few keywords, a biographical description of its assigned occult patron, a divinatory meaning, and a reversed meaning. Each letter gets four- to five pages of description, so there’s no shortage in this respect. The meanings for the letters, wherever they came from, are thoroughly explained.

Chapter Six offers a number of ideas for using the Theban letters for spellcasting. Chapter Seven gives instructions on how the reader can construct a set of Theban stones with several suggested materials. Instructions for consecration and preferred storage are also provided. There is a very brief Appendix at the end of the book that gives a quick-reference list of the letters, their keywords, plant/flower, and angelic associations. Angelic associations to the letters are touched upon in the text, but very little specific information is given (like angel names). The correspondences in the quick-reference section merely note angelic orders, like the seraphim or principalities. Individuals who are interested in this aspect of the oracle won’t have much to go on, and will have to pursue further research in other sources.

Several new oracle decks are published every year, and they are growing in popularity as a do-it-yourself method of divination. A new oracle tool is only as good as its book. This book is pretty good, content order notwithstanding. I got mixed feelings from the book because the author makes a great effort to establish the very ancient lineage of the Theban alphabet. It appears to be a diversionary tactic so that the reader won’t notice that the author doesn’t admit to developing this oracle on his own, which is rather a shame. It suggests that only ancient things can possibly be relevant as divinatory tools, and that newly-invented tools lack the authority that can only be conferred by history. If the author got the basic meanings of the letters from a specific historic source, it isn’t openly acknowledged. In my opinion, honesty is far preferable to obfuscation!

I can’t say how well the oracle works because I haven’t created my own set yet. When I do make one, and I plan to do so, I will also make a booklet of meanings to go with it. Looking up meanings in a trade paperback is awkward. It’s a bit mystifying that the publisher didn’t simply create a book/oracle tool boxed set. The Theban letters could certainly serve on cards as well as stones.

At any rate, this book will appeal to those who want to gain access to multiple uses for the Theban letters, and to those who enjoy crafting their own, personal divinatory tools. Readers should be aware that some effort will be necessary to create their own set of stones and to learn the system that the author sets forth in the book.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Greg Jenkins, PhD
Weiser Books, 2014
235 pages, $18.95