Words have power. It doesn't matter if you refer to it as positive thinking, as the modern self-help gurus do, or magic. There is no denying the power of well placed words to achieve a desired result. Nigel Pennick gets into both the historical and mystical power of the written word in his book Magical Alphabets. Pennick approaches the subject matter with equal parts scholarship and mysticism, creating an end result that is academically sound while also being highly useful for practitioners of the craft.
Pennick disects the power of language by focusing on the various mystical properties of ancient alphabets. He begins his commentary with the Hebrew alphabet, giving a brief introduction as to its origins, then diving into its importance in Qabalah. We are presented with clear and detailed explanations of each letter, and how the relate to each other. He also provides insightful information on Hebrew magic squares and grids.
Pennick then moves to the Greek alphabet, and effortlessly moves from explaining early Greek Gematria and the evolution into early Christian Greek Gematria. Again, the author provides wonderful detail for the magical purpose of each letter. And Pennick is able to back up his claims by citing an impressive array of academic, religious, and cultural sources.
The next part of the book explains the influence of the runic alphabet. He divides his explanation into the early runic alphabet (or, more accurately, The Elder Futhark) and the later true Gothic alphabet (which originated with the Goths on the Baltic island of Gotland). He explains the similarities and important differences between the two styles, then continues on with how the runes relate to trees. He then follows this is a chapter explaining the peculiar Celtic Oghams and the Bardic Alphabet, including the variations in Northern Europe. Much like the Runic alphabet, the letters corresponded to trees. These two chapters combined are of infinite use to pagans and wiccans who follow a predominately Celtic or Druidic path.
Finally, Pennick pulls all of the information together with an explanation of a host of obscure magical scripts and practices, everything from the secret alphabet of the Westphalia to magic grid ciphers tp Esoteric alphabets. The chapter is full of historical detail tracing the origins of these practices, as well as plenty of examples and illustrations to clarify points.
The book includes no less than nine appendices to organize the various alphabets explained in the book, as well as a short glossary of the most important terms. This book is a perfect starter for students interested in learning more about the subject. It would also serve experienced practitioners well as a handy reference guide.