"I don't really know why I like letters, by which I mean characters by which language is written down, because we really don't know why we like anything. To say I like letters would force me to say because I like the mystical way in which humans created written language so that meaningless signs could be meaningful. But to say that is to raise the question why I like the magic of encoded meaning., and the questions just come again." —Geof Huth
"In Tantra, there is a principle called 'varna,' which holds that sound is eternal and that every letter of the alphabet is a deity." —Kerr Cuhulain, Full Contact Magick: A Book of Shadows for the Wiccan Warrior
Scholar of magic Caroline Tully explores how the tellers of sacred stories in classical and Hellenistic Greece tapped into the mystical power of vowel sounds. "Vowels spoken in just the right way made magical ritual more precise. Seemingly unintelligible strings of vowel-chants were thought to be effective because of an innate power inherent within them which reflected elements of the cosmos or the gods themselves. Written vowels were even licked or eaten, such was their power. They were also combined with visual imagery by being arranged in patterns such as squares, triangles, wings or diamonds, recitation of which may have added iconographic power to their already potent nature." See Tully's full discussion on the importance of words and writing in ancient magic.
Interestingly, the mystic arrangement of vowels goes on to this day—orthographers arrange vowels geometrically. In the examples shown, note the circle, cube, and triangle motifs. Such diagrams would be right at home in a magical scroll of old.
As the building blocks of language, the letters of the alphabet are our most concise magic words. Here's one of our favorite tributes to the A B C's as "open sesames" to magical worlds:
Abashed I stand, yet eager, like Aladdin awed before The cavern of enchantment, with darksome, magic door; For 'mid the cloistered shadows there wait on every side The portals of the mystic realms my word can open wide.
What need of sprite or genie? What use of lamp or ring? I have the word that opens, the wonder-charm I bring; I am my own magician, when, with my wand in hand, I come a seeking pilgrim into the bookman's land.
Why pause in doubtful longing? I need but choose the gate— I need but speak the magic word for which the hinges wait; The door will swing obedient and open me the way To Egypt or to Arden, to Chile or Cathay.
O covers of a wealth of books, O wizard hingèd doors, What treasures do you lock from me, what wonder-realm is yours? Nay, mine, all mine to conjure with, the simple A B C— The charm I learned, a little child, beside my mother's knee.