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The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. [1913], at


Of the Proportion, Correspondency, and Reduction of Letters to the Celestial Signs and Planets, According to Various Tongues, and a Table Thereof.

God gave to man a mind and speech, which (as saith Mercurius Trismegistus) are thought to be a gift of the same virtue, power, and immortality. The omnipotent God hath by his providence divided the speech of men into divers languages, which languages have, according to their diversity, received divers and proper characters of writing, consisting in their certain order, number, and figure, not so disposed and formed by hap or chance, nor by the weak judgment of man, but from above, whereby they agree with the celestial and divine bodies and virtues. But before all notes of languages, the writing of the Hebrews is, of all, the most sacred in the figures of characters, points of vowels, and tops of accents; or consisting in matter, form, and spirit.

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The position of the Stars being first made in the seat of God, which is Heaven, after the figure of them (as the masters of the Hebrews testify) are most fully formed the letters of the Celestial Mysteries, as by their figure, form, and signification, so by the numbers signified by them, and also by the various harmonies of their conjunction. Whence the more curious Mecubals of the Hebrews do undertake—by the figure of their letters, the forms of characters, and their signature, simpleness or composition, separation, crookedness or directness, defect, abounding, greatness or littleness, crowning, opening or shutting, order, transmutation, joining together, revolution of letters, and of points, and tops, by the supputation of numbers, and by the letters of things signified—to explain all things; how they proceed from the first cause, and are again to be reduced into the same. Moreover, they divide the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, viz., into twelve simple, seven double, and three mothers, which, they say, signify as characters of things—the Twelve Signs, Seven Planets, and Three Elements, viz., Fire, Water, and Earth; for they account Air no element, but as the glue and spirit of the elements. To these, also, they appoint points and tops. As, therefore, by the aspects of planets and signs, together with the Elements (the working spirit and truth), all things have been and are brought forth. So, by these characters of letters and points, signifying those things that are brought forth, the names of all things are appointed, as certain Signs and vehicles of things explained, carrying with them everywhere their essence and virtues. The profound meanings and Signs are inherent in those characters, and figures of them, as also numbers, place, order, and revolution; so that Origenes, therefore, thought that those names, when translated into another idiom, do not retain their proper virtue. For only the original

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names, which are rightly imposed, because they signify naturally and have a natural activity. It is not so with them which signify at pleasure, which have no activity as they are signifying, as they are but certain natural things in themselves. Now, if there be any language whose words have a natural signification, it is manifest that this is the Hebrew; the order of which he that shall profoundly and radically observe, and shall know to resolve proportionably the letters thereof, shall have a rule exactly to find out any idiom. There are, therefore, two and twenty letters, which are the foundation of the world, and of creatures that are, and are named in it, and every saying and every creature are of them, and by their revolutions receive their name, being, and virtue.

He, therefore, that will find them out, must by each joining together of the letters so long examine them, until the voice of God is manifest, and the framing of the most sacred letters be opened and discovered; for hence voices and words have efficacy in magical works, because that in which Nature first exerciseth magical efficacy is the voice of God. But these are of more deep speculation than to be handled in this book. To return to the division of the letters: of these, amongst the Hebrews, are three mothers, viz., ‏י‎, ‏ו‎, ‏א‎; seven double, viz., ‏ת‎, ‏ר‎, ‏פ‎, ‏כ‎, ‏ד‎, ‏נ‎, ‏ב‎. The other twelve, viz., ‏ש‎, ‏ק‎, ‏צ‎, ‏ע‎, ‏ס‎, ‏ג‎, ‏מ‎, ‏ל‎, ‏ט‎, ‏ח‎, ‏ז‎, ‏ה‎, are simple. The rule is the same amongst the Chaldeans, and, by the imitation of those above, also the letters of other tongues are distributed to the Signs, Planets, and Elements, after their order. For the vowels in the Greek tongue answer to the Seven Planets, and the others are attributed to the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, the Four Elements, and the Spirit of the World. Amongst the Latins there is the same signification of them. For the five vowels A, E, I, O, U, and J and V, consonants, are ascribed

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to the Seven Planets, and the consonants, B, C, D, F, G, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, are answerable to the Twelve Signs. The rest, viz., K, Q, X, Z, make the Elements. H the aspiration, represents the Spirit of the World. Y, because it is a Greek, and not a Latin character, and serving only to Greek words, follows the nature of its idiom.

But this you must not be ignorant of, that it is observed by all wise men, that the Hebrew letters are the most efficacious of all, because they have the greatest similitude with celestials and the world, and that the letters of the other tongues have not so great an efficacy because they are more distant from them. Now the disposition of these the following table will explain. Also all the letters have double numbers of their order, viz., extended, which simply express of what number the letters are, according to their order; and collected, which re-collect with themselves the numbers of all the preceding letters. Also they have integral numbers, which result from the names of letters, according to their various manners of numbering. The virtues of which numbers, he that shall know, shall be able in every tongue to draw forth wonderful mysteries by their letters, as also to tell what things have been past, and foretell things to come. There are also other mysterious joinings of letters with numbers, but we shall abundantly discourse of all these in the following books. Wherefore we will now put an end to this first book.


The table above referred to, on the following page, is from the English edition of 1651. The reader will also find a table of the Cabala elsewhere in this volume. At this place we insert Mr. Henry Morley's appropriate criticism on Agrippa's book of Natural Magic.

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