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Searching online I'm seeing Wikipedia says this was published by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa in the 16th century and was created for the purpose of the occult using a combination of Greek and Hebrew.

Is this correct or is it really from a valid source?

2 Answers 2

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I assume you were looking at the Celestial Alphabet. Note that Agrippa explicitly stated that he found these forms of writings among Jews:

"Amongst the Hebrews I find more fashions of Characters...there is also writing which they call Malachim or Melachim..." (Of Occult Philosophy, III, p. 439)

Where does this style of writing come from? This style is known as "Charaktēres" in Greek and is a mystical form of writing that has appeared in several cultures (including non-Jewish sources) since at least the first centuries CE. Letters of this style have also appeared in Jewish works, such as Sefer Ha'razim (Heb. ed. Margolioth, p. 86):

ספר הרזים, מהדורת מרגליות, עמ' 86

Sefer Ha'razim refers to them by the Hebraicized Greek term "כרקטירים" or "כלקטירים".

Such a form of writing may perhaps also be found in a letter by one of the Gaonim from the Genizah (MS. T-S Ar. 18 (1v)):

MS. T-S Ar. 18 (1v)

The Gaon wrote that this form of writing was that of the Torah when it was first given to Yisrael, but is now used only by the Kutim (Samaritans).1

For more information on this style of writing, see D. Frankfurter, 'The Magic of Writing in Mediterranean Antiquity', pp. 648-656. On Jewish sources that mention or feature this style of writing, such as the Geonic letter, see Frankfurter, ibid; Y. Weinshtok, אלפא ביתא של מטטרון ופירושה, Tmirin (טמירין) vol. 2, pp. 51-61 (available on Otzar Hachochmah).

The particular form of script known as "the Alphabet of Metatron" is at least a couple of centuries older than Agrippa's script. It is thought to originate among Chassidei Ashkenaz. Moshe Idel believes that the text that features and interprets this alphabet was written by Rabbi Nechemiah ben Shlomo Ha'navi, who lived around the time of Rabbi Eliezer of Worms. In fact, he mentions Agrippa's work explicitly (my translation):

"The influence of the Alphabet of Angels can be well-observed by one of the greatest magicians of the 16th century, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim who collected in his work De Occulta Philosophia several magical alphabets, which he attributed to Kabbalists. The second one, which he referred to as "the Alpha-Beta of Angels", has many similarities with Rabbi Nechemiah's alphabet, and the first one has similarities with 'The Alpha-Beta of Metatron'..." (הפירושים לאלפא-ביתא של מטטרון מאת ר' נחמיה בן שלמה הנביא: עיונים נוספים, p. 546).

In short, this particular form of writing is from a Jewish source. However, the exact origins of the style in general appear to still be unknown.


1 Yitzchak Ben Tzvi wrote that this Gaon was Rav Hai Gaon and that he copied the Samaritan Cursive Script of his era. That explains why it doesn't look like the Samaritan Script as it appears in Samaritan texts today.

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    "The Gaon wrote that this form of writing was that of the Torah when it was first given to Yisrael, but is now used only by the Kutim (Samaritans)." Some of those letters do indeed look like some form of Paleo Hebrew, but not all of them.
    – Aaron
    Feb 14, 2023 at 17:50
  • @Aaron I agree. I was wondering during the day why this unknown Gaon thought it was Samaritan letters. Could be it was a tradition he received, could be this is some divergent Samaritan group (there certainly used to be Samaritan sects in antiquity). Don't know.
    – Harel13
    Feb 14, 2023 at 18:30
  • @Aaron I found information on the type of script the Gaon - apparently Rav Hai Gaon - used. See the note I edited in at the bottom.
    – Harel13
    Feb 26, 2023 at 10:32
  • "Such a form of writing is also found in a letter by one of the Gaonim from the Genizah (MS. T-S Ar. 18 (1v))" Is this your own hiddush? If so, I suggest fleshing that out so its more obvious that you are making the suggestion rather than stating it as fact. As it stands, I don't see how you are connecting the "angelic script" to this Gaon's transmission of a supposed Samaritan/paleo-Hebrew variant. Has anyone, other than you, made this connection? Feb 26, 2023 at 23:36
  • @Deuteronomy it's not my own chiddush. It's brought explicitly in at least one of the sources I referenced in the next paragraph. The connection was made because of the similarities between the styles.
    – Harel13
    Feb 27, 2023 at 4:26
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I'm not so sure about these writings, yet, what I do know is they are written in Sefer Yetzira of Rabbi Kapplan, as the script of angles and they are used in conjunction with the characters in Solomon seals.

Don't mix them with the ancient hebrew script.

Here are few examples.

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enter image description here

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  • Are they written about in Sefer yetzira itself or by one of the perushim on the Sefer?
    – Dude
    Feb 26, 2023 at 22:11
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    @Dude, The book itself, leonbahrmanministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/… Chaapter 4, Page 170.
    – Gabriel
    Feb 27, 2023 at 4:05
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    @Gabriel That book is a peirush on sefer yetzira. Are you sure the pictures come from sefer yetzira itself?
    – magicker72
    Feb 27, 2023 at 14:39
  • @magicker72, I would like to say the book, why. Because the actual ancient book is not around for the public if it exists. According to the introduction there are 4 versions of the book, Rabbi Kaplan has written the book to incorporate all the authors together, Using the Gra as his anchor. And at the very end, you have each book on its own. The actual book, from Abraham, may have been as short as 240 words to 1800 words.
    – Gabriel
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:23
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    @Gabriel I'm not suggesting that R. Aryeh Kaplan made them up out of thin air — I'm certainly not qualified to say one way or the other. But you're claiming they're directly from sefer yetzira, and I don't think that's supported by your source.
    – magicker72
    Feb 27, 2023 at 19:27

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