The Hebrew Alphabet
"Twenty-two foundation letters: He ordained them, He hewed them, He combined them, He weighed them, He interchanged them.
And He created with them the whole creation and everything to be created in the future."
Sefer Yetsirah ("Book of Formation")
The Western Mystery Tradition combines many strands of thought and symbolism, but the more esoteric aspects of the Judaic
traditions are something of a cornerstone. Study of the Kabbalah, even from a modern perspective,
really requires some knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet and preferably of Hebrew itself. Those interested in Ceremonial Magic
need to be able to interpret, transcribe and pronounce simple Hebrew phrases. Students of the Tarot
will find their understanding of the Major Arcana and the symbolism of esoteric decks
enhanced by familiarity with the Hebrew letters. Of course, any exploration of the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, is
strengthened by an appreciation of Hebrew, and, by virtue of Esoteric Correspondence, studies in other fields such as
astrology benefit as well.
When reading or writing Hebrew, it is important to remember that it is written from right to left. Words are generally written
without vowels, though modern Hebrew does employ a system of diacritic marks to specify vowel-sounds. The esoteric student
is usually more concerned with ancient Hebrew.
The following table shows the standard form of each of the 22 Hebrew letters in order, along with a guide to their pronunciation,
their basic meanings, and their English transliterations. Each letter also has a numerical equivalent, which is shown in the table.
Certain letters have two values, depending on whether the letter is used within or at the end of a word. See the footnote below for
further discussion of this and the threefold division of the alphabet.
||Ox, primal energy
||House or enclosure
||Camel or carrier
||Door or womb
||Nail or hook
||V, W, U
||Field or fence
||Closed or grasping hand
||20, 500 as final
||Ox-goad or whip
||40, 600 as final
||50, 700 as final
||Prop or support
||80, 800 as final
||90, 900 as final
||Back of head
||Face or head
||Cross or sign
Those letters that have two numerical values take different forms depending on whether or not the letter appears as the final letter
in a word. When one of these letters ends a word, it is drawn slightly differently (these "final" forms are not shown in
the table) and has "sofit" (pronounced "sohfeet") added to its name. For example, mem has a value of 40 if it
is placed before the end of a word, but has a value of 600 and is called mem sofit if it is the final letter of a word.
One final point of note is the division of the Hebrew alphabet into three groups: the three Mother Letters, the seven Double Letters
(so called because they have both hard and soft pronunciations) and the twelve Simple Letters. These are, in order:
aleph mem shin
beth gimel daleth kaph peh resh tav
heh vau zayin cheth teth yod lamed nun samekh ayin tzaddi qoph