Enochian language

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Enochian is an occult language popularised by John Dee and Edward Kelley in the 16th Century. Dee and Kelley claimed that it was revealed to them by angels, though most contemporary practitioners of magick consider it a constructed language. The name "Enochian" is a reference to the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphal text and a major source of Judeo-Christian angelology.

Dee's Enochian

Dee began to allude to his search for knowledge through the angels in 1581 when he mentioned in his personal diary that God had sent "good angels" to communicate directly with his prophets. As evidenced by his book collection, he had more than a casual interest in angels; he specifically sought out all past conversations between man and angels with a passion. He had a number of texts by Ficino, Agrippa, and Johannes Trithemius as well as the more common biblical Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. He studied the similarities of the angelic conversations in these works, immersing himself in angelology and the specific study of communication with angels. All of these mathematicians, cryptographers and philosophers that had revelations with angels had authoritative knowledge that divine messengers, guides on revelatory journeys and angels of the apocalypse were the most common and trustworthy sources of information for the patriarchs of old.

Angelology was a pervasive element within Dee's library collection. He was acquainted with one of the greatest mathematicians of his time, Girolamo Cardano, a man that credited a guardian angel with inspirational "visions of power." Agrippa encouraged his readers to seek "a voice from Heaven, a voice that teacheth from above." Agrippa's teacher, Johannes Trithemius, wrote De septem secundeis, which discussed a method of long distance communication based on the seven planets and their guardian angels "according to the tradition of the wise men of old." Dee had at least 16 works by Robert Grosseteste, with whom he shared a great synergy with their common interests in angels as well as optics, mathematics and astronomy.

Enochian Tradition

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Sound and Shape comparison chart of basic natural language families and the angelic (enochian) languages

The library holdings and common languages of those who claimed to discover angelic language must be taken into account in order to best interpret the origins of their languages, and to understand the differences as they evolved. These men were voracious book collectors, all, and without doubt had collected at least script samples from most languages.

Trithemius's Angelic Script

The beginning of the angelic script tradition begins with the first iteration of the script from Trithemius's Steganographia. His is not a language as specifically as the others in the tradition are, but it is significant as it is a way in which to communicate with angels. Trithemius was intentional with his intermixing of cryptography and angelology, but his interest in angels was sincere, and not only a disguise for the ciphers within. What is notable about Trithemius's symbol-system is the complete divergence from Greek, Hebrew and Latin letterforms, and resulting in what seems to be a fusion of both Arabic and Ethiopic. While the thickness of the script is indicative of the Ethiopic, as well as some of the pausal notation, the curve and form of the decenders/ascenders and the placement of the diacritic marks also are similar to Arabic. Trithemius's symbol for Aseliel is very similar to the Arabic isolated da:d letter. The Trithemius symbol for Pamersiel could also be attributed to similarities in the Hebrew Dalet or the Ethiopian G.

When making these comparisons, it is easy to see influences across the Proto-Cannanite family, which is the family from which the entirety of influence is based. It is unlikely that Sinitic or Aegean alphabets influenced the angelic alphabets, primarily out of lack of exposure and availability. The shape, punctuation, and diacritical marks of Ge'ez had an influence upon Trithemius's angelic symbol-system, and the idea of the Book of Enoch had an influential role in inspiration.

Agrippa's Angelic Alphabets

Trithemius was a mentor to a few dynamic and industrious disciples, one of them being Paracelsus, another being Agrippa. Three angelic alphabets are to his credit and one, Theban, is attributed to Trithemius and perhaps de Abano, although no connection to either has been positively established. The Theban alphabet is very similar to astrological signs such as Scorpio, Saturn, Jupiter, and Capricorn. This alphabet is based upon the Latin alphabet, unlike the others, which are based upon the Hebraic system.

Agrippa's three alphabets, Coelestis, Malachim, and transsitus fluuiia are all similar in terms of shape and style. All feature unusual serifs in the shape of circles, with thin script, and strong borrowing from Greek and Hebrew characters. Many of these characters are similar to those used in the angelic signs and sigils, and are displayed in the Hebraic system of sound and letter name, as well as usage of writing from right to left. Even the symbols are roughly similar to Hebrew, for example, in Coelestis, the Aleph is a very simplified version of the Hebrew Aleph. The chet letter is roughly similar to the Hebrew Shin. Greek is also equally represented. The Coelestis yod is a simple triangle, similar to the Greek Delta. However, nothing more than a superficial analysis can be made between these alphabets, as influences can arise from almost all alphabets to lay claim to some aspect of Agrippa's letter forms. It is most important to understand Agrippa as part of a lineage of angelic alphabets, each improving or modifying the one before in order to better communicate with the angels.

Pantheus's Enoch

Pantheus provides three alphabets in Voarchadumia: The conventional Hebrew, a conglomeration of all three of Agrippa's alphabets, misleadingly labelled "tranfitu fluuij," and his original Enoch. Pantheus's Enochian alphabet seems to be similar to both the contrived magical languages of the established tradition as well as the more common languages of Greek and Hebrew. The sounds, numbers of letters, and the traditional Semitic way of writing right to left are equal to Hebrew. Pantheus's language has the distinction of being very thick of stroke and with a stylised block serif that makes it uniquely identifiable. However, based on the presentation of his Enochian script next to Hebrew within the pages of Voarchadumia the evolution from one to the other is clear.

Influence of Ethiopian upon Enochian

The influence of the Ethiopian language upon John Dee's angelic language as first postulated by Dr. Donald Laycock seems to overlook this tradition of distillation of tradition. Dee was familiar with all of the above mentioned alphabets with the possible exception of Ge'ez. Dee owned the mentioned works by Trithemius, Agrippa and Pantheus, and was very familiar with them. He constantly mentioned Trithemius in his diaries of angelic conversations, was familiar with the work of Agrippa, and there is an obvious evolution from Agrippa's tables and sigils of occult study to Dee's angelic tables and sigils. Dee studiously mastered his copy of Pantheus's Voarchadumia, even calculating the gematric value of his name within its alphabet. Dee had a serious interest in linguistics; at least 10 languages are present in Dee's library, as well as books specifically on the study of language.

At the tail of a history of angelic languages of the renaissance, Dee was building on an established and mature angelic tradition. It was completely rational that his script was building on a long lineage of other angelic scripts - each expounding, and clarifying the one previous. He was a studious scholar of all the available texts on the subject of divine language, and the legends of conversations with God in the divine language were in a great deal of the literature in his library. Dee was constantly contemplating the holy work of Pantheus as he struggled to create gold from base metals in God's glory.

Dee even made a study of this tradition of angelic languages on July 17th, 1600, as noted in his personal diary, "as I lay in my bed, it came into my fantasy to write a book, 'De differentiis quibusdam corporum et spirituum.'" Dee also kept the books most relevant to angelic languages close at hand in the study where he scryed with the spirits, as well as when he travelled. One can conclude that Dee was consciously vigilant and diligent in his documentation of the angelic script with the intention of correcting the errors of past angelic conversations.

Dee's angelic language is very similar to Pantheus's Enochian script as well as to traditional Hebrew and Greek. The words were at times nearly unpronounceable and other times with clear Latin roots. Pantheus's Enochian script has the most in common with Dee's angelic script of all the languages analysed. Dee's angelic language has some remote similarities to the Ethiopian if one were to place them side by side as in Fig. 1. Both have extremely thick strokes, and some of the letter forms have similarities as with the sound for S in Ge'ez as compared to the H and M sound in Dee's language.

It is evident though, that both Pantheus and Dee derived their alphabets from this angelic tradition of alphabets, with the hope of finding the divine language through the angels. The prophet Enoch was an obvious influence on both Pantheus and Dee, as Pantheus named his Alphabet Enoch and Dee actually documented an entirely new Book of Enoch directly from the angels over the duration of his actions with spirits.

These influences and the evolving tradition culminated in a large amount of work written with the direct intention of talking with the angels. John Dee's Book of Enoch and his various angelic accoutrements such as his holy table and breastplate were further developments upon a tradition that was in a frenzy of production in the 16th century. One can conclude that the idea of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch had a strong impact upon the angelic script tradition and influenced how these men sought to communicate with angels, and perhaps this tradition even influenced the angelical reply.

Linguistic Analysis of Dee's Enochian

The language appears slightly inflected and has a word order close enough to English that it can usually be translated without changing the order. Inflections, under close scrutiny, appear to be random.

Dee's Enochian has its own alphabet which can also be transliterated into the Latin alphabet. Several words have rather intimidating consonant clusters, which are pronounced by inserting a vowel; for example, "nazpsad" is pronounced "nazepesad". Other words consist entirely of vowels. Several systems of pronunciation exist.

Most of the vocabulary consists of names of angels derived from four acrostic tablets. Besides that, there are fewer than 1,000 attested words, which appear in 19 symbolic poems, called "keys". Dee's use of the keys is not entirely clear, although one key, the 19th, appears to lead to visions of 30 "aethers" or dimensions.

Modern Enochian Derivations

Enochian, and the magickal system that Dee and Kelley based on it, were incorporated by Aleister Crowley as part of his popular and influential system. It is also popular in Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, from which Crowley learned it, and in the Aurum Solis.

Perhaps the most important student of Enochian at the turn of the 21st Century was the late Benjamin Rowe, also known as "Josh Norton", a self-taught ceremonial magician who wrote many papers on the use of Dee and Kelley's magical system.


  • Wikipedia. (2005). Enochian. Retrieved Nov. 21, 2005.

Primary Sources

  • Barnstone, Willis, ed. The Other Bible: Ancient Alternative Scriptures. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984.
  • Dee, John. The Diaries of John Dee. Ed. Edward Fenton. Oxfordshire: Day, 1998.
  • John Dee's Library Catalogue. Ed. Roberts, Julian, Andrew G. Watson. London: Bibliographic Society. 1990.
  • Causabon, Meric. A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits. Introduction by Lon Milo Duquette, New York: Magickal Childe, 1992.
  • John Dee's Actions with Spirits: 22 December 1581 to 23 May 1583. 2 vols. Ed. Whitby, Christopher. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988.
  • Laycock, Donald. The Complete Enochian Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Angelic Language as Revealed to Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley. Foreword by Lon Milo Duquette, York Beach, ME: Weiser Books 1999.
  • Leslau, Wolf. Comparative Dictionary of Ge'ez (Classical Ethiopic): Ge'ez -English / English- Ge'ez with an index of the Semitic roots. Wiesbadan: Otto Harrassowitz. 1991.
  • Concise Dictionary of Ge'ez (Classical Ethiopic). Wiesbadan: Otto Harrassowitz. 1989.
  • Liber Henoch Æthiopice, ad quinque codicum fidem editus cum variis lectionibus. Ed. Dillmann, A. Ms. 5. Leipzig. 1851.
  • Pantheus, Joannes. "Voarchadumia contra alchimiam, ars distincta ab archimia et sophia, cum additionibus, proportinonibus numeris et figuris opportuni." n.d. [1] Gallica – Bibliothèque nationale de France. 1550.
  • Trithemius, Johannes. "Steganographia Book One." n.d. [2] (14 December 2002).

Books and Articles

  • Brooks, Lester. Civilizations of Ancient Africa. New York: Four Winds Press, 1972.
  • Harkness, Deborah. John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
  • Mandeville, John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Translated by C. W. R. D. Mosley. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1983.
  • Phillipson, David. Ancient Ethiopia. London: British Museum Press, 1998.
  • Schmidt, Nathaniel. "Traces of Early Acquaintance in Europe with the Book of Enoch." Journal of the American Oriental Society 42 (1922): 44-52.

See also

External links