The Virga Aurea – Seventy-two magical and other related alphabets.


“In order to bring all this mass of material together, Hepburn must have had a wide range of source material to study, and it seems most likely that this material was available in the Vatican Library itself. As to what Hepburn’s motives were for publishing such a collection of alphabets, we can only speculate. He certainly produced these in a form which gave it scholarly respectability and also by heading it with the figure of the Virgin Mary, using the pun ‘Virga’ Rod-Virgin, gave it credibility in terms of the Church. The timing of the publication, 1616, right at the centre of the Rosicrucian/hermetic publishing period, suggests that Hepburn in his own way may have been responding to that impulse. Under the guise of the Virgin Mary heading the plate, Hepburn was able to publicly reveal the symbolism of many alphabets, and in particular, magical alphabets. If we further take into account Hepburn’s interest in the Kabbalah, and his translation and publication of a Solomonic occult text, I think we are justified in assuming that Hepburn may have, in some small way, contributed to the public revelation at that time of the esoteric wisdom of the past. At the very least one can suggest that he was inspired by this movement into producing the Virga Aurea. As librarian at the Vatican, he certainly would have received early copies of the Rosicrucian publications. The Virga Aurea, although a single large engraving contains such a mass of detail that an exhaustive analysis will be left till later.” By Adam McLean. First published in the Hermetic Journal 1980.

For more images and to read more about the Virga Aurea, follow the link to the article on Adam McLean’s website, below

4 thoughts on “The Virga Aurea – Seventy-two magical and other related alphabets.

  1. I love your comment about tweets and blogs! Yes it’s a serious amount of work – I don’t know enough about him to decide if he was a Rosicrucian but it’s amazing that he was able to preserve all of that ancient wisdom and to present it as he did. There aren’t many parallels I can think of.


  2. Interesting article. It’s intriguing what Hepburn’s motives were. Was he a Rosicrucian do you think? He must have worked for years to compile it to be able to be published in 1616 – the height of the release of the manifestos. We’re not talking tweets and blog responses here. X


  3. Thanks Kevin, I think I’ve fixed the link now… hopefully!
    Yes absolutely it’s connected to Shemhamphorash, the 72 Names of God. There’s an illustration of Kircher’s version of the 72 names from his book Oedipus Aegypticus also to be found on that link. Fingers crossed it works now!


  4. The number 72 relates to the names of God in Kabbalistic tradition. Of the three great esoteric traditions (alchemy, astrology and Kabbalah) Kabbalah probably the least understood or influential in the western esoteric tradition. However, many leading exponents of the esoteric such as John and Arthur Dee, Browne, Bruno, Maier etc. etc studied Hebrew believing it was the only language spoken by angels.
    (Link to Adam Maclean article not functioning at present time of writing).


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