Spoken spells have a transitory force, affecting only the action to which they are directed. Written spells, on the other hand, are thought to last as long as the written spell is in existence. To maintain the long term effect of the written spell, many of the prayers of the Egyptians were written on coffins and placed in the Book of the Dead with the mummy.
As written spells combine the effect of symbols, these spells are thought to be far more potent than other kind. The Islamic Koran is, as the revealed word of God, a sort of written spell in itself. Anyone who has heard it read aloud in Arabic knows that it is also a spoken spell of great beauty, even to those who cannot understand the language. The Latin psalms have the same quality, but without the tonal beauty which is found in the Arabic language.
Older written spells on parchment, some of which have been in existence for hundreds of years are particularly revered. In many cases their real effect lies in the fact that so many people believe in them. Some older writings have taken on a magickal aura solely due to their age.
Because of their strangeness and the mystical power associated with strangeness, spells written in a foreign language or in a mystical or magickal alphabet are also thought to have great power. This is one reason why spells written in Hebrew characters are supposed to be superior in quality. In the Middle Ages, a talisman was a man who wore a tallis, the shirt or undershirt worn by orthodox Jews. As this was felt to be a source of power to them, the idea of talisman quickly transfered to a spell written to give power or protection. In the first thousand years of Christianity, Hebrew was the pre-eminent language for the writing of spells and Jews, who were the most literate members of any European community, were the pre-eminent “magicians of choice.”
This obviously lead to some silly situations. One old “authentic spell” in a European museum was removed from display when it was pointed out that the words of the spell said, “What is the meaning of this?” in Hebrew characters transliterating medieval French! It had been supposed to be a spell to call upon a demon to cure sick children.
Written spells form another branch of the spell-caster’s art. In the Hex practice of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, himmelbriefs, or heavenly letters, are designed to act to protect the one who carries them against ills and evils of all kinds. The older versions were written with painstaking care by the hexenmeister who copied them one letter at a time. The newer versions are usually mimeographed copies of a typed original which are sold for a dollar or two as curios.
Just as a spoken spell requires a certain ability to use one’s voice, a written spell requires a certain ability to concentrate upon what one is writing, and hold the image of the desired work for the spell throughout the entire operation. The spell should be written with absolute concentration on every letter of the spell. It should then be read aloud in the same manner when it is finished. If the spell is to be given to someone it should be enclosed in an envelope, but not sealed. Most of these spells are to be carried on the person when they are in use.