Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Alphabet of the Damned

On backwards planets it is thought that the true name of a demon can be used to summon and bind them. The warlocks of Cinder know the real truth: The name is the Demon! Just as people are made of elements, so demons are constructed of the Alphabet of the Damned. Both existences are equally real, though the psycholinguistic composition of demons is often less persistent in form on this plane, with demons fading into and out of existence more readily than ordinary matter.

The 27 letters of the Alphabet of the Damned are normally translated as A, Æ, B, Ch, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, N, O, OO, P, Q, R, S, T, Þ (sometimes written Th), U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. Nothing can be constructed with the runes of the original Alphabet except for the names of demons. Legend has it the original language of the Unknown Hells uses it; all words other than names would be at least 14 letters in length. Smaller words are all devoted to the names of demons, broken down in a rough hierarchy:

13 letters - Manes, Demonic Pollywog
12 letters - Type I, Quasit, Dretch, Rutterkin, Croaking Demon
11 letters - Type II, Bar-Lgura, Shadow Salamander
10 letters - Type III, Babau, Chasme, Tentacle Toad
9 letters - Type IV, Nabassu, Slime Frog
8 letters - Succubus, Hopping Machinist
7 letters - Type V, Mezzodaemon, Amphibitaur
6 letters - Type VI, Nycadaemon
5 letters - Lord, Mistress
4 letters - Queen
3 Letters - Prince
2 letters - ?

Thus if you know the true name of a demonic being you can roughly gauge its potency by the numbers of letters. Certain sages of Cinder attempt to assign meaning to the various letters. For example, the Damned letter normally written as P seems to only be used in the names of ice demons of various sorts.

Some letters seem to follow certain rules of name construction, such as the letter OO (Double O) only appearing in names of seven letters or greater. Two O's may appear side-by-side in the name of more powerful demons (such as the Lord VEQOO or the Mistress VEChOO, considered by some authorities to be siblings) but the distinction between Double O and two O's is important. In summonings and other demonological work the Alphabet actually becomes a syllabary, each letter being separately vocalized. During the summoning of TLAP, the Queen that Curses the Stars, her name is fully vocalized as Tay-Loo-Ai-Poy, to give one example. To fail to distinguish between two O's and Double O under such conditions would be disastrous. Similarly, the K and Q of the Alphabet are pronounced much the same in ordinary speech, but their ritual vocalizations are distinct.


  1. This is a very cool concept. Thanks for sharing!

  2. If more potent beings have fewer letters, couldn't I just brute force combine letters to summon up powerful demons?

    Or is this why there are very few old diabolists?

  3. I like the idea but why not go the whole way to On Beyond Zebra? I mean, other than having to make a new font...

  4. CrusssDaddy8:44 AM

    Outstanding concept! On Cinder, 'Wheel of Fortune' is a hell of a game!

  5. I like this idea quite a lot. Thanks - I'm totally ganking it for something. I may actually use it for Devils and Angels in my game rather than Demons, since the "Alphabet of the Damned" kind of reminds me of the idea of the Enochian language of John Dee, and I personally like using Devils as fallen Angels in my games. (I could even see a different version of the alphabet for the Angels - with the Devil alphabet a corruption of the original)

    I'm assuming that knowing the name of a demon allows you to call up that demon, but doesn't help you with the binding of it - that's how I'd play it at least. That way if you want to start randomly putting letters together to call up a demon you can give it a try, but you might not be able to bind it. Especially if you start playing around with those two and three letter combinations. Stupid demonologists wouldn't live very long...

  6. Wow...fascinating idea. I too am wondering if a 'made up' alphabet might expand on this already wild concept.

  7. Blue G: The ritual for summoning varies by demon. But if some player want to start lighting black candles and shouting out random demonic gibberish, I'd gladly roll a die to see if anything happened.

    Mr. White: Thanks for pointing out the existence of On Beyond Zebra. I don't remember that one.

    Jer: Good call on Doctor Dee. I was directly inspired by Crowley's usage of Enochian names.

    To All: I didn't make up a whole new alphabet because my entire demonology is built up around the name of Nql, a canonical demon prince. You can find him in Eldritch Wizardry if you look hard enough. That being said, I left myself an escape hatch in case I did want to devise my own glyphs. Note that the letters of the Alphabet are "normally translated as A, Æ, etc".

  8. Chawunky11:40 AM

    But surely if the names are demons, wouldn't the translated demon be different than the untranslated one? ;-)

    Remarkable idea, regardless. I like the ascending ranks/ descending letter count as well; reminds me of the ranking of the reptilian AAnn in the Humanx books.

  9. I especially like the stuff in the details, like the "O O"/"OO" difference.

  10. Time has dulled the brain, but if I remember my undergrad right this has some interesting similarities to ancient beliefs regarding Sanskrit not just as a way of representing the world, but as the world in verbal form. Thus care had to be taken not to make any error - to mispronounce a word would be to fundamentally alter the fabric of the universe.