I mentioned in a post last year that I had been thinking about using the letters of the alphabet of Lugano—the oldest alphabet known to have been used for a Celtic language*—for divinatory purposes. That post on Lepontic grammatomancy† is actually one of the most visited on this blog, which makes me think that some people found the idea intriguing (or else they found it infuriating and are too nice to say so!).
Two things have happened since my post last year to advance my use of Lepontic grammatomancy as a practical undertaking. One of those things happened today: I got a set of nice blank wooden tiles (a bit like Scrabble tiles only smaller), and inscribed each one with a letter of the alphabet of Lugano and the corresponding word. I’m inordinately pleased with how these turned out:
I have dedicated these tiles to Apollo Virotutis, the god I call on for help in divination. They replace a set of letters I had written on stones I had picked up at Blue Mound, Wisconsin—the big disadvantage of the latter being that no two were alike in either size or shape.
The other development actually happened last summer: I drafted a poem with two lines for each letter. In my earlier post, I had alluded to the possibility of supplementing rune lore with Greek grammatomancy as a guide to the significance of the Lepontic letters for divination. As it happens, this works out very well, with only a handful of exceptions. The verses basically split the difference between the Greek letter oracles of Anatolia on the one hand, and the Anglo-Saxon rune poem (with occasional input from the Icelandic and Norwegian poems) on the other. As a result, the meaning of each Lepontic letter is basically defined as a synthesis of the analogous Greek letter with its corresponding rune. At times I’ve interpreted this synthesis with reference to ancient Celtic conventions and social structures. I’ve arrived at something that—while it cannot claim antiquity itself—might have evoked the reaction “Oh, sure, I guess that makes sense” among people using the alphabet of Lugano twenty-four centuries ago. (May they look favourably on this endeavour.)
My original plan was actually to write verses in Gaulish; however, practical considerations led me to conclude that any potential users of this system—including myself—would be better served by having the verses in a modern language. Using a modern language also helps remind people that the system is not, and does not claim to be, thousands of years old. For each letter, therefore, I’ve therefore written a pair of English lines in blank verse.
To display the letters and their names in the alphabet of Lugano, I’m reproducing the poem as the two image files below. This poem could not have taken shape without the extremely valuable feedback of my esteemed co-religionist Disirdottir, whom I thank most heartily for her help. At the same time, all errors (including errors of judgement and infelicities of expression) are entirely my own. Please leave your reactions in the comments section! If anything looks glaringly amiss, I’ll cheerfully revise it.
* The language in question is Lepontic, which is an older sister of Gaulish, so to speak. Lepontic inscriptions are all found in a small region around Canton Ticino in Switzerland and Lombardy in Italy. It’s a beautiful region in the foothills of the Alps.
† That is, using Lepontic lettering for divination.