Back to Home
Page or Contents Page or
A system by
which hidden truths and meanings are discovered within words. Each letter of an
alphabet corresponds to a number. Numerical values of words are totaled up and
then these words are said to correspond with other words sharing the same
The Babylonian king Sargon II, in
8th century BC, is believed to have been the first to use gematria when building
the wall of Khorsabad exactly 16,283 cubits long, because that was the numerical
value of his name.
In Jewish mysticism this is a traditional system of associating numbers with
Hebrew letters for the purpose of discovering hidden meanings in words. This is
accomplished by systematically associating letters with numbers and then finding
other words with similar numbers. These latter words are regarded as comments on
the original words. Systems related to the Hebrew implementation of gematria are
The Hebrews also used gematria for divination.
The ancient Greeks used gematria in dream
interpretation. It also appears in the literature of the magi, and has been used in connection with the Greek alphabet.
The Gnostics applied gematria to names of deities such as Abraxas and Mithras, equating them because both of their names
equaled 365, the number of days in a year.
Gematria carried over into
early Christianity which helped make the dove a representation of Jesus; the
Greek word for dove, peristera, equals 801 as do the Greek letters in
alpha and omega, which represent the Beginning and the
It was the Kabbalists, however, who seriously studied gematria and developed it
into an art form. The Kabbalists of the 13th century seriously believed that the
Old Testament was written in a hidden code inspired by God. They used gematria
as one of the chief means by which to decipher this code. An example of this is
shown in their interpretation of Jeremiah 9:9, "From the fowl of the heavens
until the beasts are fled and gone". This was interpreted as meaning, that no
traveler passed through Judea for 52 years, because the Hebrew word for beast,
behemah, has the numerical value of 52.
Entire verses were
numerically added up and interpreted in such a fashion. The 13th century German
Kabbalistic scholar, Eleazar of Worms, did extensive gematric commentaries on
The Kabbalists also used
gematria to search for the holy names of God thinking, as so many others have,
that these names such as the Tetragrammaton possessed power. Such a procedure has been adopted by many
present day magicians. However, it should be noted two schools of thought
regarding gematria also were issued from the Kabbalists. One advocated it use
while the other cautioned against its practice, recommending that it only be
practiced to strengthen one's own conclusions. Various methods of gematria have
evolved; for example one Kabblistic tract lists 72 of hem.
There are two
other lesser known decoding systems which are related to gematria, and various
methods of practice exist within each of these systems too. The first of these
systems is known as notarikon, in which the first letter of words may be
extracted and combined to form new words; or, another version is to take the
first, last, and sometimes the middle letters to make new words or
The other system is called temurah. It is a more
complicated system in which letters are organized in tables, or according to
mathematical arrangements. By the procedure of substitution new words or
anagrams are formed.
Some modern occultists apply gematria to Tarot cards, associating the twenty-two trumps with Hebrew
Sources: 4, 9, 29.