Thorn and Eth: Þ and Ð

Today, we will venture faaaar beyond Babylonia and her Semitic languages, and we shall focus on the Anglo-Saxon language (Old English). In particular, we will focus on two distinct alphabetical characters that have been used in the Anglo-Saxon writing system, that are no longer used in Modern English writing.
In order to understand this post, I shall have to gloss over a VERY brief evolution of the English language as it occurred in Britain, and why the lingua franca changed so much. Feel free to scroll down to Part II and return up here at the very end.

>>>> PART I <<<<
A Condensed History of Britain.

43 CE to ~400 CE: Brittania (Part of the Roman Empire)
The isle of Britain in 43 AD was under Roman occupation. During that era, it was known as Brittania, where Brittonic (a Celtic language) was the common tongue. Though it remained a Celtic language in its origins, the presence of Roman culture influenced it with Latin. We have yet to find written evidence of this language.
The end of this era came with a withdrawal of the Roman rule in Brittania, as an influx of Germanic tribes established settlements on the isle: Jutes, Angles, and Saxons.
By 450 AD it became official: the Anglo-Saxon culture and language was to prevail in the coming years.

~450 CE to 1066 CE: Anglo-Saxon England
450 CE: The Germanic culture started to gain influence from eastern edges of the isle until it grew westward through Britain (except for Cornwall). The combination of language from the Angles and Saxons, with a bit of the local Brittonic, gave birth to a new language. However, this was not to be the complete loss of Roman influence in the isle. In the year 600 CE, Irish christian monks introduced the Latin script. However, instead of using it for writing in Latin, they’d modify it for use to write in the emerging language of the time: Old English (Anglo-Saxon). This Germanic era continued until it ended with The Battle of Hastings at 1066. The Anglo-Saxons resisted, but were defeated in the hands of the Norman-French conquerers.

1066 CE: Anglo-Norman England
With their victory, Normandy established an Anglo-Norman era in the isle. A heavy influence of French loan words entered the vernacular of Anglo-Saxon within a century after the Norman conquest. It was during that period that Old English (which was already Germanic, with some Celtic Brittonic, and sprinkles of Latin words from the Roman period) blended with the French of that time period. This era was to mark a gradual shift of language on the isle, from Old English and into Middle English.

TO SUM UP: English is a hodgepodge of Celtic, Latin, North Sea Germanic, and mediaeval French. Like many world languages, evolving over time and breeding a bit with neighbouring languages.

Print: The Penguin Atlas of World History.
Web: History of Anglo Saxons

>>>> Part II <<<<

Shifting back into focus: Those two letters I mentioned before my history lesson?

Those characters were introduced into the Anglo-Saxon alphabet in the 8th century, in order to supplement their new writing system. Basically, England at the time began using the Latin alphabet for writing in their own language, rather than in Latin. However, Latin phonology did not have all the sounds that the Anglo-Saxon language needed. This is because Latin is a pure Romance language, whereas English was a Germanic language — a few sounds that exist in one language could be absent in the other language family.

Now, what did the Anglo-Saxons do with this challenge?

The missing letters that Latin alphabet did not provide, had to be imported from the Runic fuþorc (futhorc) alphabet, which was used to write in Old Frisian. By using Latin alphabet, and filling in the missing sounds with letters from Runic futhorc, the Anglo-Saxons finally had a complete alphabet to write all their sounds! Those imported letters were: Æ/æ (ash), Þ/þ (thorn), and Ƿ/ƿ (wynn).
Ð/ð (eth) was created by adding a slash on the D/d to distinguish it from the regular Latin D/d. In total, we have 4 additional characters. All of this marked the birth of the Old English Latin alphabet! This slightly-modified Latin writing system fit the needs of Old English to represent such words like: þunor for thunder and broðer for brother.

Thorn and Eth - 2-02

These archaic characters were used in Old English orthography from the 8th century until they fell out of use in the 12th century. This post is only about the two of those letters: the Thorn and the Eth.

Thorn and Eth - 1.2-01

Latin does not have a th-sound, nor does it have a th-sound. Confused yet? Good, because I’m trying to make a point, which you shall see at the very end.

Specific to the Thorn and the Eth, is that I believe if we would revive them into the Modern English writing system, it may prove to be a useful learning tool for those just starting to learn English. It would also be beneficial, because . . . who doesn’t like consistency in language?

Thorn and Eth - 1.3-02

>>>> PART III – The Letters <<<<

Þ or þ – “Thorn”
Used in Old Frisian and Old Anglo-Saxon, and currently used in Icelandic.

Þank you for the þoughtful gift on þursday, I was very þrilled!
Thank you for the thoughtful gift on Thursday, I was very thrilled.

Thorn is one of the characters originating from the Old Runic futharc, equivalent to the Greek θ (Theta). Both the Thorn and Theta are voiceless dental fricatives.

But wait! If the Thorn was imported from a Germanic language, then why don’t Germans today use the th-sounds? Because Angles and Saxons spoke a variety of West German called Ingvaeonic languages (spoken on the North Sea coast), whereas Modern German is a descendant of High German, originating from the Irminoic German.

Beginning from the 7th century, usage of the thorn was commonplace in scriptures.
Then, there came the standard practice of the Thorn grapheme being used to transcribe two separate phonemes: the th in “Thankful” and the th in “Therefore”. If you look at Modern Icelandic, you see that they consistently kept the þ as an unvoiced dental fricative, and ð as a voiced dental fricative. Why has Middle English swapped out the letter ð for þ to be used in both instances?! Why the confusion?

Upon the advent of early printing in the 16th century, the thorn was further erroneously used. Typefaces created in mainland Europe, whether from Germany or Italy, did not include the Thorn as a letter. They didn’t have to, as it’s not a letter or sound that is recognised by Germans, Italians, or French. Greeks, yes, but Greek uses a different alphabet. So, what did they do in English to combat this loss of a letter?! A shortcut, namely: to use the letter “y” in words that were spelt with a þ. They look close enough, right? Perhaps not in this blog with my sans serif font, but if you examine the earliest Blackletter typefaces, you will see a resemblance.

Thorn and Eth - 3-03

Keep in mind that the “Ye” here is actually pronounced “The”. “Ye” pronounced with a “y” means “you all”. Confusing? Yes, this is what happens when you use one letter to have different phonetic values, you must rely on the context, which means you must have deep knowledge of the language.

Fraktur or Blackletter, being the choice typeface of the time period, had the þ resembling a “y”, but with a thin line on top. At first, it was not an issue. The þ did not have it’s own stamp in imported typefaces, so the y was a good enough substitute. Printers and publishers would exchange the þ with “y”, but it would still be read and pronounced as “th”.

So the word “the”, which was hand-written as “þe” became printed as “ye” – pronounced with a “th”, but written with a “y”. The issue with Thorn dwindling as the Y gradually took its place, EVEN when typefaces began to change, because the grapheme þ was not made widely available for printing! The loss of þ is the fault of the limitations of the early printing press to accommodate the needs of Middle English orthography.

I must now introduce the other character responsible for producing the “th” sound (of another variety). There is a difference between the “th”s found in the following two sentences:
(1) Þink of your healþ – think of your health.
(2) Ðey are togeðer – they are together.
The “th” variant of sentence (2) is known as “Eth”.

Ð or ð – “Eth”
Originated from the D/d, and is still used in Iceland today

Ðe Þerapists þanked ðe Фarmacists фor ðeir quick þinking skills. Ðat’s a relief!
The therapists thanked the pharmacists for their quick thinking skills. That’s a relief!

During the adoption of Latin alphabet in England, the “Eth” was modified from the Roman letter “D / d”, in order to symbolise the voiced dental fricative in words like “weather”. “Eth” became obsolete far earlier than the “Thorn”. It’s a tragic story.
First off, we do not see the capital form of the Eth (Ð). In all proper nouns and words beginning with Ð, the Þ would take its place in the written form, but when those same words were read out loud, they were pronounced with the “Eth”. Eth is only seen in the middle of a word, in which case, it would always be in its minuscule form (ð).

It’s like the Eth got fired and Thorn got a promotion, but Eth is still doing all the work.

As the “Eth” was used seldomly in writing and printing, the “Thorn” gradually took control for both unvoiced AND voiced dental fricative sounds. So words like weaðer became weaþer, even though the ð is in the middle of the word here. Was this due to simplification of characters, or was it the fact that writers and printers grew so accustom to replacing Ð/ð with Þ/þ, that it didn’t matter anyway, so they slowly replaced all Eths with Thorns?!!
Eventually, both the Thorn and Eth got fired from their jobs, never gained a full noble status in the alphabet, and both got replaced by the digraph “th”, composed from 2 separate alphabetical letters, “t” and “h”.


Ðe Þeatre of Tragedy
þings ðat led to Þorn and Eð’s demise

(1) The Norman Invasion of 11th century.
(2) Simplification over a long period of time that led to Þ/þ taking over words that Ð/ð were responsible for. Use of Eth dwindled quickly in favour of Thorn to represent both “th” sounds.
(3) Printing press limitations: not having the Þ/þ in typefaces, so Y/y was used instead, due to them sharing a similar appearance.

>>>> Final Thoughts <<<<

Thorn and Eth - Month of August

Ðe monþ of August þrills ðe norðern youþ wiþ ðe promise of having boþ eþereal þunderstorms and sooðing weaðer perfect for smooðies.

The month of August thrills the northern youth with the promise of having both ethereal thunderstorms and soothing weather, perfect for smoothies.

You should be able to read ðis text wiþout struggling. Oh, þink of how much ink one could save wiþout using ðe digraph “th” anymore! Seriously, I have þought about ðis for a very long time. From now on, I shall use ðe letter ð and Ð to symbolise the diagraph “th” in “there” (ðere), and I shall use þ when typing ðe “th” in “thing” (þing). Ðis I plan to do when typing AND writing. I am reviving ðe Old English ways of ðe year 800 CE.
You all should þink about doing ðis, too.

At this point, I am tired of copying and pasting the ðs and þs. In the future, I will add these letters into my keyboard for permanent access.
Just imagine teaching this to your kids. Then once in pre-school, they get called by teacher to write the alphabet, and s/he will include those two letters in addition to the rest of the alphabet. Teacher might be perplexed, but once the kid explains, the teacher would have had a learning experience of their own! Even better is if I could be that teacher — I’d get an opportunity to teach 15-20 kids about these newly revived letters! I might also get fired after receiving complaints from some parents. *shrug*

Before you go, here is a hint to never forget what these graphemes stand for:

You can always remember ðat ðe “þ” sounds like ðe “th” in “thing”, because þ looks like a mouþ wiþ ðe tongue sticking out.
Specimens: :p :b

You can always remember ðat ðe letter “ð” sounds like ðe “th” in “therefore”, because it looks like a bumblebee. Bumblebees make that ððððððð sound.
Specimen: 🐝 ð

>>>> Sources <<<<

Kinder, Hermann and Hilgemann, Werner. The Penguin Atlas of World History, Volume 1. 1974. London: The Penguin Group, 2003.

Historical Association: The Voice for History, “Anglo-Saxons, A Brief History”:

Unknown Author. “The Germanic Languages”.
Studying the History of English. Universität Duisburg-Essen.

YouTube, “The Celtic Languages” by LangFocus:

Haven, Cynthia. “Eth, Thorn, and Ash: They Flunked the Screen Test for our Alphabet”. The Book Haven. Stanford University. August 27, 2013.
Reddit, “Restoring the Eth and Thorn” by user, Glossaphilos:

NINEVEH: Vibes of Nineveh (Cityscapes Series)

Nineveh Cityscape

Shato brikhto (Happy New Year of 2019)! I am excited to share a new design piece of mine — a visual expression of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh. I also detail  some of my research, design process, and other musings in this post. Nineveh is part of a lettering & illustration series I am working on, which carries a heavy emphasis on architecture and archaeology of each city I explore and design on. I hope to discuss this cityscape series in a future post. But if you’re curious right now, please take a look at my Vibes of Sana’a  project, which was the first design of this series.  So without further ado . . .

LANGUAGES Represented by Lettering:

I composed Nineveh in four different forms, but in three different scripts: (1) Cuneiform, (2, 3) Syriac, and (4) Arabic. Scripts from top to bottom: Cuneiform, Syriac (Classical), Syriac (Eastern), and Arabic. I arranged these scripts in that order chronologically. The oldest language that would have been used in the Nineveh during ancient times lies at the top, which is Old Assyrian. The most recent language used by the inhabitants of this region lies at the bottom, which is Arabic (Iraqi dialect).

Cuneiform, Syriac, and Arabic = ASSYRIA!

Let’s start from the top — Cuneiform. There are many versions of Cuneiform syllabaries. Different dialects and writing systems of Cuneiform evolved from the different regions within Mesopotamia (Assyria versus Babylonia). There are also differences of Cuneiform due to the different time periods spanning its usage, such as Old Assyrian (OA), Neo-Assyrian (NA), Old Babylonian (OB), and Neo-Babylonian (NB). There are clay tablets containing a mix of languages and dialects of Cuneiform (Sumerian mixed with Akkadian), and there are tablets containing a mix of ideograms and syllabaries (writing systems shifted over time).

The variant of Cuneiform I decided to choose to represent the name “Nineveh” is the Old Assyrian version. It took me a long while to research all the various Cunei-forms (heh) that can spell out “Nineveh”. So I really hope the ideograms or syllables I used in this illustration is accurate. If you are a linguist or Assyriologist and believe I made a mistake, I would appreciate you letting me know. The more I learn, the more I realise how much I still have to learn.

Below the Cuneiform, we have “Nineveh” written in the Estrangela Syriac script — the oldest written form of Syriac. Underneath Estrangela, we have the Madnhaya Syriac script (Chaldean or Nestorian) used by the eastern Assyrians. As I created this, I debated on whether to include an additional Syriac script in this piece. Serta (Maronite or Jacobite), was spoken and written by western Assyrians, in dialects like Turoyo. I felt, though, that including this third Syriac script would be inaccurate to represent Nineveh, as that script is more associated with western regions of the historic Assyria, such as in Tur Abdin (in modern day Turkey). So I left Serta out; however, I will happily include it in customized versions of this piece.

Arabic: Finally, we have Arabic at the very bottom. Although Arabic is the dominant language of Iraq and Syria today, it is not the official language of the Assyrian nation.


With the illustration, I aimed for a rustic look, somewhere between abstract and realism. I sketched two Lamassu (Lamassi?) on the foreground of either side of the design. The Assyrian “tree of life” stands in the background. Protruding from the tree are branches that twist and turn, and finish off with flowering leaves, in depictions of it on the Old Assyrian tablets and reliefs. The branches become one with the four languages of lettering I included, as they share a similar form. I wanted to really make this tree intricate and to hide the scripts within the branches to evoke mystery . . . but later I decided that my work and its meaning would become lost. Versions of a “sacred tree” or “tree of life” are quite universal in cultures beyond Babylon, and can be seen in Old Norse literature all the way to Mayan and Aztec works of art.


I started this piece in January 2018, while I was at my old job in the firm. I liked staying a little late to take advantage of the silence, the bright lighting, and large desks in the office (all features of which I lacked at home), as escapees from the office plunged themselves into heavy traffic. As always, my art work begins with anger. I was angry at several events that happened in areas of Syria and Iraq that we sentient and sensitive citizens of Earth have no control over. I needed to find a release somewhere, so I converted my negative emotions into creative energy.  It started with a pencil lamassu sketch, based off a cell phone picture from Met. Museum in NY. Why couldn’t these colossal entities come to life and protect inhabitants of Assyria? Then I realized I could borrow the concept from my Sana’aa multi-lingual lettering design for a new piece featuring Nineveh, the lamassus, and . . . the Assyrian tree of life!  I made two separate pencil sketches before digitally erasing my sloppiness, connecting missing lines, and completely reworking other areas in the design. Then I researched an appropriate colour palette. Assyrian and Babylonian art is often depicted with lots of neutral browns with a pop from lapis lazuli blue and gold.

Sketching, sketching, sketching . . .

Typical Mesopotamian colour scheme seen on the “Gate of Ishtar” from Babylon (Photo Credit: Josep Renalias)

Message from the Artist:

Take a look at a map of the Middle East, and you will not see a country labeled “Assyria”, nor will her borders be distinguished. Assyria is a region of the Middle East that covers eastern Syria, northern Iraq, and bits of southern Turkey and westernmost parts of Iran. In these four modern-day nations, there are ancient Assyrian ruins throughout, as well as contemporary Assyrian villages and cities. There was a time where Assyria was not only a vague territory or region, or a country even — she was an Empire. Her capital stood at Nineveh, near the modern Iraqi city of Mosul. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE, Assyria ceased to be an Empire, though her many towns remained. Her languages survived. Her people survived and are still living today. And her culture survived. Nineveh has been through so much Arabisation since the spread of Islam across the Near East, as Arabic is the sacred language of the Holy Qur’an. Over the centuries, Assyrians have picked up on what quickly became the dominant language, but remained a people without an official autonomy. Assyria has been through far worse than just linguistic and cultural demise, though. Seyfo, which comes from the Arabic word sayf for ‘sabre’, was the genocide of the Christian populations that occurred during WWI by Ottoman troops between 1914-1920. 100 years later, today, we see even more atrocities being committed by ISIL/Da’esh whom are all anti- Muslim, Christian, Yazidi, Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Pagan. It’s sickening. It makes me sick that there is far too little that I, or anyone else, can do about these human rights violations to have an effect. Only few governments have the power to run the world’s affairs.  At this point, can all we do is keep the memory alive? or sustain it? or can we make what is a declining culture rise again and become an influence in the Middle East?

We cannot let the dark forces allow societies in the Middle East to just tolerate one another’s existence and to “pray” for one another, but celebrate the diversity and richness within our homes and have open discussions for learning.


SOCOTRA, Yemen . . . a celestial island of Dragon Blood trees and dragonflies.

Her fragile ecosystem is falling apart. It was a slow death at first; climate change is a familiar culprit. Her wounds took a turn for the worse amid the ongoing war against Yemen. The world must not turn away from this injustice. If the war ends tomorrow, we might salvage her rare charms, and with persistance she may even flourish. Socotra was once the most alien-looking place on Earth, untouched by man’s corruption. Alas, the islands’ sanctity has withered away in recent years . . .

Socotra, Yemen . . . a military base for foreign invaders.

Dragon Blood trees, formally known as Dracaena Cinnabari, are so called for the thick crimson sap that runs through their trunks and branches, much like the blood that runs through our own bodies. These trees breathe. The resin has been used since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Our island, with all its endemic flora and fauna, only became a UNESCO World Heritage site in this past decade. As I write this, GCC troops are vandalizing Socotra’s environment from the surface all the way down to the marrow. Thousands of Dragon Blood trees that have grown undisturbed for four centuries, are now being uprooted and killed in mere minutes — all it takes is a push of a few buttons on a bulldozer to kill these ancient trees. Many Dragon Blood trees are being exported into the UAE for aesthetic purposes. There, these trees shrivel up and die, as the UAE’s habitat is not natural for them to thrive.

Dragon Blood trees today are literally bleeding between the firm grips of warfare. Socotra has become another playground for supremely wealthy savages. The endemic life that once made her beautiful is being exploited faster than her ability to reproduce, and the life that remains, falls into decay.

This is the current reality, but how can we — the concerned citizens of Earth — put this nightmare to an end? Unfortunately, the world’s leading powers focus only on selfish political agendas, showcasing military strength, and immediate self-gratification over the future of our shared ecosystem, world harmony, and steady perseverance towards a greener and happier planetIf only there were a way to stop this madness before it’s too late.

About This Painting:
Socotra is an island that lies just south of Yemen and east of the Horn of Africa, on the Arabian Sea. Desolate, yet mythical. This acrylic painting depicts the dragon blood trees and dragonflies that call Socotra their only “home”. On the foreground, I illustrated an anguished dryad sipping her dragon elixir (i.e., gahwa Yemenia). 

This was my first time using acrylics, and it took some getting used to. The quality of the final piece is not as I imagined it to be, because I used gouache as a base layer, and the canvas I applied on was meant for water-based paints. I do plan to create an improved version of this piece in gouache and on a much larger canvas. 

Random Thought:
Socotra is a living example of the phenomenon where hearts of gold attract toxicity. Exceptionally kind-hearted people accept bad souls, by giving them the benefit of the doubt, and trying to bring a positive influence into their unstable minds and troubled lives. Many times, those with hearts of gold become emotionally exhausted, whether they realize it or not, as their positivity has been sucked dry.

For detailed information on these trees, this article by Linda Crampton, is very informative. This article by Michael Horton, details the devastation and divide that Yemen is now facing, as KSA and the UAE continue to take advantage of the chaos they caused.

Surat al Ikhlas

“Surat al Ikhlas”

I would like to share a work of calligraphy I made in the winter of 2014. Here I have Surat al Ikhlas in what was intended to be Kufic Arabic script. Kufic, the oldest form of Arabic script that emerged from borrowing elements of the Nabatean and Syriac abjads, traditionally excludes the i’jam. I’jam, the dots that you see on the Arabic letters, is seen in modern Arabic script to help distinguish some consonants from other consonants. I decided to add the i’jam dots, and also softened the traditional Kufic edginess of the letterforms. I suppose we can classify this piece as Kufesque. I composed the entire Sura in a curved manner so it could hang beside a rounded mirror in an aesthetic fashion.

Oh, before I get carried away: Sura is the Arabic word for “chapter”, but specifically refers to a chapter in the Qur’an. Ikhlaṣ is Arabic for “purity” or “sincerity”, and is derived from the root X-L-Ṣ (khaliṣ: sincere, loyal; pure).

Here is the translation and transliteration of Surat al Ikhlas:

“Say, He is G-d. the one (and only) • G-d, the eternal (the absolute) •
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten • And there is none comparable unto Him”
Qul howa Allahu ahad  Allah-us-samad •
Lem yeled, wa lem youled
 • Wa lem yakun lehu kufwan ahad

 I initially sketched this on a notebook during a weekend of my last semester of college. It took me two months to decide to turn the sketch into a proper piece (I was a full time student, and this was but a leisure activity for me). After I turned in my thesis, finished my internship, and graduated, I took another good look at what I created in Arabic, and then decided . . . hey, why not in Hebrew as well?!

Ikhlas b’ivrit, before the gold leaf application

The ontological and concise nature of this Sura is appealing, and not just from an Islamic or a religious perspective. Many monotheists, whether religious, secular, or agnostic, may find the message of this Sura to be one they can relate to.  This Sura is especially relatable to some one of the Jewish faith, as one of the shared foundations between Islam and Judaism is: “Lam yeled wa lem youled”. In other words, our main idea of the nature of Allah/YH*WH (swt) is the same.  For that reason, I decided to work on a Hebrew version of Suratal Ikhlas as a way to bridge the two religions of Islam and Judaism closer together and to promote the fact that humanity lies beneath the same Creator. I found the translation from Arabic to Hebrew, and practiced a bit with composition. I allowed the text to spiral from upper-right corner, inwards, to create a circle.

In geometric symbolism, circles are shapes that mark divinity and absoluteness, while squares symbolize our mortality and the material world, as the four-points of a square symbolise one ending and another beginning (in contrast to the ‘unending’ form of a circle). Next time you find yourself in a mosque or temple/synagogue, look above at the domes, windows, mosaics, and other polygon shapes that dominate the architecture. When you visualise an octagon, you can see how it lies mid-way between a circle and a square. In other words, such polygons lie between this world and the celestial realm.
That is why domes and arches in sacred buildings are often imperfect/angular circles—because of the symbolism associated with polygons as straddling between the material hemisphere and spiritual hemisphere. To learn more about sacred geometry and mathematical elements found in nature, I highly recommend The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation, and Cognition by William Mitchell.

I also found the extremely different forms of the two scripts quite fun to play with — Arabic is a very linear script, whilst Hebrew is very squarish and blocky. So, I thought it would be an additionally interesting contrast to have the blocky forms of Hebrew composed in a round layout, as I already had the Arabic version in a curved layout. 
The Names of G-D

The words “Elohim” (later changed to “Eloqim”, upon the request of my Sephardic friend*), and “YH*WH” (occurring twice) in this draft were inked with gold leaf. The “-im” suffix of Eloqim is the plural form of Eloh (Eloh=Allah). However, do remember that the “-im” suggests the Royal We of the Divine, and not the idea that G-D is in multiple parts.

One last thing to point out, is that Allah, Arabic for “G-d”, can be rendered as YH*WH (in Hebrew) when flipped upside down. If you are familiar with both Arabic and Hebrew scripts (btw that makes you awesome), I encourage you to use your imagination. Start with the lower-right corner YH*WH. Since the spiral makes the Hebrew script on that side upside-down, you can easily see how the Hebrew YH*WH can be read as “Allah” in Arabic (the ה read upside down form the letters ا and ل in Arabic). Basically, we tweeked the Hebrew letterforms just a bit, so that when flipped upside down, it resembles the Arabic letterform for Allah. The bar at the top of the ה  was stretched out so that it could resemble the linked letters of the word الله.

Indeed we are all one, under the same One Creator, whether Allah or YH*WH. To be able to write His name once, in a way that is legible in two languages, is reflective of that unifying view.

Although the calligraphy designs are my own work, I cannot take credit for Allah-YH*WH being shown in such a unifying way. Years ago, I found an old kabbalah article online that dissected the word YH*WH and discussed the symbolic attributes of the letters. Then there was an image shown with the word “Allah” beside YH*WH to show how similar the forms are. I tried finding the creative mind who came up with this, but it didn’t look like he was even credited in the article. If I ever find this person, I will link them on this post 🙂 Also, the final version of the Hebrew calligraphy piece in blue ink is no longer in my possession (it was a gift to said Sephardic friend), but I hope to remake a similar one soon.


Foot Notes:
*     Many conservative Jewish people refrain from writing our G-D’s name or having His name (his? its?) in written form in their homes.

Materials Used: Winsor and Newton acrylic ink, applied with rusty calligraphy pens on Bristol paper.



SANA’A — Vibes of Sana’a (Cityscapes Series)

Sana’a: The Capital City of Yemen.

In this post, I introduce my first art piece of 2018, in which I combine lettering and illustration. The concept of the lettering was to have Sana’a written in four different scripts: Sabaean, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac. Those languages fall into the Semitic branch of languages, have similar origins, as well as some shared vocabulary, yet each claims its own alphabetical system. The concept of the illustration was to have the multi-lingual lettering mimic the appearance of Sana’a’s iconic cityscape. My goal for this piece is for it to convey the history of the diverse communities that inhabited Yemen throughout the centuries, and contributed to its heritage.

But First, Etymology!
The word “Sana’a” is derived from the Arabic root (Ṣ – N – ‘), made up of the letters, Tsade (*), Nun, and Ayin. Perhaps the city earned its name from the Arabic verb, صنع , (Ṣuna’), which  means: to make or to manufacture (also: to construct, to produce, and to build). 

Sana’a is more than the capital city of Yemen — it is the ancient capital city of Yemen, said to have been founded and settled by Noah’s eldest son, Shem.

Sana’a is more than the ancient capital city of Yemen — it is one that had been built, or maṣnou’ (**), from the rocks on the surface and up toward the sky. One that had been maṣnou’ from the very stones of its lush highlands, where the architecture could easily camouflage with its rocky environment, if it were not for the eye-catching stained glass windows that adorn every structure.

Sana’a is more than just an ancient capital city with structures rising up from the mountains — it is one that is being rocked with instability caused by external aggressions and internal devastations, yet still full of resilient city folk who carry on with their lives in spite of all their burdens.

. . . and still, Sana’a is more than all that. Come to Sana’a; see and listen for yourself. As you approach it, see it mystically rise up from Yemen’s highlands. Once within it, listen carefully to the echoes of varied languages bounce off the ancient walls of the city. Watch carefully for graffiti in a variety of scripts, belonging to those languages.

Sana’a was home to several languages and scripts that were spoken and written throughout the ages. Each of these languages have left their marks and diacritics over the southern regions of the Near East, which Yemen owes it’s rich heritage to. 

– “Sana’a” in Four Semitic Scripts –

The trained eye will notice that the top portion of this Art piece does not only consist of minarets and arches, but spells out “Sana’a” in the Sabaean script (Ancient South Arabian), which is read from right-to-left. Pay attention and you will see the letterforms. It is thought that Ge’ez, spoken just across the Red Sea in Abyssinia, came from Sabaean.









Just beneath the Sabaean script, I illustrated “Sana’a” in Arabic as صنعاء . Now this makes sense, as Arabic is Yemen’s official language today, and has been for some time. Under the Arabic, you will see צַנְעַאא in Hebrew. During the Himyarite Era of Yemen, which reigned after the Sabaean Era and spanned 630 years, Hebrew was the spoken language throughout the western parts of Yemen.

Finally, at the bottom, ܨܢܥܐܐ in Syriac. If Classical Syriac ever made it down to Yemen, it would have had to travel from the north-east to the south-west. It is likely though, that Syriac may have had its debut in the nearby Yemen, since Syriac inscriptions have been found as far as the Far East. I do know that throughout the centuries, before Islam was introduced to the region, some of the dialects of Akkadian, Assyrian, and Aramaic have been used in south-western Arabia.









I encourage you all to search for more Art pieces that unify Semitic languages. Sabaean, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac: together, these languages (well . . . those who spoke them) built, or ṣuna’ou (***), Yemen’s heritage and its history.

Foot Notes:
*     The Ṣ sound in Sana’a is pronounced: “Ts”.
**   maṣnou’ — (passive participle, past tense) “has been built from”.
*** ṣuna’ou — (verb, plural, past tense) “they built”.

“Sana’a” written out in the Sabaean script.

Materials Used: Prisma, Paris Paper, Gold Leaf, and fake Swarovski crystals.

Message from the Artist:
Yemen nowadays rarely makes headlines in the mainstream media, unless it involves protests or Yemen’s use of Qat. In the non-mainstream media, we see that Yemen makes more sombre headlines (but then again, at least it’s coverage): another airstrike, mass starvation, and the cholera epidemic. Little does today’s world know of Yemen’s positive characteristicsthe brilliant and picturesque architecture; the vibrant poetic culture that gave way to Yemen’s underground art and music scene; the highly sought-after coffee, incense, and silver jewelry that Yemen, since ancient times, exported to other areas of the Near East. . . and beyond.

In this post, I shared some of Yemen’s cultural diversity. In any future posts that concern Yemen, I strive to give the world a taste of the many splendours found in Arabia Felix.


Update: Project Gilgamesh | New: Persephone and Zephyrus

File_000 (1)The King, The Scribe, and the Archer

I have updated my Epic of Gilgamesh page with more recent sketches. However, if you find my sketches to be lacking in colour and excitement, you might consider checking out the newest addition to my portfolio; Persephone and Zephyrus will redirect you to the appropriate page!

Persephone and Zephyrus

Persephone and Zephyrus