Many cultures believed the letters of their alphabet were far more than just symbols for communication, recording transactions, or recalling history. They believed letters were powerful magical symbols that could be used to cast spells and predict the future. The Norse runes and the Hebrew alphabet are simple letters for spelling words, but also deep symbols of cosmic significance.
The magical sense is preserved in our words for teaching children how to manipulate letters to make words: spelling. When you "spell" a word correctly, you are in effect casting a spell, changing these abstract, arbitrary symbols with meaning and power.
We say "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me," but this is untrue. We know that words have power to hurt or heal. The simple words of a letter, email, or phone call can strike you like a hammer blow. They're just words - marks on paper or vibrations of air - but mere words such as "Guilty," "Ready, aim fire!," "I do," or "We'd like to buy your book" can bind us, condemn us, or bring us joy.
They can hurt or heal us with their magic power. The healing power of words is their most magical aspect. Writers, like the shamans or medicine men and women of ancient cultures, have the potential to be healers.
Whether written or spoken, using those letters (and words) also gives an individual the power to persuade and transform others, perhaps an entire nation, and subsequently the entire world.
What letters, speeches, or books have had the biggest impact on you?