Main Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols
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How do you read this I downloaded it checked my files and nothing
17 December 2020 (00:56)
Read this book. If you are going to learn about sigils you should start with this book. It takes you to the verry beginning of when symbols appeared in our world in there basic forms.
12 January 2021 (05:31)
I can't read it due to a bad phone
15 March 2021 (04:12)
You can read the book after installing the app ReadEra, this works for me, so I thought I wanted to share this, have a nice day :D
16 March 2021 (11:24)
I download it but can’t read it. It’s something wrong with the file?
17 April 2021 (01:18)
bad file, this is disappointing since it's my first time here and first download.
17 April 2021 (19:40)
If you're going to read this you have to convert the file from an epub to a pdf
21 May 2021 (10:30)
Guys, you can see beforehand if it's an epub, pdf or whatever. You need a software fit to open it if it's not a pdf. Try calibre.
Buy a copy if you liked the book, it helps the authors.
Buy a copy if you liked the book, it helps the authors.
03 July 2021 (02:38)
you guys can just search an EPUB to PDF converter on google for you guys to be able to read these kinds of file. :)))))
29 July 2021 (10:08)
About the Author © Carrie Meyer/Insomniac Studios Laura Tempest Zakroff is a professional artist, author, dancer, designer, muse, mythpunk, teacher, and Witch. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her artwork has received awards and honors worldwide. Laura has been a practicing Modern Traditional Witch for over two decades and revels in the intersection of her various paths with Witchcraft. She blogs for Patheos as A Modern Traditional Witch and for Witches & Pagans as Fine Art Witchery and contributes to The Witches’ Almanac, Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac, and Llewellyn’s Witches’ Companion. Sigil Witchery is her second book, her first being The Witch’s Cauldron, released in 2017. Laura resides in Seattle, Washington, with her partner, Nathaniel Johnstone, and at least three cats. Find out more at www.lauratempestzakroff.com. Llewellyn Publications Woodbury, Minnesota Copyright Information Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols © 2018 by Laura Tempest Zakroff. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. As the purchaser of this e-book, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. The text may not be otherwise reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or recorded on any other storage device in any form or by any means. Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author’s copyright and is illegal and punishable by law. First e-book edition © 2018 E-book ISBN: 9780738755854 Book design by Donna Burch-Brown Cover design by Ellen Lawson Interior art and photos by Laura Tempest Zakroff, except for the photo on page 107 by Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet and the photo o; n page 126 by Carrie Meyer Llewellyn Publications is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Llewellyn Publications does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public. Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to current author websites. Llewellyn Publications Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125 www.llewellyn.com Manufactured in the United States of America For my parents, Pete and Terry Zakroff. Thank you for believing in your crazy artist daughter. From putting up with 10-foot-tall chicken-wire/plaster-wrap goddesses, salt block sculptures, and life-size horses painted on my bedroom walls to collecting my latest creations and commissioning me to paint your mailbox, your support for my work throughout my entire life has made all the difference. Contents IlIllustrations and Photographs Foreword by Anaar Niino Introduction Chapter 1: A History of Mark Making Chapter 2: The Meaning of the Mark Chapter 3: Making Magick Chapter 4: Design Guidance Chapter 5: Practice Exercises Chapter 6: Gallery Conclusion Resources Bibliography and Suggestions for Further Research Index of Symbols Illustrations and Photographs Chapter 1 Montage of Images from Cave Paintings 11 Entoptic Phenomena 15 Cave Art Handprints and the Familiar Turkey Hand 16 Collection of Aboriginal Signs and Symbols 20 Evolution of the Chinese Character for Cart or Wagon 23 Egyptian Cartouche 24 An Array of Amazigh Symbols 29 Amazigh Tattoos 30 A Variety of Veves 33 Photo of Graffiti in Greece 35 Chapter 2 Point (Closed Dot) 39 Open Dot 40 Circle 40 Horizontal Line 41 Vertical Line 41 Dotted or Dashed Line 42 Diagonal Line 43 Cross 44 Chevron 45 X 46 Arrow 47 Wavy Line 48 Zigzag Line 49 Triangle 50 Square 51 Rectangle 52 Diamond 53 Crescent 54 Spiral 55 Pentagon 56 Hexagon 57 Other Polygons 58 Star 59 Pentagram 59 Hexagram 60 Septagram 60 Asterisk 61 Heart 62 Vesica Piscis or Mandorla 63 Eye 64 Infinity and Hourglass 65 Wheels and Shields 66 Wings 67 Key and Keyhole 68 Scales 69 Anchor 70 Butterfly 71 Hand 72 Spoon 73 Elements 74 Directions 76 Zodiac and Astrological Signs 79 Chapter 3 Photo of the Artist at Work 94 Donna’s Sigil 100 Illuminating a Sigil with Traditional Pen and Ink on a Card 104 Vitality and Vision Spell Paintings by the Author 106 Sigil Satchels—Canvas Bags Embellished with Washable Paint by the Author 106 My “Power Sigil” Design, Embroidered and Photographed by Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet 107 Wood, Bone, and Clay Make Great Bases for Sigil Pendants 108 A Chalk Sigil on a Doorstep 109 Earth Sigil 110 Water Sigil 111 A Sigil of Smoke 113 Planting a Sigil 115 For the Birds 116 Photo of the Author’s Leg Tattoos 119 Sigils in Motion 126 Chapter 4 A Sacred Sphere of Energy 137 Drawing Circles and Ovals 142 Drawing Pentagrams 143 Drawing Six-Pointed Stars 144 Drawing Seven-Pointed Stars 145 Drawing Crescents 146 Drawing Spirals 147 Traditional Pen and Ink 152 Kinds of Brush Tips 154 Chapter 5 A Festival Sigil 163 A Coven Sigil 165 A Business Plan Sigil 167 An Office Ward Sigil 168 A Healing Sigil 169 A Transformational Sigil 170 A Sigil against Bullying 171 An Anti-Anxiety Sigil 172 A Fertility Sigil 173 A Focus Sigil 174 A Banishing and Binding Sigil 175 An Inspiration and Creativity Sigil 176 A Prosperity Sigil 177 Chapter 6 Upright Power Sigil 180 Inverted Power Sigil 181 PantheaCon Sigil 183 Paganicon Sigil 183 DragonCon Sigil 186 Workshop Sigil at Herne’s Hollow in Delaware 186 Sigil Crafting and Notetaking 188 Another Sketchbook Page 189 Mago Djinn Sigil 190 Jaime’s Sigil 191 Carolyn’s Sigil 192 Jennifer’s Sigil 193 Kim’s Sigil 194 M’s Sigil 195 Mary’s Sigil 196 Matthew’s Sigil 196 Megan’s Sigil 197 Paul’s Sigil 197 Stephanie’s Sigil 198 Veronica’s Sigil 198 The Drawing of the Mother Matrix 200 The Painting of the Mother Matrix 201 Details from Paintings from the Iconomage Series: The Star Goddess • The Huntress • Hekate • When Love Lay with Death and Darkness, Light Was Born 203 Familiar Territory 203 Queen of the Sabbat 206 The Shaman 206 Foreword by Anaar Niino What if, from the depths of your liminal consciousness, you could create your own symbolic language? What if you could create, from the ether, a personal language? What if you could create a magical language, a secret language? What would you do with such a thing? Would you slip it under your pillow? Would you place it beneath a crib? Would you draw it in the air with smoke? Would you write it in lipstick? What do I mean by symbolic language? It’s a set of signs used to communicate all manner of things. The very words you’re reading now are a set of agreed-upon signs. You can understand these words because you know what the agreement is. It is symbolic because when I write apple you understand what is meant by that set of abstract symbols. I do not need to draw an apple for you. That is one form of symbolic language. It has its uses but is by far and large taken for granted. With lightning-fast imagery flashing before us, these symbols begin to lose their symbolic nature. They become divorced from their magical nature, losing their symbolism to become mechanical. Sigils, on the other hand, are deeply personal. A sigil is an invented, private language, created for specific meanings known only to the creator. Agreement is not necessary for the symbol to take hold. Sigils reopen the symbolic and magical nature of a written form. Can you draw something just for fun? Absolutely! But that form of symbolic art is a design and has other uses. That form of symbolism inhabits another part of our consciousness, one that is more present and readily accessible. It is not without meaning, as art is always meaningful in a variety of ways. But it is generally not meant for magical spiritual applications. Sigils are very powerful tools coming from the very depths of our consciousness, reflecting our deepest desires. Sigils have a job to do. Sigils draw from deep within our psyche and are cast out into the world to do their work. The modern method of sigil making is by far the most effective means of drawing out those deep desires. This book covers all those bases. Laura Tempest Zakroff offers a practical, non-threatening approach to sigil work. From advice on developing your own symbolic language to ideas on how to apply that sigil, a novice should feel very comfortable drawing their first sigil. There is plenty of room for creative self-expression, yet this book offers a solid, no-nonsense method to its magical applications. Written in a conversational style, Sigil Witchery draws the veil and sweeps the cobwebs from the arcane. It exposes the mystery of sigil work for what it is: simple. Of course you may have heard me say, and will hear it again, that simple is not necessarily easy. But at least it’s accessible. So go now. Grab pen and paper, lipstick and mirror, stick and sand. Go grab something to draw with and make some magic. —Anaar Niino Grandmaster of the Feri Tradition Archivist for the Victor and Cora Anderson Archive at the New Alexandrian Library [contents] Introduction Imagine a large hotel meeting room packed to maximum capacity with all sorts of Pagans, displaying a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and experience. They’d chosen to attend this workshop on sigil magick over at least a dozen other options all happening at the same time on the busy convention schedule. Even though I’ve been teaching workshops on metaphysics, art, and dance for twenty years, I was battling a fair amount of anxiety. This was the very first time I’d be introducing my take on sigils to such a large audience. I was afraid that maybe they might not have read the description, and were expecting something more traditional. I flashed an image of a ceremonial magic seal on the overhead projector and gave this warning: “Okay, before we get started, if this is the kind of sigil you’re expecting out of this workshop, now’s the time to leave so you can catch another event. No hard feelings. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. We’re going to be looking at crafting sigils from a very different perspective.” I waited. Not a single person budged. I took a deep breath and dove in. For the next ninety minutes, no one left the room. Afterward and all weekend long, people kept coming up to me asking when I would write a book on what I had presented. That workshop kicked off a process that would be two years in the making—from the presentation at PantheaCon to this book first arriving on the shelves of bookstores everywhere. It’s truly an amazing thing seeing what focused intent can accomplish! I believe that every Witch has a certain talent that they excel at. Often we are good at many things, such as divination, spellcraft, mediumship, and counseling. But there’s usually one specific area among those many hats we wear that is our niche, a skill where our ability to influence and change the world around us is paramount. Some Witches are incredible herbalists, their gardens lush and thriving. Others excel at kitchen witchery, mixing in their magick with meals. Or perhaps they have the gift of music, where their song enchants everyone around them. For me, that talent involves the visual arts. I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember, and my parents fostered those abilities by enrolling me in art classes at the age of three. I continued to study fine art formally all the way through college. Whether it seemed a safer road to keep me occupied as a child (I got kicked out of gymnastics for not being coordinated enough) or my parents had some sort of a psychic insight, it was definitely the right road for me. Early on, I perceived art as my way to understand and interact with the rest of the world. I have a distinct memory of me at age five scribbling rune-like shapes with my crayons on sheets of paper, one for each tree in our backyard. In my head, I believed the markings were for the protection of the trees. As I grew older, I reveled in drawing dragons and mermaids, telling myself elaborate stories about them as I painstakingly drew every little scale. From around age eight through eleven, I was an avid Egyptophile, not only learning about all of the mythology but also teaching myself to read and write hieroglyphics. Then I went further back to explore prehistoric cultures and early civilizations around the world—the remnants of their sculpture, architecture, paintings, and murals. As I studied more recent art history, I naturally gravitated toward the movements and artists whose work explored mythology and spirituality and reveled in symbolism: Gustave Moreau, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Flack, and Andrew Wyeth, to name just a few. The question was, how to create myth and magick in my own art? In college, I began to understand how I could use my art to explore myth, folklore, and religion. I explored the feminine and masculine divine through large hand-pulled prints and paintings. I experimented with deliberately casting spells through the making of art. I did independent studies on shrine making, divination, and trance techniques. I started to truly see the connection between the marks I made and the channeling of intent to get specific results. In the last two decades I’ve used my work to explore the space where magick and art intersect, and see how it actively influences my path as a Witch. I began to incorporate my own take on sigil magick into my drawings and paintings, following my instincts and drawing on years of art history studies. People started to ask about my sigils, so I decided to reverse-engineer how I created them. (It may sound a bit odd that I needed to figure that out, but often when I’m making art, I’m following an internalized, subconscious formula.) Then I considered how others could use the same method to make their own sigils. It was this exploration that launched the workshops and this book. Our Journey Ahead I came to sigil crafting from a very different direction and practice than the method that is most well known among magical practitioners. In fact, it wasn’t until I was commissioned to do an illustration for a sigil magick article in Witches & Pagans magazine that I learned about the method popularized by chaos magicians. The chaos magic method of creating a sigil involves composing a clarified statement. Next you remove all of the vowels and duplicate consonants, then scramble up the remaining letters to create the sigil. To finish the working, the sigil is typically burned after its creation. Or at least that’s how the author of the article described their method and how it worked for them. (Some methods don’t involve removing the vowels, but only the duplicate letters.) I enjoyed illustrating the article, especially since it was well written and entertaining. It’s a cool method, especially if it works for you. But that’s not how I make sigils—as you’re about to discover. Instead, you’re going to learn a process that I believe is more intuitive and fluid for right-brain thinkers and is very much grounded in Modern Traditional Witchcraft. How so? It is a fairly new and unique method for creating sigils, yet it pulls from basic skills our ancestors used to communicate prior to the advent of complex language. It can also be applied to a variety of metaphysical techniques, spellcraft approaches, and spiritual paths. Regardless of how artistic you may or may not consider yourself to be, this kind of sigil witchery is accessible to people with a wide variety of abilities and experiences. To begin this journey, we will explore the work our ancestors have left us and try to decipher their mysteries, as well as illuminate the modern-day connections we can find in the symbols around us. I will introduce you to an extensive collection of marks, shapes, and symbols that will be the root of our sigils, and guide you in collecting others that hold meaning and power for you. Then we will explore how magick works, and see step by step how we can craft sigils for any situation. We will cover an extensive variety of ways we can implement and apply sigils for daily and ritual use. I’ll go over design, practice, problem solving, supplies, and other technical aspects that will aid you in crafting your own sigils. I’ve also included practice scenarios where you can hone your skills and compare your work to some possible solutions. Lastly, I’ve included some of my own artwork and sigil witchery to inspire you, and provided some resources for you to continue your own research. Before we launch into sigil space, first let’s consider the framework for this method and go over some of the important basics of Witchcraft and sigils. Understanding the foundation and background for both is essential for starting off in the right direction. The Modern Tradition of Witchcraft This title may seem like an oxymoron—how can something be modern and traditional? But I find it to be the perfect description for my path. I am a Modern Traditional Witch, blending the folklore, myths, and practices of my complex and diverse heritage with the acknowledgment that I am a modern person living in the United States. Witchcraft—as a means to connect, see, and interact with the world—is as old as human civilization. I’m not talking about a specific organized religion, mystery school, family tradition, or degree system. Rather, I’m talking about the way of the Witch—the one who walks between worlds, talks with the spirits and deities, and manipulates the edges of consciousness. The word Witch, its connotation, and the identity of the practitioner may change from culture to culture, generation to generation, but the heart of magick is consistent throughout. (Nevertheless, the Witch persists.) Over time we learn, collect, and build our practices, ideas, and traditions. As humanity progresses and makes new discoveries, we amend, shift, and grow as needed. We keep what works, we make note of what doesn’t work, and we try new things. We can choose to make fire with flint and tinder, strike a match, or flick a lighter. We can use the power of the digital pixel to capture symbols thousands of years old, or draw new images with charcoal and our fingers. Intuition and instinct shake hands with ingenuity and imagination. This is the essence of the Modern Tradition of Witchcraft. To guide the Witch’s path, there are three keys: Know Thyself: Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Maintain Balance: Balance is an idea, not a place. To understand it, we must consider the extreme points as well as moderation, and realize that all actions have a multitude of possible reactions. Accept Responsibility: Be able to acknowledge, accept, and work with both the known and the unknown consequences of your actions and words. It would be wise to keep these three concepts in mind when considering the focus, structure, and intended outcome of your sigil work. You need to be realistic about yourself and your environment, as well as mindful of both your limits and your possibilities for growth. You should think creatively about solutions and brainstorm possible outcomes and effects. And lastly, you should be willing to be responsible for your work in very real terms. With this perspective in mind as our framework, let’s explore the essentials of sigils. What Is a Sigil? First things first: How do you pronounce sigil ? That may seem like a really basic question, but I find that it’s a common one for many folks, especially if you’re an avid reader and you rarely get to hear certain words pronounced out loud. It’s also a logical place to start our study. How dictionaries list the pronunciation: or A more detailed explanation from an American perspective: The first i is soft, so it’s like the i in Sidney, not long like in silence. The g is pronounced like a j, like in gem. The second i is an “eh” sound, as in gel. If you want to overthink it, there’s somewhat of a phantom d hooked into the beginning of the j sound. If you don’t want to overthink it, sigil rhymes with vigil (not to be confused with Virgil—the poet or the monkey). Etymology: The word sigil derives from the Middle English sigulle, which comes from the Latin sigillum, meaning “seal.” Another consideration is that it may be related to the Hebrew (segula), meaning a talisman, or a word or action of a spiritual nature. I hope that helps you avoid seagulls and siggles. If you’re still unsure, google sigil and the first result should be a brief definition with a sound icon. Click on the icon and you’ll hear the correct pronunciation. What Is Sigil Magick? A sigil is a carved, drawn, or painted symbol that is believed to have magical properties. Magick is the art of focusing one’s will or intent in order to bring about change. So sigil magick is creating specific symbols to influence a person, situation, or environment. Many modern occultists and ceremonial magicians might have you believe that sigil magick belongs to the realm of “high magick”—that it is something intimidating, requiring arcane knowledge and maybe involving a membership to a secret society or three. Of course, when you’re looking at certain sigils as a means to summon and control angels, demons, and other spirits, then it does often require having a background of understanding in those systems. So while that may be true of the form some magicians use, the art of sigil witchery is much more organic and has very humble, basic origins. In fact, you can find its roots in the earliest preserved magick known to humanity. At the heart of sigil magick is the hand-drawn mark: lines, dots, and colors that form a symbol to designate space, conjure events, provide instructions, or invoke spirits and deities. From the outline of a hand-print drawn in red and yellow ochre on a cave wall, to temporary drawings made in the earth for sacred rites, to intricate carvings made on tools and jewelry, to murals on buildings, we have used our hands to make our mark on the world—seeking to influence it. The Modern Tradition of Witchcraft has a very hands-on, no-nonsense approach to magick: do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done—without a lot of fancy trappings. (Everything else is just gravy on top.) This often means using whatever is on hand to do the work, instead of carefully curating ingredients and designing an elaborate ritual to coincide with the perfect alignment of the moon or stars. This immediacy is the essence of witchery to me. Sometimes just a bit of dirt, some string, and a match—or a ballpoint pen and a scrap of notebook paper—will do the trick when one’s will is focused and the need is great. Some folks may disdainfully call this approach “low magick.” However, if you compare magick to computer technology, it’s the low-level coding that is the closest to the source. The higher you get, the more you are moving away from the source, altering the language to suit other purposes. One method is not better than the other; they both get the work done in their own way. Both approaches certainly do work, so the trick is figuring out which one you are better suited for. From simple to complex, from novice to artisan, there is plenty of room for learning how to create sigils of your very own. All it takes is a willingness to open up your imagination and the ability to make a mark. Remember back in school when you wondered just when geometry was going to come in handy in real life? Now’s the time—and you’re not being graded! So set aside your fears, gather up some paper and a pen, and let’s have some fun. It will be my pleasure to introduce you to the world of sigil witchery and help you learn to integrate it into your own practice. [contents] Chapter 1 A History of Mark Making I remember in nursery school working my little fingers through a shallow tray full of squishy poster paint, mixing the colors together—blending yellow and blue to make green, red and yellow to make orange—swirling it all about. Then I took my paint-covered hands and pressed them onto the clean paper provided, leaving behind two small imprints. The teacher hung up all of the papers on clothesline to dry, and we gazed up in awe at the colorful marks we had made, each set unique. Eye—Brain—Hand—Art As children, we revel in making art. We instantly recognize our ability to create new worlds, tell stories, recreate the world around us as we see it, and, most importantly, make our mark on the world. As we get older, we often push aside art making for other ways to get recognition from others, to explain ourselves and our world. We may forget that we even knew how to draw or paint or to play make-believe. Yet it was these very “simple” skills that we humans first embraced to begin our journey toward civilization. No matter how sophisticated we may perceive ourselves to be now, our ability to visualize ideas and draw symbols is what first set us apart on the evolution timeline. In her book The First Signs, Genevieve Von Petzinger writes: “The first instance of making an intentional graphic mark was one of the profoundly important moments in our species’ history—right up there with the invention of tools, the control of fire, and the development of spoken language.” 1 It can be easy for some to dismiss drawing and painting as something frivolous. But if you really think about it, the process and the background behind it is incredible. We observe the world around us and translate 3-D into 2-D through a series of marks, colors, and shapes. Or we picture something in our brain—literally something that has no physical form outside of our head—and draw it into reality. Manifestation comes from seeing with our eyes and picturing in our brain, then creating through and with our hands. The evolutionary leap that our brains needed to develop in order to see, think, and create intentional marks is a phenomenal thing. Our ability to think abstractly, envision time and space, and translate our world into new forms is what helped set us apart as a whole new species thousands upon thousands of years ago. Most people are familiar with the amazing cave paintings in Spain and France depicting herds of bison and horses. But few people, including archaeologists and anthropologists, have turned their gaze to the other human-made marks found in those very same caves. Those overlooked marks and symbols caught the attention of researcher Genevieve Von Petzinger, who has spent the last several years exploring caves all throughout Europe. She documented every single mark she could find and put them into a database. In TED talks and in her book The First Signs, she explains how she found thirty-two signs that appear again and again in caves thousands of miles apart. Not only that, but their making also spanned centuries, suggesting meaningful use over time. Her research points to the likelihood that a symbolic tradition developed in Africa long before our ancestors journeyed forth into other parts of the world. This theory could certainly explain the similarities we see in the early art of Europe, Indonesia, and Australia. Why would our ancestors create a system of symbols and migrate with them? I think the reason is pretty easy to determine: the desire to communicate and to connect. Considering the amount of effort required to carve an object or paint in a dark crevice of a cave, it’s clear that they were purposefully making marks with the intent to communicate meaning (even if the precise meaning may be lost to us now). Montage of Images from Cave Paintings When we look at the historical timeline of communication technology, we can see the direct correlation with the evolution of society. Some of the earliest tools found in caves were used to crush and mix pigments into paint and apply them to surfaces—meaning we could collect pigments from different places and take them with us. There’s the making of papyrus and other forms of paper to replace heavy stone and clay tablets, making it easy to transport images and words. Advancements in bookbinding all the way through to the printing press all come back to that desire to spread ideas, share information, and collect knowledge. Starting in the late nineteenth century, telephones and telegraphs helped us connect over long distances more immediately. The twentieth century saw the development of computers, television, and the internet, leading to the information revolution we have today, where tiny hand-held devices allow us to share ourselves with the world through pictures, words, and video. Even today, we still rely on symbols and images to express ourselves and communicate with the world around us. Many of our modern symbols share shape and form with those thirty-two signs Von Petzinger documents. Those signs include the asterisk (six-pointed star shape), cruciforms (cross and X shapes), half-circles, straight lines, dots, chevrons, crosshatches, triangles, finger fluting (lines left by fingers in soft surfaces such as clay and mud), zigzags, spirals, quadrangles (four-sided shapes), handprints, ovals, scalariforms (ladderlike shapes), penniforms (feather shapes), circles, cordiforms (heart shapes), and serpentiforms (snakelike, wavy lines). Von Petzinger explores a wide variety of possibilities for how and why these signs were used: to mark territory, to pass along messages, to tell stories, for ritual and magic, for worship and observance, etc. What is most important to Von Petzinger is not pinpointing the exact interpretations of these signs, but rather recognizing that they are “the product of a fully modern mind, one capable of great abstraction and symbolic thought.”2 What matters is not the meaning of the symbols, but the fact that we humans made them—simultaneously marking our place on the evolutionary ladder. Even if we were able to figure out the exact meaning of one collection of symbols from a certain area, it is very likely that the meaning of the signs changed over time and location, varying from group to group. We don’t even have to dig very far back in the historical record to find evidence of these fluctuations. For example, consider the crosshatch shape. I grew up with it being called the pound sign on the touch-tone phone and the number sign in math class. My husband—a musician—would be more inclined to see it as the sharp symbol, denoting a note played a half step higher. Now it’s commonly called a hashtag and is used for tracking social media trends by keywords on the internet. Imagine if I showed a young child the rotary desk phone my grandparents had. They would probably have great difficulty trying to figure it out, wondering how someone could text and tag with that thing! Without a codex or complete historical record, it’s hard to know for sure what many of those early symbols meant to our ancestors, as well as how and why they used them as they did. It’s possible that they carved and painted them on everything (themselves, their clothes, buildings), but we only have what’s been left behind over time to go by thanks to the protective environment of caves. Many of the best examples of cave paintings do not occur in areas that also show evidence of regular human habitation. That information suggests that those caves may have been sacred places, which lends credence to the idea that the art may have had spiritual and magical connotations. How so, you may ask? The stylized images of those enormous round bison and galloping horses could be aligned with what some anthropologists and art historians call “hunting magic.” Hunting magic falls in the realm of sympathetic magick. This is the idea that like affects like, and that the microcosm can bring change in the macrocosm—influencing the whole through the association with or manipulation of the part. So by painting well-fed prey and depicting a successful hunt, our ancestors may have believed that their metaphysical work would bring their desire to fruition. We could interpret the signs surrounding the animals as weapons, animal and hunter tracks, and simulated woundings. But that explains only a small percentage of cave paintings and carvings, as we can find many paintings of animals without those hunting marks and signs. We also find those same symbols in places without depictions of animals—so hunting magic may not be the actual reason they were made. Another possible explanation can be found in David Lewis-Williams’s work on exploring shamanism and cave art. His research suggests that there are seven abstract shapes that are manifested through what is called entoptic phenomena. The word entoptic derives from the Greek words for “within” and “vision,” so entoptic phenomena refers to visual effects whose source is within the eye itself and the brain—meaning not caused by outside visual stimuli. Those seven shapes are dots, half-circles, spirals, zigzags, parallel lines, wavy lines, and grids (or crosshatches)—all designs that are also found in cave art across the world. Maybe the cave artists were drawing shapes they were seeing in trance and dream visions. So perhaps that is another kind of esoteric activity, connecting the making of these shapes with trances and shamanic journeys. Or maybe there’s another explanation, one connected to identity. In my opinion, one of the most powerful symbols found in cave art is the handprint. The handprints were made in two ways: by pressing the hand against the wall and outlining it with pigment, and by painting the hand liberally with pigment and “printing” it onto the wall. Handprints are often seen in layers on top of each other, in a wide range of sizes—cluing us in that they were made by people of all ages and genders. So not just shamans or artists but everyone may have had a hand in making the symbols. I see handprints as one of the simplest ways to make your own unique mark on the world. It says to everyone, “I exist, I was here.” Even today, this meaning is apparent as we teach our children to fingerpaint and to press their hands into clay so they can see the marks left behind. They are taught the transformable nature of their own bodies when we show them how to change the outline of their own hand into other shapes (such as turkeys!). Entoptic Phenomena Cave Art Handprints and the Familiar Turkey Hand We can also see correlations in other, more modern artistic practices that may hint at what our ancestors were up to. The repetition of symbols and patterns found on walls, tools, jewelry, and figurines and in burial sites—when compared to similar designs found in modern systems—suggests ownership markings, landscape exploration/mapping, tribal identification, personal rank or station indication, talismans and protective powers, decorative purposes, mnemonic devices, and storytelling. So let’s look at some more relatively recent examples of symbol systems we do know the meaning of, and use them to see the threads connecting us to our ancestors and each other. Signs, Symbols, and Societies Before we explore some wonderful examples from several symbol systems, let’s take a moment to think about some words. Symbol, sign, sigil, seal, motif, design, and image are usually all found as synonyms. (I’ll be using them throughout the text so that in some places you’re not reading the same word over and over again.) They all connect seeing something visually and assigning it meaning or importance, but there are some nuances worth noting: • A sign represents or points to an idea in a fairly straightforward way. Think road signs, ads, etc. • A symbol is similar to a sign, but it tends to represent something more profound, complex, or abstract than itself, and may have a hidden meaning or truth. • A sigil is a carved, drawn, or painted symbol that is believed to have magical properties or power. • A seal is a mammal that lives by the water. (Just seeing if you were still paying attention!) A seal is a mark that displays authenticity, demonstrates authority, or keeps something safe or secret. • A motif is a recurring and distinctive form or shape that is repeated in a design or pattern. • A design is a thoughtfully organized structure of elements in a work of art. • An image is a physical likeness or otherwise visual representation of a person, place, thing, or idea. I’m introducing these subtleties to you so you can consider them as you view the upcoming illustrations and think about how each culture uses their art. I feel it’s also very important to note that I’m not showing you the following examples from symbol systems to say “These are sigils” or “Make stuff like this culture.” I’m including them in order to demonstrate the similarities in line, mark, shape, and usage between diverse cultures and time frames. You can appreciate the work without appropriating it, and recognize its commonality. If you are interested in any system (either the ones introduced here or others), I thoroughly encourage you to do more research on the cultures surrounding them. Also, if you have roots in a system shown here, I hope you find new inspiration and perspective—maybe a new angle or area to study on your path. Simple Yet Sophisticated, Sacred, and Secular Whether considering symbols in cave paintings, medieval manuscripts, or modern art, it’s vital that we understand that essentially the same brain made them all. Despite the advances in science and technology and the exploration of thought over the passage of time, we are not physically or mentally more advanced in the present day. We are just as prone to superstition today as we are capable of logic. Thinking of our ancestors as less advanced or intelligent is just as farfetched a notion as romanticizing people today who look or live different from ourselves. We may have different experiences and appearances, but we’re all human—and we often turn to symbols for the very same reasons. So even if we can’t determine exactly why cave paintings were made, I think it’s safe to say that the symbols held deep meaning to the people who made them. And those people weren’t that different from us. Why? Because when we find similar symbols elsewhere in the world, still used by living societies, they’re inherently complex and highly sophisticated despite their apparent simplicity. To understand this relationship, we will first look to the art of the Aboriginals—the indigenous people of Australia. According to numerous archaeological discoveries, for at least the last 50,000 years a multitude of diverse tribes have flourished on the continent and surrounding areas. Much of their art and its meanings have managed to survive, despite the effects of the last two hundred years of white colonization. The concept of having certain people specialize in making art is a newer idea to the Aboriginals—art had always been such an intricate part of daily life that all people were involved in the process of making it: baskets, weavings, carvings, body painting, sand drawings, tool making, dancing, etc. These traditions continue to evolve today through modern Aboriginal artists in both traditional and new media. Many of the symbols found in Aboriginal art clearly have a basis as signs relaying important survival information. There are the marks fashioned after animal tracks: a chevron with a center line to represent emu footprints, opposing J shapes for kangaroo prints, and a fringed serpentine line to represent the impression left by the goanna (a large lizard). Other symbols represent the bodies of the animals themselves: groupings of small dots for ants, larger ovals for eggs, thick wavy lines for snakes, and connected rings to represent grubs. Then there are the signs that mark landscape features that are important to survival. Concentric circles and spirals are used to mark the locations of watering holes, and they’re connected by parallel wavy lines if there’s running water between them. Meeting places are also marked with concentric circles, but are surrounded by diagonal lines that point toward the center. There are also the symbols for hunting equipment, based on simplified outlines of spears, shields, and boomerangs. Other symbols are much more stylized, such as an inverted U to symbolize a person, which is then paired with various configurations of vertical lines to represent a man or a woman, as well as their age. For the majority of symbols found in Aboriginal art, their similarities to recognizable tracks, features, and animals—as well as the fact that we’re dealing with a living culture with a long history that still uses these symbols—might lead us to believe that the meanings are pretty straightforward and consistent. Culture is constantly evolving, and Australia is a huge place, with different landscapes and challenges in each area. Some symbols gain new meaning as hunters and gatherers become farmers, doctors, and lawyers—and others lose meaning. It’s also important to recognize that these shapes become the inspiration for patterns of decoration and elements of magick and rituals. Dots may build from the shape of a tiny ant and can signify the presence of ants, but ants can also represent colonies, movement, and small things have a larger impact over time. Concentric circles and spirals can mark the physical location of a watering hole, but they also symbolize the life-giving power of water, the ebb and flow of life, and a place where everyone gathers. The multiplicity of meaning illustrates the importance of not taking everything so literally. We must also remember that although symbols can look similar, they may have different meanings to other people. Collection of Aboriginal Signs and Symbols It’s also important not to fall into the trap of perceiving Aboriginal art (or any of the art we will talk about) as “primitive.” There is nothing primitive or simplistic about abstracting the world around us. Eurocentric anthropologists, archeologists, and historians have done a spectacularly horrid job over the last several centuries of diminishing the work of cultures not found on their continent. While making accurately representational art may seem like it requires a lot of skill, it takes a deeper sense of creativity to see the world in non-representational terms. This deeper vision includes everything from using shapes, colors, and patterns to express spiritual and dreamlike experiences to elongating and exaggerating bodies to express movement and divine presence. Making an accurate representation of something takes careful observation, while creating abstraction requires a significant use of imagination. A great example of abstract use of Aboriginal symbols outside of depicting daily activities and living is when they are used to describe what is known in English as “the Dreaming.” The Dreaming is an idea that encompasses a way to describe all that is known and liminal, the origin and subsequent mythology of the people. It explains life, living, being, and dying, and how everything is interconnected. In his book Images of Power, David Lewis-Williams remarks that art making is integral to Aboriginal religious experience and aesthetics. He writes that the “great theme of Bushman art is the power of animals to sustain and transform human life by affording access to otherwise unattainable spiritual dimensions.” 3 It’s interesting to note that in some instances of exploring the idea of the Dreaming, symbols are meant to be lasting marks, and in other uses they are meant to be temporary. There are signs engraved in stone or painted on canvas to tell important stories, physically signify or mark sacred sites, and describe mythic forces. But those same symbols—such as spirals and wavy lines—can be found painted on bodies, for both decoration and ritual use. There are also large-scale ground paintings created especially for ritual use by the practitioners. Again, commonly utilized basic symbols and images may be used, but it is believed that they become supernaturally enhanced during the ceremony and should be destroyed afterward. But that only happens with those certain ritual processes. The same symbol drawn for another purpose isn’t changed metaphysically and doesn’t need to be destroyed.4 This duality means that although a symbol might be used in the context of sacred ritual, Aboriginal artists use the same symbols in the mundane world as well. They’re not tied exclusively to sacred application because there isn’t such a hard line between the spiritual and the secular. Lewis-Williams explains: “For the Bushman, religion is not a separate part of life to be indulged in only on certain solemn and ritual occasions. It is part of the fabric of everyday existence: no clear line is drawn between sacred and secular. This is one of the reasons why their beliefs about and attitude toward the supernatural are important for a proper understanding of their art.” 5 I think one of the most valuable lessons to take away from Aboriginal art is the accepted fluidity between mundane and spiritual images. A single symbol can exist in both worlds; its meaning and application is inherent to the person making or using it. It is their belief that guides the meaning for that moment or application—and that can be as obvious and concrete or as spirit-driven and mysterious as the maker intends it to be. This relationship between the symbol and the artist is one you’ll want to keep in mind when it’s time to get down to some sigil witchery. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words ... or at Least One One of the primary benefits of symbols and signs is that they simplify complex ideas. A single picture can represent a whole situation and be quickly understood for those who are in the know. Those early symbols on cave walls most likely were not meant to be letters of an alphabet or random scribbles, but rather were probably part of pictographic or ideographic systems. The symbols become signs and messages not just for the people who make them but also for others to see later and respond to. We can look to language to get a glimpse into the connection between symbols, words, meanings, and usage. Over time, pictograms may have evolved into logographic writing systems, where glyphs represent words and sounds rather than the things they resemble. For example, with Egyptian hieroglyphs, you have a line of glyphs that clearly look like an animal or item, but they don’t read as “ibis, man, duck, eye, scarab, staff, staff.” How each glyph is placed—what it is located next to or what it is above or below—alters the meaning. This makes context all the more important to consider. You can’t just pull a single symbol out of a group to grasp its complete meaning; you need to see the whole picture and the interrelations. It’s also fascinating to note that both ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and early Chinese scripts have this structure in common. Especially with Chinese characters, we can observe their long preserved history as they evolved from originally looking like the things they stand for. They became increasingly stylized and streamlined as time progressed, which essentially cut down on the amount of time required to make each character. In the illustration shown here of the evolution of the Chinese character for cart or wagon, note the resemblance to an actual cart on the left, and how it becomes more stylized as it evolves to the right. Evolution of the Chinese Character for Cart or Wagon Very rarely does a single glyph from a logographic script represent a complete idea like a crafted symbol or pictogram does. It’s more like a letter, a sound, part of something much larger. Keep this in mind when crafting sigils. A dot, line, or star gains more complex meaning as it relates to the other shapes and marks placed around it. One way to see this in action is in Egyptian cartouches, which started to appear early in the Fourth Dynasty during the rule of Pharaoh Sneferu. A cartouche is a group of hieroglyphics encased in an elongated shen ring (an oval-like shape with a single flattened end), and originally signified a royal name. Cartouches are found on amulets and are carved as protective seals on tombs. The closed shape of the oval surrounding the hieroglyphics acts as a border of sympathetic magick—it protects the name, therefore it protects the bearer of that name. Nowadays you can get your own name made into a cartouche (even if you’re not considered royalty) to bring you protection and good luck. Egyptian Cartouche If we consider the word hieroglyphic, we also get a hint of divine inspiration. It originates from the Greek hieros (“sacred”) + glyphe (“carving”). Therefore hieroglyphics could be viewed as sacred writing/images. An instance where we might see a connection between hieroglyphics and the sacred power of words is with the Hebrew alphabet. It is considered to be one of the most ancient alphabets and has long been associated with having a sacred context in Jewish culture. The actual history between the Jews and Egypt is a hot topic of debate both in biblical and archaeological circles, but the similarities between the symbols and letters are quite apparent.6 What’s most relevant here though is the use of the Hebrew alphabet for magic—in both an ancient and a modern context. There are many examples of supernatural workings in the Torah (the holy texts of Judaism), but most people are familiar with the stories of King Solomon from the Book of Kings. There are numerous tales of his magical exploits, but the one most relevant here was about his God-given ring that bore a special seal, giving him the power to control djinn (or spirits or demons, depending on the translation). King Solomon’s story also provides inspiration for Jewish mysticism and other magical texts much further down the line that seek power through symbols such as those found in the Kabbalah and the Key of Solomon. The term Kabbalah refers to a branch of Jewish mysticism believed to have emerged in France and southern Spain in the twelfth or thirteenth century. It focuses on “the inner structure and processes taking place within the divine realms, on whose metaphysical dynamics the Kabbalists tried to exert influence.”7 Kabbalistic principles suggest that since the Hebrew language has divine origins, one can take a specific name, note the characters that make up that name, and use mathematical correlations and geometry as a formula to implement magic with that name. It is likely that the work of the Kabbalists influenced the writer/s of the Key of Solomon, a grimoire that surfaced around the fourteenth or fifteenth century during the Italian Renaissance. The Key of Solomon serves as an instructional manual on the magical arts—and there is also the Lesser Key of Solomon, compiled around the seventeenth century with a similar intent. Kabbalistic theories and sacred geometry as well as both Keys can be seen as greatly influencing many traditions of ceremonial magic for the last five hundred years. It’s through those various orders that a number of sigil practices developed, so closely linked with Hebrew magical theories that in many a modern ceremonial magic grimoire you’ll still find sigils with Hebrew characters incorporated into them. But let us not fall down into the ceremonial magic rabbit hole! (There are links in the “Bibliography and Suggestions for Further Research” section if you’d like to study any of these historical documents online.) Let’s circle back to the power of the word, symbol, image—and religion. So in Egypt we have the development of picture-words alongside a rich history of sculpture, murals, and other pictorial arts. Representational images were commonly made both to honor the gods and to record daily life, and the Egyptians have an extensive timeline of pictorial art making. Despite its early connection to hieroglyphics, the Hebrew alphabet distinctly moved away from recognizable images. This stylistic development is likely linked to the second of the Ten Commandments, which prohibits the making of “graven” images and the worshiping of idols. A similar ban is found in Islam against portraying the human form, as it borders on idolatry. Instead, both Jews and Muslims put their mystical artistic energy into the written word, and the power of symbols. In Judaism, there is a rich history of ritual objects (chalices, scroll casings, reading implements) being heavily engraved or carved with symbolic designs based on Hebrew letters to make them pleasing to God—setting them aside as sacred objects. In Islam, we see words combined with sacred geometry to create elaborate designs and motifs that evoke the divine in everything from architecture and vessels to rugs and jewelry. If we look at the Arabic alphabet, it too (like Hebrew) is not designed to remind us of images, yet it is incredibly graceful and beautiful to look at. Whole mosques are covered with sacred words and combined with geometric designs to form patterns, instead of using representational images. Even when religion tries to forbid it, humanity still finds ways to use art to expand consciousness and connect with divinity and the world around us. Embodying Symbols If we move westward from Egypt and the nearby Arabian Peninsula, we will find the Amazigh people, more commonly known as the Berbers, who are indigenous to North Africa. They live throughout the entirety of the region and are believed to have resided there since at least 10,000 BCE. There are numerous cave paintings and rock art in the mountains of Algeria and in the Sahara that were most likely created by the ancestors of today’s Amazigh people. Although the majority of modern-day Amazigh are Sunni Muslim, the practices in some regions point to pre-Islamic religious beliefs rooted in polytheism as well as animism and ancestor veneration. Many of the tribes are or were nomadic, so they have been traders of culture and art for much of their existence. It is possible that through their amazing symbolic art, we can get another peek into history. As with the Aboriginals, art is deeply intrinsic to Amazigh life, with symbols prevalent and powerful throughout the culture. In their book Imazighen: The Vanishing Traditions of Berber Women, Margaret Courtney-Clarke and Geraldine Brooks note, “The Berber languages have been fragmented by time and distance, but the language of symbols remains. Dialects differ, but the symbols that Berbers use in their jewelry, pottery, weavings, and even tattoo into their flesh are the same in the valleys of Algeria’s Kabylia ranges, on the peaks of Morocco’s High Atlas, and in the deserts of Tunisia.” 8 Not just mere decoration, the symbols cover the walls in homes and are woven into tapestries, rugs, and clothing, painted onto pottery, and made into talismanic jewelry—all to protect the people who use them in every aspect of their daily lives. Amazigh people—especially the women—have been applying tattoos to their bodies for thousands of years, long before the rise of Islam. Most commonly seen marking the chin, cheeks, and forehead of the face, tattoos may also be applied to the arms, legs, breasts, back, thighs, and pubic triangle. There is a modern misconception that the tattoos were applied to the faces of women to make them unattractive to invading soldiers in the nineteenth century, but the practice long predates that idea. Al Jazeera writer Yasmin Bendaas reports of the tradition: “The tattoos were considered enhancers of beauty when applied to the face and had therapeutic and healing purposes—particularly related to fertility—when found elsewhere on the body, such as above the ankle or on the back of the hand. For men, traditional tattoos were far less ornamental and served healing purposes.” 9 The tattoos can denote tribe, lineage, and rank, as well as carry symbols of protection, strength, fertility, and luck. Bendaas also notes that “these symbols embody a more general preservation, not only of women, but also of the land. With tattoos containing literal depictions of nature such as partridges, gazelles and camels, ties to the environment are abundant.” Unfortunately, as Islam prohibits the practice of tattooing, this way of women marking themselves has largely fallen out of practice, but it does still exist today. What is especially interesting is that while there are some Amazigh symbols that definitely resemble what they’re supposed to mean, a great many of them are incredibly abstract—to the point where if we were not able to talk to the actual people who make them, we’d be just as much at a loss about their meaning as we are about those early signs in the caves. They also seem very simplistic, with their combinations of dots, triangles, cross marks, and chevrons, yet once again we’re looking at a very sophisticated and artful system. Just because a motif may have its roots in the daily aspects of life—hair combs, lamps, fish, snakes, grains, and insects, for example—doesn’t limit its meaning just to that obvious relation. Birds can symbolize freedom and travel, seeds and plants often speak to fertility and prosperity, and tools such as anchors and sickles are often used for protection. As the Amazigh people cover such a large region, some symbols definitely do vary in style and meaning from tribe to tribe. Another explanation for the differences, as well as the level of abstraction, most likely has to do with how much Islam has been integrated into that tribe. In groups that have been more isolated from modern Islam, the markings are often more recognizable as plants, animals, tools, and heavenly bodies. This kind of art speaks to the polytheistic and animistic roots of the people. The people are not shy about connecting with the sacredness of the land and sky, the plants and animals. The symbols represent and call upon that connection through tattoos, adornment, and household goods. The motifs are believed to carry the blessings and energies of the things they represent. An Array of Amazigh Symbols Amazigh Tattoos In contrast, in cities and areas where Islam is the law, the markings have evolved to become more abstract and seen more as design elements. There is still an undertone of connection, but it has been modified to work within the confines of the new religion. The meaning may still be there, even if the representational image is not. Again, we see the evolution of symbols at work in living cultures, shifting with the modern-day people who apply and evolve those symbols over time. Gateway of the Divine If we travel south out of Morocco and Algeria into Western Sahara, Mali, and Niger, we find ourselves along the trade routes of the Berbers known as the Tuareg. The Tuareg are best known for their blue-colored clothing and incredible metalworking skills, evidenced in their amulets and talismans. It’s possible that out of their desire for more jewelry-making materials they extended their trading further into the heart of Central Africa, the Congo, and even as far east as Ethiopia. The native people of these areas are well known for their own kind of distinctive symbolism and artistry, such as nsibidi, an ideographic script used by the Ekoi, Efik, and Igbo peoples for wall designs, shields, swords, tattoos, and more. Then we have the Kongo people, known for their incredible carved masks and nkisi (sacred) statues to venerate the ancestors, spirits, and guardians of places. When we look at some of the designs and markings found in the iconic Tuareg amulets, there is a sense that the artisans were (and are) likely inspired by the arts of these regions. The jewelry is a mix of Amazigh symbols and artistry with the aesthetic of nsibidi, the designs steeped in an awareness of communion with spirits. However, while the Tuareg may have found inspiration to add to their own designs, we’re going to leave behind the continent of Africa and head to the New World to look at symbols born out of the diaspora: the religious symbols known as veves. The combination of nsibidi and the arts and beliefs of the Kongo people seem to be the exported root of this tradition of powerful mark making born in the harshest conditions. Although the origins of veves are difficult to trace, looking at similarities between veves, nsibidi markings, and spiritual practices of the Kongo, it’s likely they came to the Americas with people who were taken from those regions and sold into the slave trade. Out of the crucible of forced Christianity, families broken and tribes ripped apart, and cruel living conditions, along with the infusion of indigenous practices, the religion of Vodou and the practice of veves emerged. A veve is Vodou symbol dedicated to a lwa (spirit) that is drawn on the floor in a ritual context to bring the spirit physically into the space. It is not a sigil in the context of the way that certain sigils are used in ceremonial magic to command a demon, daemon, djinn, or similar spiritual entity. Rather, the veve is a gateway of manifestation for the lwa, an act of reverence, welcome, and devotion. There is no exact “only” veve design for any given lwa either, but there tends to be a base element or motif associated with that spirit accented with additional markings that vary from house to house. Somewhat similar to the Aboriginal ground paintings used during ritual, the veve that is drawn on the ground is meant to be temporary—it’s often drawn in powder (cornmeal, ash, and other ingredients). Veves may be constructed in other ways (artwork, hangings, flags, etc.) for non-ritual devotional practices. Another thing to consider about the fleeting nature of the drawn veve and its history: if you are forced into a situation where it’s illegal or even punishable by death to practice your religion, but you refuse to submit, it is very advantageous to be able to depict divine entities in a drawing that can be quickly erased at a moment’s notice. That’s the power of symbol and belief. The temporary nature of veves in ritual is also a way to make sure the door to the other world is properly closed as well after everything is done. That way nobody is hanging out in the gateway past the time expected. The nature of the veve and its connection to being a gateway and devotional symbol is vital to understand. It’s more than just a pretty design—it’s a sacred act. It’s important to remember that Vodou is a living, breathing practice, just as the Aboriginals and Amazigh are still creating new art and symbols. Nothing is under a lens or trapped under a pin like a specimen. Veves are not to be copied for the sake of looking cool, but should be understood and respected in the context of symbols and evolving culture. What we can take away from the use of veves is that symbols can be used to communicate with divine forces and crafted in acts of devotion. We can also note the effect, meaning, and power behind creating a temporary mark and a permanent one, as well as use in private and public environments. A Variety of Veves The Timelessness of Tagging On the other side of the spectrum, let’s consider signs and symbols that are generally made in secret yet are meant to buck authority in subtle or blatant ways—ones that are often meant to leave a permanent mark, often to the chagrin of others. This mark-making technique is known as graffiti. Graffiti (singular: graffito) is an Italian word meaning “incised inscription or design,” so it could refer to any kind of carved design or message. However, it has come to be equated more often with anonymous, unauthorized markings—carved, drawn, or painted—made on surfaces. Graffiti is a kind of art that is made in defiance against what is expected or allowed. It is a world-wide phenomenon, the symbolic art of the disenfranchised and the marginalized, those of the counterculture. Tagging (repeating a design, name, or message in multiple places) is a way of marking territory and triggering identity, a way of saying to the world, “Hey, I exist here too, even if you refuse to see me.” It’s commonly seen as vandalism rather than art, since it tends to be done on the places and property of others, though it would be unfair to say graffiti artists revel in desecrating or destroying their neighbors’ property. Most graffiti is found on things that could be considered liminal spaces: on back-alley walls, underpasses, rail cars, and abandoned buildings. It shows up in semi-communal spaces: parks, subway walls, and bathroom doors. Whether in words or images, the graffiti is a message from the maker to the world, aimed at communicating with it at large. What’s especially interesting about graffiti is that a design rarely is done just once. Often a certain symbol or message is repeated again and again, either from constantly being reapplied after its removal and/or from being duplicated in multiple locations. This kind of tagging can mark a specific range of territory for a group, designate a meeting place, or invite a response from others. Members of various secret societies, underground groups, and gangs have all used graffiti to connect with one another as well. Lining up the locations of repetitive markings can sometimes create a larger picture, a constellation, map, or message the artist wants to subtly make known. There’s even a very modern design called the Linking Sigil (aka LS or Ellis) that was designed in the early 2000s for magical practitioners to mark places of power and link them together to stimulate change in the larger society. 10 Photo of Graffiti in Greece Guerrilla graffiti installations are frequently done by artists seeking to make loud social or political statements or to transform the face of buildings in blighted inner cities and war-torn landscapes. They ask the viewer to question their reality, authority, and social standards. The power is in the ability to make a work of graffiti appear overnight, and to accept that it may be destroyed soon after its making, though in many cities across the world, graffiti artists are now being hired to purposely bring their art to the masses in public spaces. Therein lies the question: Is graffiti made with permission still revolutionary? Does being sanctioned take away its power? Or does this new form of sanctioned graffiti become something else—another form of transformational art? It’s certainly an interesting challenge for the graffiti artist to consider. As graffiti is found all over the world and has been made for centuries, it’s another connecting point for the human need to make signs and symbols. It also speaks to the power and thrill of making art that’s unexpected and out-of-bounds, creating hidden messages in plain sight, and making repetitive symbols. Graffiti elicits the power of the subliminal, the subversive, and the bold. These are important things to keep in mind when we discuss crafting sigils: Who are we speaking to? What is our message? Symbol Genesis There are many more symbol systems from around the world (ancient to modern) that I haven’t mentioned here. To cover them all would require a whole book, not just a chapter. Rather, I hope that through the systems we have covered here, you are noticing the commonality of markings, the variety of uses, and the fluent nature of their meanings. Cultures thousands of miles and/or centuries apart can come to create similar-looking symbols with almost identical meanings—or very different ones. It’s imperative to consider the cultural context and application to fully understand the nature and meaning of the marks and signs we see in the world. The challenge I present to you is to deeply consider what meanings you find in symbols, and how to make signs that are your own. [contents] * * * 1. Genevieve Von Petzinger, The First Signs (New York: Atria Books, 2016), 174. 2. Genevieve Von Petzinger, The First Signs (New York: Atria Books, 2016), 268. 3. David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson, Images of Power: Understanding Bushman Rock Art (Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1989), Preface. 4. For a good online resource on Aboriginal art by Aboriginals, I recommend checking out http://aboriginalart.com.au. 5. David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson, Images of Power: Understanding Bushman Rock Art (Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1989), 13. 6. See the fascinating comparison chart at “History of the Hebrew Alphabet,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Hebrew_alphabet. 7. Dr. Agata Paluch, “The Power of Language in Jewish Kabbalah and Magic: How to Do (and Undo) Things with Words,” Feb. 29, 2016, www.bl.uk/hebrew-manuscripts/articles/the-power-of-language-in-jewish-kabbalah#sthash.NrP5zEMk.dpuf. 8. Margaret Courtney-Clarke (photographer), with essays by Geraldine Brooks, Imazighen: The Vanishing Traditions of Berber Women (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 1996), 78. 9. Yasmin Bendaas, “Algeria’s Tattoos: Myths and Truths,” Al Jazeera, August 11, 2013, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features /2013/08/201386134439936719.html. 10. For more about the Linking Sigil, see Assault on Reality, www.dkmu.org. Chapter 2 The Meaning of the Mark Your name is a collection of letters making up the words that identify you: your first name, last name, maybe a middle name or two, or a nickname. It may be the name you were born with, a name you were given, a name you added or changed, or one you took on for yourself. These are the words that others call you by, the doctor’s office or school knows, the government lists you under. But what is the symbol for those words, the one that identifies you? It’s one you have already created and crafted over time since you first held a pencil: your signature. From the time I started working in retail in my early teens to now when I ring up sales at art shows on my tablet, I have noticed that the majority of people’s signatures are some sort of scribble. The words and their individual letters are often nearly indecipherable. People are more likely to leave a loose swirl or similar grouping of lines, making shapes instead of recognizable letters, to the point where the signature becomes more an idea of the name—of you—than a word. The power of this symbol to the world is that you are acknowledging a transaction or change of some sort when you apply it. The meaning of your signature is your acceptance, approval, or endorsement of an idea. That’s the meaning found in that mark. Your signature also signifies that you know how to wield a pen or stylus or use your finger to draw symbols. If you can develop and draw your own signature, you can create and make sigils! In this chapter we’re going to explore how we can relate words with symbols and then create our own system of marks instilled with our own meaning. The Symbolism That Lives in Lines A single symbol can have so many meanings—which can change and evolve over time and differ from culture to culture. If we consider the theory that humanity all started in one place, it’s possible that we created a set of signs and symbols there first. Then, as we migrated and moved outward into the world, it’s only natural that those markings would evolve over time. As our ancestors encountered new landscapes, climates, and animals, the symbol vocabulary grew and changed. It’s also wise to keep in mind that information passes and changes from generation to generation for a multitude of reasons. Those differences affect how each culture sees and interprets the world. Some symbols fall out of use and become forgotten, current ones get altered to suit one’s needs, and new marks are created. It’s important to keep all of this evolving history in mind when looking at what elements you are going to use in making your sigils. I’m going to introduce you to many of the marks and shapes I use in creating my sigils, and you’re probably going to find many of them familiar. Some of them you may have never considered as having meaning, and others you may find you have your own interpretations for, different from my own. There are also most certainly other shapes and symbols I haven’t listed here that you may feel inclined to use in your sigils. My job here is twofold: to expose you to new ways of looking at dots, lines, marks, and symbols and to help you think about what is important and meaningful for you. For each mark or shape, I’ve left room for you to make notes. Feel free to write down your gut reaction to each item as we go over it. We’re going to start by looking at the most basic of marks and shapes. Then we’ll consider some more complex signs, established symbols, letters, and other pictorial systems for your vocabulary. Next we’ll explore how numbers as well as colors come into play when designing sigils. You can make increasingly complex sigils or opt for the simplest possible design. What matters most is answering this question: What works best for you? Basic Shapes and Signs We’re going to start with the most simple of marks and shapes and build our way up to more complex signs. For each element I have included a name, an illustration, and a suggestion of its meaning, as well as possible applications for it, depending on context and composition. Remember, there’s a lot of power and meaning to be found in the most basic of marks, so don’t rush through or overlook them to get to the more complicated ones. There are many more symbols that you can use than I have listed here—these are the ones that I find are the most common and universal in usage. I’ve provided a list of excellent books in the “Bibliography and Suggestions for Further Research” section if you wish to pursue a deeper exploration of symbols. Point (Closed Dot): This is such a simple mark, yet it can hold so much meaning. The point, or closed dot, literally is the beginning of all marks we make. It can be a monad, a seed, a center mark, or an atom—the representation of energy itself. It can be a point of origin, where everything starts, or a point of destination, where something ends. It can represent a stop along the way, a place of rest—consider what the period means at the end of a sentence. It can be grouped with other dots to signify a number, mark a constellation, show a lightly defined trail, or create the feeling of an aura of energy. Open Dot: Not much bigger in size than the closed dot, the open dot is a tiny empty circle. It can be seen as a point to be achieved, a seed, the smallest possible container, the nucleus of a cell or atom. This symbol talks of possibilities, options to be defined, and choices to be made. Circle: Larger than the open dot is the circle. Most simply, a circle is a container and can symbolize protection—creating sacred space within it—or it can be a holder to prevent something from getting out. It can represent wholeness, completion, sacredness, purity, or potential. It may also be a sphere, standing in for the sun or the full phase of the moon. It can also represent divinity, as in deity or spirit, or the source of knowledge and commands, referencing the brain or nucleus. Circle variations: with a chevron to represent ouroboros, or with a line across it to indicate “prohibited” or “stop.” Horizontal Line: The horizontal line, traveling east-west, can represent the ground, the baseline, the foundation, or the horizon. It can also be the middle divide—marking the difference between above and below, acting as a border. It can delineate a step or a hurdle to overcome. As a short line, it can be the concept of minus (to subtract or remove). Two short parallel horizontal lines can show the sign for equal or mark equality. Extended parallel lines can represent a canal, channel, chute, or road. Vertical Line: The vertical line travels north-south, connecting above and below or heaven and earth, or forming a border between left and right spaces. It can represent a phallus (erect or at rest), a tree, a tower, or an elevator. Grouped together, vertical lines can symbolize walls, pillars, or tally marks (especially when crossed with a diagonal line). Dotted or Dashed Line: A dotted line (a line made up of separated dots) tends to have a more fanciful feeling to it—the path of an animal going about its business, like a bee buzzing from flower to flower, a squirrel collecting nuts, or a child at play. A dashed line (a line made up of minus symbols) tends to have more of a sense of intentional focus or a planned trajectory. Think of the marked lines on a highway or road. The spaces and patterns indicate when it’s safe to pass, turn, or leave your lane. Either type of line can be used to connect points or indicate a sense of movement. Diagonal Line: The diagonal line is dynamic, depicting moving energy in an increasing or decreasing fashion. It can also be the path of something rising or falling. The severity of the angle will affect the sense of how quickly or slowly something is moving. The diagonal line can speak to challenges to overcome, or sliding downward smoothly. Cross: The cross is a perpendicular intersection of a horizontal and a vertical line. Most simply, it is a meeting place or crossroads, where two different ideas interact. In terms of math, a small cross is a plus sign (addition). In science, it is the symbol for a proton or positive ion, marking energy. If all of the “arms” of the cross are equal, it represents balance. Chevron: A chevron is a V-shaped mark. Chevrons are most commonly recognized as the “greater than” and “less than” symbols when pointing east or west—and as “up” and “down” buttons when pointing north or south, as well as a mountain or valley. Because they feature a convergence of lines, they can be used for capturing or dispelling energy. Another way to think of chevrons is that they are “open mouths,” like an alligator opening its jaws wide to consume something. They combine with other shapes to make many influential symbols such as triangles, stars, and arrows. The chevron is also the Roman numeral for five (see the “Numbers” section later in this chapter). X: Similar to the cross, the X is an intersection of diagonal lines, which makes for more dynamic/active energy. In maps and myth, X often marks the spot. In basic math, the x can be a symbol for multiplication, while in algebra it’s often the variable or unknown value in the equation we’re trying to solve. X is also used to mark a place for a signature, or to take the place of one. In a similar vein, X (now more commonly seen as XOXO) has been used to signify a kiss—as in love, or a declaration of truth or loyalty. Yet it can also mark something that is forbidden or prohibited, as well as a hazard—think of the stereotypical moonshine jug with three Xs inscribed on it. It is also the Roman numeral for ten (see the “Numbers” section later in this chapter). Arrow: Most simply, an arrow is a line with a chevron at one end. The other end could be unmarked (for continuous energy), end in a point (origin mark) or a parallel chevron (emphasizing the direction of the first chevron), or meet a perpendicular line at its base (foundation). An arrow can also have opposing chevrons at each endpoint facing outward, depicting energy shooting in two directions or a choice of directions. When the chevrons point inward toward the line, the arrow becomes rooted. When the arrow is vertical and paired with two inward-facing chevrons, it can depict a tree, with the branches reaching upward and the roots going down into the ground. But when this same arrow is positioned horizontally or diagonally, it becomes evocative of a snake tongue, testing the air around itself. Wavy Line: The wavy line gives a feeling of flowing movement. When positioned horizontally, it can represent water (streams, rivers, waves), fluidity, rolling hills, flexibility, snakes or snakelike motion (especially with an inward-pointing chevron head), and vibrations. When in the vertical position, it can symbolize rays of light, divinity, serenity, and vines (growth). The wavy line can also be a thread, as in weaving, sewing, or a spider web. The overall sense of a wavy line is change and transformation. Zigzag Line: The zigzag line is similar to the wavy line, but its sharp convening lines create a different, more dynamic energy flow—like static versus a hum. It essentially is made up of laterally connected chevrons, giving a feeling of opposition. It can represent snake energy, rays of light, divine touch, and especially lightning. Zigzags also depict rocky or rough terrain, such as a mountain range or a choppy ocean—indicating a dangerous area to overcome. Triangle: The triangle is a closed chevron or, most simply, a contained shape made up of three angles. It can be equal on all sides or be uneven. Most commonly we associate the triangle with the pyramid or mountain, representing a pinnacle or sense of enlightenment and wisdom. The triangle can also represent a tooth or thorn. The longer two of its sides are (even or not), the more the triangle becomes like a dagger, spike, or spearhead. All of these sharp, pointy things give a sense of warning or danger, of being fierce, armed, powerful, or highly protected. The triangle can also be like a sail or an arrowhead, giving a sense of direction or guidance. Square: The square is two sets of parallel lines overlapping to form an equal-sided box. The square can be a container of holding or can refer to setting aside a specific territory or area to be protected. It can set boundaries from outside influences or bind what’s inside of it. The box can be a brick or building block, to signify structure and foundation. Or it could contain mystery or hold secrets, like Pandora’s box. Rectangle: The rectangle has similar properties to the square, its main variation being that its two sets of sides are not equal—one set will be longer. If the two horizontal lines are longer, it could represent a coffin (death or regeneration), a bed (rest, sleep, hidden potential for growth), or money (like a bill). If the vertical lines are longer, it can be a building or tower, a document or contract, a book, or a doorway. Diamond: The diamond is typically a square set on one of its points instead of resting on its side, or two matching chevrons (or triangles) merged butt to butt. The rotation immediately makes the shape more dynamic and hints at a hidden crossroads at the center of it. The diamond can represent prestige, a goal, a shield, or a financial focus. It can be interpreted as yonic in nature, signify the womb, or represent an entire female form. It can also be a source of light or refraction of light, to magnify the power of something else. Crescent: A crescent is essentially a half-circle, whether you make a closed form or draw one with a single curved line. Crescents are most commonly associated with lunar energy, especially the waxing and waning phases of the moon. They can also represent divine energy (a god or goddess). A crescent’s meaning can change depending on which direction it’s facing: Waxing Crescent: Faces west or left: increasing energy, building up, growing, youth, beginnings Waning Crescent: Faces east or right: decreasing energy, vanishing, departing, age, cutting (sickle), endings Upward-Facing Crescent: Facing north: a basket for collecting energy, horns or antlers, a crown, luck (as in an upright horseshoe) Downward-Facing Crescent: Faces south: draining away, overreaching, or guarding, or a balance of energy when paired with the upward-facing crescent Spiral: Everyone loves a spiral! It’s the shape of life and how things grow—from DNA’s helix, to fern fiddleheads and snail shells, to hurricanes and the whorls of galaxies. It’s important to note that you can draw a spiral from the outside moving to the center or from a center point moving outward. The spiral symbolizes inspiration and the mythic journey—moving toward the center as well as going away from it, as with labyrinths and mazes. The tail of the spiral can be made to face any direction, which may influence how it flows in your sigil, and can be capped with a chevron—pointing out to direct the energy out of the spiral, or pointing in to pull the energy inward. We can see the modified spiral as energetically slow, like a snail, or fast, like a coiled snake about to spring. Spirals can be used to extend the energy of another symbol as well. Pentagon: The regular pentagon is a five-sided closed shape with equal sides and interior angles of 108 degrees each. It can be seen as a symbol of power and protection, reminiscent of a shield and a defensive strategy. It is also commonly found in nature—in fruit, flowers, and sea life. An easy way to draw a pentagon is to draw a five-pointed star (see “Pentagram”) and connect the points along the outside of the star. Hexagon: A regular hexagon is a six-sided closed shape with equal sides. Like the spiral and pentagon, it can be found in nature, most notably in the honeycomb of a beehive. The hexagon can represent a tribe, unity, or being part of a group or collective, as well as sweetness (honey), a place to store or hold something, and being industrious. Other Polygons: I’ve included these here in case you’re wondering about irregular pentagons, hexagons, or any other shape with a number prefix in its name followed by “gon.” A polygon is essentially a plane figure with a minimum of three straight sides and angles, and generally has five or more. All of the sides and angles do not have to be equal, and you can have as many sides as you’d like. They can be convex or concave. It’s actually very easy to build a polygon inadvertently while crafting a sigil, after layering shapes and lines on top of each other. It could be a happy accident (something that works out well without planning), or you could deliberately build a certain style or number of polygons because of an association with that shape or number. (See the “Numbers” section later in this chapter for suggestions of meanings to consider.) Star: There are a variety of articulated star shapes you can use in sigils. They all collectively have celestial symbolism, being points of light, balls of energy, something to be guided by—which also brings in the concepts of divinity and sovereignty. All stars made by intersecting lines speak of connecting and interconnectivity, making them excellent symbols of protection and blessing. (See tips on how to draw stars in Chapter 4: Design Guidance.) Pentagram The five-pointed star is one of my favorites to use in sigils. The five points can represent the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) or the human body (legs, arms, and head). The upright pentagram is an ascending star, while the inverted pentagram is a descending star. When a pentagram alludes to the human body, there are conflicting opinions on which is “masculine” and which is “feminine.” I’ve heard the ascending star called masculine, because the top is pointed, like an erect phallus, which makes the descending star feminine because of the valley. But if you’re looking at it like a human being, the top point is the head of the body, making it female. And well, inversely, the descending star may have a large phallus hanging down, but it lacks a head then. So it is really best not to get hung up on equipment—because it’s a star. I don’t see either direction as negative or positive in terms of good or evil; they’re simply kinds of energy. An ascending star can signify heavenly direction, birth, and creating energy. Inversely, the descending star can represent energy moving to the underworld, death, and rebirth. You can also draw them pointing left/east or right/west if you wish to push energy in that direction. Hexagram Most commonly recognized as the Star of David in the Jewish faith (though it does show up in other cultures), the hexagram is formed by two overlapping equilateral triangles—or a hexagon adorned with a smaller triangle pointing out from each of its sides. Whereas the pentagram has a “head” that directs it, the hexagram points equally in all directions. It is the perfect union of above and below, or left and right, depending on how you draw it. It has a feeling of all gender/non-binary structure to it. Septagram As its name implies, this star has seven points and is found in many diverse traditions that hold the number seven to be sacred, from Faery paths, alchemy, and Thelema to Christianity and Native American beliefs. It embodies magical power, wards off evil, and can symbolize the seven days of the week, creation, etc. Asterisk The asterisk (*) can vary in the number of points it has, depending on the font and cultural reference. The most common asterisk is the six-pointed one, formed by three intersecting lines (one vertical line, plus two diagonals that form an X), and the more densely compact eight-pointed one, formed by four intersecting lines (a perpendicular set, and an X set of diagonals). In theory, you could crisscross as many lines as you’d like; the overall effect will depend on the physical size of the star. Because they are not closed shapes like the other stars, asterisks are the most energetic, bursting outward, adding a sense of sparkle to a design. In language, they call attention to additional details and information and they hide words and letters (such as passwords and expletives). In this context, they symbolize secrets, privacy, and hidden knowledge waiting to be discovered. Heart: In terms of the body, the heart is the organ through which everything gets filtered, the core of our being. We associate it with love, romance, passion, loyalty, devotion, compassion, and joy. A whole heart is a happy or content heart, whereas a heart that is bisected may be divided, broken, or reforming. An inverted heart can symbolize sadness, but it can also call for introspection, grounding, thoughtfulness, and deeper consideration as it becomes spade-shaped, for digging deep. Two spirals entwined at the bottom and circling toward each other to form an open heart signify partnership and developing relationships, as well as opposites coming together in harmony and balance. Two hearts mirrored at the tip signify the joining of two individuals as one, with a sense of infinite energy circulating between them. Three hearts joined together at the base form a club, representing creativity, responsive action, or a triad of lovers. Four hearts similarly joined give us the shape of the shamrock, a common symbol for good luck and prosperity. Vesica Piscis or Mandorla: The double-pointed oval, or almond shape, is the basis for several meaningful symbols. Most simply, it is an egg, seed, or nut (mandorla is Italian for almond). In many religious paintings, a mandorla frames the figure of a saint, spirit, or god like a halo, signifying their divine essence. In terms of the body, it is the yoni, invoking the vulva/female genitalia, and hence is the gateway to and from the vagina, uterus, ovaries, etc. The mandorla symbolizes entrance into this world, as well as feminine sexuality. Referencing the vesica piscis, we get a fish shape if we add a little triangle pointing into one of the oval’s points, making a tail. The fish is often associated with Christianity, but in other cultures it represents fertility, fluidity, and the element of water. Eye: Often found building upon the mandorla shape or sometimes a larger circle with concentric circles, the eye is a powerful symbol. Most obviously, the eye represents physical sight, but it can also represent psychic insight, spiritual wisdom, and intuition (the “third eye” or the Eye of Horus). In the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, eyes are still painted on the prows of ships to bring added guidance and protection. Also throughout this region we find eye charms used to ward off the “evil eye”—a concept based on the belief that someone’s jealous gaze can harm your luck, prosperity, or fertility, even if it isn’t intentional. The eye charm then repels or reflects that gaze, protecting and blessing you. It literally is keeping an eye out for you, watching over you. (There are numerous charms used for this purpose, and a lot of fantastic lore, but the eye tends to be the most recognizable one.) Infinity and Hourglass: The figure eight, whether vertical or horizontal, is the symbol for infinity—an endless, fluid looping of energy. It’s an ideal symbol to use when you need to represent both stability and movement. If you flatten the rounded ends of the vertical eight, it becomes an hourglass. Therefore it is a symbol of time, limits, restrictions, rules, guidelines, and learning to balance. Wheels and Shields: When you overlap an X, perpendicular lines, or an asterisk with an open circle, you get wheels or shields. A separation of four parts can represent earth, air, fire, and water (the quadrants) bound by spirit (the circle). The X in the circle can feel like a target to draw or repel energy, depending on what else is around it (hence a shield). Creating six or eight “spokes” in the center of a circle makes a wheel for movement and change, or a cosmic pizza. (Think about it: sometimes a sigil is all about getting a slice of the pie.) Wings: The reason for adding wings to any shape is pretty self-explanatory: it adds a sense of flight, swiftness, elevation, lightness, and motion. Wings give the impression that whatever they surround will take off at any moment—and that an idea can soar or rise above. They can also symbolize “in memory of” in the sense of angel wings. Also, birds in many myths hold on to memories (especially ravens), keep or share wisdom (owls), or pass along gossip and news (songbirds). Key and Keyhole: Keys have a rich symbolic history. They can open doors or lock them to keep others out. They can grant access to another realm, and represent wisdom, maturity, success, and power. In terms of property, they allow access and bestow ownership. Inherently related to the key is the keyhole, the access point for the key. It is a place that is locked and protected, or represents the potential for something to be unlocked and revealed. Looking through it, we may get a peek into another world. The pair can take on sexual connotations, most commonly with the key as the tab and the keyhole as the slot. Scales: Scales are for weighing and finding balance, to determine the value, worth, or price of something. They also symbolize justice and a call to order. Think of the statue of blind Justice holding her scales, or the scene from the Egyptian Book of the Dead where the deceased’s heart is weighed against a feather to see if the individual was a good person in life. Anchor: The anchor of a boat functions to hold the vessel in place, to prevent it from drifting or getting caught up in the current and becoming lost. Therefore its inherent symbolism is of safety, security, stability, hope, and safe harbor. An anchor can also weigh or slow something down. Butterfly: The butterfly most commonly represents transformation, due to its metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to its beautiful adult state. This winged insect can also signify happiness, lightheartedness, and whimsy. In chaos theory there is a concept known as the butterfly effect—the idea that one small, seemingly insignificant action can cause a large-scale chain reaction. Hand: Going all the way back to our cave-painting ancestors, the hand finds significance in every culture. We’ve long recognized its usefulness and ability to transfer power. When I incorporate a hand into a sigil, it’s most often the stylized symbol known as the hamsa, khamsa, or Hand of Fatima (or Mary). This is an open palm shape with the fingers together, and it protects, guides, blesses, and brings luck, happiness, and health. Other favorite hand shapes include the mano cornuto (sign of the horns) and the mano figa (fig hand), both of which ward off the evil eye but are more difficult to draw for a sigil. It’s best to keep sigils simple and linear. Spoon: While there are certainly classic associations for the spoon, I’m more interested in this one as an important modern symbol for our current society. The spoon theory is a metaphor that explains how someone living with a disability or chronic illness (often “invisible” since their illness may not be visibly apparent) has a limited amount of energy available for the regular activities of daily living and other tasks. Every activity requires a certain amount of “spoons.” Someone with one of these conditions who runs out of spoons must rest and recharge until their spoons are replenished. Therefore, the spoon can be a very important part of a sigil for someone fighting a chronic illness. Elements Sometimes you will want to represent an element or elements in your sigil. Two good options are pictographs and alchemical symbols. The pictograph version is the most intuitive, connecting each element with a shape or symbol that you probably already associate it with. Here are some pictograph examples: Earth: leaf or flower Air: feather or clouds Fire: flame Water: droplets or waves The alchemical versions take a little more getting used to—all of the elements are represented by upright or inverted triangles, with or without horizontal lines in them. I have included here the traditional set of symbols (earth, water, air, fire) as well as a modified version I came across in recent years. The modified version is almost identical to the traditional one, with the exception of earth and water being switched. I prefer it because it makes a little more sense to me. Why? Well, it feels to me that air and water, with their horizontal lines, show their capacity to fill spaces in fluid ways. Fire is all-consuming, and earth is typically solid, so their lack of lines reflects their absolute nature. Directions You may find it useful to reference the cardinal directions in your sigils. One option is to use a compass rose as a symbol for finding purpose or placement. Or you could choose to focus on a specific direction in regard to physical movement. Another way of considering direction is not in terms of using a letter to mark a direction (N, S, E, W) but rather how you place other marks in your sigil to represent direction-based correspondences. Do you need something to move to the east or stop in the west? Then use a symbol (like an arrow or an X) in that corresponding location on your sigil to aid your work. Here is a handy list of meanings we use in the Modern Tradition: North: earth, but also sky, upward motion, taking root for future potential growth East: air, right, moving toward the future, new direction South: fire, passion, returning to the ground/basics, renewal, sensual, sexual West: water, fluidity, to the past or coming from it, memory, dream, cleansing, immersion Numbers There are several ways you can incorporate numbers into your sigils. I’ve listed meanings for the most commonly used numbers (0–12) as well as 13, 21, and 42. If there is a certain number I haven’t listed that is meaningful for you—a birthday, an age, etc.—then by all means use it. One way is to incorporate the number itself as a symbol, using either the standard form of the number or the Roman numeral (or any way you prefer to draw numbers). Or you can use shapes repeated in a motif to represent a number, such as five dots, a single star, or ten lines. Also, don’t feel like you have to draw forty-two marks on a line. You can have seven six-pointed stars instead. Zero (0): pure, potential, clean, possibility, void, empty One (1, I): beginning, solidarity, single, prime, goal, self Two (2, II): duality, pairings, balance, compassion, equality, exchange Three (3, III): trinity, divine, trident, giving, blessing, past/present/future, fate Four (4, IV): balance, quarters, grounding, foundation, seeking roots, home Five (5, V): cycles, blessing, protection, family, guidance Six (6, VI): journey, movement, memory, passion, love, luck, 3 + 3 Seven (7, VII): activation, action, sacredness, force, mystery, dreams Eight (8, VIII): achievement, infinity, strength, wisdom, success, wealth Nine (9, IX): doorway to completion, reflection, introspection, 3 × 3 and 3 + 3 + 3 Ten (10, X): completion of a cycle, wheel, wholeness Eleven (11, XI): balance, twins, justice, combined strength Twelve (12, XII): preparation, waiting, introspection, a year, sets, tribes/tribal Thir