Sigils: magic seals
The origins of sigils are lost in the mists of time if we dare to identify even the marks our prehistoric ancestors carved on stone as sigils. However, it is more logical to identify it from the creation of writing, and therefore, the conscious manifestation of a concept through the abstraction that it supposes. Because, by definition, that is a sigil or stealth: an abstraction of a physical concept or not, the abstract manifestation of a desire or intention. Sigil seems to have its etymological origin in sigillum, lat. seal., which is not surprising because it is the mark of someone's imprint. It was also identified with seghullah, in Hebrew, which means "spiritual remedy or divine possession" and they were identified as amulets to attract luck.
In the magical field, the sigil or sigil used to be the mark that indicated, invoked or manifested a magical, superior, divine or demonic power. These seals were characterized by astrological issues or divine writing, hieroglyphics, commonly reserved for those who were close to those powers, whether they were priests or sorcerers. The difficult thing is to establish the characteristics of what a sigil is and what is only a magical symbol when we do not know the proper meanings of the images that we find, for example, in magical papyri and for which we have no previous models.
The expansion of the use of sigils as we know them today comes from the knowledge and fusion of Hebrew esotericism. The very absence of vowels and the possibilities of interpretation and reinterpretation of their sacred writings become a perfect mechanism to justify the expression of the will in an encrypted way. For this reason, the first sigils that meet the general image that we have of them occur when astrological and cabalistic symbols merge as signatures of demonic and angelic entities, more apt for invocation and manipulation than respectable or secret divinities, as was the case with the Egyptian or Mithraist view.
When it comes to making the sigils, the support is indifferent, although the expression in writing is what gives value to the seal. The common is paper, wood or metal charms. The stone does not seem to have been a good support, perhaps because the complexity of the symbols is not adequate for the hardness of the material. It is instructed to perform it before or during the ritual, but it is also common to pronounce it repeatedly. To some, the nonsense words seen in spells such as those found in the Greek magical papyri might be not only complications of spells for the uninitiated, but also the spoken sigil result of word combinations.
But not everything is so incomprehensible. From the 6th century and throughout the Middle Ages, on the one hand, the need to hide ancient sigils under known forms that do not betray magical practice arises, and on the other, the creation of new seals adapted to the practices of the era.
In the first case, the astrological symbols gain strength for their defense through astronomy and astrology, sister sciences, which allowed the survival of the second, while the Judaic symbols gradually fell out of favour, except in practical cases. where angels and demons had to have their names written also in the "original" Hebrew language. In the specific case of the Iberian Peninsula, the Arab presence produces a hodgepodge between the three that fills the magical landscape with multiple new spellings to use, given that they also had their own angelic and demonic mythology. The astrological question in turn enhances the identification of the stars and planets not only with divine entities, but also with the deities themselves and pagan myths, from which they inherit the names. The use of Greek and Latin joins the sigils as visible and understandable titles - normally mentioning the Judeo-Christian god in its multiple meanings as a safeguard - while the other languages, the various ancient or new symbols, remain for the esoteric value itself , preserving the previous secrecy or initiation that characterize magic.
In the Modern Age, medieval sigils are an object of admiration but also of modification. Under the pretext of being based on them, and following the own works of scholars who claim to have discovered the exact number of infernal demons or the formula by which God names his angels, they collect in numerous grimoires, some based on previous grimoires and others totally new affirming an ancient origin to give themselves prestige, all the sigils necessary for the rituals they contain: pentagrams, Solomonic seals, angelic sigils... some of which no longer have that hidden value, but have been created from scratch by new procedures (as will be seen below) that are considered equally valid, and that may even have open and recognized uses. Let us not forget that in the time of Paracelsus (S. XV) the astrological properties of healing remedies were still attended to and some diseases were treated with gold medals full of sigils as an important part of the treatment.
In this way, we will find strange and incongruous symbols at first glance, along with others more obvious and less careful, such as heart-shaped strokes for invocations to Venus in love spells, suns for the illumination of the mind, ties for spells of bonding, or unmistakable drawings of the reproductive organs in spells that pretend fertility or directly sexual favors, in the name of an angel whose name coincidentally is Anael.
It deserves a wake up call the issue of sigils external to Western magic, usual that they are not such but are equated, as is the runic issue. Many have wanted to see here, perhaps influenced by the ideas of their magical symbols, Nordic sigils, but this is not quite correct. Runes, even bound runes, are amulets in themselves, for each letter is also a word, and each word a means of invoking particular forces or gods, as well as an oracular message. Sigils can be created with runes, as long as a practitioner performs them as part of their ritual and focuses a purpose on them. But the concept of sigil, in its elaborate transformation, does not fit too much into the original runic ideology, except in specific cases such as the magical symbols of Iceland. Something similar occurs with the performance, development and contemplation of oriental mandalas, which, despite their more spiritual content and function, have also been compared to sigils, although in this case they have in common their physical expression and recitation. of mantras.
As for the mudras, sacred gestures of Indian origin and spread throughout Asia, although their very name seems to indicate "seal", their anthropological approach is a difficult obstacle to overcome in order to try to apply their meditative, healing and spiritual uses to a magical ritual like the ones we are used to. However, hand sigils also exist in Western magic, where each finger or even each joint evokes a number, letter, element, or astrological sign, and the position of the hands completes the meaning.
Peter J. Carroll's so-called Chaos Magic and Aleister Crowley's Occultism, along with neopaganism, revived the use of sigils among magic practitioners at the same time that sigilization processes became popular as a result of the manifestations of Austin Osman Spare (1888 - 1956) in his different books.
Osman Spare was an artist by definition and by dedication, and the idea of the pictorial embodiment of a higher knowledge, inspired or product of concentration, automatic or intentional, as well as defined by trances, greatly influenced the development of art-making techniques. sigils and even the modification of existing sigils. Creative freedom is part of the ideology of Chaos Magic, which defined itself by this model, which the author taught in his Zos Kía cult, which he founded after having participated in the OTO and the Golden Dawn with Crowley. While the most orthodox groups encourage the use of existing sigils and deny the possibility of creating new magical seals, the truth is that heterodoxy reigns in these places and they have been compiled or invented - sometimes it is difficult to know - in very different ways. of making sigils for use inside or outside of a ritual.
First of all, modern sigils are as a whole a method of encryption. One of the methods of creating sigils consists of the simple representation of what we want to obtain.Trace eyes in the air or on a support to clearly see a situation, hearts to fall in love with, a house to protect the family, the object of our desire.... Very much in the manner of the grimoires of the Modern Age that we saw earlier. The variant that complicates this act entails the distortion of the drawn element until it cannot remind us of it. In this way its meaning only makes sense to the creator and only he/she can focus on the specific desire.
These two resources are pictorial, the following are written. One of them, based on the Kabbalah and the Arab magic squares, consists of the distribution of the letters of the alphabet in astrological squares or kameas, which assign a number to each spelling within the distribution in boxes of the square, one number per box. . The desired word is taken and the route made by the letters according to their corresponding number is traced, indicating with some special sign (a circle or a straight line, a cross, etc.) the beginning and the end of the word. In the astrological set, this is obviously one of the most widely used and accredited systems.
This mechanism is also carried out with the so-called "roses", with one or several letters distributed by the petals, through which the line moves in straight lines. Another variant of the rose is the ideogram of the twenty-six-pointed star, in each of which a letter of the alphabet is placed, usually following a numerical pattern or the path of the strokes, usually counterclockwise.
A similar one with a Hebrew base is called Gagal, a circle that has Hebrew letters around it and that allows the recreation of a sigil signature within the limits of the circle. The other techniques of Hebrew sigilization entail some kabbalistic knowledge that would well deserve another article.
There are also procedures known as "mantras", although their name is far from the word it refers to. In this case, a clear and concise purpose is formulated, and all repeated letters are removed, leaving an incomprehensible message. That message is divided into new words, even the letters can be messed up. These letters are fused together until a magical seal is obtained whose name, once again, only the creator will know. In addition, he/she also gets "magic words" to recite while he executes it.
Of course, there are variants that carry out these same procedures with Greek, Hebrew or language letters of your choice, as well as those that place the alphabets in magic squares that count by tens from the eleventh letter. In addition, sigils created from the replacement of an arcane alphabet or from the fusion of a code of symbols assigned to each letter or number are common. Other people opt for automatic or even blind writing, letting themselves be carried away by the unconscious and taking the resulting form as the appropriate sigil for that situation. There is also no closed use of the sigil. Within the ritual, there are those who surround the magic circle with them, others who inscribe them inside. There are those who draw it and keep it in front, fixed, to concentrate on its lines and enhance their desires, to destroy it after the rite or when it is fulfilled, while others choose to hide them or leave them less visible after concentrating their energy on them or ritualizing them. and let the sigil expand its power (for example, a healing sigil under the bed, or a protection sigil on a door frame)
Within this creative freedom, it is worth mentioning that Osman Spare focused a lot on emotional intensity, which he considered the most powerful means of projecting desires in a sigil. For him, at the very moment of formulating a wish, the human being has in mind multiple possibilities and probabilities that include its denial. Hence the need to alter letterforms or symbols until they become unrecognizable. Furthermore, this is more easily achieved if the body is in an ecstasy, of any kind (sexual, painful, emotional...). For this reason, he proposed among his ritual methods the retention and release of orgasms, the so-called "death postures", so uncomfortable that enduring them for a few minutes shows a strong will and whose end supposes a release (although he recommended performing them daily as "training spiritual") or seize moments of euphoria or fainting.
However, their own creative freedom has produced that, although these guidelines are beaden in mind each magician or practitioner can perform sigils without any judgment, neither internal nor external, and that they have become the most hidden but most used tool between all kinds of groups of current magic.
Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada - firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
- Greek Magical Papyri (I)
- Occultism and Esoterism: differences and rituals