You’ve tried your hand at sigils, haven’t you, you sloppy bastard? It didn’t turn out that well, huh? No surprise, you post-modernist, chaos-loving idiot, you. Now straighten yourself, because we’re about to learn some proper fucking grammar.
I adore the Chaos Magick movement. I truly do. It introduced me to concepts beyond my imagination, I devoured all kinds of weird stuff from Liber Null to Grant Morrison’s ramblings about sigil magic. And I found myself doing exactly what they preached. And it opened roads to deeper traditions. I mean, the occult is and endless pit of delightful weirdness, right?
So, in a way I should be thankful for the Chaos Magick movement for allowing me to step into the occult without breaking a sweat. But the movement also made me realize that there’s something fundamentally wrong about going into the occult without discipline. Most Chaotes like to suggest that you should „do whatever the fuck”, paraphrasing Crowley (as it turns out, getting it somewhat wrong). Doing whatever the fuck is a very post-modernist and cozy sentiment, but it’s no use. Chaos Magick’s approach to sigils is waste of fucking mana. Rearranging letters, numbers and lines (and whatever the fuck) in a deliberate manner, hoping that your sentence means what you want it to mean, does absolutely fuck-all. Of course, maybe you are lucky. You know, monkeys and typewriters and all. But seriously. That’s not how you do sigils. That’s the absolutely worst approach.
I found out the hard way that discipline, grammar and syntax are actually improtant. The magical is all about speaking the truth, and you cannot speak the truth with sloppy grammar. (If you’re looking for work, you don’t just send out a fucking CV that looks like a six year old’s crayon drawing.) If you want the truth, you don’t get to „do whatever the fuck”. Get real. The alchemists of old knew this. Heck, even Aleister Crowley knew this (and he was all over the place with this stuff).
Since you want to speak your truth with a sigil, and since a sigil is a form of a sentence (a sort of power-sentence), pay attention to its components. I did. And once I started to do so, I could easily identify basic shapes that form the bases of sigils, and I discovered their meaning, and that you can actually compose them in a way that makes grammatical and syntactical sense.
Let’s start with the basics.
The first and most basic, yet most essential shape, I’ve found, is the circle. It’s a wholesome little symbol. For reference, it looks like this:
It can represent everything, and that’s maybe the point. The circle of life. Truth. Time. Order. Repetition, loops. The universe. Hence, it’s the most essential shape.
It’s versatile enough, but for the sake of simplicity, you can merely use it as a foundation for a sigil. Write within: you act out something in your own reality. Write outside of it: you act out something that’s outside of your own reality.
Another basic shape is the line:
A simple meaning: “road”. Or journey. Or process. You draw this from point A to point B, right? Simple.
But usually there are more lines in sigils, right? This is getting towards syntax-territory, but I still consider them basic shapes:
First, we have crossing lines. An intersection, essentially:
This always represents conflicting ideas or crossroads. The latter is more helpful interpretation. Conflicting ideas don’t actually make sense, as ideas are many-sided, many-dimensional thought-entities. There’s choice, though, so I call this symbol “crossroads”
Then, there’s two (or more) parallel lines
This represents synchronicity. (And while you’re here, read a fucking book by C. G. Jung.) (Or two.) Also it represents “equality”, “understanding other points of view”, “going along with something”. You get the idea. Math helps, right?
And finally, the angle. It can take various forms, but it’s a meeting of two lines, ending but not crossing each other.
This represents a stopping point, or limits. A negative. Place two to each other, you get a T-shape, which I found to be essentially the same. It doesn’t really matter. The grade of the angle doesn’t matter. It always represents a stopping point.
If you ever studied Chinese or Japanese, you might have encountered a concept called „radicals”, which is essentially a component of a hànzì or Kanji, usually a few strokes. Like here:
Similarly, you should treat basic shapes as components of a sigil and you should always be very careful how you arrange them. Most practicing sigil wizardlings usually don’t even notice that their sigils are composed of the basic shapes mentioned above, as radicals.
Familiarize yourself with this concept, think about it seriously. Know what you want to say, and say it properly.
FORMING A SIGIL RADICAL
I mentioned that the alchemists knew their grammar, and I have a great example: there’s nothing more simple and properly written than the symbols for Venus and Mars (female and male, respectively).
See the symbol for the female:
It represents „crossroads of life”. The transition into a new life. Notice that the cross is under the circle of life. This means „carrying the burden of life” while „being in conflict”. This is a fundamental truth of womanhood. Bearing the burden of life and the burden of choice.
Now here’s the symbol for the male:
It’s a line reaching out from the circle, pointing upwards. Males usually try to escape that burden of life, seeking something more, looking toward the heavens. But notice that angle at the end of the line. That’s a stopping point. No matter how they struggle to escape the responsibility of participating in the circle of life, there’s either a limit at the end of that road, or there’s nothing really there.
And before you start going on about deconstructing gender definitions, notice that neither of these symbols are encompassed from all sides with angles, and their components aren’t inside a circle. These symbols aren’t closed. This means, they are still open to interpretation, they have a place for shaping that determined meaning. Their original definitions are not universal.
Next, consider the “hash” symbol:
Parallel lines, intersections, angles, a circle in the middle, but a fundamentally open symbol. Is it only by chance that this became the symbol of metadata and essentially, communication in modern days? I doubt it. It represents a conversation, after all. Granted, the origins of the hash symbol are a bit more complicated, but compare it to the musical “sharp” symbol, which means “elevation”. You not only elevate a musical note, but you do that with your ideas, you send them out, you drive them through crossroads, you hit limits, you meet people who agree with your ideas, they’re in parallel, but you also have to circle around. It’s a perfect component for representing a conversation (both with the mundane and the occult).
Now here’s a more complex sigil (or sigil radical, depending on your intent). In itself, it’s very well known. An axiom, right? A very clear concept.
Now this is a versatile fucking symbol. But again, you can still notice its individual components that will make sense as you think it through.
It has all the basic shapes. At its heart, it has a sort of circle, but closed with angles, continuing in intersections and many-many parallel lines. It almost looks like a mind-boggingly complex sentence, but it isn’t really. The circle still represents life. The lines are not only reaching towards heaven, but towards all directions above and below, towards all things spiritual. They are closed, so they provide a sort of protection (another circle around a pentagram is not unusual in rituals), but the crossroads are really interesting. The intersections go around and around, from the spiritual domain, back towards to the everyday life, and out again. It’s also a conversation, but it’s not an open one.
It represents magic itself. The alteration of reality. Simple as that. Now you might frame it differently and it might mean something else, but this is one of the most essential sigils you learn, and you learn it early, it has a magnetic force, you draw it as a teenager metalhead all over your stuff, because you are trying to crush the unbearable mundanity of life… you don’t know, but you feel that it might be important.
Alright, that might be enough, I’ve made my point hopefully. From this point everything related to sigils will grow more and more complex, exponentially.
There’s a catch, of course: the basic shapes mentioned above don’t actually mean what I just said they mean. They sort of do, but they’re still open to interpretation. They really mean what you need them to mean. And this is the point where you can be all chaos and postmodern, as you like (almost to a point of “whatever the fuck”, because you get to invent your own language. That’s what magick is all about.
But I wrote all this to demonstrate that the rule of grammar and syntax is also paramount when doing sigil magic: you’ve got to know what your most basic components mean and how they relate to each other. Know your radicals, handle your simplest strokes with determination and write them only if you know what they mean, and only if you believe in their fundamental truths.
So, look at your sigils. Do them properly this time. Know what each stroke means. Find your own meaning. And write a proper fucking sentence, like a responsible fucking adult.