Over on our Tumblr page, we get a ton of requests for sigils. Unfortunately, as with any social media platform, this tends to create a backlog. As a result, I tend to combine similar requests into something a bit more broadly applicable. Instead of making a sigil for every bassist, bassoonist, mandolin player, trumpeter, and guitarist, this sigil speaks to the general concept.
Question: I’ve heard that sigils must always be written in the present tense, can’t contain negative statements, and must follow a bunch of other rules to work. Is that true?
There’s no easy way to say this: Occultists in the turn of the 20th century had some pretty strange ideas. If you read their thoughts on sigil magick (and ritual magick in general), it’s clear that a lot of what they were saying didn’t come from arcane tomes or thousand-year traditions, but rather from the “theories of the mind” that were popular in the mid-to-late 1800s. By using the language of people like Freud and Jung, they were able to cloak their speculation in something that almost sounded scientific. We see the exact same thing today when people talk about “quantum healing” and “holographic patterning therapy.” It sounds like it might be based on something real, but if you dig beneath the surface, the evidence behind it is pretty flimsy.
You also have to remember that those “rules” were an attempt to bring together a bunch of completely unrelated occult ideas — neopaganism, educated guesses about ancient Egyptian rites, total misreadings of traditional Taoist and Buddhist practices, speculation from the Catholic Church about what Satanism probably would be like if there were any actual Satanists at the time, Greek theories about math and astrology, poorly understood ethnic traditions and folk magick — into something like a formal dogma. In the process, they stumbled across some powerful tools, but they also bent those practices to suit their biases, needs, and existing beliefs. At the time, the early versions of psychiatry claimed that negative thoughts were a root cause of mental illness — right up there with the Oedipus Complex and bad potty training — rather than the far more complex reality we see it as today. That thinking filtered into occult theorycraft, but it doesn’t make it true.
Today, a lot of the assertions from the Victorian era of occult practice can seem pretty silly, and that’s equally true when it comes to things like sigil magic. If sigil magick is about focusing intent, investing an idea with belief, and trying to use art to bring about change in our lives and the world around us, why would that powerful tool crumble under what amounts to a quirk of the English language?
It’s perfectly valid to desire that a given outcome doesn’t happen, for example. Yes, you should always focus your intent and create the clearest possible statement of that intent in creating a sigil. Often, that means focusing on the result you do want, rather than the one you don’t. At the same time, our language is pretty heavily reliant on using “negative” words to communicate basic concepts. There’s only so many ways to say “I will not harm myself today,” for instance. Sure, you can play some word games to make that into a “positive” statement, but it also changes the fundamental intent of the statement. If you’re going to claim that those “negative” words and prefixes — un-, non-, not, never, don’t, can’t, won’t — have an inherently diminishing effect, you’d better have more than the guesswork of some Victorian weirdo to back it up.
This is completely testable. Try it for yourself. Create two sigils, each expressing a unique desire. Make them equally inconsequential things, unlikely but certainly possible. Write one in a “positive” way, and the other in a “negative” way. Activate both. Track your results. Report back with your findings.
That said, if you want to follow those “rules” just to be on the safe side, go for it. Follow your practice. But do try to understand where those “rules” come from, and treat them with the same skepticism you would have for anything an old, rich white guy playing the Master of the Occult said today.
One of the most crippling, harmful things about anxiety is the sense of isolation it creates. It can make us feel like we’re completely alone, struggling with an issue that no one else could possibly understand, and even if they could, they would dismiss it as something only a weak, pathetic person would ever care about. It’s an insidious thing, anxiety, because it makes us afraid of seeking support, understanding, and help.
Anxiety can become so overwhelming that it can dominate every waking moment of our lives. It can feel like being anxious is as defining of who we are as individuals as what we do for a living, our family roles, or even who we are as human beings.
Let’s bust that toxic myth right now: Anxiety can be a serious issue for anyone, from a grocery store bagger to a world leader. It doesn’t define you. It’s less important to who you are as a person than your haircut is. Yes, anxiety often is a serious problem, but it’s not who you are. It’s a symptom. Defining yourself by your anxiety is like defining yourself by your allergies, your shoe size, or your cell-phone provider.
If you need help managing your anxiety, find it. It’s a problem faced by a staggering percentage of people. Every teacher, doctor, or lawyer you’ve ever met has almost certainly had trouble managing their anxiety at some point in their lives. It’s not only OK to ask for support and help, it’s essential.
Falling in love is easy. It can happen at a glance, a moment of connection that utterly overwhelms both people in ways that we still don’t fully understand. But keeping love going, particularly after that flash of hungry desire begins to fade, isn’t always so easy. It requires effort and intention. That’s what this sigil speaks to, this statement of keeping the flames of love burning, even when it has gone from uncontrolled wildfire to a more domestic kind of blaze that must be tended in order to burn brightly.
Here’s an interesting thought experiment: Think of the most boring, unimaginative person you can. The duller, the better. Imagine that person being locked in a room with only a table, a chair, a box of crayons, and a coloring book. On the table is a note that reads “Complete the coloring book, and you will be released from this room.” How long do you think it would take for that person — as creatively empty as they appear to be — to stop grumping about their situation and start coloring?
How far into the coloring process could they go before they were forced to make a decidedly creative decision? Is this character’s shirt red or blue? Is does this character have blond or red hair? These are minor creative decisions, but they count. How far into that coloring book would they need to go before they start making riskier decisions based on boredom, rebellion, frustration, or simply a need for novelty?
Would it take an hour before the most creatively bone dry person you can think of starts making legitimate artistic decisions? Two?
What if it wasn’t a coloring book? What if it was a book of Mad Libs? What if it was a pack of Play-Doh? What if the challenge was to create and sing — however badly — a song about a lazy dog? How long would it take even the most artistically shriveled person to free themselves from their captivity?
Not long, right? No one is suggesting that the final products would be very interesting, but they would all be creative in their own way. The resulting works would almost certainly reflect the personality of the person who made them, and the circumstances surrounding their creation. The would be art.
Here’s the thing: We’re all creative. Every one of us. If you remove from that equation the idea that the results of this creativity has to be “good,” being creative is almost as easy as breathing. Tiny children can do “creative” things long before they even master the basics of speech or walking upright. Creativity is so fundamental to the human experience that it’s one of the first parts of our brains to come online.
Tapping into that creativity for its own sake does, however, require focus. It requires setting aside a time to actively be creative. It usually requires some kind of structure or setting — a notebook, some clay, a musical instrument, a story, a stocked kitchen — but that’s it. Anyone can be creative in the right context. All it takes is a willingness to focus.
Creativity isn’t a static state. It’s a process, defined by its ebbs and flows. The more you practice, the better your best becomes. But, more importantly, the better your worst becomes as well. By actively trying to improve your skills, no matter how inelegant or awkward your starting point, you will improve in ways that you might not even be aware of. That’s the sentiment behind this sigil, which was requested by one of our Tumblr followers.