“My children are protected during trick or treating”

by

“My children are protected during trick or treating.”

It’s Halloween! (Or, Samhain, if you prefer.) Over on our Tumblr page, we’re taking requests for sigils to celebrate the season, and this one seemed quite timely.

Be safe out there! Keep your tricks fun and lighthearted, and your treats delicious.

“This year’s Samhain celebration will be safe, powerful, and wickedly fun”

by

“This year’s Samhain celebration will be safe, powerful, and wickedly fun.”

If you’re reading this post, chances are that you already know two things about Samhain:

1. It happens on the same night as Halloween.
2. It’s impossible to say it right. (Sol-win? So-win? Sew-in? It’s definitely not Sam-hain, right?)

In a nutshell, Samhain is the ancient Gaelic/Celtic end-of-harvest-season festival. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving in that sense, but often with the party atmosphere of New Year’s Eve. It has some commonalities with Día de Muertos (also on Halloween), including a commonly held view that the “veil between this world and the afterlife” is thinnest during this time of the year. Depending on who is celebrating Samhain — there are tons of modern versions — it can be everything from a somber night of offerings and prayer to an absolutely wild dance party on par with anything you’d see at Burning Man.

What’s the “right” why to celebrate Samhain? There isn’t one. It doesn’t come from a single tradition, but rather from a huge number of local celebrations in various parts of pre-Christian Europe, each with their own regional version of an end-of-summer holiday that, in some places, was called something like Samhain. (Soul-win? Saw-in? Sah-when?) Today, we call these cultures “Gaelic” or “Celtic,” but they were by no means a unified culture. It’s a bit like saying “European” today. Sure, there are some broad similarities in all European cultures, but it doesn’t take much digging to find some stark contrasts between then.

Some of those traditions survived into the Christian era, but most didn’t. In the 1700s, when the beginnings of the modern pagan and occult movements started to take shape, very little was known about what the “original” versions of Samhain were. Even today, with the help of modern archaeology and other scholarship, we only have fragments. What we do “know” is often questionable, coming from Roman and early Christian writers who filtered what they heard and saw through their own cultural perspectives. Modern Samhain is, in every meaningful sense, a best-guess version of how these ancient, half-remembered cultures might have celebrated the end of summer. It’s not something we should really be dogmatic about.

Which brings us to Halloween. Is it Samhain? Is it a corrupted and “wicked” version of All Saints Eve? Is it something completely different, even with all the ghosts, pranks, and parties? Or is the reality more nuanced?

As an American, Samhain is culturally impossible for me to separate from Halloween. Even if you skip the costumes and the candy, it’s still a night for celebration and fun. That’s not everyone’s tradition, obviously, but it’s just as legitimate as any other. It’s the part of Halloween that says it’s OK to be a little wicked, to make a little harmless mischief, to dance outside until the cold doesn’t bother you so much, and to indulge a little in food and drink. We have months of cold and darkness ahead, and it will be quite some time before the world turns green again. If there are forces out there who we can ask for a little help in getting through ’til spring, now’s the time to do it.

With all that in mind, this sigil speaks to the concept that every Samhain/Halloween will be safe for everyone, powerful for those who believe, and “wickedly” fun for those who need a little of that in their lives.

“This instrument is safe and protected”

by

“This instrument is safe and protected.”

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.

Let’s Debunk The “Rules” Of Sigil Magick

by

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.

“My anxiety does not control or define me”

by

“My anxiety does not control or define me.”

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.

“Our love for each other is strong. We will not drift apart.”

by

“Our love for each other is strong. We will not drift apart.”

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.