Q&A: What are the fundamentals of sigilcraft?

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“So, I kind of understand what sigils are for, but I don’t understand how you go about making them. I know it’s very subjective to each person’s creativity and imagination, but what are the general guidelines and fundamentals? Also could you tell a little about the history of how sigils came about and from where?” ~ shroomr via Tumblr

There are a few questions here, so let’s break this down a little.

>So, I kind of understand what sigils are for, but I don’t understand how you go about making them.

There are MANY, MANY ways to make sigils, and there’s no one “right” way to do it. But there are some easy ways to get started. Here’s one simple method: http://sigildaily.com/activating-rituals/

If that doesn’t work for you, or you want to try some other ideas, check out the “magic square” and “automatic writing” methods.

>I know it’s very subjective to each person’s creativity and imagination, but what are the general guidelines and fundamentals?

Check out the FAQ on the Sigil Daily website. It’s a decent overview. http://sigildaily.com/faq/

>Also could you tell a little about the history of how sigils came about and from where?

That’s a very big topic. Let’s hit the highlights, at least.

Sigils and sigil magick share the same root as writing. If you think about it, writing itself is pretty fantastic stuff, allowing us to transmit knowledge through both time and space through what amounts to a simple series of lines, curves, dots and spaces. That’s some insane sci-fi wizardry to an illiterate hunter-gatherer. And the mystical stuff of writing and drawing doesn’t stop with being able to transmit information. It’s just the start.

The idea of creating sacred symbols goes back well into prehistory. It has always been a part of religion – seriously, try to find a religion that doesn’t use symbology – and of the occult (that is, hidden) stuff we now call witchcraft and magick. How it came about is really a matter of historical debate, but it’s pretty clear that sigil-like things have been around for tens of thousands of years. You see them in cave paintings and stone etchings long before the invention of agriculture.

They seem to be used more-or-less the same way modern sigils are. They are totemic symbols or focuses of desire (a good hunt, many children). If Grant Morrison is to be believed, the same magick that goes into sigils is the very stuff that drives modern day logo design and branding. It’s the power of symbolism focused into real-world intent.

Most occult traditions have sigil-like creation traditions of some kind, and you can see echoes of it in everything from calligraphy to heraldry. In the modern era, sigilcraft was given its modern form by 19th/20th century occultists, and most notably A. O. Spare. Spare wrote extensively on sigils, borrowing many ideas from early psychology, meditation and Eastern philosophy.

Spare was hugely influential on British occult thinking, including Aleister Crowley‘s brand of Thelemic practice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spare’s work – and his sigil work, in particular – helped to inform the “Chaos Magic” movement, which explored his ideas extensively.

I personally tend to follow the Chaos Magic approach, as it greatly de-emphasizes formal ritual in favor of exploring fundamental concepts. It might not be the tradition that works for you, and you should feel free to try other traditions and other perspectives. But on a mechanical level, the core concepts of sigilcraft are pretty simple, and are almost certainly similar to the methods used throughout human history.

It’s a desire, some things to draw with, and some creativity, all resulting in a tangible symbol of that desire. That desire has, through your effort alone, become that much more a part of the real world. It has a shape all its own, and that gives it a degree of existence it didn’t have before. That’s pretty magickal stuff.

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