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More on sigils

“Sigils are monograms of thought, for the government of energy”
~ A. O. Spare, The Book Of Pleasure

The principle of sigil magic is founded on the theory that the conscious mind inhibits the action of magic on the world, and so it must be sidestepped in order to work magic (parallels between this and shamanic trancework). The sigil does not have any inherent power; it is only the energy invested in them by their creator that imbues them with magical potential. This is dissimilar to the use of charms and talismans, in that the latter uses pre-existing symbols with pre-existing associations that are retained after use (Max suggests that the physical representation of the sigil be destroyed after use).

Sigil magic requires no spiritwork or deity requests, as it is entirely based on the theory of subconscious creation – the ability of the subconscious to rearrange reality.

The three main stages of sigil creation are:

  1. Setting intent
  2. Creating the graphical sigil
  3. Implanting the glyph into the subconscious

Setting intent

There are a number of rules to be followed while setting intent:

  • The statement must be in the present tense, otherwise the subconscious mind will continue to manifest it in the future.
  • The statement must be precise and totally unambiguous. Spend some time deliberately trying to misinterpret or subvert the phrase.
  • The phrase must be brief, but this should be balanced against the need for clarity.
  • The statement must be positive. The subconscious mind interprets everything positively and ignores words like ‘not’. ‘I will not..’ becomes ‘I will…’
  • A strong declaration at the beginning makes the whole phrase stronger. Max prefers to use “It is my will…”, but acknowledges that many Chaos magicians skip the initial statement altogether.

In Cutter’s video, the example given is I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING. It is a positive phrase in the present tense, which is both clear and concise.

Creating the graphic

Write the phrase in block capitals, and remove duplicated letters: I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING

Some techniques suggest breaking the phrase down into its elements  – IT IS MY WILL // TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS // WHILE SLEEPING – then remove the duplicate letters from each part – IT IS MY WILL // TO HAVE LUCID DREAMS // WHILE SLEEPING

This method is advisable for longer sentences, so that the sigil doesn’t end up as a mess of letters.

Using the letters, create a graphic design.Letters can be inverted, mirrored, rotated, resized, overlapping and/or connected until the design is satisfyingly impressive.

If the ‘component parts’ method was used, three proto-sigils should be created, which are then merged into the final graphic.

At this point, the paper with the sentence and list of letters written on it should be discarded, and the sigil refined and simplified until it no longer resembles a construct of letters, but a purely graphical device. A balance must be struck between making the sigil graphical and powerful looking, and making the meaning of the sigil obscure enough that the long-term memory cannot recall it. Containing it within a circle can help make it more concise and to retain the energy it is empowered with in the next step.

“A sigil whose meaning is remembered at the point is it charged is a sigil that won’t work”
~Joseph Max, on Spare’s theory

Both Cutter and Max suggests creating four or five sigils at the same time, then putting them out of sight for a week, or until you forget which is which (no peeking!), then charge them once the meaning is forgotten, although Ray Sherwin (Action Sigils) suggests that this fragments the energies used and is undesirable (Chaos magicians seem particularly bad for contradicting each other), preferring to create an Action sigil instead (see bibliography).

Another method of forgetting is to keep the sigil around where you will see it regularly, in such a fashion that it fades into the background and the conscious mind ignores it and forgets its meaning.

Empowerment

Here, Cutter and the Chaos magicians differ; for Cutter, the empowerment stage is the act of filling the glyph with energy and setting the mind to change the world around it. The Chaos magicians set the sigil into the subconscious in order for it act upon the magician. For my part, I’m not sure of the ‘right’ way, if they are both saying the same thing or even if it matters how it works, so long as it does (actually, it matters to me, but I will have to let it slide until I know more about magic and the mind).

The sigil is introduced to the subconscious while in a state of trance (here Max provides a list of techniques for achieving this, including yoga, drumming, chanting, dancing and sex). One of Spare’s suggestions for implanting the sigil  is to paint it on to a mirror, then stare through the mirror into your own eyes without blinking until the sigil disappears from view.

When meditating or chanting to induce a trance state, it is possible to create a specific mantra by rearranging the letters used to create the sigil into nonsense words.

Following Cutter’s advice, the act of creation itself is a powerful tool, and one that can be utilised to charge the sigil, although Max recommends destroying the created sigil afterwards. The time and attention spent on creating the sigil-image is a huge investment of energy and intent, and it becomes more important to use borders to contain the energy with the image. Any colours or symbolic elements used must be fully understood and used deliberately and with awareness of their meaning.

Afterwards:

After the sigil is created and implanted/charged, it is important to disassociate yourself from the ritual. Max recommends abstaining from meditation, magical or craft work, discussing the ritual with anyone, sexual activity or philosophical thought for about three hours.

Of vital importance is to avoid the stimulus that caused you to create the sigil. A sigil with a long-term outcome (to earn more money, to improve a relationship) is unlikely to work if you constantly fret over having a low-paid job or an uncaring partner. If this is unavoidable, a different magical technique is probably required.

Avoid journalling the working, to encourage forgetfulness. It might be a good idea to record the intent before working, then put the diary away for a few months, or cover up the entry until a later date.

It is not necessary to repeat the procedure. In fact, according to Jan Fries (Visual Magick), repeating the process will negate it’s effects.

Bibliography:

Boudicca’s Bard: Sigils is an e-book by Chaos magician Joseph Max.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 – Rob Cutter’s YouTube channel (now defunct)

Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms is part one of three of an essay by Mark Defrates

Action sigils by Ray Sherwin

Further reading:

Spare, Austin Osman;  The Book of Pleasure

Fries, Jan; Visual Magick

Carroll, Peter;  Liber Kaos

Crowley, Aleister;  Magick

Sound sigils by Kevin Max Krebs

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This post is out-of-date.

I have updated it and expanded it in More on sigils

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I’ve recently discovered Rob Cutter’s YouTube channel (username: Angeldeluz1970). He’s been inactive for 2 years, with no intention of returning, so I want to jot down some of his advice so I still have it if the videos get deleted for whatever reason.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Sigils work on the principle of conscious creation – that the subconscious mind is responsible for the creation of the reality we experience on a day-to-day basis. This creation is most effective when it is not interfered with by the conscious mind.

To create a sigil, form a statement of desire.

In the video, the example given is I HAVE LUCID DREAMS WHILE SLEEPING.

The statement must be in the present tense, otherwise the subconscious mind will continue to manifest it in the future.

Using each letter once (per letter, not per occurrence), create a graphic design.

Letters can be inverted, mirrored, rotated, resized, overlapping and/or connected if desired

The sigil is basically a word puzzle that the subconscious will continue to chew on long after the conscious mind has forgotten it. This is ideal for subconscious creation, where the conscious mind will get in the way.

To facilitate the conscious mind in forgetting the meaning of the sigil, create four or five at the same time, then hide them for a week or until you forget which is which (no peeking!). If they look similar enough that you can’t distinguish between them after a week, they may be even more effective.

Although it may be possible to get effects by just leaving the sigils lying around, a better method is to imbue them with energy via energy-raising or meditation.

A concentration meditation (candle flame meditation, breathing exercises etc) will suffice for this, using deep breathing to raise energy whilst looking at the sigil.

Of more interest to me personally is the practice of raising energy through creative practices.

The time and attention spent on creating the sigil-image is a huge investment of energy and intent

Use borders to contain the energy with the image

Use colours and symbolic or graphic elements purposefully, aware of their deeper meanings

Use glyphs (eg: Ogham or Runes) to imbue characteristics into the image

After imbuing the sigils with energy, regular review will keep them in mind and enhance their effects.

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The first mention of Tapping the Bone I heard was in the Unnamed Path podcast (episode 2), where it was suggested as a meditation method for contacting the Ancestors, using a bone or skull as a medium. Animal bones and skulls are acceptable for use in this ritual, apparently. Hyperion suggests lighting a candle and ‘activating’ the bone to call the Ancestors, then using your heart (love/passion) to reach beyond the veil whilst meditating. By observing your thoughts, it is possible to hear the Ancestors’ voices or to see visions they inspire. This method of spirit contact is not as vivid as a shamanic journey, but is a more conscious event.

A brief bit of further research reveals more information:

Tapping the Bone is about tapping into the Ancestral (racial?) memories which are said to be stored within our bones. The Canny Crafting website alleges that this is because bones and quartz crystal have a similar structure and properties. I would look this up if I wanted to pursue this avenue any further, but I am aware that bones represent the alchemical element of earth in the human body, and that will suffice for now.

The skull is usually placed on top of the Stang with a candle placed between the horns then lit.  Then we call on the Ancestors and breathe Ond (life-force) onto the skull using three breaths, the last breath should be taking in deeply and then forced out with a haahh sound, and feel the Ancestors take possession of the skull, then you can sit in your compass-ring and just let thoughts come to you, any ideas or thoughts that come can be empathic and may well be an Ancestral Guardian guiding you or you can ask the Ancestor for help in your craftings.” [1]

The Craft of the Wise [2] contains a section on Tapping the Bone, referencing the works of Peter Paddon and Robert Artisson and providing a guided mediation (‘Ancestral Meditation’ from the Coven Book of Ways):

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Focus on your breathing – in and out, in and out. With every breath in, feel yourself calm and at peace. With every breath out, feel the tension of the day drain away. Your heartbeat becomes slower, your body becomes heavier. Breathe in peace, breathe out tension. All thoughts of the day and other distractions leave your mind as you become completely relaxed and focused. There is no rush. When you feel completely calm and relaxed, you can begin.

See yourself stood upon the crest of a hill, breathing in the cool, refreshing air. You fel revitalised by the breeze and admire the beauty of the rolling fields beneath you. Above you soar birds of prey, calling to one another across the valley.

To the right of you lies a path through the long grass, meandering gently down the slope, towards an ancient yew grove . As you approach, you marvel at the yew trees, whose low, damp branches have entwined into one another over the ages. The canopy of branches seem to be arching now, and invite you to enter the forest.

You step into the forest of yews, safe in the knowledge that you are protected , and nothing can harm you here. You follow the path which leads beneath the shady boughs above ; you touch the gnarled bark of the yews as you start to walk deeper into the forest, feeling the wisdom of this place resonate through your soul.

Soon you see that the forest is beginning to thin out to a clearing, revealing a mighty yew in its centre. This yew is the oldest in the woods and is home to the ancient spirits. You marvel at the size of the tree, which dwarfs the others around it. Its roots are strong and reach deep into the earth.

Now you sense someone else is present in this quite forest glade, and watch as a figure begins to step out from behind the mighty yew. This is your ancestor – he or she has been waiting for you.

You approach the tree and greet this person. You sit with your ancestor, as they recall tales of the past and reveal wisdom to you that will aid you on your spiritual path. Listen carefully while your ancestor speaks.

Now he or she offers you a gift, a small stone with a hole running through the centre. It is a Hag Stone, a tool of otherworldly wisdom, which your ancestor places in your palm. Thank them for your gift and, if you have any questions, ask them now.

After a time, your ancestor gestures that it is time for you to leave. He or she walks back behind the ancient yew tree and becomes part of the forest once again.

Now, when you are ready, the image of the trees begins to fade away and you start to feel yourself returning to this world. When you are ready, open your eyes.

The guided meditation is very different to the previous techniques, and I’m not altogether confident about doing them, except as a visualisation exercise. I will give the guided meditation a go, but I always have doubts about whether I am speaking with spirits, or just my imagination. I suppose, if the knowledge of the ancestors is in my bones, I should be able to access it subconsciously and guided meditation is as good a technique as any.

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[1] Canny Crafting
[2] Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft; Bramshaw, Vikki

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Since my fiancé and I are going to be moving into our first house in a few months – assuming the building work goes well – I have been looking into various protective charms.
One of the charms I like the sound of is the Witch Bottle (not least because it’s local to England, has a historical record and doesn’t involve visualising ‘pure white sparkling light’ covering anything ;P).

History:
Witch Bottles have been found that date from the 17th-century, when they were buried near houses or in foundations as a way to ward of malevolent spirits [link].
They were commonly made from salt-glazed clay bellarmine wine jars [multiple sources] and, in one case at least, a glass inkwell [link], which was then filled with a mixture of ingredients, sealed and buried in order to protect the house and its occupants.

Making a Witch Bottle:
I have acquired a number of small (35 fl.oz) glass bottles, mostly empty sample bottles of vodka, which seem suitable for the task. I considered using airtight plastic jars but, to be honest, something about the plastic feels wrong, so glass it is.

What to put in them:
The research I’ve done seems to indicate that iron nails and/or pins are a staple of these bottles, as is urine, nail clippings and hair [link].
Others include a small heart-shaped piece of leather that had been pierced by an iron nail, a pinch of navel fluff, sulphur [link], small bones, thorns and bits of wood. Recently, rosemary and other herbs have become popular additions to witch bottles [link], chosen for their protective associations.

The iron is obvious – it has long been thought of as a powerful metal, offering protection from the Fair Folk and other supernatural beings in British and Irish folklore.

Nails and pins are suggested to serve the same function here as in Voodoo [link], whatever that may be.
I would speculate that their use might be to direct energy, but others have suggested that that they may be intended to impale the spell or spirit trapped by the bottle [link].
Thorns, broken glass, razor blades, poisonous plants and the like all seem to serve the same purpose [ibid, also here], but without the added potency of the iron (hawthorn thorns might afford some extra protection).
The pin-pierced heart is an old protective charm for livestock or protection from witchcraft.

Urine, nail clippings, hair (head and pubic), spit, navel fluff et cetera are always given as contents of the bottle. Although there are suggestions that they may have belonged to the witch who cast the curse, added to the bottle with the intention of returning the curse to the caster [link], it seems as though it would be very difficult to get the witch to wee into the bottle if they are the one wishing ill on the household.
More likely, in my opinion, the hair and fluff and urine was a form of sympathetic magic, either meant to mimic the person who was the target of the curse, or to turn the curse back upon the witch, causing pain to the areas associated with the bodily detritus in the jar (bladder, head, belly etc.). Sympathetic magic has a long history in the British Isles, and there may be a link to a possible reason bellarmine jars are so popular, since they have faces on them.

I have decided that I shall seal the lid with wax to keep it waterproof. For this I will be using ordinary (paraffin) candle wax.

Where to put them:
“The bottles were most often found buried under the fireplace. Other sites include under the floor, buried in the ground there, and plastered inside walls. The fireplace is, from a magical point of view, a security risk as it has a straight connection with the open skies above … Another security risk was the doorway, as doors are opened and closed several times throughout the day.” [e-cauldron]

The discoveries of a witch bottle in Greenwich in 2004 and a bottle uncovered in Pennsylvania [link] suggest that they should be buried upside down – or at least that it didn’t matter. If it was inverted on purpose, it would strengthen the ties with sympathetic magic and the intention to affect the bladder of the witch [link], or perhaps symbolise ‘the reversing or “overturning” of the witch’s intentions’ [link].

We don’t have a hearth or fireplace, so I will probably put it, upside down, under the patio or bury it next to the front door.
Another school of thought suggests burying the bottle a long way from the property to be protected, so that the curse doesn’t make it to your door but, given the locations that historical witch bottles have been found in, I – personally – feel safe disregarding this notion.

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