History of Sigils

Since time immemorial, human beings have expressed ideas through symbols and glyphs.

4 months ago

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Since time immemorial, human beings have expressed ideas through symbols and glyphs.

From African Adinkra symbols to modern mathematical notation, these symbols express ideas that could not be described in a few words, because they are conceptual and archetypal — and sometimes unfold in more than one interpretation. Symbols were also used to encrypt messages, making sure that only those familiar with the translation structure would have access to the content of the messages.

Around 1500, magicians began to record in writing a magical system based on encoding intentions in the form of drawings composed of symbols and lines, serving as a general method. Among these magicians can be cited Agrippa and Trithemius, who in their Steganographia presented the first great known work on the use of sigils specifically for magical purposes. However, this practice was already known, indirectly, in the five books of Lemegeton, whose content is attributed to King Solomon (who reigned around 970 to 920 BC).

More recently, around 1910, Austin Osman Spare took up this knowledge and published new works on the subject, and around 1987 Peter Carroll did the same, further improving the art.

Seals and Sigils

Although “sigil” derives from the Latin “sigilum”, being also related to the Hebrew “segulah”, and means only “seal” or “small seal”, the meanings of the two words are often differentiated in the sense of magical practice.

Sigils in Antiquity

Generally speaking, the alphabets used today are derived from symbols, modified over time. A buffalo head, for example, was styled and modified over the years until it became the letter "A". The Egyptians used hieroglyphics, and in Japan the Kanji writing still has in its strokes great similarity with the elements it seeks to represent.

As for the construction of drawings from messages and phrases, Arabic writing has always allowed this practice. Arabic words are connected by a continuous line, a common thread that allows them to be twisted and arranged in elaborate arrangements. Thus, in temple decorations and heraldry it was common to find designs that encoded phrases or names.

The suras of the Qur'an, for example (with the exception of the 9th), start with Bismillah, which forms a “clasp” and allows the sentence to be tied around itself with easy location of its beginning and end. Furthermore, in the Jewish practices of the Merkabah, entry into the celestial levels was aided by the corresponding seals, which were to be designed by the magician.

In sub-Saharan Africa, sigils were also used extensively, for example to encode stories, and to evoke ancestral energies. The idea of ​​drawing stories and messages in the sand, in elaborate plots, was widely used by the Tchokwe people of Angola (and called the Sona drawing). In the magical and spiritual field, one of the best known practices of African sigils is the Pemba Trace, used both to anchor entities on the physical plane and to attract their qualities or encode intentions and desires.

Sigilization is also present in Nordic culture, with the use of Bandrunar (union of runes) and Insigils (runic sigils). These Rune Magic practices consisted in the elaboration of designs that were used as talismans or carved in the wood of houses, seeking protection or luck in battles. The best known design of this type is the Ægishjálmr, or Helm of Terror, a rune symbol representing the helmet of the same name that is cited in the Eddas, used for the protection of homes and people.

In Norse stories, the Ægishjálmr helmet could make its wearer invisible, as well as make it transform into any monster to frighten its enemies, but it instilled greed and envy in their hearts. These characteristics were later attributed to a ring in the four Wagner Operas that form the series The Ring of the Nibelungs. These operas, in addition to the original myth of the Ægishjálmr, served as the basis for Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Sigils in Lemegeton

In the books Ars Theurgia and Ars Goetia, which are part of Lemegeton, the seals of spiritual leaders, Daemons and Shemhamphorash are described. In Ars Paulina, the planetary seals are described, often directed to a specific intention, and in Ars Almadel the seals of the main choirs of angels are presented, as well as their conjurations.

In Ars Notoria, there are presented sigils (called Notes) that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as accelerating learning or gaining knowledge about a science area or a foreign language. The sigils used in the Notorious Art were constructed by magicians using symbols and elements relevant to that area of ​​knowledge. For example, the sigil regarding grammar included the names of different aspects of speech (morphology, syntax, vocabulary, etc.). The sigil used to learn geometry included drawings of lines, triangles, squares, pentagrams, six-pointed stars and circles.

The Solomonic practices, as well as some Chinese paradigms, considered that the communication portals between the physical and spiritual world would open at specific places and times, so the cardinal directions and the planetary hours were always of vital importance in the accomplishment of any magical attempt by these systems.

Sigils in Steganography

Recognized as a book of angelic magic and cryptography, this book was written around 1499 by the Benedictine monk Johannes Trithemius, and used by Agrippa, John Dee, and Austin Spare in their works.

The general idea of ​​the book was to encode messages through sigils, and then send them out to people far away, through spiritual means. Messages could also be sent to angelic spirits, who would then fulfill the desires described there, working by themselves as a method of sympathetic magic (magical system based on the attraction of what is desired).

In Steganographia, there are described sigilization methods that allow the pictorial representation of desires and intentions. The messages, previously written in English, Latin, Hebrew or Enochian, could be described more accurately and unambiguously in this simplified way, which would facilitate their transmission and realization.

The mental work involved in the elaboration of the sigil would, according to Trithemius, be part of the magical practice, and would enhance its effect. After the development of a sigil, it was sent to the desired entity, which had to be done at the right time and facing the proper cardinal direction.

Sigils by Austin Spare

Austin Osman Spare created, around 1910, automatic drawing and writing techniques, as well as methods of sigillization and a cult aimed at liberating the “true self” of magicians, called Zos Kia. In his Book of Pleasure (Book of Ecstasy or Self-Love), Spare describes how unconscious feelings can be linked to the external reality, and how they can interfere with it, presenting glyphs for their representation and magical practices that include their use.

In the descriptions of his practice with sigils, Spare makes it clear that sending messages to be answered by spiritual instances must occur in an encrypted form, since human language is not sufficient for this activity. Furthermore, Spare did not use timetables, cardinal directions or names of entities, as he considered that the realization of the intents encoded in the sigils occurred by one or more spiritual forces in consonance with the magician's own unconscious.

Therefore, at the time of the conjuration, the correct energies would be selected to carry out each objective, which would then direct the energetic flow through the Ether. This thought was one of those that led to the emergence of new trends in magic, based on psychological aspects and operated by the magician's own unconscious.

This also brought magic even closer to psychology, and allowed for the magical use of psychoanalytic tools in conjunction with reinterpretations of traditional evocations and invocations.

Non-pictorial sigils

In addition to pictorial sigils, there are sigils that encode intents in a non-pictorial way, such as mantras, songs, phrases, talismans or even sculptures. The dynamics of its functioning is explained by the Law of Hermetic Correspondence. An object or a phrase can attract something desired, as long as there is a connection between what was done and the objective to be attracted.

In Egyptian magic, this was accomplished through wall carvings, talismans or statues, and it was considered that any consecrated object would form a "twin" version of itself on the etheric plane, which could attract or repel energies.


When sigils have a greater extension than just the elaboration of an object, drawing or phrase, and require more time for their manufacture, they can be called Hyper-sigils. Examples of hypersigils include architectural constructions, music with elaborate lyrics, paintings, books, characters or pseudonyms created specifically for this purpose.

Today's Egyptologists have increasingly discovered that Egyptian temples were built based on complex rules of dimension and position, serving as astrological clocks or even large effigies that sought to attract specific energies. When the temples were dismantled, all the pieces were partially destroyed with the blow of a chisel, and they no longer had any connection with the Temple egregore.

In this sense, the Egyptian Temples can be considered Hypersigils, and also many other temples of contemporary religions, which represent spiritual concepts in the form of a physical building.

The practice of Sigils

Sigilization (or sigilation) is the practice of building sigils based on a message or intention. The methods used can vary from the use of existing glyphs and symbols, through the creation of new symbols by the magician, and the use of vulgar or magical alphabets.

Peter Carroll describes the operation of a sigil in his Liber Null and Psychonaut as being composed of three parts: its construction; its sending to the unconscious; and its loading or activation.

The three stages can be carried out by various methods, from the more traditional to the contemporary, at the choice of the magician.

Sigilization by Carroll's method

Carroll presents three examples of methods for constructing sigils.

Other methods of sigilization

Other methods can be used to build sigils, such as alphabet wheels, where lines are drawn through the letters that are left of the initial sentence, and a stylized design is created. Combining symbols is another interesting method for creating sigils. These symbols, in turn, can come from existing magic alphabets, or they can be created by the magician himself.

Sigils in the form of circuits, the practice of which has started in Technomagick, or even sigils in the form of computer programs, can also be used to obtain long-term effects or to take advantage of the benefits of using computers as facilitators in the practice of sigils. There are also several software that help in the creation of sigils, such as Sigilscribe.

Loading and Activating a Sigil

Once elaborated, a sigil must be read by the conscious part of the psyche, sent to the unconscious part, and loaded or activated. In other words, it must be “consecrated” so that, in addition to physical existence, it begins to exist on the astral or spiritual plane.

Carroll presents some examples of methods for this, such as activation in states of extreme emotion, sexual ecstasy, or, preferably, in a state of Gnosis. The sigil can also be burned, buried, or thrown into the ocean, or in the case of mantras or phrases repeated over and over again until it becomes meaningless.

In these cases, the important thing is that the purpose of sigils is not brought to the conscious mind at all times, so that it can act at the subconscious level. Anxiety for results can hinder your attraction, as the awakened mind will block the working of magical energies. The Psychic Censor, a skeptical part of the mind that does not believe that magic works because it does not scientifically understand the mechanisms involved, can also get in the way of obtaining results.

If the unconscious can work properly, sigils are an effective way of attracting the desired results, as well as assisting in the most diverse activities and altering mental states. The mechanisms of its functioning are not yet understood scientifically (with the exception of the psychological and symbolic aspects involved), and have been attributed to spirits, angels, demons or psychic forces.

In any case, knowledge of the mechanism is not strictly necessary, as long as the results are achieved.

Gabriel RoYaL

Published 4 months ago


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