Sigils: What is a sigil? How to make a sigil.

This post does not contain medical advice. Sigils do not replace medical advice. If you feel sick call or go see a doctor.

Short Answer:

A sigil is a method of magical shorthand.

Long answer:

Before the written word, sigils existed. In cave paintings and rock carvings, sigils dance with animals and gods. Before spoken language, sigils existed. If a proto-shaman wanted to call the rain he or she could draw a pictogram of a cloud and thus call the rain. Pictograms are the earliest form of written communication and still in use today; we call them emojis. As language developed and ideas progressed in complexity so too did sigils.

The capacity for verbal language, in a way we would recognize but not necessarily understand, emerged sometime around 50,000 years ago (Masterson). Before humanity’s first words, we had the grunts, hoots, and calls of our primate cousins, as well as the body language and tonal expression that we have today. Verbal language requires extra space in the throat, something like an echo chamber for the throat muscles to manipulate the air, and brain changes that allow humans to hold a mental dictionary that identifies and gives meaning to each of these new sounds called words. Primates that can use sign language like Koko the Gorilla, indicate that changes in brain-structure preceded changes in throat anatomy. Signing primates also show us that our brain structures as they are today, allow for a large dictionary like the Oxford dictionary, whereas primates’ brains can hold a small dictionary, like a Children’s dictionary.

Unfortunately, there is no fossil evidence of internal brain changes to back up the theory that brain changes predated throat changes because the brain does not fossilize. Throat components do not fossilize well, but we have a few examples, and that is why we can guess that language emerged about 50,000 years ago. Writing, however, first appeared about 5,200 years ago, but just before writing, we used tokens with symbols as a means of communication (Schmandt-Besserat).

What does any of this have to do with sigils?

If the complex ideas to form sentences existed before
the ability to share thoughts through language existed,
then sigils are at least 5,300 years old
and maybe up to 49,000 years old.

Those tokens were typically made of clay and the symbols were for ideas, much like the modern magical practice of sigils drawn, or inscribed onto clay, wood, or cloth tokens.

As ideas grow in complexity more words are needed to explain them. During the middle ages, sigils became increasingly complex as those creating them strove to explain intrinsic differences in ideas. Examples of medieval sigils include Abrahamic angel’s seals.

what-is-a-sigil
Susa, Iran token courtesy Musée du Louvre, Département des Antiquités Orientales.

The medieval angel seals convey the idea of angels and then specify which angel in particular by symbol associations. The angel seals were derived from the Hermetic tradition, which was probably a Greek synthesis of Egyptian and Greek religious and philosophical ideas, heavily influenced by early Roman pagan religions.

Fast Forward  >>

Today, we still use symbols for communication, especially in advertising. Seals have been replaced by tweets as literacy rates are at an all-time high, and sigils are reserved mostly for the magical crowd (that’s us!).

A sigil is a portable and magical shorthand for a spell or intention set by a magical practitioner.

Sigils are representations of an idea drawn in symbol form. It’s very much like writing in a secret code. Some practitioners draw their sigils with beautiful artistic flar, some prefer sharp angles, and other practitioners prefer curvy loops. Some are a unified collection of symbols drawn individually and other sigils are drawn with one unbroken line. The idea behind the unbroken line is similar to the idea behind a Celtic knot. A continuous magical meditation on the word or intention of your choosing keeps the magic in play. There are no breaks in the magic if there are no breaks in the line. Some practitioners extend this idea, looping the end of the line back to the beginning exactly like the Celtic knots, in effect, playing the sigil on repeat.

To make a sigil, write the intention or word you want to communicate. Remove the vowels and any duplicate letters. Play with the letter arrangement until you are satisfied. For example:

what-are-sigils

To add extra mojo to your sigils you can incorporate other symbols. Mercury (☿) is the planet associated with lungs, and Saturn (♄) is associated with the spleen. When ☿, and ♄ are added to health, the new sigil specifies lung and immune system health.

health + ☿ + ♄

h e a l t h + ☿ + ♄

hlt + ☿ + ♄

health-sigil

Sigils are unique and imbued with your feelings and intentions at the moment they were made, therefore sigils change over time. I find that making my own sigils works better than using preexisting sigils, however, numerous practitioners prefer to use ready-made sigils and that’s okay too.

These sigils are for personal use IRL.
For use online, please link back to this post.
Commercial use prohibited.

Again, this is not medical advice. If you feel sick call or go see a doctor!

Wishing you healthy days ahead.
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See you next time on Historical Witchcraft.

Sources:

Masterson, Kathleen. “From Grunting to Gabbing.” All things considered. NPR. National Public Radio. 11 Aug 2010.

Schmandt-Besserat, Denise. “The Evolution of Writing.” Tokens. The University of Texas at Austin. 25 Jan 2014.

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