Sigil

sefer raziel hamalakh

lesser key of solomon

A sigil [sij-il] is a symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a demon or other supernatural entity; in modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic (a postmodern magical tradition which emphasizes the pragmatic use of belief systems), it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician’s desired outcome.

The term derives from the Latin ‘sigillum,’ meaning ‘seal,’ though it may also be related to the Hebrew word ‘segula’ meaning ‘word, action, or item of spiritual effect, talisman.’ The current use of the term is derived from Renaissance magic (a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic in the 15th and 16th centuries), which was in turn inspired by the magical traditions of antiquity.

In medieval ceremonial magic, the term sigil was commonly used to refer to occult signs which represented various angels and demons which the magician might summon. The magical training books called ‘grimoires’ often listed pages of such sigils. A particularly well-known list is in ‘The Lesser Key of Solomon,’ in which the sigils of the 72 princes of the hierarchy of hell are given for the magician’s use. Such sigils were considered to be the equivalent of the true name of the spirit and thus granted the magician a measure of control over the beings. A common method of creating the sigils of certain spirits was to use a ‘kamea,’ a magic square (an arrangement of distinct numbers in a square grid, where the numbers in each row, and in each column, and the numbers in the main and secondary diagonals, all add up to the same number). The names of the spirits were converted to numbers, which were then located on the magic square. The locations were then connected by lines, forming an abstract figure.

The use of symbols for magical or cultic purposes has been widespread since at least the Neolithic era. Some examples from other cultures include the yantra from Hindu tantra, historical runic magic among the Germanic peoples, or the use of veves in Voudon (a Haitian religious symbol). In modern times, the concept was popularized by English artists and occultist Austin Osman Spare, who published a method by which the words of a statement of intent are reduced into an abstract design; the sigil is then charged with the will of the creator. Spare’s technique, now known as ‘sigilization,’ has become a core element of chaos magic. Unlike with medieval and ancient sigils, whose creators made use of traditional lore passed down from generations or from books, modern users often create sigils entirely themselves and devise individual means of ‘charging’ them with metaphysical power. Sigils are used for spells as well as for the creation of thoughtforms (‘magical emanations,’ a concept in mysticism of a being or object which is created through sheer spiritual or mental discipline alone).

A ‘hypersigil’ is an extended work of art with magical meaning and willpower, created using adapted processes of sigilization. The term was popularized (if not coined) by Scottish graphic novelist Grant Morrison. His comic book series ‘The Invisibles’ was intended as a hypersigil. The plot follows (more or less) a single cell of ‘The Invisible College,’ a secret organization battling against physical and psychic oppression using time travel, magic, meditation, and physical violence.

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