Magic is a mental practice – where you exercise and selectively focus your intent, your ‘motivation’ or ‘will’, behind an action in order to be more effective and increase the odds of success/achieving a goal or desire. In that way, it’s really not very magical at all and sometimes that can be a disappointment to many who come to any of the ‘magical’ practices (Wicca, any Pagan variety, Chaos Magic(k, depending on your tastes) and even Jediism and Satanism), because they come to it expecting something extra-ordinary and are shown something very ordinary and ‘boring’.
But if you stick around long enough (or come back to it afterwards, like I did) then you’ll find the ordinary is un-believably extra-ordinary!
When you let in the ‘mystery’ (that sensation of awe that comes with not knowing) of certain things, like where you are (seriously, have you ever tried to find out where ‘you’ exists in this physical realm? If at all?), how ‘you’ can make your body move (think about lifting your arm without actually doing it, and see just how far you can push that ‘desire’ to the brink without breaching into physical action – how frustrated do you feel? Where’s that frustration coming from? That ‘frustration’ is a welling-up of your power, like an army battering the gates trying to break through, btw), and other various other previousy banal facts of reality like the way words affect other people and that you can transmit that ‘affecting ability’ via sound or through writing, then yes, the ordinary becomes pretty fucking* awesome.
So that leads me to the heart of this post’s topic: symbols, and what author Aaron B. Daniels calls “ensigilisation” in his books on Voidcraft – the act of ‘trapping’ a concept in a symbol (or string of symbols, like those we call ‘words’).
Most of my experience with ‘magic’ and ‘the occult’ has left me unimpressed and unaffected – why? Because it never really spoke to me. I’d see these ‘glyphs’ and ‘mystical symbols’ and feel very meh… so what? Sure, there was a twinge of a ‘neat-o’ factor to it because I didn’t know what those symbols meant – so it was cool and mysterious as a teen – but they didn’t do anything for(to) me.
Symbols are just pictures, and they’re pretty useless unless the person looking at them can attach what they’re seeing to what they’re feeling. I’m speaking abstractly now, but take words and letters – the written alphabet. Think about how writing was invented – why it was invented. Writing was a ‘brain-dump’ – a way for us to move information that was in our heads out there instead. But writing was ‘for ourselves’ – we wrote it more as a ‘note to self’ than to communicate it to others. It’s afterwards, when a curious neighbour or friend came along and said “Hey, what’s that? What are those squiggles?” and that you explained what they meant to you that your neighbour now could understand them also because they now meant the same thing to your neighbour.
So now let’s get back to magical symbols. How do ‘wards’ and ‘sigils’ work? They only work when the person seeing them understands them. And for that you have to explain it to them. So take a ‘curse’ for example. You want to curse someone and so you draw what you feel is a symbol on a flat stone, and you slip it into their pocket or bag. If you don’t directly tell them (bullshit them) that “I’ve put a curse on you and this symbol will act as a beacon for evil spirits so they are drawn to you and will cause you misery” then it won’t work. They’ll go home and a) either never notice the flat pebble was in their pocket/bag or b) find it and b-1) find it aesthetically pleasing and think they have a secret admirer or b-2) think nothing of it and toss it in their flower patch in their garden or b-3) think someone else is an idiot and thinks they succeeded in putting a curse on them – pretty-much anything can happen except them feeling like they’ve been cursed. In order for them to feel cursed they already have to be familiar with the concept of a curse, the ‘symbolism’ of curses (like juju bags, hex dolls, or possibly flat stones with symbols on them), and only then will their minds be infected with worry, only then will their attention be distracted and vigilant of unpleasant events, only then will their minds be in a state to associate the unpleasant events to the symbol they found in their pocket.
That was ‘curses’ but you can use symbols for your own spiritual practice too – if you make pictures that have meaning to you, then they will help you as mental reminders to feel gratitude once in a while, or to think kindly upon yourself (a great one for that is your bathroom mirror!) – that is to say you can make magic work on you and for you.
But it doesn’t have to be mystical – you can put words in your digital organiser and set it so that you are reminded at a certain time or on a certain day. Again, the banal is magical. It’s just about mental mastery. And the key to using sigils or symbols is that they can’t be someone else’s – they have to be yours. So don’t waste your time buying those ‘occult’ books covered with symbols – you’re only succumbing to the ‘neat-o’ factor – and, possibly, that’s exactly what the author wanted you to do – how would you know?
Take a book title written in huge embossed letters “THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!” – you’re gonna buy it right? Yeah… Who’s a sucker now? What about the shameless ‘click-bait’ titles… Take a moment to think about the power of symbols…
* (hey, I never pretended this blog would be PG-13)