Shoaling: Making Sigil Magic More Awesome Since 2010

Shoaling: Making Sigil Magic More Awesome Since 2010


Think of it like birds flocking but with a few key differences.

Firstly, the aerodynamic (in this case hydrodynamic) advantages aren’t as great.

That’s because fish ‘shoal’ when they aren’t heading somewhere, and ‘school’ when they are. Schooling gives a hydrodynamic advantage.

You guys all know I used to work for Discovery Channel, right?

This post will make a whole lot more sense if you know that. I’m not a fish nerd… I was paid to be a fish nerd. Big difference. (Also I am a bit of a fish nerd.)

Anyway, fish ‘shoal’ for some obvious reasons:

  • To protect against predation.
  • To indicate where there is food.
  • To raise young.

But there are other advantages that clearly haven’t been worked through yet. It’s social in some way, for one. And maybe they just like it?

Regardless, shoaling seems to me quite a good metaphor for multi-sigil experiments because you have the whole ocean/unconscious, ‘firing it off into the depths’ thing… But you also have predation in the form of your conscious intellect. Presumably you want your sigils to cluster somewhere that allows them to take root and possibly feed.

Beyond that, the metaphor starts to get a bit stretched but it’s a fun, mostly helpful name.

One final warning: There’s a bit of a rant at the end.

So here is how you shoal!

Select your target

Remember my bee post? Seriously, how could you not? I link to it all the time.

Well, it’s going to come in handy because shoaling is where you really get to rock your targeting.

The first thing you need to do is assess your critical path. There is more about this at the bottom of each post if you subscribe and then check the bottom of one of my posts in your reader.

Be vague with the critical path.

It looks to my eyes that Black Swan Dynamics offer the most effective way to map magical outcomes. The implications of this are that if you think you know precisely how something is supposed to happen and you enchant for it… You may have just blocked the enormous opportunity that would have landed if you didn’t go and mess every damn thing up.

You should aim instead to make your target outcome ‘Black Swan friendly’. Kinda like putting up a chaotic bird feeder in your head.

The next trick is to identify ‘weak points’ that are possible sources of Black Swans.

Prior to reading the book, I used to refer to this as “increasing the chaos” because you want to widen the potential outcomes you expose yourself to: be that in wealth, love, health, career… And so on. The example below will help.

Scattergun your target

You must separate your objective into smaller pieces.

So, rather than sigilising for “money”, try instead

  • Some big new clients
  • Well timed phone calls or meetings with senior people
  • Budget reallocation for your deparment
  • A payrise for a spouse
  • etc

You see how if even just one of these sigils converts into a desired outcome, you start to “shift” the probability of the total outcome more and more in your favour? This makes it more likely that some form of cumulative advantage will come into play. Hence why I call it “increasing the chaos”.

You want sharp, precise surgical strikes, my handsome ninja babies.

Shoal your sigils

Got your scattershot ready?

Now add things that are ‘nice to haves’  but are unrelated to your broad objective. Things like lucky shopping finds, clear skin, the development of an AIDS vaccine and so on.

Then launch in groups of four or more:

  • I go for inhibitory gnosis (in chaos terms) but that’s because sitting alone in your room, wishing for money and masturbating… Well… I’m just gonna say it. It’s beneath me. No judgement or anything.
  • Other than that, all you really need is a paper and pen. (But maybe nice paper and a paint pen.)
  • Then get yourself into a light trance state and focus the sigils. I know when to stop like I know when to stop shuffling cards.
  • I burn the sigils when I’m done. But that’s optional. It’s all optional. This isn’t a Turkish prison.

Record your results if you want

I don’t.

(This is that rant I warned you about.)

But then I haven’t kept a ‘proper’ magical diary for years. Part of it is because it’s simply not how I am wired to record useful information.

The other part of it is I passionately reject the idea that writing in a little secret book is some kind of universal magical requirement. What if you’re blind? Or dyslexic? Or what if you’re illiterate? (As 99.9999999999% of all sorcerers have been since magic first appeared in the archaeological record a few hundred thousand years ago.)

Half of my objection to magical diaries appear to be political. But they are also practical. Comme ça:

Mandatory use of a magical diary relies on way too many unprovable assumptions.

  • That writing words down in English is a valid enough recording of your experience. (Why not a flip camera?)
  • That your powers of observation and memories of the events in question are accurate. (Which they aren’t.)
  • That the practice of magic is like going to the gym and you are improving along some slow and steady, mapped-out path and a record of what weight you could previously bench will be of use to you in the future.
  • That there is any possible way to prove causality in human behaviour is anything other than an error of inductive logic. (Which there isn’t.)
  • That it is anything other than yet another Victorian Middle Class inheritance.

More on the last one: In Victorian times, every good gentleman kept extensive leather-bound journals which you would write in for hours and display in your London townhouse. This is before you would even make a start on the pile of inane letters you had to write to gentlemen in similar situations.

Quite what these fuckers had to write about when they spent their whole day doing this is beyond me. But anyway, the amount of time you could devote to your diary was a class indicator because it revealed how much free time you actually had.

You see, the English had this funny way of being “behaviourally prejudiced”. Whilst they wouldn’t officially turn down a coal miner for entry into a club/lodge/temple, they would make it a rule that -for example- you have to spend so many hours a day writing in a diary… Which is a requirement a coal miner or a mother or a baker could not satisfy. (Golf clubs do the same thing.)

Yes, there were magic books before Victorian England but -at least as far as I have found- they weren’t pissing competitions between rich white men.

Besides: I will know when I have achieved my magical outcomes because I will be living in Montenegro surrounded by an army of scantily-clad, bronzed servants whom I will shout encouragement at from a leopard-skin throne as they wash my helicopter.

Don’t need no diary for that.


A final observation on shoaling

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sigils you shoal together seem to have interrelated outcomes. My client one is intimately -and bizarrely- tied to a health one I cast at the same time which is also tied to one I cast for my partner. An unusual number of shoaled sigil manifestations interlock.

This isn’t a warning.

If anything, it’s a strong endorsement to mix them up. Shoaling improves the chances that you’ll wake up in Black Swan country.

Let me know how you get on.


Add yours
  1. 2
    Frater AIT

    My blog is my diary; I feel you. Who writes with their hands these days, anyway?

    Blogs work great because I can keep track of important ritual work/understandings while getting a sort of peer review at the same time.

    The diary did serve a useful purpose for me, though…it helped me to ground the stuff I experienced in vision before it disappeared into the Lethe.

  2. 3

    Fucking awesome rant. I laughed my ass of. And I’m reminded of some people I know who spend so much time posting the minutia of their lives on Facebook that I wonder how they have time to do any of the things they’re posting about.

  3. 4
    Vivienne Grainger

    “[P]issing competitions between rich white men.”
    Gordon, Gordon. One of these days, the mysterious “they” is going to have you offed for telling the truth.

  4. 5

    You say shoaling, I say emergence. Probably strong emergence according to used the term MAGIC! Accurate models and word definitions always got me further and it might account for the multiple sigils teaming up in an unforeseen new way.

  5. 6

    You officially just made my universe much much larger! Two decades at this game …and I never thought to take this approach. Brilliant!

    Oh, and on the “free book” thoughts. Well, a three ring binder, hole punch, and the Rune Soup Book keeps growing ;)

  6. 7
    Fractal Based Life Form

    This idea is just fantastic. I have tried something similar before, but in a slightly different way. This post actually showed how I could really improve my approach. I have definitely to try this method soon…

  7. 8

    i take notes on occasion. if, for example, a particular phrase/verse strikes me as particularly applicable for many things, or if i need to use it repeatedly, i write it down. not for the sake of journaling, but for the fact that memorization doesn’t work for me (until after i have used said verse for a period of weeks/months). i like the 3ring binder idea–more efficient than bookmarks & post-its!

  8. 9

    I don’t keep a “magical diary” per se, but I do keep a ritual log. And being a serious bibliophile and stationery fetishist, it’s a bound book and actually even has a leather-covered spine. I don’t don’t know about any of this “linear progress” jazz, but I sure as shit won’t remember half the stuff I do unless I write it down. That goes double for the “subjective” stuff that goes on in my head during a ritual. Really! When I go back and look at things I recorded more than a month ago (now how exactly did I do that?), I’m amazed at the level of detail that has already faded from memory; stuff that I DO want to remember, too.

    So, I’m not all that convinced by your post-colonial criticism of Victorian magicians’ record keeping. You’re not, by far, the first educated Aussie I’ve ever known who frothed at the mouth whenever the subject of English aristocrats came up.

    Mind you, there is a definite link between the kind of magic practiced in the Mediterranean-European tradition (with it’s roots in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Hellenistic world, and the “Rosicrucian” movement of the Renaissance) and a class of people with the time and resources to read lots of expensive books, write lots of notebooks and letters, gather all the equipment needed for arcane rituals and the privacy to engage in these things beyond the prying eyes of God-fearing illiterate peasants. We owe a lot to these people.

    That having been said, I’m beginning to sour on paper notebooks for other reasons. I’ve been keeping a dream journal for over thirty years. There they are all lined up in a row on my shelf, and every time I want to find a particular dream I have to recall approximately when I had it and start skimming entries around that date. Recently I wanted to find a dream I SWEAR I wrote down at some point. Spent several hours going through three years’ worth of dreams, and couldn’t find it. I know a professor in New England who has all of his dream journals in a database. He can search for terms and make graphs of time patterns and all sorts of cool shit. That would be so convenient. Do a search for the word “bird” and pull up every dream that ever had a bird in it. The search function is always the strongest argument for digital records.

    But that would mean getting a very small computer that boots up really fast. I ain’t got that, and it’s not in the budget any time soon. So I’ll be keeping the notebook and pen next to the bed for a while longer.

    I don’t know, Dude. I kind of think that being a Western mage and having a tight relationship with the written word go together very naturally. Thoth, the god of magic, was also the god of writing. “In the beginning was the WORD”.

    I know! I know! Somebody is going to tell me how some unschooled villager living in a smelly corrugated steel hut can whip up some mojo that could scare the shit out of a prim white middle-class suburban lodge magician. And that might be right. But I’m not a villager somewhere in the third world. I’m a
    Western man, raised on Grimm’s fairy tales and books written by dead white men. And in that tradition, it’s important to be able to write a good record.
    Scribbler´s last blog post ..Is screwing up such a bad thing Mr Opus?

  9. 11

    @Frater AIT I thought about whether the blog is a modern replacement for the diary and I decided that it was “necessary but not sufficient”

    My modern magical diary; if it exists; would be composed of:
    – My blog
    – My delicious links
    – My search history
    – The rest of the internet in general

    Copying astrological formulae from one book to another may have made sense in Regency England because there simply weren’t enough books and if you wanted access to the info you had to write it all down and keep it.

    But believe me. The wizards of old would take a blog network, Google and Amazon Prime over that blasted book any day.

    @Jason Project-based stuff is certainly valid. Been there, too. My objection is to The Magical Diary (capitalized).

    I also record with photos and long-hand any important divination I do so I can measure my accuracy when the events come to pass.

    @Vivienne Funnily enough, I saw a stand-up comic at the Melbourne Comedy Festival about 12 years ago who launched into this rant about how “they” are actually The Beatles. It was convincing enough at the time… Can’t believe I’m going to be killed by one of the Beatles. It’s only the lame ones that are still alive. *sigh*

  10. 12

    @solxyz You kinda bring up a good point. I fire them off one at a time, one after the other in one sitting… But the ones not being charged are laid face up in front of me on a casting cloth with a few candles for effect.

    And the reason I said “kinda” is that sigils aren’t meant to be held in your consciousness at all. That’s their very raison d’etre.

  11. 13

    I find that keeping a diary is just about all that allows me to remember *anything*, including magic. I don’t bother to keep it separate from the dream diary, etc. Thing is, I seldom go back and read it, almost only the dreams and the call ‘em “travellings” because memory of those two things is far more evanescent and volatile than any other kind I know of. But–the act of writing stuff down adds linguistic memories (yes they’re rather false, but no more than everything everywhere, and with practice you can learn to tell more truth than you used to) and also kinesthetic memories, probably others, to the memory banks: the stored “file” in my brain is larger and easier to find, usually obviating any need to later actually read the diary.

    Another of those “The process is the product” phenomena or a “Style is substance” or “The medium is the message” sort of thing…

    But if you have a good memory then forget about it. The diary-keeping, I mean.

  12. 14

    @Scribbler. I’m an illiterate peasant, except that I read many hours a day and hate farm work. But otherwise: utter peasant. And gods scare the shit out of me sometimes.

  13. 15

    This makes me feel a bit better about being balls terrible at keeping my magical diary. Like RO and others I choose to write down “experiments” in them, much like a lab book, but when I was writing in it every day, it was honestly a bunch of crap.

    I eventually would just have a series of initials and check marks for my magical daily routine. I think if it progressed past that I would just be writing the date and SSDD (Same Shit Different Day), until I got to something fun and unusual.

    I do however like a written catalog of experiences, if for no other reason than after you die someone might read it and be turned to Magic, or sit back in awe at how strange, poor dead uncle Archibald was. Much of the inspiration factor that the journals of other magicians have, I honestly get from our blagosphere.
    Jow´s last blog post ..I shall face my fear- and let it pass over and through me

  14. 16

    @jow absolutely agree on the death/inspiration thing. And the Internet is a better place for that I think.

    I want to write more about this but I am drunkenly commenting on my own post using an iPhone in a Paris bar. Fingers crossed I remember to follow this up.

    Also fingers crossed everything is spelled correctly

  15. 24

    For the most part, I get this though some of it is more complex than I prefer.

    To me the appeal of sigils was that a faith system was not a necessity to accomplish will.

    I’m glad there are others who admit to being lazy about their approach because ultimately so am I.

    I get stumped on a couple of things though. 1. How significant is it to “not” (no pun intended) include any negatives in your statement of intent? 2. Same question for stating your intent in the present, i.e. “I am…wealthy, ex.” And, 3. Any ideas for statements on being given money instead of intent being based upon acting toward a goal? (Told you I was lazy.)

  16. 27
    Rose Lunafyre

    I totally agree with you about not keeping a magickal diary, journal, BOS or Grimoire or whatever you want to call it! I find recording everything a complete waste of time. Why? Well it’s not because I am trying to make a fashion statement but it’s because my actual memory, by this I mean my actual brain has this incredible way of being able to remember every single magickal thing I have ever done. I thought that was the same for everyone but obviously I was wrong.
    What I like to do after completing a ritual, circle, spell or magickal working of any kind is to quite often take a few photos of my altar and/or my magickal workplace whether it be out doors by the sea or indoors in my ritual room. I can remember every single magickal working I have ever done!
    In the beginning I kept a Book of Shadows because that’s what all my Witchy friends did right. Then I went on to buy the standard leather journal type to write down all my special thoughts, dreams, affirmations and anything else applicable in my magickal life. I soon found that with all that darn writing I didn’t have too much time for anything else. Like actually practicing magick as well as living my actual life.
    So I applaud your lost dear Sir and I am all for using the grey matter that we all have between our ears and resting our actual writing hand to do far more with our lives and actually living our life instead of just writing about what we’ve done.
    Since I stopped recording all my magickal workings I’ve found far more time to actually write. I am in the process of writing 2 books at present and if your interested there are three blogs written from a very controversial one where the link is below and it’s my own true story of being sexually abused and addicted it prescribed drugs by the most machievellian psychiatrist ever. Thankfully now he is bred from practicing.
    Well keep up with the great writing my friend and I applaud you for this blog!


    Rose Lunfyre

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