Sigils Reboot: How To Get Big Magic From Little Squiggles

Sigils Reboot: How To Get Big Magic From Little Squiggles


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What your unconscious really looks like

This was going to be a free ebook.

At the time it seemed like the best way to collate the last three years of experimentation with shoaling.

But as it rolled around and around in my mind, ebook delivery -something I am a massive fan of- began to represent what Seth Godin would call the end of a discussion rather than its beginning.

An ebook is too finite a product for a topic that, done well, should be in constant flux.

What if we stumble upon something really helpful tomorrow? Do I need to write another post that says “okay everybody, download a new version of the book”?

It all seems so pre-internet, like having to walk into a store and buy patches for an operating system on floppy disc. (That sentence made me feel old like granite.)

You could, and I do, argue that all magical theory should be in a state of flux. Surely that goes triple for the cornerstone technique of chaos magic?

So here we go, then. The ebook that almost was. You’ll note it’s more holistic in its topic coverage than a traditional post. It may become a page instead at some point in the future. But having it live lets me tinker with it, hence the use of the word ‘ultimate’. It will be my singular sigil magic repository.

>> Introduction

Sigil magic was my least favourite thing back in my Baby’s First Grimoire days. It offended my sense of theatre. Where was the ritual, the incense, the scary looking altars? It was also… ahh… how you say… “messy”? So I kept away from it for years.

Then I accidentally ended up with a moderately successful career in the global advertising industry.

It was here that I saw the same techniques that underpin sigil magic -backed up with a huge amount of brain studies- being put to potent use.

Advertising relies on an understanding of how images work and how they work on the brain. Just changing a word or even a colour in an ad campaign would result in thousands of dollars profit for a client. The audience is rarely if ever aware they have been impacted in some way. And yet you think that you yourself are somehow never influenced.

It’s not as evil as it sounds. In fact, consciously filtering out sensory data is an evolutionary advantage. But you’re still absorbing it via ‘low attention processing’. As for your lack of individual awareness of being influenced, this is due to a psychological phenomenon called Third Person Perception: the belief that advertising affects other people more than you. If you don’t agree with it, put down your Starbucks coffee, tap your converse sneaker angrily on the ground while you get out your iPad and use it to send me an angry gmail. More on this later.

Clearly, using images and words has a huge impact. Over the last thirty years, millions and millions of dollars have been spent trying to understand precisely what sort of impact visual stimuli have on the human brain; from violence in computer games to font choices in mortgage ads.

This is the kind of research and exploration that the first exponents of modern sigil magic could only dream about.

So maybe sigils are in need of another look? Maybe there is a way to fold all this research into sigil magic and… reboot it?

It’s worth the effort. Sigils are elegant. Sigils are adaptable. They don’t replace anything in your life or spiritual practice. They aren’t either/or. Whatever your flavour, you can definitely use sigils. Even the most stringent atheists can get something out of working with sigils. They can fit into any magical system. You could teach a nun sigil magic. (Somebody please teach a nun sigil magic.)

>> Magic Is Easy

Firstly let me say that magic is simple. How could it not be? Cavemen did it.

But magic is simple the way sex is simple. Herein lies the problem. Because before you know it that short distance between A and B is cluttered with the magical equivalent of safe words, pimp masks and anal beads and you start to wonder if maybe, somewhere along the line, you haven’t got a little bit off track.

Sigil magic short circuits that. It is very probably the least complex form of enchantment that can still be called magic.

So if the steps outlined below look easy that’s because they are. Magic -in the words of Christopher Hyatt- is the birthright of all mankind. Magic is as much yours as is your sex drive. If you want it, then you belong here.

>> What Magic Does

Something on your mind?

New people tend to ask how magic works.

Except they’re not really interested in how magic works, they’re interested in what magic does.

And what magic does is enhance the probability of certain outcomes over others.

It loads the dice. It stacks the deck. And if you do it right it stacks the deck in your favour.

I’m not calling you ugly or anything, but let’s say there is a one in six chance you will get laid if you hit the bars tonight. Magic, properly deployed, will bring that down to a one in three.

This neatly gets around the curious phenomenon of when a spell doesn’t work. When you think about it, magic is weirder because it doesn’t work all the time, not because it actually works. It’s not like your brain can forget the colour ‘blue’ some days and not others.

But if you consider your results probabilistically, they did work. They all worked. Your lottery spell worked. It dropped your chances down from 1 in 328 million to 1 in 24 million. You still lost. You chose a silly target.

Here’s how my all-time magical hero puts it:

“Daunting probabilites often appear for complex tasks like winning in war or business or love from a weak initial position; however all of those steps involved in winning may not actually look so impossible individually.

The probability of throwing a dozen heads consecutively comes out at a desperate 0.000024, so only one person in four thousand might achieve it on average. However each individual step has a 0.5 probability and a magician with any sense will choose to attack such steps individually rather than go head to head against such formidable odds.”
- Peter J Carroll. The Octavo.

Of course, if you really are after some wild speculation as to how magic works -and wild speculation is all it is possible to get from anyone because we won’t ever know- my current best guess is that magic is some kind of combination of

  • Psychology: overclocking processes that you mind would normally perform anyway. There is something about the way your mind hangs together that enables it to alter the physical state of subatomic particles.
  • Quantum effects: some massive kinks that have yet to be ironed out of the quantum theory. There is seriously some weird shit going on down there in your atoms. My suspicion is subatomic behaviour scales up in a haphazard way.

Exactly how it is your mind interfaces with these quantum effects is a matter for another day, to be explained by someone much smarter than me. But it all leads inevitably to the overly-convenient Rune Soup bet hedging: “Magic is all in your head except when it isn’t.”

You may, of course, attribute magic’s efficacy to a sky fairy of your choosing. Whatever gets you there, baby. Like I said, it’s extremely unlikely we will ever know.

>> The Sigil Story So Far

People -at least those who have heard of sigils before- think of one name first. Austin Osman Spare; a much-underappreciated twentieth century London artist and personal hero of mine.

London. Sigil magic's latest -but by no means first- address.

But if you are looking for a potted history of sigils then it really depends on how you define the term. You could go all the way back to Neolithic cave art and say that those squiggles were designed to bring about some kind of real-world effect could be considered sigils.

The very beginnings of written languages could be considered sigils if you follow this line of reasoning.

They were intended, after-all to ‘enshrine’ a concept in visual form for transmission from mind to mind. Or backwards and forwards inside the one mind but across time ie writing something down and reading it later.

(Can you imagine how potent the first ever characters meant to describe “love” or “death” were? Think of how the early mind must have boggled at being able to carry these ideas around.)

Magic squares appeared at the European end of the Silk Road (they’re Chinese originally) during the early historical period where they were quickly absorbed into magic by way of Al-Andalus. Essentially, you would choose a language with characters that had corresponding numbers -like Hebrew- and use the squares to create sigils.

Astrological sigils were popular during the Renaissance and then once again in the nineteenth century thanks to the Golden Dawn.

Then, in the early twentieth century, we get to Spare himself, who created the most-prevalent sigil technique almost as a side-effect of building his own complete system of magic. As Geraldine Beskin of the world-famous Atlantis Bookshop says: “this is a very difficult thing to do”.

So yes, the sigil magic story. We think of it as mostly Spare but there was a heck of a lot that went on before him.

>> Tools of Sigil Magic

Pen and paper, basically.

But before you leap to judgement, recall that your earliest cavemen ancestors would have gladly have chosen paint pens and a flashlight over the charcoal and feces they were forced to use for their glyphs.

Don’t discount the method just because the tools are simple. Or what you do with said tools:

Writing up goals and staring at them might sound more like corporate sales training or lifehacking than commanding the forces of the universe but I would argue -having swum in both oceans- that this is because the business world is getting more magical, not because the magical world is getting more business-like.

>> Classic Sigil Construction

‘Classic’ is meant in the loosest possible sense, of course. What it really means is post-Spare. There is no better introduction to classical sigil construction -and chaos magic in general, I suppose- than Grant Morrison’s late nineties gem, Pop Magic.

Here is what you do:

  1. Write out your desire/goal.
  2. Cross out all the vowels.
  3. Cross out all the repeated letters.
  4. Mash the remaining letters into a single (hideous) glyph.
  5. Then start amending this glyph until it starts to look more pleasing. I try to make mine look organic or tribal but that’s a personal preference. Your unconscious is different to mine. (Probably.)

You really can’t get this wrong. Of course, you’ll think you are doing it wrong the first few times. Not only are you not constructing your sigils incorrectly, you are probably already activating them. Common concerns include

  • This still looks too much like the original letters.
  • This looks nothing like the original letters.
  • This doesn’t look very ‘magical’.

It doesn’t need to look like anything. But it works better if it looks ‘pleasing’. And only you will know when you get to ‘pleasing’.

There are some recommended changes to the classic copy construction I have picked up from years of hoodwinking people into buying things they probably don’t need.

  • Use positive words rather than negative words.
  • Have fixed or clear goals.
  • Use the present tense.
  • Describe the ‘completed’ situation rather than the desire to get there.

For some reason or another, your unconscious doesn’t really do ‘time’ or ‘distance’ or any of the other perceived barriers to success that so concern your conscious mind. And recent studies have shown that the language you ‘think’ in can affect whether you achieve your goals:

Languages can be divided into those that use grammar to make a strong distinction between the present and the future (linguists say these have strong “future time reference” or FTR) and those that blur the two (weak FTR). Where you’d say, “I’m going to buy a house” in English, which is a strong FTR language, you’d say, “I buy house” in Mandarin, with the timing implied by the context. Chen’s number-crunching revealed extraordinary correlations. Weak-FTR speakers are 24% less likely to smoke and 29% more likely to exercise; strong-FTR speakers saved far less money. Chen’s argument is that the more you think of the future as a radically different thing, the easier it is not to worry about how too many cigarettes – or too little money – might cause problems in that future. It’s not your fault you’re a wreck. It’s your grammar’s.

Sneaking into your own mind. Easier than it looks.

My completely unfounded suspicion is your unconscious’s inability to grokk time when delivering on magical results -a phenomenon common to spirit work as well- has something to do with the way your mind interfaces with the freaky quantum uncertainty that underpins the entire universe.

Your observation will collapse a wave into a particle instantaneously. Ie in exactly ‘zero’ time.

By definition it is faster than light. That’s what makes quantum observation so weird. (Correction, that’s one of the things that makes it so weird.)

Incidentally, somewhere in this instantaneous observational quality of the unconscious that makes sigil magic work.

For one reason or another, it just does what you tell it. Right away. Whatever it looks upon changes. Weird, huh?

However it works, even just on a liguistic level, the implications are clear: pick positive, completed scenarios rather than emphasising the things that you ‘lack’.

Here are some examples of optimised magical statements:

  • ‘I am my ideal weight’ or ‘I wear size 12′ rather than ‘I wish to lose weight fast’.
  • ‘I wholly own my house’ rather than ‘I wish to be mortgage free’.
  • ‘I am in a loving relationship’ rather than ‘I want to find love’.

A lot of the time you can shorten it further… using the first example again, you can bring your statement down to just ‘my ideal weight’ for instance. (The I, A and M will be crossed out anyway.) You’ll get faster at noticing these shortcuts with more practice.

>> Preliminary Magical Work

There is probably a better word than ‘preliminary’ here. But what I mean is that sending coded messages to your unconscious is more effective if you already have a working relationship with it.

Energy work and meditation are the best ways to do this. Responsible administration of entheogens are also extremely attractive in ‘cleaning out the pipes’ so the water can run clear. (And it may surprise you to learn that quite a number of them are weirdly legal in a lot of places. Google around.)

If you are reading this, it is very likely that you already have a magical system you work and you are just looking to add something to it. If not -and you are completely fresh to magic- then I almost don’t want to give you any tips. Seriously just fire off some sigils, see how it works and then go looking for more elaborate and spooky things. Why not use sigil magic to summon up your ideal magical system?

>> Sigils Redux: Your Brain

Sparean sigil construction relies on a model of the brain that is now about a century old. Essentially you need to smoosh your sigils past your conscious mind and down into your unconscious… really ram them down there… like you’re making pan-dimensional foie gras.

Then you are to ‘consciously forget’ about them so as not to summon them back up to your conscious mind where they would be ineffective. The conscious mind does the thinking, the unconscious mind is your interface with the numinous, dark, unknowable forces of creation.

Our understanding of the mind has moved along quite a bit since then -particularly since the postwar adoption of television and the explosive growth of the advertising and marketing world. How your brain absorbs symbols and the resulting behaviour those symbols elicits is big business. (Bout half a trillion a year.)

The dividing line between the conscious and the unconscious is a bit more nuanced these days, which means we must necessarily update how we engage them.

For a start, it looks like some kind of cognition goes on in our unconscious:

Researchers took a chronic amnesiac to the [Hampton Court] maze, and asked him if he’d ever been there. No, he replied, he had not. They gave him a whistle, and had him wind his way through the hedges. Upon reaching the center he blew the whistle. Researchers recorded the time. The next day, the researchers did the same thing. They asked the amnesiac if he’d ever been to the maze, to which the reply was no. Off they sent him again with the whistle, and they timed the speed with which he reached the center.

Day after day, same thing. Again they asked if he’d ever been to the maze, again the reply was no. Again they timed how long it took him to reach the center.

Though the patient had no recollection of his time in the maze, something strange happened. Each time the patient made his way through the maze, he did it differently. Specifically, he did it faster. Without actively remembering the maze, he was subconsciously learning. Over time he built up a mental schema of the labyrinth… It’s inefficient, but for several decades in the twentieth century, it’s how advertising worked. Like the amnesiac in the maze, we passively absorbed brand messages, cumulatively, over the course of years, without realising it. – Sally Hogshead. Fascinate.

We also now know that a message viewed consciously-even an extremely negative one- has unexpected, unhelpful and sometimes completely opposite effects. For instance, exposure to tobacco health warnings makes people want to smoke:

Lindstrom notes the potent effect of imagery associated with tobacco brands. Red Formula 1 racing cars, rugged cowboys, and other images long associated with cigarettes (Marlboro, in those examples) were more powerful in stimulating the same craving center than the brand logo itself. Lindstrom suggests that the presence of overt advertising stimuli like a logo actually alerts the brain to the fact that it’s viewing a commercial message, while the cars and cowboys are more readily processed without the brain applying a “commercial” filter.

I think what’s happening with the tobacco warning labels is that they have become part of the “trade dress” of cigarette brands. While a bold warning that the product might kill you isn’t as appealing from a branding standpoint as a red Ferrari, there’s little doubt that being exposed to the warning labels many times per day for years has become part of the Marlboro experience. This would happen with anything you put on the cigarette packs. Put a picture of George Bush on every pack, and within a short time every time Bush was on TV you’d see smokers lighting up.

Your unconscious mind is just as much of a filthy traitor as your conscious mind. This implies techniques such as visualisation are even less reliable than previously considered.

But there are ways this can be hacked. For instance, it’s just possible that distraction rather than deliberation leads to better decision making. From the wiki page:

[I]t is still unknown what exactly happens neurologically when unconscious thought occurs, a more thorough understanding of which may inform those trying to prescribe unconscious or conscious thought. (Antonio Damasio’s recent book on the neurology of reason, Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, while not a discussion of consciousness, argues for the existence of an evolved interaction that takes place in normal brains between emotion – an unconscious process, distinct from the conscious experience of feeling – and conscious reasoning.)

What this suggests is that thoughts moving backwards and forwards between your conscious and unconscious minds -rather than a one way trip from conscious to unconscious- could improve sigil efficacy.

Summarily:

  • Visual stimuli affect the unconscious in entirely unpredictable ways.
  • Cognition is not confined to the conscious mind (and hence cannot be the barrier to successful sigil magic).
  • An ongoing back and forth between the conscious and the unconscious mind contributes in some way to optimal magical outcomes.

Magic, then, is essentially advertising to your unconscious. The success of shoaling in many ways hangs on this notion.

>> Sigils Redux: Target Selection

Target selection is the key to all magic. Fail to reasonably approximate the probability of your preferred outcome and you are scuppered from the start. You could summon the Crown Prince of Hell and it still won’t get you out of your mother’s basement.

Let’s return to PJC:

Thus we arrive at the sobering conclusion that although this universe contains enough Chaos to allow magic it doesn’t contain enough to permit gross miracles in a hurry.

The magician will need to target events which depend on very small energy or entropy changes and the results won’t often look much like spectacular parapsychology, they will look more like a series of events going somewhat improbably in the desired direction.”

What does that look like in practice?

Choose things with higher or flexible probability, choose timings when it is easier to nudge, choose self-focused goals rather than external ones. Here are five examples of target selection for use with sigil magic.

One that last point on target selection. It’s not recommended to curse someone via sigil magic in the same way it’s not recommended to swallow a grenade when you should be throwing it. Protection is fine, however. Or placing yourself out of harm’s way… The cursing/protection example is precisely what is meant by choosing your target carefully.

>> Sigils Redux: Shoaling

Shoaling is the deployment of multiple, interrelated sigils in the one activation session. It is the scattergun rather than the cannon.

If you adopt the Moorean conceit that thoughts have some form of functional existence then it becomes possible to map some behaviour models over them… specifically the clustering behaviour known as shoaling.

Unlike simply picking a magical outcome and enchanting for it, a sigil shoal embeds the necessary adaptability into the overall enchantment.

The extraordinary complexity of shoaling behaviour emerges from just a couple of rules:

 

  • Each member maintains a minimum distance from other objects in its environment, including other members.
  • Each member matches the velocity of its neighbour.
  • Each member moves toward the perceived centre of the mass.

Shoals form from the bottom up rather than the top down. This isn’t the ‘shouty’ approach of medievalists and Victorian factory owners where you yell about what you want to happen because in your little space you’re God. (It always reminds me of the midpoint in an 80s sitcom where the father has banned one of the kids from doing something: “my house, my rules.” Then one of the kids is offered drugs at a party and turns them down of her own volition. Then there’s a dénouement in a kitchen with Tony Danza.)

Instead are a couple of simple rules that create complex behaviour in fish, birds and even cab drivers. Three rules, all determined by a relationship to one neighbour at a time.

So what about creating a sigil for something that has already happened?

Enter the robofish. This really is the key to the whole technique:

  • Create a shoal of sigils based on a breakdown of your overall goal.
  • Include something that has already happened or you already have.
  • Activate them all at the same time.

The success rate so far has been orders of magnitude greater. There is something about enchanting for a goal that already exists that ‘pulls’ the rest of them along. It also allows you to dictate the speed, direction and veracity of the shoal depending on what you select for your robofish. Check it out. Directed sigil magic is possible!

One final possible implication for the robofish:

‘Lust of result’ seems less about keeping the objective out of your conscious mind, as Spare thought, because we now know that moving back and forth between conscious and unconscious happens as part of normal cognition. It seems to me to be more about continuously shifting the time frame further out… you encode the want rather than the have.

An effective counter to this is to -for want of more modern words- send your unconscious a ‘request’ for something that already exists… the robofish. How can their be lust after the result has been achieved? Built into the middle of your enchantment is a method for neutralising its own result lust.

>> Sigils Redux: Activation

This is really more your bag than mine. Once again I refer you to Grant Morrison’s Pop Magic for a fuller treatment of the subject.

Over the years I have honed an activation ritual to the point that just rolling out the casting cloth (I use an old tarot cloth) starts altering my consciousness.

Like all the best things in life except possibly eating carbs… practice makes everything better. Find what works and work it.

  • Delineate your magical space. This can be as simple as filling the room in your mind’s eye with a fade out of brilliant white light.
  • Lay out your sigils in front of you. I’m either usually seated on the ground or at a large low coffee table. My kit tends to be a few candles, stick incense and the squares of paper, all arranged as artfully as I am capable of (ie not very) on a casting cloth.
  • Light candles and incense. Colour correspondence is optional. I seem to get results from candles I actually like the look of rather than ones that supposedly match. (The way I do them, pinks and yellows look to my mind like I’m at a hobo kids birthday party.)
  • Summon relevant beings. Either beings you have pre-existing relationships with or beings affiliated with road/gate openings. My activations seem to have more of a séance feel rather than a ‘blasting’ feel. Efficacy is better served by having a clear conduit to the other side to allow the shoal passage rather than maximum firepower at the base of a rocket.
  • Meditate on each sigil individually. You’d be surprised how easy it is to genuinely forget which sigil encodes which magical goal. Pick one up, breathe and just stare at it in a comfortable, detached way. Your eyes will eventually warp the squiggle. Soon after it will feel ‘inert’… like it was once alive and has reverted to simply being a piece of paper. Mentally repeat Spare’s “Does not matter, need not be.” Put the sigil down and move onto the next one.
  • Close down your space. When complete. No need to banish. You can if you want… it’s not really my bag.

That’s it. A couple of years back I would shoal entirely unrelated sigils at the one time. Anecdotally the results tend to appear in an odd, interrelated way. (For example, weight loss was achieved by moving jobs out of an area of London famed for its food and by moving to a position that doesn’t involve eating large, boozy lunches with clients three days a week. All I was after was more money and slightly smaller trousers.)

It doesn’t happen every time but be aware of it. For instance I wouldn’t curse someone, look for love and cure a cat all at the one time. (At least not with magic. Would make for a wacky afternoon off.) If you’re going to include unrelated goals to bulk out your shoal -and I do at least half the time- then here are some suggestions.

>> The Final Few Hacks

These are some parting suggestions for incorporating recent brain findings into sigil activation. If you have other suggestions, or if you take some of these and run with them in a completely random direction then please do let me know:

1. Bring back the theatre

Get medieval on your sigils. Incorporate them into a more traditional theurgic setting. Create them, summon up some spirits, give them the sigils and tell them to activate them. A lot of my favourite magical internets peeps likes them their baroque magic. There has been some personal uplift here as well… the better the setting, the deeper the activation it seems.

2. Use low attention processing

Don’t destroy your sigils. Put them somewhere that you will see them every day but not notice them. If you happen to notice them in a way that seems ‘funny’ then just repeat “Does not matter, need not be.”

This hack was actually going to be listed as the final step in the previous section. I was going to say I never destroy my sigils anymore. Except that actually I do. Even threw some in a canal last weekend.

But as a rule of thumb, don’t destroy them. I blu-tack mine to the mirror at the foot of my bed. (Written like that makes it sound creepy. Actually it’s just that I have a really tiny bedroom.)

3. Trip balls

Activate your sigils while under the influence of a 5-HT1A agonist. (Disclaimer: don’t break the law, don’t mix medications, blah, blah, blah.) I know someone who used these legalish Amsterdam imports a couple of weeks ago and it was apparently spectacular. Like lifting up the lid of your unconscious and gently depositing exactly what you need inside.

Of course, they were then tripping balls for the rest of the Saturday which didn’t do great things for the to-do list. (OEVs and everything.) Next time they’re going to shoal like a hundred sigils to make it worth the time out of their weekend. If you opt for this hack creating sigils in the purple/red range is apparently recommended.

>> Conclusion?

It’s not really a conclusion so much as it is an earnest injunction to comment, share and steal anything here you find of value. Chaos magic’s inherent flexibility means a good idea or an improvement can come from everywhere.

And sigil magic’s interoperability means it can work within any system. I earnestly believe Richard Dawkins could successfully use sigil magic. Just think how much better someone like you -who isn’t an asshole- can be at it.

53 Comments

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  1. 1
    Lonnie

    Gordon, excellent undertaking. I would download this ebook in a second. It belongs on my kindle.

    Since you’re not going that route, make it a page. You can enable comments on the page to facilitate discussion.

    You said, “I try to make mine look organic or tribal but that’s a personal preference. Your unconscious is different to mine. (Probably.)” – Not much different. I go for a tribal look with sharper edges.

    Your Shoaling technique and theory is the best approach to sigils I’ve ever seen. Thank you for building on the idea.

    You’re really working on these posts! Great material, Gordon!
    Lonnie´s last blog post ..Death, Diabetes, and Depression: How I Woke Up After Loss

  2. 3
    Alex

    Hey,

    Say I use a sigil, and it works. If I want to do it again the next day for the same outcome, do I just reuse the sigil again, or make a totally new one?

    Thanks.

  3. 4
    Rick

    Thanks for putting this all into one place. For me personally, it couldn’t of come at a better time. I was just yesterday afternoon trying to figure out how to work a sigil shoal into my next magical goal, and then you release this! Very helpful!
    Rick´s last blog post ..For the Love of Magic

  4. 5
    MF

    What do you do with the sigils after the magical operation has completed?

    And do you put timelines with your sigil? For example, “I got a new job this month.”

  5. 8
    Deb

    Amaze.Balls.

    For real. My mind is blown in the best possible way. This came at the right time for me.

    I’ma send you my planned use where you’ll either be pleased or dismayed as to how my habitrail brain has interpret this.
    Deb´s last blog post ..Abbey Night: Servant Edition

  6. 9
    Gordon

    @Alex yes you do but I put it to you that you haven’t targeted the optimal outcome. Find the ‘group noun’ in your objective there.

    @MF My sigils seem to ‘mature’ over about a four week period. The best way to specify time is with the robofish rather than in the intent. Honestly, the spirit world just doesn’t get time… if it’s urgent may I point you in the direction of Jason Miller’s work on the limitations of ‘emergency magic’?

    @boney TBH I usually can’t recall what they are for after a couple of months… so they go on one side of the mirror and they come off the other. :)

    But seriously… sometimes I do, sometimes I keep them. In the fantasy version of my life where I live in a mansion outside Arrowtown on New Zealand’s South Island I have a giant wall of expired sigils put together as a feature artwork.

  7. 11
    Will

    Last night, I had a dream about this post. Something(from weird angles etc. etc.) told me that one could use one’s one personal mythology as robofish. In specific, I was shown how the compass rose and the various ritual re-enactments of cosmogony serve basically this purpose. One’s speech acts, like drawing out a circle representing one’s world, serve to tie the aim of a working into the robofish-matrix of foundational beliefs that we use to understand and process the world. It’s Quine-belief-web mixed with Spare-belief-as-world. It also ties into the practice of paying homage to the spirits of sacred sites, or at least addressing them. One recognizes immediately the specialness of a place of power and “pins” the belief-seed onto it. The sigil becomes rooted in something the mind ascribes power to. One can also think of “sigils” as speech acts, with the squiggly version given preference because of its having no function beyond communication with the deep mind. /UPG.
    Will´s last blog post ..An honest confession

  8. 15
    Andrew B. Watt

    I used sigils quite effectively this week, when I needed to get my car re-registered at the DMV (motor vehicles). Yes, I combined it (more than a little) with action in the real world.

    Two useful sigils include:

    1) rapid service at government offices
    and
    2) rarely waiting in lines at gov’t offices.

    Arrived a minute, maybe less, before closing time and was the last person of the day assisted, with no wait.
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..Taiji Day 21: Small Spaces

  9. 16
    Scribbler

    I recall a Google chat in which you encouraged me to use a little chaos magic. Being a somewhat on the old-fashioned side, I couldn’t imagine how. Now I realize you weren’t talking either/or, or even doing some chaos on the side, but incorporating some chaos tech into what I already do. I’ve never really had much success with Spare-type sigilization, but now that I’ve seen this more detailed description of your shoaling method, and see how your methods harmonize so well with the Strategic Sorcery mode I’ve been working on for the last year or so, I think I’m ready to take some of this on board and add it to my personal magical cocktail. Good posting. I nominate it for the Magic Blog Postings Hall of Fame.

  10. 17
    Jhonn Barghest

    Alright. I have a/some question(s):

    Say I want to grease the wheels for a developing situation between me and another person (note: this is totally not hypothetical; also, based on some intelligence gathering, the whole thing should pan out nicely, but still..). I imagine that the sigilized statements ought to be I/me-focused statements. But from your experience, in terms of targeting, should I just focus on myself (e.g., “I am/have blah blah blah”), or could I incorporate the other person (e.g., “I am/have blah blah blah Person X”)?

    I know you mentioned “choose self-focused goals rather than external ones,” but I still wanted to get your input.

    In terms of my robofish and attaching something to it which has already happened, would it be okay to deviate from being entirely self-focused in that regard (e.g., again, “I am/have blah blah blah Person X”)?
    Jhonn Barghest´s last blog post ..Get Illuminated?

  11. 18
    Gordon

    @jhonn if it were me I’d go for situational targets… if you think things are going to move in the right direction then it’s about increasing the encounter rates… bumping into each other, sharing cars at parties, being intoxicated in the same places, etc.

    Robofish can be ‘chicken for dinner on Tuesday 17th.’

    ‘Self-related’ is like the pirate code. It’s more like guidelines than actual rules.

  12. 19
    Jhonn Barghest

    @gordon: So basically the idea is that good ol’ robofish can be virtually anything already achieved or something that is pretty much going to happen (either of which being defined in present tense), yes?

    So, if I’m operating with the recommended three to four sigil shoal, then it’s basically a set up of robofish, and then the others focused on increased interaction rate. Cool. Would you bother with a sigil stating the intended outcome, or just keep things broken down with the mindset that you’re working towards that goal anyway (why be redundant)?

    I hope that made sense. I’m knee-deep in Christianity today, and my brain is about to burst. Asking you questions is actually a *break* for me.
    Jhonn Barghest´s last blog post ..Get Illuminated?

  13. 21
    Gordon

    @Jhonn I, for one, wouldn’t bother with it. But mostly that’s because I heavily self-police my goal chunking.

    What this means is I don’t have enough anecdotal experience with including ultimate goals in early sigil activations to answer that for you.

    Try it and let me know! :)

  14. 22
    Ivy

    I’ve just started something new with sigils. I’m creating a series of sigils in oil paint as art. They are for universal type things… Things that I’m always going to want in my life. I design the sigil in advance and the act of painting it charges it. The painting is the magic and so far the very preliminary results are excellent.

    Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a picture if you like.

  15. 24
    Rose

    Finally got around to reading this and what a most amazing entry! Bookmarked! I especially enjoy your sections on shoaling, activation, and final hacks. Great tips there.

    I use similar techniques for activation, although at times, I’ll use ecstatic dance with the proper atmosphere (candles, music, etc), or other induce other deep emotional states as appropriate to assist with launching. I’m good with generating emotional states and it seems that really helps; at least for me.
    Rose´s last blog post ..Burnt Offerings, and Digging to Discover my True Will – Part 2

  16. 26
    Amonjin

    Out of curiosity, have you tried using more then one Robo-fish? I’m going to attempt this madness tomorrow night and was wondering about the efficacy of more then one Robo in a session. Would it hinder/help results?

  17. 27
    Jhonn Barghest

    @Gordon: Haha! I may and I may not do a sigil for the overall goal. I can’t really decided if it’s waste or not, and I already have that broken down into various forms of increased interaction. Unless I bump up things and do a 5-sigil shoal. We’ll see!
    Jhonn Barghest´s last blog post ..Sigilizing the Rune Soup Way

  18. 28
    Gordon

    @amonjin based on the operating theory I’m not sure you’d see much of an uplift… shoals form according to the simple mathematical rules in the post so in that sense it’s technically impossible to have two robofish in a shoal… you’d actually have one shoal with a robofish and an additional rogue fish. :)

    But if it’s the enchanting for something that already exists that provides the probabilistic uplift then it could work.

    Let me know!

  19. 29
    Tom

    Great post, but I’m curious about whether or not there is a limit on the number of sigils you can cast. This is what I’m thinking of doing in one session:
    1 robofish
    3-4 main sigils
    1-2 unrelated nice-to-haves
    Does this sound right? Sorry if you’ve already mentioned this.

  20. 30
    Simon

    Gordon – I’ve wondered about something which I like to call a “universal charge”.

    Basically, I’ve been experimenting with the ideas of where you arrange your shoal into a certain style depending on whatever pleases you and the shoals size and reach one single state of gnosis and look at all the sigils individually within the period of mind-wipe. (I can’t think of a better expression) – more or less firing all the sigils off together.

    I’m banking on the idea that since the shoals sigils are usually interconnected very closely then a universal charge would work just as well as individual charging – which I still do – but a universal charge may help to remove the thing being stuck within the concious mind of the brain.

    I’ve been experimenting with sigils of recent – I wondered what you thought were, or experience of, the idea of a simultaneous “universal charge” of sigils…

  21. 31
    Gordon

    @Tom That’s pretty much exactly how I roll.

    @Simon If it works, run with it. I’ve had a play with activating more than one at once but… and this is nothing more than personal preference… my stupid brain likes them better one at a time. :)

  22. 32
    Allen

    Holy Flubbernauts Gordon! This was awesome :3

    I have a couple questions though.

    I’m gonna be laying off my sigils for a little bit – but my wardrobe door is plastered in my little shoals which I have little recolation of what they all mean. So before I actually lay off my shoaling shoals for a while, I wanted to ask about one BIG sigil I could do for the whole selection of shoals on my wardrobe which I could meditate on and then aggressively masturbate to?

    I mean do you have any experience or an amusing anecdote to write about? I was thinking of something like a “SUPER SIGIL” (echos). But I wanted to ask should the super sigil just be “all my sigils work” sort of thing or am I just asking about a glorified robo-fish, considering I want it to also make about 40-50 other sigils on my wardrobe all gravitate to fruition. :S

    I also realise you said don’t curse people with sigils – but I am an evil misanthrope, and I wanted to ask about it.

    If I wanna use a sigil I make for negative purposes, will my subconscious recognise words such as “boring” “careless” “charmless” and other antonyms for those words – or rather, say in a hypothetical world theres a guy who likes a girl, and you only want them to be friends because you also like the girl, would sigilising “person x and person y are only friends” still work? I mean thats a positive phrasing for a negative outcome is it not? Would also sigilising that along with other positive stuff (this is the pre-emptive question of “Why not sigilise things to make you a better more attractive person for this hypothetical situation?” counter)- I mean sigilising the negative thingy which inter-relates to sigilising things like “I am charming” “I am funny” “I have nice hair” and so on along with “person x and person y are only friends” – would that work?

    And how would I go about wording a sigil if I wanted it to create a negative outcome, does the subconscious still accept words like “boring” and “evil” and ds-regard ALL antonyms for nice words or does it only ignore things like “not” and I assume the prefix “un-”??

    For hypothetical cursing only. I was just curious. *looks shifty*
    :3

  23. 33
    Gordon

    @Allen TBH I’d say if you’re in the mood for a single sigil activation then I’d just completely disregard this entire post, click through to Grant Morrison’s Pop Magic and deploy the tech as is.

    As for negative uses… it’s a personal preference. Like the Pirate Code… more of an actual guideline than a rule. :)

    But go nuts if it works for you.

  24. 34
    Connor

    Great article!

    I really enjoyed this, particularly the part about shoaling.

    Here’s my question, I’m interested in sigils and looked at Austin Osman Spare’s work (the guy who basically invented modern sigils) and a book called “Practical Sigil Magic” by Frater U.D. They encourage a bit of a different approach.

    1. They don’t mention having to delete vowels, only repeating letters.
    2. The sentence must be in all caps.
    3. They say to destroy the sigil after internalization. In fact, I’m convinced that your practice of keeping sigils on your mirror might not be in line with what Mr. Spare says. Here’s why I say this:

    “The finished sigil, which in the beginning will
    probably take a few attempts to construe, will then be
    fixated. You may draw it on parchment, on paper, in the
    sand, or even on a wall. According to Spare’s short
    instructions, it should be destroyed after its
    internalization. Thus, you will either burn the parchment;
    wipe it out in the sand, etc. Spare’s basic idea is that the
    sigil, together with its meaning, must be planted into the
    unconscious.” – Frater U.D.

    Now, it appears like your method WORKS… In my estimation that is ALL that matters when it comes to sigils. But for the sake of meticulous readers such as myself who desire the oldest and most official method, sigil destruction is encouraged.

    Once again, great article! I would have bought the ebook :)

  25. 35
    C

    To be honest, given the disorganised way I handle links and websites and articles, I would probably pay for an ebook even if it wasn’t definitive. Every time I pay for a book on anything, it’s not definitive. So what? It’s still a good reference to have on hand in a place where I could find it.

  26. 36
    soul sista

    WOW. What an amazing piece of writing. Sigils have worked so well for me in the past…mind-blowingly fast. I’ve been a little stressed about finding a new source of income and my inner voice told me it is time to get back to sigil making.

    Now I have to get very honest with myself about what I want :)

    Thank you.

  27. 38
    J

    This is a fantastic article – and amazingly articulate – i even showed it to my wife to prove that we’re not all nutters. I may have skip read but are you not a fan of the self pleasure petite mort form of charging? I’m also now trying to apply sigils to low budget film production, too early to tell results – but they are such malleable things while they are mid process that they feel fertile for influence. No success with sigils yet but have only just begun – and tending to aim for slightly grand results i realize. Anyhow the shoaling method is incredible – earthing the whole process. Hugely beneficial to put this out into the world – appreciative from Surrey

  28. 39
    Liam

    Hi there. I’m 16 and my mother has asthma, so I can’t light incense in the house and almost all candles are off limits as well, since they make her breathing worse. Is it possible for me to go through the activation without lighting anything, so that I don’t potentially hurt my mother, or should I wait until I have my own place to try and get into sigils and the like?
    Thanks for any info you can give me!

  29. 40
    Random

    I made my first sigil today, using shoaling (so threy were three, two interconnected, and one for an event that has already manifested). I used the Gayatri Mantra (found the chant on Youtube) for the whole process, first in the background while I was writing and drawing, then as meditation/activation. It’s a quite powerful mantra to create vacuum, it also has powers of actualization. Then I burned the sigil. I know you keep them, but I thought that the smoke raising from the burning paper, expanding in the air, will help the energy flowing. And spread the ashes in my backyard. Wish me good luck with my first ‘baby’! LOVE this blog!!

  30. 41
    Steve McQueen

    What happens to every sigil you’ve ever cast ever.

    I very recently destroyed some of the sigils I’d created which had been hanging up on my wall for a while – it’s gotten me wondering about every other sigil I fired off and destroyed afterwards.

    What I wish for isn’t really physical stuff it’s something much more abstract (I am funny, I am confident) and so on and so forth – something I’d want to happen continuously rather than a one off. So when I fire and destroyed those sigils, what actually happens to them? Will they sit in my brain somewhere forever? Do they gradually fade away into nothingness? Will they constantly work even though the physical image doesn’t exist anymore?

    Kind regards, music legend Stevie.

  31. 42
    Father Oblivion

    Great article my friend. Charging sigils ? A technique I often use is to draw my sigil directly onto my TV screen with a marker pen then switch on and watch a movie. It doesn’t matter what I watch really. It’s amazing how quickly your mind no longer consciously sees the sigil and just whatever you’re viewing at the time.

    I have yet to look into the matter of whether what you actually view ( thriller, horror, love story, documentary, etc ) could be used to good effect depending on what your sigil is for ?

    Thoughts anyone ?

    ~Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho’n d’thainig sibh~

  32. 43
    Violet

    Thanks for this great guide! I’m wondering, though, if you don’t already know the likelihood of a particular working occurring, then how can you tell what the problem with the working was (i.e. if you’ve tried something that has a very low chance of working out correctly, or if you’ve done something incorrectly)?

  33. 44
    nobody

    Okay, completely new to this whole magic thing (even though what I see seems familiar somehow…)

    Quick thought log:

    Haven’t even finished reading the whole article, thinking about what to try as a sigil — balance maybe? seeing how horribly imbalanced I am — and finally settling on ‘love’, I didn’t even have time to stand up and get pen and paper. My brain just kicked out the vowels — ‘lv’ — and smashed the rest together — ? — bang!

    Holy carp… yes, err… dafuq!? Down? No way!

    Okay, expanding to ‘mutual love’ (because!) — ‘mt lv’ — and not smashing them all into one (just following a feeling there) gets me an upside-down trident (lengthen the ‘t’ upwards) next to the down arrow (or a spire on some fundament next to the arrow, if you will).

    Turning that upside down (just checking, because from where I am I can’t tell what’s up/down or big/small etc. — true/false/meaninglessness at work) gives me an upwards arrow next to a dangerously pointy-looking trident.

    Which perfectly sums up what I know in just a few strokes. If you keep going, expect pain — stop and you can have whatever you want. But I can’t stop, at least not yet… I’m going much too fast… I’ll be working on that, then.

    Err, thanks for your post, I guess… shiny new tool! ^,^

  34. 45
    M.O.I.M.

    Magnificient page ! Truly, one of the better reads I have crossed in awhile. I comment, just to say, I have read many, many and few more books on magic. I have practiced many styles and principles. And in doing so, I have made note of so many that use visualization, meditation, mentally focusing and “feeling” !! To start, after noting how much “mind” goes into magic, I started to conclude that magic was “mind trick”..even tough I had some sucess…..with some things the “mind” shouldn’t be able to affect. Here is my revelation of charging “mind”magic…..aka “all” magic, for me. A few years ago and I really just gave up on magic…really. something wasn’t just clicking for me. I resigned it to mind tricks and wrote it off. One night, me and a friend of mine was hanging out my place, and a few more people showed up. We was all drinking and we was all mid 20′s at the time. Well one of the guys that showed up was a dick !! Majorly….a dick. I ended up punching the guy right in the mouth…..all hell broke loose after that ! I went from getting held back, to throwing fist again. After all of that…a thunderstorm was rolling in….fast. lightning popping, wind ripping and rain pooring harder and harder. I was smoking a cigarette and sitting on the front porch, just to chill and collect my thoughts. I looked at my right knuckles and I seen blood running down my right arm. The blood dripped down my elbow into the rain puddle. I was watching my blood coagulating in the cold water. As my friend was trying to tell me not to worry about all that, I put my head in my hands, I felt so much energy in the air…..the hair stood up on my neck. I saw that guys hands bound together and stuffed into his mouth. I saw it for awhile. I went inside and went to sleep. That night, he got arrested…..and was setenced to 1 year in jail. I felt so much energy that night, I decided to try something. The next time a storm approached and I felt that energy….I made a sigil….but since I know quite a lot about it, I used the natural energy and made a longshot sigil !! 3 weeks later I met my wife….stopped drinking, and I will tell anyone this one thing, the robofish….works. but I, personally only charge my sigils when I feel that natural energy,storms, lightning storms, strong winds and heavy rain. For me, it never fails !!! And yes, I form my sigils, wait, focus…..during a bad storm….focus and I set mine on fire in the midst of the storm. High sucess rate !! Only time I charge, in a high natural energy moment!!!

  35. 46
    M.O.I.M.

    Ok. I apolozize, somewhat, I apologize in the fact that I forget there are some new buds on the vine of this subject. Let me clarify a little about my original post. About learning to charge during a storm. Not ALL storms !! Clarification: Ok, after doing this for a while, and I live in south Louisiana….on the North Shore…..North of New Orleans….out in the country. Now, not every storm or “bad weather” has energy !! You can literally feel the hairs on you neck stand up…in extremely bad weather…you can feel like you weigh 20 pounds lighter. That is the kind of weather that I’m referring to. You can feel Earth energy….big time. But that isn’t the only energy out there. I have felt this kind of energy in other places. So experiment……if you have sucess, let someone else know. This kinda stuff used to be hidden “occult” but now its out !! Comparing notes is what its all about !! Share knowledge, share experience and share truth!!

  36. 47
    Montresor

    New to this, but I can vouch for it. I created several sigils–have forgotten what most of them are for and haven’t looked at them in awhile–but they work. I’ve gotten a raise at work, which I wanted. The more surprising one was a sigil to generate some new voiceover work (I’m a voice actor in NYC, my biggest claim to fame a minor part in a GTA game), and yet I haven’t had time to audition in over a year. Out of the blew a guy I auditioned for in the past emailed me with info about a new company he’s gotten off the ground, and they want to work with me (just met with them today about it, it went extremely well). This was all out of the blue. These things DO work, but a big part of it is really, truly BELIEVING. I’m been a Left Hander since before I was told what it was, and that plays a huge part in it (I don’t mean that I’m left handed, which I am, I’m referring to LHP, I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about). I’m glad to have discovered sigils and seeing such results so quickly. Put some true faith and power behind this, and you’ll see for yourself.

  37. 48
    Iva

    Thank you for this article. It’s funny, I did know I was making sigils since I was 11. Back then, all I wanted was a symbol for myself, and I just mashed all the consonants of my name into one glyph. Now that I’ve read this, I feel more empowered knowing that I’ve done this before, and all i need to do is to activate them. Will have to wait until my spirits are with me.

    But I love your blog. Nice mix of humor, logic and magick :)

    Happy New Year :)
    Iva´s last blog post ..Our cat and bird getting along great :)

  38. 49
    sigillearner

    @montresor, that is amazing and interesting!! What is even more wierd is that I ran across this post about sigils, and I am also getting started into voiceover acting! My first coaching session starts later this week! I have a quick question; you said you sigils worked for you, but how long did it take for you to see results. When I usually do magick, it usually takes me about 1 week to see results. I’m wondering if it will be the same with the sigils. One of my questions is this; what if you make a sigil for a REALLY huge goal, without making a sigil for the steps it takes to get there? How would you go about making a series of sigils to lead up to one goal? Maybe I need to reread the directions on the site?

  39. 50
    Jack

    Here is an innovation that I just came up with that I’m very pleased about, and that I think could yield some good results, and I’d love feedback on what the more experienced among you think about it…

    I have an intention that I want to sigilize, however, there is no word for what I need in the affirmative, and, using the existing language, I could only write a foundational sentence that is in the negative, which I think Gordon is correct that enchanting against a negative would be much less effective than enchanting FOR a positive intention.

    So, my solution is to make up a word which means the opposite, and affirmative negation of the word for which no opposite word currently exists. Innovating my own word also strikes me as totes apropos for an application of “chaos magic”

  40. 51
    Peter Crowell

    Thanks for this info. It’s very helpful!

    One thing: by the time I’ve finished drawing my sigil, I’ve already forgotten its meaning, because I keep moving to new notebook pages and crossing out letters as I go. I now have 10 sigils almost ready for a shoaling, and while I can go back and get the meanings, I don’t have them in my head any longer.

    When I go to activate the sigils, am I supposed to know what they mean, and THEN forget, or is it okay to go in already having forgotten?

    Thanks again!

  41. 53
    Gematria358

    Interesting article. Shoaling is a technique I will definitely try.

    I did want to comment on an old thread, simply because I have been using sigils in ways that are a bit different from what you present here. First of all, I should state that I rarely “enchant” in any classic sense, because to be honest I rarely feel it is necessary. It s is hard to explain, but it is as if my entire life is becoming magical–things seem to just materialize as needed on their own, and the synchronicities in my life continue to multiply. For this reason, my magical practice is mostly focused on spiritual growth and connections with entities.

    So, my first use for sigils is for self-enchantment, when I need to complete a major project or compose a piece of music. I do not formulate a precise statement of intent. I do not use letters or words to make the sigil. I simply draw shapes until I find the “correct” one. Why is it correct? I don’t know. I simply associate the sigil in my mind with the idea of the completed work, contemplate it for a bit, and then keep it near me. Every time I start to lose focus, I look at the sigil. All work I have produced with this method has been quite successful.

    My second use for sigils is to create gateways or anchor points, when I am working with particular beings. In this case I create the sigil after I have already been working with the beings in some type of ritual fashion. My method is simple, I try to capture the feeling of the being in a visual design while “under their influence.” In this case, the sigil may either be arbitrary, or related to the being’s name.

    My third use of sigils is as a focus for contemplation where I use the sigil to spark creative thoughts, visions, or assist in altering consciousness and attaining gnosis (in the mystical sense, NOT in the PJC sense). I also utilize the beautiful and seductive images created by David Chaim Smith, Andrew Chumbley and Daniel Schulke. Smith uses the term “gnosimes” to describe images which one uses in this manner.

    Finally, I am now in the process of creating a personal sigil alphabet. This process is again guided by the deep mind, and the sigils have no specific intention behind them at all. I basically interpret them as hieroglyphics. Why am I doing this? I don’t know. It is simply work that I know I must do. The sigils definitely feel empowered though, and their presence in my abode gives me an amazing sense of peace and clarity. I have the feeling that in this process of creation, I am no longer practicing magic, but instead becoming magic. These sigils seem to be assisting my break with mundane consciousness and consensus reality; assisting me in some process of transformation that I do not fully understand yet.

    I would be curious what others think of this praxis.

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