Sigils: Barcodes for your Brain

In Atheopaganism, we understand ritual “magic” as the manipulation of consciousness according to desired outcomes: as “programming the mind”. It’s not supernatural, and it doesn’t affect things at a distance, but it does have a powerful ability to change our selves: to increase our courage, our focus, our attention to things we find important.

Over the centuries, many cultures have used drawn symbols to communicate magical meaning. Examples ranging from Roman curse scrolls incised on lead sheets to European ceremonial magic in Enochian script to Vodoun vé-vés have signified the invocation of results, magical beings or deities. This is an old practice, and one Atheopagans can use as well.

A sigil, or magical symbol, is a sort of “shorthand” for a ritual intention: a “barcode”, if you will, that invokes a particular meaning for you when you see it. As such, it can be a powerful way of reminding yourself of your magical intention and reinforcing its power.

This is not arbitrary, or trivial. We acknowledge symbols as having deep meaning all the time, from flags to stop signs to biohazard symbols. Our minds are capable of seizing on symbols far more rapidly than linear strings of text: they touch us at deeper levels than written language ever can.

So let’s make some! There are many ways to make magical sigils, so don’t feel limited by this, but here is one way to create your own:

  • Center yourself. Sit quietly and take some deep breaths. Concentrate on your breathing until you feel you are calm, relaxed, and present.
  • Identify your intention, expressed as a sentence. This is an affirmative statement of your intention for creating the sigil, stated as a fact, such as “I am courageous” or “I have abundance in my life” or “I am healthy in mind and body”. Take time to craft a statement that exactly expresses your desired outcome for this ritual work. Try something that really challenges your biases and preconceived beliefs about yourself and your life. If you believe you are weak, state that you are strong. If you believe you aren’t good enough, state that you are better than good enough.
  • Write out the sentence. Use capital letters, in print…or, if you like your sigils baroque, use cursive.
  • Cross out the vowels and scramble the letters. Alternatively, some people cross out every other letter and then scramble the letters.
  • Now comes the creative part: on a square of paper, draw a symbol that combines the letters in some way. You can distort, augment, remove parts of and/or add to the letters until the symbol looks “right” to you, and add shapes to it as you wish. In drawing your final version, you can use pencil, pen, charcoal, ink and brush* and/or special paper to make your sigil more special and magical-seeming.

So! Now you have your magical sigil. The next step is to ritually “activate” it to build the association between the symbol and its meaning in your mind.

Conduct a ritual in which you “charge” the sigil with Qualities you wish for it to conduct. Start by creating a contemplative, sacred space: perhaps by candle light, with some incense burning and music playing that takes you into the Ritual State. You might sprinkle it with salt water to invoke the cyclical nature of the ocean’s tides, or drip dots of colored wax from a candle of a particular color. What is important is to say the sigil’s meaning over it, slowly and clearly and repeatedly. Perhaps 13 times, one for each cycle of the Moon in a year, or any other number that has significance for you. When you are done chanting the meaning sentence over the sigil, fold each of the paper’s four corners inward until they all touch, and seal the paper shut with a dot of sealing wax, “locking the magic in” and the secret meaning of your sigil.

Place the sealed sigil on your Focus. Draw another copy of it on a piece of paper so there is a visible version on your Focus as well.

Now, post your sigil where you can see it! On your dressing mirror, inside a cabinet in your kitchen that you open every morning, on your car dashboard, etc. Every time you see it is like repeating your intention statement to yourself, reinforcing your belief in its validity; in fact, because it is a graphic illustration rather than a linear string of characters, the sigil touches the deeper, metaphorical part of your mind. You will find that over time, your ability to instantly recognize and “read” a sigil—just as you do a letter of the alphabet—will become refined and automatic.

Over time, a sigil may become “stale”–you overlook it because you have seen it so many times that it no longer becomes a subject of focus. If this happens, unseal the sigil from your Focus, and re-charge the sigil. This will remind you of the seriousness of the intention you put behind creating it, and why its meaning is so important to you.

*or, if you’re really, really serious, your blood.

Real Magic

Reality. It’s filled with marvels!

It is not, however, filled with every marvel we can imagine. There are no dragons, nor unicorns. There are no pixies or fairies. And there is no “magic” in the sense of spellcasting, “charging” items with “power” or “energy”, hexes, curses, or otherwise affecting the course of events without material cause.

Just as there are no gods, there is no magic. If we soberly consider the evidence, the conclusion is inevitable.

Except…well, wait a minute.

When a ritual adds to your confidence and performance in a job interview, is that magic? When a ceremony breaks open longheld rage and transmutes it to grief and healing? What about when a wedding binds two people to one another before their communities and loved ones?

Are not these things “magical”, in the sense that they surprise and delight us with effects psychological and meaningful?

Well, certainly they are.

Atheopagans can do magic just as effectively as anyone else…which is to say, not at all effectively. Except insofar as our “spellwork” is intended to change our own attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

But for those purposes, ritual is powerful technology for transforming the mind.

Be warned: don’t expect your supernaturalist friends to get this. For whatever reasons, they subscribe to belief in phenomena for which there is little to no scientific evidence. There’s no point in arguing, so don’t.

Ritual “spellcasting” in Atheopaganism can include many of the elements that come to mind when you think of such things:  the use of ritual tools, candle “magic”, sacred/”magical” symbols and sigils, etc. I find that my rituals of intention, which is what I call them, bring me into a powerfully Present trance state of calm, intent focus and concentration on the goal.

But these goals are very specifically about the changes in me that I am working to bring about. I don’t “do a spell to get a job”—that’s useless. I will do a ritual to align myself in all ways with an effective and successful job search. This means that the ritual begins the work of getting a job, rather than ending it. It means I am tasked to act by the ritual itself.

Atheopaganism is a path of effort and clarity. We don’t pretend that our religion will give us an afterlife, nor  powerful Entities with whom to ally, nor magical powers. Ours is life in this world, with its constraints, its challenges, its injustices…and its magnificence, its opportunity and its joy.

It is enough. The real kind of “magic” we can make is magical enough. The real powers and forces of the world are enough. The glorious stars, the deep-rooted trees, the shining faces of our community are more than enough.