On Sigils and Alchemy
I’m beginning preparation for my first sigil campaign today. I know less about sigils than I do about alchemy but I thought I would take this week’s blog post to try and talk through what I know and to see if anything connects. Sigils are, primarily, embodied imagination and imagination or ‘phantasia’ is the mediating faculty between the visible and invisible from an alchemical perspective. Sigilmancy is a method of symbolizing an imagined preferable outcome for your future and using the power of phantasia to speak between your conscious mind and the unconscious. The unconscious having much more power when it comes to influencing reality and future probabilities.
Sigils are ‘materia magica’ or objects used in the performance of magic. From the alchemical laboratories of the Egyptian new kingdom, we see that creating these magical objects is the act of bringing the divine down to the earth into the object. Making sigils is akin to creating mini-gods or spirits from the underlying currents of magic in the universe. The animation of these images comes down to us from the Greek Magical Papyri — when producing a sigil we are imbuing it with divine energy but are also giving this divinity a healing human touch.
This is an idea that I have been seeing in my research, that the world of spirits and magical beings needs human contact, they crave it, much like a magician craves the feeling of power and the insight gained by contacting the spirit world. Sigils allow for that instant messaging. I am pretty sure that spirits speak in emojis too. I’ve been getting flashes of fire and spiders this week, and not the normal mind-wandering kind of flashes but animate visions that feel different somehow, that feel as if they didn’t come from my unconscious but were placed there. It is kind of like getting a random string of emojis and non-roman characters on your phone that, while you question wether or not they were meant for you because you don’t recognize the number, they somehow plug into your current reality-lens.
I started reading ‘Telestic Transformation and Philosophical Rebirth’ by Algis Uzdavinys in Aaron Cheak’s ‘Alchemical Traditions’. It is an interesting essay that talks about the Egyptian tomb as a book and as an alchemical laboratory. I resonate with these connections, the book as laboratory as tomb, the tomb as book and alchemical laboratory, and the laboratory as a book and a tomb. In my undergrad I studied artists’ books for a year and a half, so alternate conceptions of what ‘book’ means come naturally to me now. Sigils are cousins to book-as-concept, in my mind. They are made of paper, when they are shoaled (please see Gordon White’s work over at runesoup.com for an explanation of shoaling sigils if you aren’t familiar) then they are a series of images on paper. These images are imbued with meaning, but a meaning that is meant to be experienced, not remembered. The whole point of sigils is to forget them in their projection and animation. Uzdavinys picks up the idea of an interface between the visible and the invisible, but instead of phantasia he accuses the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ (which he subsequently accuses of being an archetype passed down from our Paleolithic ancestors) of being the interface, which places a connection between phantasia or the imagination and the philosopher’s stone of the alchemists. This, in turn, connects the sigil with the philosopher’s stone in its behavior.
Uzdavinys continues this connection with written symbols when he says:
“spoken and written word[s] not only provided the means of tranposing noetic realities into material symbols… but also of elevating the initiate.. to the archetypal realm where all earthly capacities achieve their riches noetic fullfilment…”
Sigilmancy is, through the alchemical lens, the ‘bringing down of the Gods’ to earth into the multi-partite tomb as ‘book’ as it is conceived of in artists’ book theory. This ritual is a direct conduit to the creation of the elusive philosopher’s stone of alchemical lore, or at least, a representation of this act.