alchemyDrew W.

Sigils and Hephaestos

alchemyDrew W.
Sigils and Hephaestos

My name is Drew. Much of my family is originally from Sweden but probably Finnish, my ancestry is a bit fuzzy. Growing up, I always was drawn to the Sami people and their life ways, but that is another story.

Today, I live and work in Milwaukee, WI as a librarian for a mid-sized architecture firm. I wasn't always a librarian though, my home life growing up made it a tough road to get to college right away, so I spent a decade as a building engineer and a boiler operator as I worked (read: wormed) my way through college. 

I have attached myself to the modern magical renaissance, concentrating my efforts in a Chaos Magic-y way, which means that I take what is useful and apply that to a general framework of techniques that I have been building, or really, layering accretions, over time.

Two of those 'useful' bits have been sigilmancy and alchemy. Last winter I read an insightful essay in Aaron Cheak's 'Alchemical Traditions' that really resonated with me. It was called 'Metallurgy and the Demiurge: The Roots of Greek Alchemy in the Mythology of Hephaestos' and was written by Rod Blackhirst. The connection between alchemy, really one of the foundational pillars of all magic, and the myth of Hephaestos really struck a chord with me, I think, because of all the time I have spent in boiler rooms, binding metal together, maintenancing fireboxes, working with high pressure steam, you know, all those things that you would naturally find in Hephaestos' Forge. It is important to find your 'home' in magic and to not really wander about. Once you find your connection, your archetypes, that is when true power becomes available.

Now, after many hours of night school, I am able to pursue my passion, books and, by extension, information and knowledge. Alchemy is the original organized knowledge base. Blackhirst's essay speaks to how the Greek's 'did' alchemy and why there aren't very many 'official' alchemical texts from that period. He states that Greek mythology is all Porto-alchemical and to find the wisdom in them we should view them through that lens. He then goes on to discuss Hephaestos through a alchemical lens. Alchemy, he says, began in the discipline of the blacksmith. It was the wisdom given through the master and apprentice system, broadened through experimentation in hot and smokey laboratories at night, after their days work had been completed. A familiar scene to me. He states that:

"Alchemy consists of the secrets of the blacksmith's forge."

Hephaestos is correlated with Ptah, the Egyptian god Ptah, ruler over craftsman and architects (another familiar correlation). Ptah thought the world into being. Which leads me to my second magical pillar, sigilmancy. The way sigils work is a direct correlary to the way that Ptah thought our physical reality into existence.

Sigilmancy, if you haven't heard the term, is the act of willing reality through the creation of a 'sigil' or glyph that represents your preferred outcomes and activating that sigil by sending it into both your unconscious and into the spirit world. Man, you see, sits between the two, one below (see Jung) and one above. Hephaestos is the god of craftsman. When I gave up the life of the boiler man, I needed something to do with my hands, and that thing became the creation of artists books.

A large part of my Masters degree in Library Science focused on special collections and in particular, artist book theory. Now paper wouldn't last long in Hephaestos' Forge, but the concept of craft and craftsmen still translates into an alchemical lifeway.

Hephaestos was laughed at a lot, I guess, by the other gods, because of his connection with the material and the divine. Sigils are a bridge between the realm of the real and the realm of the spirit, just like old Vulcan. He was able to create every divine weapon the Greek Gods had at their disposal because of his connection to the real, to work, to emotion. Sigils do become pseudo-spirits after activation. You call on spirits to help with the activiation and they take the sigil with them, teach them what they need to know until they are powerful enough to achieve the mission you gave them. They are bound to you and your time-stream and you loose them after retirement so that they can become their own entity, can fulfill their own destiny.

Blackhirst references Book Eighteen of the Iliad over and over, I'm still concentrating on getting through Cheak's book (massive and inspiring) but suspect that there will be a lot more metaphors / wisdom in the Iliad that will help solidify the connections between the God of Craft and the Crafting of Reality that is sigilmancy.