The Forest of Symbols - Part Two: A Bonfire of Sigils

The Forest of Symbols - Part Two: A Bonfire of Sigils

On the morning of the eclipse, I burnt all of my sigils. I had been saving them, and I didn't know why at the time. I had been making at least two, most often more, at one time I launched a shoal of thirteen on a particularly auspicious day, since around the beginning of the year.

I would hang them on the wall in overlapping lines, like dragon scales, placing them in those 'low attention processing' areas recommended by Gordon White over of Rune Soup. They would hang there, I would launch more, I would take them down and put them in a drawer. My first ones I even folded in an octavo style and bound them into a book, convincing myself that I was binding, or forgetting, or doing away with them in this way. I was wrong.

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I didn't know I was wrong until I burned them.

They morning was warm, the kids were up, I was home from work because I didn't want to be married to a desk and computer when the first total solar eclipse since 1987 crossed the United States. That would have been ridiculous, that would have been me giving up and becoming a full-fledged Normal...

I stacked up some wood and layered two massive fists of sigils, on both the front and back of the black origami paper I had been using, into the kindling. I placed the tiny purple book of bound sigils on the top, which had taken time and money and sweat to create. I doused the lot of it in accelerant, lit an incense stick, and threw it in, igniting the bunch.

It was the last day of the crocodile headed Decan's period that I spoke of last week. I invoked his grace again, I said the prayer to the sun and the moon from the Hygromantaeia, I repeated the prayer and plea to Saint Cyprian I pulled from the Book of St Cyprian that I used to launch all of the sigils, I did all of this and then I sat and watched them burn.

It was only until they were ash and the rainbow tinged smoke had fully covered me in a mesquite perfume, did I realize why I had had to burn them. By keeping them, I hadn't been lusting after the results that the sigil pseudo-spirits were intended to bring about. I was lusting after the future. Sigils, I realized, were about letting go of the future. Sigils are a way to trust the future to your future self and to anchor yourself in the moment and to connect with those spirits that are there right then. Communication needs to be established before power can be realized.

I started a new book this week, yes, I know, another one. When I got this one in the mail yesterday I couldn't hep but tear into it though, its premise is thoroughly fascinating to me. The title of the book is 'Staying With The Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene' and it is written the multi-species anthropologist Donna J Haraway. The immediate attraction for me to this book should be evident, but I am finding with every sentence I devour that it connects to my life, both mundane and magical, in so many ways. Let's look at her explanation of the term Chthulucene to start:

"Chthulucene is a simple word. It is a compound of two Greek roots (khthon and kainos) that together name a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying... on a damaged earth. Kainos means now, a time of beginnings, a time for ongoing, for freshness. Nothing in kainos must mean conventional pasts, presents, or futures. There is nothing in times of beginnings that insists on wiping out what has come before... Chthonic ones are beings of the earth, both ancient and [new]. I imagine chthonic ones as replete with tentacles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs, and very unruly hair. Chthonic ones romp in multicritter humus but have no truck with sky-gazing Homo. Chthonic ones are monsters in the best sense; they demonstrate and perform the material meaningfulness or earth processes and critters... Chthonic ones are not safe; they have no truck with ideologues; they belong to no one; they writhe and luxuriate in manifold forms and manifold names in all the airs, waters, and places of earth. They make and unmake; they are made and unmade..."

Kainos plugs directly into the description that Peter Levenda gives for the term Aion, in both the Egyptian, Crowleyian, and Lovecraftian sense. A period of time marked by its beginning but one in which there is no discernible end. Aions imbricate upon one another, much like the Anthropocene and the Chthulucene have.

Khthon, in Haraway's description, is an edge straight from the sphere of science to the node of Lovecraft's weird fiction, or at least the atmospheric mist that his fiction has laid upon our forest of symbols.

Along with Chthulucene, Haraway introduces the term 'oddkin':

"Eschewing futurism... staying with the trouble requires making oddkin; that is, we require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles. We become-with each other or not at all..."

Oddkin, in this context, are creatures with no biological relationship, whose ecological, cultural, and dimensional niches are adjacent or intersect one another, and who form a type of beneficial relationship that helps them survive in a world gone mad. I have a feeling that oddkin will be a theme I return to here again in Gnome School. A mutually beneficial relationship between a magician and a spirit entity definitely fits the definition of oddkin, for example.

Lovecraft's prose poem 'Memory' paints for us one of the earliest examples (probably 1919) in his fiction of a world deep in the grip of the Cthulhucene. Take the following quote, for example:

"And within the depths of the valley, where the light reaches not, move forms not meant to be beheld... in and out of deep treasure vaults writhe poison serpents and scaly things without a name..."

Those serpents and scaly things writhing in the pitch of Lovecraft's mind are direct descendants of Haraway's Cthulhucene oddkin, her Cthonic ones.

In 'Memory' we are introduced to two more spirits of Lovecraft's grimoire, the Genie of the Moonbeams and the Daemon of the Valley of Nis. We are given a glimpse of an age in which the spirits rule the earth and man is only a residue upon the surface of the planet:

"The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Deamon of the Valley, saying 'I am old, and forget much. Tell me the deeds and aspect and name of them who built these things of stone." And the Daemon replied... "These beings were like the waters of the river... not to be understood... for they were but of the moment...""

The tarot card that maps to this lost valley where the spirits discuss the memory of man is the Five of Swords. In the Etteilla tarot, the keyword for the Five of Swords is perte, which maps to Loss and the old English meaning of destruction. Reversed, the keyword is deuil, or mourning. The traditional analysis of the Five of Swords is gain at the expense of others, it is a card of greed and the result of unrepentant avarice. Haraway explains that the Cthulhucene is a response to and comes directly from the Anthropocene, which is defined by our unrepentant and consistent altering of our planet, and what she calls the Capitalocene, an age born out of the Anthropocene but defined by the pursuit of money and other things of questionable value. That value is questioned by the Cthulhucene.

Haraway, in her introduction to the concept of oddkin, tells us that these beneficial, even necessary, relationships between us and those tentacled beasties warming themselves against the earth or asleep frozen in the trenches of the Antarctic Ocean are forged by staying in the moment, the damaged and dangerous moment, instead of lusting for the future.

Which brings us full-circle, and ties this exploration of the spiritual aspects of the act of reading in the sister post from earlier in the week, the Forest of Symbols. In that post I pull on threads laid down by Steven Roger Fisher in his 'A History of Reading', specifically when he states:

"Reading appears to be superficially and parasitically coupled to such primeval cognitive scanning processes as tracking, weaving, tool-making, berry gathering, face and gender recognition and many others, whereby a flood of visual data - shapes, units, patterns, orientation, sequencing - is assessed at a glance."

This at-a-glance pattern recognition learned by our ancestors in the prehistorical forests of our planet, the skill that evolved into how we read today, is the same skill that enables sigils to work. Just like our ancestors, in order for this skill to be optimized, we need to live in the moment that the sigil is created, to be attentive and open to the two-way communication between us and the sigil psuedospirits as they spring to life, becoming our ephemeral oddkin, and enabling us to improve and optimize our cross-dimensional niche construction.