Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Difference Between a Sigil and an Image


It may seem like a strange question, as they are clearly different things, but what is the difference between a sigil and an image? As a contemporary magician who is deeply invested in the Picatrix and how it fits within the greater philosophies of modern occultism, this distinction is an important one. I have a few thoughts on the matter and a few unresolved questions as well.

First off, let's define each of these concepts.
A sigil is generally considered to be a symbol, a graphic representation of an idea or an identity. Probably the most well know sigils are the symbols of the astrological sign. But sigils are everywhere in contemporary culture. The grimoires are full of sigils representing all manner of spirits, of the planets, of angels, and of demons. Many logos of corporations would also qualify as a sigil. Indeed almost all letters and written words in various alphabets, singly or in artistic combinations, can be sigils. They can be simple, like the symbols of the astrological signs, or incredibly complex, like mandalas composed of Arabic calligraphy. To me, the defining characteristic of a sigil is its design being rooted in the magic of writing. The sigil making process of A.O. Spare is a perfect crystallization of this idea. A common phrase of intent is reduced to a single symbol that still retains some of the features of the shapes of the Roman alphabet.  A sigil is almost no different from an ideogram. It is only the application of magical intent that separates them.

An image, on the other hand, is much more abstract. An image is a scene, like a picture, or an object, like a sculpture. Any inclusion of symbols, letters, or words are secondary to the greater depiction of the image. Religious icons and tarot cards are probably the most well known types of image magic. But images too can have a range of complexity; from stick figure like representations on the cave walls at Lascaux to a series of comic books by Grant Morrison. Artists use image magic all the time with the visual arts, theater, and cinema to make changes in themselves and in society. Advertising, whether in print, on TV, or over the internet, is all image magic. It works by tapping into the emotional, unconscious parts of the mind. Whenever one sees a picture of some kind it sparks a cascade of allusions and connections in the viewer. Meaning is built through the inherent cultural connotations of the objects, gestures, and characters depicted.

So why does it matter? Why should we care about the distinction between sigils and images? First, and most importantly for me, an understanding of image magic is a necessary part of learning the magic of the Picatrix. There are a few examples of sigils in my copy of the Latin Picatrix, symbols to drawn for the execution of some spell or other. But there are many more examples of images. The Decans, the Planets, the Mansions of the Moon all have descriptions of images that depict them. These images are important as a way to understand the character and the nature of the astrology and spiritual connotations of these concepts. But more than that, images can be used to make contact with the entity depicted. An image is a representation of that spirit. To be in the presence of the image is to be in the presence of the spirit.

Making images, inventing them, is one of the important facets of image magic that the Picatrix teaches. I have found this practice to be fundamental to my understanding of various concepts of not only the Picatrix but other grimoires as well. I have posted many of my efforts on this blog. Art making is a powerful way to learn about a subject. Concentrating, digging deeply into concepts, and carefully considering details are all highly instructive ways to learn about spiritual concepts.

I would suggest that widespread art making on occult subjects and entities is the next big phase of the proliferation of occult information and ideas. The texts and the information is all out there now. It is widely discussed and practiced. But what does one do with the accumulation of all the subjective, personal experiences? Passing on that knowledge through abstract means like art and literature turns it into a road sign for others on the path to spiritual enlightenment through the Mysteries. It renders inarticulate ideas in a way that can be absorbed, if not understood.

Having said all that I do have a few questions for contemplation.
Are sigils and images two ends of a continuum or are they two entirely separate things?
Where do hieroglyphics fit into these ideas? Mayan hieroglyphs in particular are intriguing to me when trying to parse the difference between images and sigils.
Is there a form of either sigils or images that could be confused with the other? In other words, when does the distinction become murky or they overlap in some way?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Creation Is Your Birthright

Creation is your birthright.
You, yes you.
Human.
Magician.
The act of creating and the products of that creation belong to you. It is your power.
It is the gift from God that you be one step removed from divine power.
Your consciousness is able to conceive and produce all manner of things that have myriad impacts across the whole universe.
You can create.
And, in creating, you make your mark and stake your claim thereby bringing the entire universe into your influence.
Writing, making images, making offerings, these have immense impacts not always readily apparent. The ripples of their influence suffuse not only the culture in which you find yourself, but all of creation.
I call you to action.
Build.
Create.
Make.
Keep making and building despite judgments by yourself or others. The very act of making is God working through you.
It is your birthright.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Picatrix Decan Card Deck Back in Stock

To those of you who have been waiting I am please to let you know that the Picatrix Decan cards are back in stock on my Etsy page and ready for purchase. Check it out here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/601015785/picatrix-decans-card-deck





Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Egipcios Kier Tarot- The Magician

The Egipcios Kier Tarot

I am fascinated by the Egipcios Kier tarot and I think it is an interesting model of what a tarot or oracle deck can be. I have, however, had a hard time finding a thoughtful analysis of the symbolism found on each card. There is the Little White Book that came with the deck, written by Stuart R. Kaplan, but there is much that I find lacking about some of its suppositions and glosses. Plus, how in depth can one get in such limited space? 

There is also the work of Nelise Carbonare Vieira on her website http://tarotdoor.com but that site is in Portugese, which I can’t read. Google translate is great but I am sure there is plenty that I am missing in the proverbial and literal translation. She also seems to have her own system of understanding the deck that I’m not sure I fully understand or agree with.  

I would like to begin to do my own analysis and research on this important tool. This project will give me a good reason to do some of the more detailed research in Egyptian mythology and the use of symbolism found on each card. I have been using this deck for a few years and have come to have insights and intuitive leaps regarding the meanings of the individual cards. You may like that and you may not. But in the absence of voices on the subject, I would like to try to add my own to the body of knowledge. Essentially I am self-taught in the use of this deck and I would like to use this forum to explore it more deeply.

Let’s explore together. As always your thoughts are welcome. 




The Egicios Kier Tarot

1. The Magician

Meanings: Mastery, divine consciousness, divine intervention, magical ability, learning and knowledge, vivifying energy, health, beginnings, confidence and self-awareness. 

The Magician is the first card of the Egipcios Kier tarot and therefore has an especially important part to play. The fact that the deck is numbered 1 through 78 without separation of suits or court cards suggests to me that the sequence is important and that there is at least the connotation of a continuum or cycle. That there is the semblance of cycles in a tarot deck based in ancient Egyptian mythology should not be surprising.  

At the top of the card we have the sigil of the Solar spirit Och from the Arbatel. This is the first of the solar symbols on this card. The Arbatel says of Och that he...
"governeth solar things; he giveth 600 yeares, with perfect health; he bestoweth great wisdom, giveth the most excellent Spirits, teacheth perfect Medicines: he converteth all things into most pure gold and precious stones: he giveth gold, and a purse springing with gold. He that is dignified with his Character, he maketh him to be worshipped as a Deity, by the Kings of the whole world."

The bottom, terminal end of the Och sigil has astrological symbol of the Sun incorporated into it. I am not familiar with this little detail and this example is the first I've come across it. The Sun symbol at the bottom of the Och sigil falls between two eyes, right about where the Third Eye would be located. These two eyes are the Eye of Ra and the Eye of Horus, dieties in their own right and parts of the god Ra. On one level the eyes represent the Sun and the Moon, respectively. They are the consciousness of Ra. It is through our own consciousness that we can become aligned with the gods and thereby they become a symbol of the magician assuming the mantle of godhood through consciousness. 

To the left of the eyes is the Egyptian hieroglyph of a kite which E.A.W. Budge lists first in his hieroglyphic dictionary as the sound of the letter A. It is for this reason that it is used on this card. 

To the right of the eyes we have the letter A given in what is called the Alphabet of the Magi. The Alphabet of the Magi dates back to the 16th Century in Italy and was used in the construction of talismans. It was purported to have been transmitted by angelic spirits. Here again it is for the attributes of the letter A as the beginning of the alphabet that it is included. 

In the middle register we have the image of the Magician. He is in an active posture, with one foot in front of the other. On his head is a circlet crown with a cobra ureas serpent on his brow. His hair is a plaited wig. His wealth is signified by his jewelry; lapis bands on his arms and wrists, a large, lapis pectoral ornament around his neck. In his raised left hand he holds a mirror with a wand handle. The tilt of his eyes suggest he's looking into the mirror. His right hand is low, at his side, and he points down toward the ground. He is wearing a stiff skirt that appears to be bound with a lapis belt. In front of him is a cube shaped altar. On the side of the altar is the figure of a ibis bird, the bird sacred to Thoth, the Magician of the Gods. The edge of the altar is delineated by two bands that meet at a right angle. The top of the altar has three objects on it, a sword, a jar, and a coin. With the wand in the Magician's hand these represent the tools of the Magician and the four elements. Bellow the Magician, obscured in hashmarks of darkness, is an isometric drawing of a cube. This is a foundation stone of the universe. 

At the bottom of the card is the title band. On the left most side is the astrological glyph of the Sun. Next to it the astrological glyph of the sign Leo, sign of the Sun's rulership. Next to that is the name of the card, The Magician. To the left of that is the Hebrew letter Aleph and further to the right the number of the card in sequence, 1. 

One of the predominant meanings of this card is consciousness and awareness. Being the first card in the deck it also has connotations of waking up or first becoming conscious. This consciousness has qualities of being self-aware. The Magician, as he gazes into his mirror wand, points to the ground as if to say, "I am the real one over on this side of the mirror," (but of course the image is doing the same thing). With self-awareness comes mastery. With consciousness comes the ability to identify with other consciousnesses, including the all powerful gods. This is indicated by the Eye of Ra and the Eye of Horus at the top of the card.  

Solar iconography is often about self and identification. This is why the Sun sign is often what people refer to as "their" sign. The Sun is symbolic of the self. Carl Jung wrote that the astrological symbol of the Sun, a circle with a dot in the middle, is a graphic representation of the self. Here the identification of the Magician to the Sun is more explicit. Egyptian mythology is a solar theology. The goal of the aspirant was to be able to die, traverse the Underworld, and be reborn just as the Sun does each day. 

In traditional European astrology the Sun is the king of the planets and controls their disposition through their waxing and waning phases. The Sun keeps time and dictates the seasons. The Sun has dominion over the entire universe.

The Egipcios Kier tarot represents a journey through the Underworld and begins with the Magician, as master of himself and his world, taking up his wand and gathering his tools to walk the path. He is full of energy and backed by the will of the gods. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ebb and Flow, part 2

Oh, this poor neglected little blog. It has been nearly a year since I've posted to it. Too long. But if you were to look back and read all the posts you'd see this is a common occurrence. Gaps abound in my journals. In fact this is really the reason I started this blog in the first place. I know myself well enough to know that I respond well to pressure from an expectant audience. I knew that if I had a deadline, no matter how artificial it was, I would step up.

At any rate, I had someone asking me a few days ago about this blog. I lamented that I had been so neglectful. "Ach!," I wrote, "what a slacker." I asked them what I should write about. They suggested I write about balancing the elements of life, mundane and magical, and about periods of being a slacker. I've written about this idea before but perhaps it is time for a reexamination, if for nothing else than to break the ice and get back into the swing of not only writing on the blog but also my greater practice.

One of the great lessons of the material existence is all things move in cycles; birth, growth, death, decay, birth. When one is in the death and decay stages of whatever cycle they're in it is hard to do much. Depression and despair are at once the exact situations for which magic would be a help and the very conditions in which it is almost impossible to do any kind of magic. Or at least it was for me. In a very real way I met my shadow over the course of the past couple of years and it wrestled me to the ground. The obstacles in my path were entirely of my own making and really were only obstacles because of my dogged determination that everything must turn out in exactly one way. Who knows how many opportunities I missed just because I was blindly following a plan that turned out to be futile. My strategy was flawed from the beginning and I wound up working harder and harder for no gain to the detriment of almost everything else in my life. I dropped my magic practice, avoided people, wouldn't allow myself anything pleasurable, and the work I loved was becoming something I was coming to resent. So I quit that job and got a regular one. That's where I've been for the pat several months.

So, why do I tell you all this? Partly just to vent but I also think there is a lesson to learn from this.
Did I fail magic?
An argument can be made either way. Did I fail magic? Yes. I should have been more prepared with divination to identify and find solutions to the pitfalls that were about to be in my way. I could have marshalled spiritual forces to my advantage.
Did I fail at magic? No. Even the most powerful of mages cannot escape the challenges of a mundane life. Perhaps my experience could have been much worse and was ameliorated by the spiritual authority I have built up over the years.

I find limited value in this second guessing and questioning my decisions long after the fact. What I can say for sure, however, is that panic and desperation kill my ability to do magic of almost any kind. My divinations become skewed, my offerings turn into childish begging for favors, and my shadow rises up to tell me that I am unworthy for happiness or success.

I am definitely coming through the other side of this experience. The stability that comes from not stressing constantly about how to pay my bills helps immensely. Some projects that I've had on the proverbial back burner are catching my interest once again. It reminds me that my practice has always ebbed and flowed. I look forward to doing more,experiencing more, and sharing more.



Sunday, July 29, 2018

Goetic Magic and the Oath

What is the state of oaths in our modern times? For the goetic magician oath taking is of central importance to the whole philosophy. Whatever one calls it, pact or something else, the oath is one of the things that makes goetic magic what it is. I am of the opinion that if one does not make a pact or take an oath then they are not doing goetic magic and further that the pact concept imposes a goetic context on one's procedures regardless of what spirit or spirits the magician is employing.

But the word pact is too limiting, I think. Oath is so much more broadly defined and carries a gravity that I think is important. It also more accurately describes what I have come to understand as the underpinnings of the relationship between magician and spirit. I admit that my first pact with a spirit, in writing, was really quite weak and mamby-pamby. One of the weakest parts of it was to make its duration for only one year, a decision I made entirely based in fear of what I might have to give up and fear of the consequences if I wasn't able to keep my end of the agreement. During that year I kept up my end of the bargain, making regular offerings of various kinds in exchange for spiritual and material benefits. These benefits did materialize but in a quite underwhelming way. In fact that year was some of the least powerful or impactful time of our working together. We had much stronger interactions both before and after the term. The reason, I think, is my flawed understanding of the pact coupled with some idiosyncrasies in my personal practice.

Among those idiosyncrasies are the fact that I carried the First Character for that spirit around for two years before making the formal pact and that my practice has a meditative mysticism about it as opposed to formal ceremonial evocation. I am much more apt to make offerings and sit in concentrated contemplation than to draw out a circle and recite psalms. Because of this I endeavored nearly every day at the beginning to make that spirit's presence part of my life and, being completely honest, that devotion slacked off once I made the pact. The pact itself, the ritual of making it and the process of fulfilling it over the course of a year became a culmination and a sort of graduation from the process of carrying the First Character. In short it was an ending. This is a huge and fundamental mistake.

What I didn't realize then and am coming to understand now is that, with the creation of the First Character in my blood I was taking an oath. It was an oath to walk the walk and do the work. It was an oath to perpetuate the spirits of the grimoires and to align with them, and foremost the one on my First Character. The ritual isn't portrayed that way in the books and I didn't explicitly think of it that way at the time, at least not consciously. But that is truly what it was. The written pact, made later with specific "I give you this and you'll give me that" details is secondary. Or maybe it is better said that the written pact should be a document of the oath, a confirmation of the oath, and not a separate element of the practice. My weak pact had little to do with my actual practice or the energy I put into it. That is why my interactions with the spirit were and are so much stronger now that the term is expired. That was the big flaw in my thinking.

I continue to do many of the offerings I did during the pact term even though it is done and they are more effective now because I am doing them out of devotion and love and not out of fear of consequences, like a child. Skipping a few days of making offerings, either by accident or even on purpose, is not enough to break such an oath where the pact would have easily been broken because of the details I put in it. Because the spirits are on my mind, in my heart, and on my tongue the oath holds and the spiritual benefits flow. Maybe that is what it means to 'sell one's soul'; to give one's energy and attention in a positive way when others fear that to do so is a violation of Abrahamic law. To break such an oath as the one I made with the First Character would require a counter-oath. Not just a conscious decision but an actual magical act. Loss of power, loss of cognitive abilities and loss of material possessions would all be appropriate consequence for such an act and the very reason why the oath should not be lightly undertaken. But the little minutia of when one might light a candle or burn some incense is not where the power lies.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Using the Picatrix Decan Cards

tl:dr-

  1. astrological talismans
  2. spirit communication
  3. divination
  4. reference, contemplation 
  5. art collection


I completed the images for the Picatrix Decans in late November of 2017. As I was making the images I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the collection was to publish them as a deck of cards. There are a few reasons I wanted to do this. First I wanted an affordable way for folks to be able to collect my artwork. But more importantly for the readers of this blog I wanted to produce a way for folks to use the images in magical work. The deck of the Picatrix Decan cards is ultimately a practical tool for the practicing magician. 

But what does this mean? How can any cards be used as a tool and in particular what are the uses of the Picatrix Decan cards? Let’s explore some of my ideas that may answer this question. Be aware, dear reader, that these are just my ideas and that you may come up with something completely different that suits you better. As the author of these images I feel no need to be strict about their use. 

Talismans
The initial use I had in mind as I made these images was that they would be used as talismans and magic charms. A description on the box of cards names it as “a collection of 36 talismans”. Incidentally this is the use for which they are presented in The Picatrix. In order to employ a card for this use one would choose a decan that represents an effect they desire. If one wanted wealth, for instance, one may choose to use the Second Face of Aries as their talisman. 



Then the magician would choose a time to “wake up” and charge the talisman with the energy of that particular decan based on the astrological conditions. Then they would perform a ceremony to imbue the image on the card with the power of the decan. This can be as simple as telling it to “wake up”, or as elaborate as one wishes with candles and incense and anointing with prepared oil or water. The card itself then becomes a magically charged item that works to bring wealth to itself. If one were to carry the charged card wealth would come to them, if the card were kept at a business wealth would come to the business, and so on. In The Picatrix these talismanic purposes are listed in Book 2, Chapter 11. For those of you who do not own a copy of Greer & Warnock’s The Picatrix, which is the reference I used to make the images, a small pamphlet is included with the deck that paraphrases the descriptions from the book. 

Once one is finished with the effects of the talisman another ceremony is enacted to discharge or put the image to sleep, so to speak. This is especially important for talismans that are used for destruction or bad luck. 

There are traditional ceremonies described in The Picatrix that go into detail about how this is done. We will revisit these in another blog post.

Spirit Communication
One of the underlying beliefs of the ancient authors of The Picatrix is that the planets and stars of astrology are populated with the intelligences and disembodied spirits that comprise the mythology and are more or less available to communication and interaction. In many ways the concepts of spirit communication and talisman empowerment have some overlapping themes and procedures but they can be kept quite separate. It is a somewhat advanced skill and might be available to a person in varying degrees. 

It is a notable fact that The Picatrix does not give names to the spirits of the decans. Other traditions do all the way back to the ancient Babylonians. The British Egyptologist E.A.W. Budge gives the names of the decan spirits in his book Gods of the Egyptians, and the 19th century magical lodge The Golden Dawn has its own list. I chose to follow The Picatrix as my guide and have not presented names for the decans. This should not, however, lessen the spiritual dimension to this work.  

There are many methods one might use to try to communicate with the spirits of the decans that have been passed down from antiquity. The curious reader will have no trouble finding a method that suits them. 

Divination
As a deck of cards the comparison to tarot will be a natural one. Indeed these cards can easily be used as an oracle deck, either in conjunction with or entirely separate from a traditional tarot deck. The diligent student of tarot will be aware that the two most popular decks on the market, the Rider Waite Smith deck and the Crowley Harris Thoth deck, associate the decans to 36 cards of the minor arcana (minus the Aces and the court cards). I did not use these tarot decks as reference in the designs of the images on my Picatrix Decan cards and more often than not the imagery and connotations are disparate. Again, this is due to using The Picatrix itself as the primary source. But this shouldn’t stop one from mixing and matching as one may. 

On its own the Picatrix Decan cards can be used as a divination tool using the talismanic purpose of the image as the interpretation. For instance, the Second Face of Sagittarius is paraphrased in the included pamphlet as “a man leading cows with a bear and ape in front of him. As a talisman- fear, impediments, blockages”. 



As an omen or divinatory result one may interpret it as facing one’s fears or that fear blocks their progress.

For all of the images I used my intuition in the composition of the pieces. It is my hope that some of these intuitive leaps on my part will add potential divinatory meaning to the cards and spark the intuition of those who read them. 

Reference and Contemplation
One of the benefits to me of doing this project was the deep contemplation and exploration of the images of the decans. It is my sincere hope that these may be used as a reference of sorts and that a student of The Picatrix may read it with my cards by their side. To my knowledge there are no other sets of images of the decans based primarily on The Picatrix, as opposed to Agrippa, Ibn Ezra, or other source. 

The Picatrix tells us many times in its pages that the passages of the book are written in codes, riddles, and obfuscations. It also tells us the way to discern the hidden messages is through meditation and deep thought. Indeed, I discovered a few philosophical gems in making the project. The most important to me was that I was able to match several of the images to characters from Greek, Hindu, and Arabic mythology. No doubt more secrets may be uncovered through further contemplation. 

Art Collection

On a personal level I am very proud of this work and its place in my art career. As collectors gather my work the Picatrix Decan cards stand as a novel way to acquire all 36 images at an affordable price. The large, fine art prints are sold in limited editions and soon these cards will be the only way to buy them. 

Decks are still available on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/listing/601015785