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THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

Named #4 in the top15 Pagan podcasts for 2022! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/

Sigils

September 6, 2021

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com

 

S2E33 TRANSCRIPT:

Yucca: Welcome back to the wonder science-based paganism. I'm your host Yucca. 

Mark: And I'm mark.

Yucca: And this week we are talking about sigils. So it's another really fun one where we're going to get into the nuts and bolts the details. Get into a specific practice. 

Mark: Right. This is a time honored tradition. People have been making. Hmm, symbols that they consider to be magical for thousands of years. We have the, you know, the seals on the tombs of the Kings in, in Egypt Lots of really kind of very old symbols that are meant to have magical powers. So, this is something that we can do in our own time.

And it's fun and it can be psychologically effective. So we thought we would do an episode about it.

Yucca: exactly. And I think a really great place to start is to come back to our view on magic and magical practices and how we see that, because this is a. Non-thesis is a science based paganism podcast. So when we talk about a magical practice, we aren't saying that that this is, you know, magic with a capital M where we're really making things float or fly or casting spells.

This is a psychological process. 

Mark: Right. This, this is something that we can do, which will change us internally. Our, our brains are, our minds are incredibly programmable and are we're constantly creating new neural pathways to accommodate new experiences and new understanding. Our, our brains are very plastic in that way. And so we've, you.

The practice of rituals and magic and so forth as with the intention of changing something about what's happening in our minds, whether it's our emotional state or our our degree of focus on something that's important to us or our commitment to a goal any of those kinds of things. And what's really cool about a sigil is that it can give you this.

Sort of quick flash stamp of something, which will then remind you of a whole magical meaning that you folded into the creation of that sigil.

Yucca: Yeah. So. So given that, I mean, let's, let's get a little bit more into what a sigil.

is. I loved the imagery that you started with, right? The, the symbol on the tomb and the ancient pharaohs and things like that. But, but this is something that gets used in a lot of different cultures over millennia and something that we do today. 

Mark: Yeah. And some of them are some of those kinds of symbols are very standard eyes. Like the evil eye, for example, in many of the Mediterranean cultures is something that's been around. It appears for. At least a couple thousand years. 

Yucca: Predating the religions that commonly use them today. 

Mark: exactly. And so those, those symbols become freighted with not only meaning for the individuals that are putting them down, but then also there's that historical momentum coming in behind them.

And so when you create a new sigil that won't have that historical freight behind. But what it will have is the history of all sigil making through all human history, leading up to the moment that you inscribe your sigil for the purposes that you intend.

Yucca: And depending on how you create your central, you can work in. Some of those historic city rules as well, or elements from them, things that remind you of that and bring it in, I'm thinking about the evil eye or the Humsa or hand to Fatima. Like you can, if you already have a relationship with that, choosing colors or shapes or things that are reminiscent of that can just can strengthen it for you.

It's about what that association is in your mind. And what it communicates to you instantly. 

Mark: Right. Right. When I wrote a post to the atheopagan is a blog which is that atheopagan is some.org about sigils. I called them barcodes for the brain. Because I really think of them that way. They are something that your brain can read in a little short beep and get a whole, a whole collection of meanings that you have, that you have compressed into that little sigil.

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: And so it can be something very useful to put on your focus or alter which is another term for what we call focus. It's something that you can inscribe on magical tools. I I've known people that made a sigil and put it in their wallet. And just carried it around whether it was for safety or for prosperity or for a focus of a particular intention.

Those are things that they, they concentrate on and they, they have it there so that they see it on a regular basis. And it reminds them once again of the ritual work that they've done to focus on that outcome.

Yucca: And one thing I did. So. Done sigils before. And mark suggested a few weeks ago, oh, this is a topic we could do. So I said, well, I've, I've never done this before. I know about the concept. So I did a little bit of internet research and I tried two different weeks doing it. And the, this past week it was really, really successful for me.

And one thing that I did was I actually drew it on my wrist with henna and it, and this was something that This was a very, you know, not to be too over sharing, but this week was a really challenging week. It was one of those weeks where like all the crisis has come at once and everything stacks up.

But I had a lot to be doing some, a teacher. My semester was starting at all these new classes we were receiving evacuees from the coast coming in because of Ida and all kinds of things happening all at once. So I, yeah. Tried one of these and it was about returning to focus. And so I felt like it wasn't something that I needed over a long period of time.

It was something that it just really needed for this week. And so putting it I dunno if you can see, it's almost, it's pretty much gone. But it lonely lasted for a few days on my wrist because you know, washing my hands and that part of is rubbing up. And when you put hen on somewhere on your body, that doesn't get a lot of contact if they can stay for a long time, but the HANA worked really well.

So that can be an option for people who use that, like you were suggesting putting on the dashboard or on the focus, or you could literally put it on the body as well. 

Mark: Yes, that's very clever. I like that. Yeah. I mean, I know people that have had permanent tattoos and sigils as well, but the idea of something that, you know, where you have this identified immediate need, that isn't necessarily a long-term need, but having it there so that you see it on yourself all the time.

That's that's I could see how that would be very helpful.

Yucca: Yeah. And somewhere where I could see it, but it's also not super public right. Asleep can cover it, but I'd still notice it 

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: you know, maybe not putting it on my forehead. 

Yeah. I mean, I think that might work for some people depending on what you're doing, but if you're public facing, that might end up with more questions. Of course, that could be the purpose. So it really depends on what you're trying to do with it. 

Mark: right? 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Yeah. So, that, and that really is an important piece of the, the process of any sort of so-called magical ritual process. You have to understand what your intention is, right? You need to know what you're trying to accomplish. And in my work at the focus or alter a lot of the time, what I am seeking to do is just to create that kind of present grounded, warm, glowing feeling that I have by candlelight and in front of my focus.

And that's all, that's all that I want. I'm not trying to make anything change. I'm not trying to. You know, program my psychology with any particular intention. I just want that good feeling that comes from going into that ritual state. But if you do have something that you want to accomplish, you know, if you're stuck behind a procrastination block or your You're really trying to focus your attention on something very important in your life.

Like getting a job or finding a workable relationship or, you know, those kinds of things. It can be very helpful to get very, very clear about exactly what it is that you're seeking to achieve. And

I have always felt that the more clarity you have, the more specificity you have about what it is that you're seeking to achieve. The more likely it is that you'll you'll make that happen for yourself. So not just, I want a relationship, but I would like to be connected with a person in this way, who has these kinds of attributes?

So that, so that you can recognize it when it comes along. So that you're, you're clear about, you know, oh, well here, this, this is the sort of thing I've been looking for.

Yucca: And to, to become really clear on what it is that you really are looking for.

because sometimes our surface understanding might be very different than when we stop and really examine and evaluate. You know what is going on. Sometimes we can see certain emotions can be hiding as other emotions. Like quite often, something like anger when you really get underneath it's.

Oh, no, it's really fear 

Mark: Right, 

Yucca: And so maybe the addressing the fear is what's going to let everything else. It's going to unblock, let the rest of that river flow or whatever it is that you need to happen. 

Mark: Yes. So, yes. I think that's true. And and so now we should talk more about About what the process is, how you make them. And then, then we can go into various ways that they can be used. So a sigil is. A symbol, typically a complex one and the most common way that people make them is by taking a key word, a word that encapsulates the thing that they're looking for.

And it may, or maybe two words or even three not a whole long sentence because that's a whole lot of symbols to have to sort of compress altogether. And what you do is you take those letters and write them out, strike out all the valves. And now you've got a bunch of consonants and that is your raw material for making your sigil.

You, you can put those together in various ways. You can add like little circles or squiggles or flames or whatever, whatever attributes you think. Add to the sigil. You don't have to use all the letters. That's very important to understand, essentially what you're doing is you're creating the crystallization of the concept that you've written down in the words, and it doesn't have to look like anything that's readable to anybody, but you.

Yucca: And when I was doing research for it, I found some really interesting playful things that people would do. So instead of letters, They took the letters and made it kind of a code where they associated one letter with a number. So ABC might be 1, 2, 3, right? And you go all the way to your 26 and you could swap it for numbers or where they made a grid with the alphabet and the position that the letter was in would then associate with where on the symbol, that letter would go. 

I saw some people doing some backwards writing. And there are a few really just very skillful artists that did some amazing, really look like tattoo work. 

Mark: Yeah, I've seen some very beautiful, sigils and the, the, the important thing is to do it until it's done 

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: and you'll know it's done. When you feel like it's done. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: That's, that's the only way to tell, honestly, as I said, you don't need to use all of the letters, numbers, figures, whatever it is, you can just use the ones that strike your fancy.

You can flip them upside down. You can make the mirror image. You can add additional embellishments that make the sigil look more mystical and cool. Or that look more Persuasive and compelling, whatever you think is effective for the creation of your sigil. And what I found when I started doing this is that my early ones were pretty perfunctory.

I was just not as daring as I might've been in, in making changes. And they got a lot more extravagant as I practiced more.

Yucca: But I did this past week was I did the letters. I actually, I wrote a sentence. Right. I figured out what my sentence was really focused on exactly what it was that I wanted. And I did this all in ritual. So thought about it a little bit beforehand, but then really refined it in ritual and took the first letters of each word.

And used that to create the symbol. But I also create, I used some shapes as well, that weren't letters. So I used a circle and then made the letters make sort of the form looked almost like an eye. So like a Sur an eye within a circle because I was working on being able to return to a focus and centered, balanced.

In the moment when I felt like I was being tugged in 20 different directions was okay. Let's, let's bring that back to the focus. And so I was trying to come up with what will, what will feel like that? What does that feeling look like in a symbol? And so the letters were a component, but just the shapes that the letters were making the shapes that the letters were contained.

Yeah. Helps to facilitate that immediate return to that feeling. 

Mark: Sure. Yeah. Yeah, that's great. I know that people will sometimes add like wavy lines for water or other, you know, other kind of elemental pieces as well, too. To sort of describe the feeling that they're working to evoke the emotion they're seeking to capture.

Yucca: Right. I can imagine if someone works with a framework of the elements often that really associates like, okay, so air is mental. But, you know, the earth is ground or whatever it is, there are associations that you could use that as a starting place for that sigil or incorporate it. And Yeah.

I did not work with color, but I think that some people could, if you are a color person, color is, is so powerful, right.

Mark: Yeah. 

So I was going to describe a process that I went through a while back with the atheopagan group, Saturday mixer group that gets together on zoom every Saturday morning. There was a poem by Robinson Jeffers that was read by a member of the group. And the last line of the poem really struck me.

The line was for you also are human. 

Yucca: Hm. 

Mark: And so what I did was I took the first letter of each of those. Each each, the first letter of each word of that line and made that into a sigil. And that was about it. Self compassion and humility and understanding that I'm not always going to get it right. And I created that into a sigil and it turned out to be a very powerful kind of symbol for me.

I, I I've kept it on my focus for close to a year now, I think. And and I've used it in rituals as well. Especially when. Working to address things that are challenges in my life, just to remember. It's okay. You don't have to be perfect. 

Yucca: It's beautiful. It's a beautiful line too. 

Mark: It is Robinson Jeffers. If you haven't read him his marvelous, 

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: a very, very strong conservationist out of the American west and yeah, just really recommend his stuff. Beautiful. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: let's circle back, maybe summarize about the creation of a sigil. So step wise, we said, figure out what your intention is, Right.

And preferably in ritual, then create it, put, make it into something visual. 

Mark: Right,

Yucca: do the letters, maybe have symbols that represent the letters, but you can make it as involved and intricate as, as feels.

Right. And as you were saying, mark, just keep going until it feels complete and done. 

Mark: right. And while you're doing this, sorry to 

Yucca: Oh, please continue. 

Mark: But while you're doing this, bear in mind, what you're trying to do is to capture a particular emotion. What you're trying to do is to make a symbol that can help you to snap back into a particular emotional state. So play music that brings you that emotional state, while you're working on your sigil, you know, burn some incense that reminds you of a particular kind of feeling that you, that you have, or, you know, spray a little essential oil into the air or whatever it is that you do for scent.

You can, you can turn this into a multi-sensory kind of experience that will help you. When you, when you start using the sigil out in the world,

Yucca: Yeah. So for an example, sharing, what I would I did this past week was when I did that ritual actually went out clear stars, really beautiful moment. Created that had to use like a little red light so I could see it created that symbol. And then hung out in that ritual space with the symbol. Trying to be in that place of, of focus, which was what I was working on returning to and spent.

I don't actually know how long it was because it was probably only four or five minutes, but it felt like a long time. And just really tried to connect the feeling of that symbol with that, with with that experience. And then it was later. It was a second time that I came back and actually put that as Hannah, because it didn't occur to me until after I had done it that maybe I shouldn't get henna. 

Mark: That's a really clever idea. I like that a lot.

Yucca: So yeah. I mean, you might, depending on how the skill that someone has with the henna you know, you might even do it on your body as you're creating. 

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: So, so that would be okay. Have that association form that association, whether it's with the, hopefully with as many things as you can to make it really work for you since the color, the, the ambiance, the music, if you're a musical person 

Mark: Tastes and flavors that make that make you happy or remind, you know, maybe it's black coffee, maybe that. you of focus and attention and kind of diligence about pursuing whatever your goal is, or maybe it's chocolate and that's just sort of sensual pleasure, kind of happiness sort of feeling that you're trying to capture as many senses as possible.

It's usually a good rule for rituals.

Yucca: Yeah. You know, and, and as we're talking, it occurs to me that we've been doing, we've been focusing on this as a. solitary or singular thing, but this could be something that you're doing with a partner as well. If it's something that both of you or all of you, if it's more of that are working on together and maybe it's maybe you're in the process of moving or forming a new.

Relationship or things like that, that you could use this in a lot of different ways and have that, that kind of special, powerful symbol between the two of you that represents whatever this goal or agreement it's arrangement is. 

Mark: Right. Like if you're forming a household together for the first time, for example, you could create a sigil for, for, and health and all those things that you want to be a part of your household. And then that could be on the household, Walter along with other, you know, pictures of. Of the members of the household and other things that remind them of why they live together.

Yucca: Hmm, that's really sweet. I could see that above a door too. 

Like in the, the walking into the threshold of the house. 

Mark: So that's a thing that you can do. You can put it on the dashboard of your car. If you're, if you have a problem with getting lost or if you. 

Yucca: Get really angry with driving. 

Mark: Yes. If you have a problem with road rage or, or if you have a habit of speeding, maybe something that will remind you to slow down a little bit and you know, pay a little more attention to what's going on around you.

Yucca: Or confidence and comfort and maybe not having the overwhelming anxiety of that horrible feeling of, oh, I've got to merge. I've got to change lanes. I've got to. Got to drive. And by the way, driving in the part of the country that you live in, just sounds terrifying. Driving and in California, there's very aggressive and lots and lots of drivers there.

So if you need help with driving in California, that could be a reason to really do a sigil. 

Mark: It could, you could do a little outline of the state of California as a part of.

Yucca: You're good. Yes. Or, you know, maybe a bubble of protection around your car or something like that. 

Mark: Yeah,

Yucca: I just teased though, you guys are great. 

Mark: well, I mean, to be honest, I'm pretty happy about the area where I live in terms of how aggressive the drivers are. There are places like Silicon valley where the drivers credibly aggressive. You have lots of sort of young male drivers with really expensive cars who feel entitled to own the entire road.

And they drive like maniacs. It's it's really frightening. Okay.

Yucca: Yeah, folks. Aren't good drivers here, but there just aren't a lot of them, so, 

Mark: Yeah. Well, that's good. If they're being really bad drivers, you just let them pass you and forget. 

Yucca: that's right. Yeah. I'm just like, Okay,

So anyways, so these are some, some ideas. What else could we say? 

Mark: well, there's the question about using the CGM? Kind of visibly and publicly, or at least visible to yourself. And then there's the sort of secret sigil thing. Some people like to create a sigil with a particular meaning and then seal it somehow in an envelope or just folding over the paper with ceiling wax or you know, somehow.

Keeping it hidden so that it's power becomes stronger because it's been hidden. That isn't something that I've done very much, but I like playing sealing, wax and seals. I just think it's really cool. So. 

Yucca: It reminds me um, A girlfriend who was Japanese and she we weren't living there. We were living in an actually Bilbao, but she had these little envelopes. There were beautiful cloth envelopes from the temple in her village. And they had prayers inside that had been written by the priest at the temple.

And. She said that if you opened it up, you let it go. I wouldn't, it wouldn't work anymore. So you always had to keep it sealed. 

Mark: Hmm.

Yucca: There was just that it, it made it really special to have that little sealed cloth envelope with the special not done. And that just seemed to give it this kind of. This feeling of importance and there was like the rules around it that just made it kind of fun.

And I think that, that's what, that's what I think gave it the, you know, the power. So to say it was, is the belief around it, not necessarily that the actual marks of ink on paper did anything, but the way that she felt about it and the stories that she told about it. Right. Created that feeling. So that's what it reminds me of.

When you say that to sealing it away with wax or putting it into an envelope. 

Mark: Well, it's funny when you say that story, because I, I hear it in two different ways. On the one hand. Yes. It's very special to have the prayer enclosed in its little envelope, you know, with the special knots and all that kind of stuff. But. Another way that you could look at that is it's sort of like a, like a battery, like a store, a stored blessing of some kind.

So when 

Yucca: open it when you're ready. 

Mark: you open it when you need it. Right. So, 

Yucca: Oh yeah. 

Mark: kind of cool. Huh?

Yucca: I liked that. I might do something like that with the kids. 

Mark: Yeah, I would think that would be a cool thing to do with kids. Cause it's like, if you're having a really bad day, maybe today's the data open, open your, your blessing packet and, you know, let a little goodness in. 

Yucca: Yeah. Great.

Mark: that.

Yucca: Okay. Thanks for, for picking up on that.

part. That's really special. 

Mark: Yeah. Well, I'm always trying to think of new ways to do cool ritual stuff, you know, it's it's ritual is play for adults. In, in many ways we get to do stuff with all the cool toys and it's just, it's fun 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: and meaningful that's yeah. That's part of what makes it adult play as opposed to children's play, not the children's play isn't meaningful, but most of the meaning for children's play is about brains in development, you know, eye, hand coordination, and, you know, 

Yucca: This figuring out how to human 

Mark: Yes, exactly. All that kind of stuff. Whereas as adults, the introduction of meaning into our play makes it really significant and important to us.

Yucca: Yeah. So we might have it being something that's public or private, but at some point it might be time to, the schedule might be done. There might be some that, that are never going to be done well within your lifetime. Right.

But there might be others. Like the one that I worked with this week that, that it felt like it was something I needed for this week.

So. I next step might be a releasing of that situation. 

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: Maybe it might fade away like how I did it with the henna. It just sort of faded away and I don't feel the need to formally release it or destroy the central or something like that. But there might it, depending on what your central is, there might be need for that is to create.

Another ritual space and burn it or put it in the compost or erase it or replace it with another central, maybe renew it because sometimes things get stale, Right, 

Mark: right, That, that thing that you see on your dashboard every day after a while, you won't see it anymore. Right. So, it may be. I don't know. I would consider putting it on my rear view window. I mean my rear view mirror so that, you know, a little, little piece of paper along the edge so that I could see it and it would continue to draw my attention.

Yucca: Hang it right there. So it moves a little bit. 

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: you turn the car back up or yeah. 

Mark: Although, apparently it's illegal to hang anything from your rear view mirror, and cops can pull you over for that, which is how a couple of young black men have been killed. So 

Yucca: California thing. I mean, maybe

Mark: I guess it 

Yucca: on the state, 

Mark: I guess it depends on the state. Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah, in my state there, they're more worried about whether you have a license plate or not like you just cause your car street like it does it, is it safe? Do you have a license plate? My, my brother went east once and they pulled him over because the tent was too dark on his on his windows. So, Yeah.

And I guess in a lot of states you have to have a drivers license plate on the front too, and not just the back. 

Mark: Yeah. In California.

Yucca: Yeah. So I think it's probably gonna depend on a lot of places, like on what state you're in you know, in, in the more rural places you probably won't have trouble with that, but in the the more urban areas, it seems like it would be likely that they're going to look for more, more issues.

Mark: Huh,

Yucca: And some states it's illegal to drive barefoot 

Mark: it's illegal to drive barefoot in California.

Yucca: Yeah. That doesn't make much sense to me. I can understand why say, you know, maybe don't drive in stilettos or something like that, but 

Mark: Yeah, 

Yucca: the, 

Mark: that makes a lot more sense to me than the barefoot one. I don't know. I don't know what the problem with the barefoot one is. It might've been one of those kinds of anti hippie laws that got passed in the 1960s. It was just designed to target particular kinds of people.

Yucca: Yeah. Or the logic of maybe if there's broken glass, you won't be able to push down far enough, but there shouldn't be broken glass under your pedals. So, 

Mark: You would hope not.

Yucca: yeah. Anyways, I don't know why we're we keep talking about driving today. Must be on my mind. 

Mark: I don't know. So, so yeah, be creative in thinking of the ways that you can use these symbols in your life and in the world. One of the things that's really great about them is that you can make them really small and unobtrusive and you can keep them in places where they're hidden from other people that are, are going to ask questions that you don't want to answer.

And it's a way of being able to kind of carry your magic with you. In on your day-to-day life. So it doesn't have to be just something that lives within your focus at home. It can be something that goes with you in your pocket.

Yucca: So this could be a really good practice for folks who are living in a dorm situation, or we've talked about before that, you know, they live with parents who are. Really into a very different religion or very strict about what, you know, they want the kids in their household doing, or there are, you know, you've got an in-law or something like that, where it's, it doesn't have to look like anything more than a cool than like a really cool doodle, like a symbol, like, yeah, I really liked this symbol.

Like I'm into drawing. You know, and yet to you, it can have a really the, the idea is that it has really important meaning, 

Mark: Right.

Yucca: and it's yours. It's yours. 

Mark: Very essential. I mean, there are tons of sigils that can be copied out of various books and all that kind of stuff. And maybe you'll get some value out of that. I don't know. But to me it really matters that I create my sigils myself. They're unique to me. And that means that it's the only one in the world.

You know, when I draw it and put it in my pocket or whatever it is, it's the only one like it in the world.

Yucca: Yeah. So this is a really a really fun practice. So thank you for sharing this with me, mark. It's been, I've loved playing with it over the last couple of weeks and hope to do more. 

Mark: I'm so glad. Yeah. I, I do think it's really fun and creative and I think one thing that we don't do very often in our ritual work is, is graphic kind of stuff, drawing and so forth. And this, this is something that anyone can do. You don't have to be a good artist. And I mean, I just think it's, it's a lot of fun and it can be a really powerful, effective, psychological practice as well.

Yucca: Yeah, 

Mark: Well, thanks so much for having another great conversation with me, Yucca. I really appreciate our conversations together and look forward to next weeks. 

Yucca: likewise. Thanks mark. 

Mark: All right. See you folks. Bye bye. 

Yucca: Okay.