The Subtle Sigil

My second article to feature in Five of Swords Magazine is an exploration of the procedural dogma that plagues sigil creation in the post chaos era. Offered alongside the work of a number of other bleeding edge occult authors for free in PDF format via social media platforms around the start of October 2019, it again had the distinction of being the first article in that particular issue.

The Subtle Sigil
Alternative Processes For Creating Condensations Of Desire
By Gavin Fox

While there is something to be said for tried and tested methodologies, working within the chaos magick meta-paradigm affords us the perfect excuse to try out something a little different. Such freedom has resulted in many delicious excesses over the years. From superman summoning rituals to Skype sorcery, it can be argued that chaotes have pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a post-modern magickal being in an almost infinite number of directions. Mercurial and erratic by nature we look for gaps in the code, weaknesses to exploit, and are not above using a thermonuclear warhead to flip a burger. Needs must, as they say, and flashier the better.

Modern chaotes are the few surviving members of Generation Hex after all. Magick’s lost children, thrown to the wolves by practitioners of the more mainstream occult lineages because we refuse to play by their rules and bend a knee to their godforms. Chaos magick has been marginalised and its adherents ostracised, the all consuming desire to remain aloof and free to experiment with the contents of our own heads causing us to be branded at best immature and at worst dangerous. Yet we carry on striving to force magick to become something better than the dusty old books describe. Something fresh, vital and unforgiving of failure. The epitome of freedom in an increasingly psychologically enslaved world.

However, many of us seem less willing to tinker with and ultimately discard the core methodologies outlined in the works of authors such as Peter J. Carroll and Phil Hine than we are to appropriate the rituals of other systems. This odd quirk, bordering on unwarranted reverence for books that were never designated as holy texts in the first place, becomes all the more pronounced with regard to sigils. The most seminal of chaos magick techniques, many an occultist generated their first results by following one of the numerous tutorials either in print or online, myself included. They are low magick personified, and an easy way to get what you want, as long as you can suspend your disbelief long enough to wait out the usually protracted cooking time. They can be images, words or entire stories, whatever gets the job done, with as many variations as there are desires.

Thus create, forget, fire, wait has become the unofficial heartbeat of the chaos magick meta-current. As a movement we talk about striving for excellence, yet a big part of how we do what we do involves relying upon an unknown quantity, whether we admit it or not. Think back to all the books and message boards that you read when you were just starting out. I would wager that none of them bothered to explain the actual mechanics behind manifesting desire from the deep mind to the material world. While expediency has its place, so does authenticity. Just because something works is no excuse not to seek to understand it better, and ultimately, to improve upon it if we can. If stagnation was the rule of thumb, we would all still be using Windows 95 and cellphones the size of watermelons, yet mankind is defined by an almost Promethean desire to create change.

That said, It is inevitable that some magickal practitioners will be happy with the aforementioned ambiguity. For them, sigils hack reality through a shadowy interaction between the archetype rich subconscious and the quantum nature of the universe itself. There is no need for them to delve any deeper as long as they continue to generate results. I find that such an explanation stalks too far into prayer territory for my liking, and allows mysticism to creep into our lives by the back door. Theoretical physics, in all its spooky and unknowable glory, is just another religion after all. These classic fire and forget sigils work, true, but they do so by utilising fuzzy language and sloppy methodology, two things that a chaote should seek to avoid at all costs. If we are to become gods, then we must strive to become the kind that does not willingly play dice, even if they are loaded in our favour.

Humans, both magickal and mundane, already live in a world overflowing with symbology, much of it weaponised by large corporations and political scriptwriters for personal gain. Any culturally aware occultist knows that the majority of internet conspiracy theorists are at least partly right when it comes to the power of the pictogram, the branding which allows a given company to burrow its way deep into the our collective unconscious. Just a glimpse of the golden arches reminds even the staunchest vegetarian of cardboard burgers and animal fat laced milkshakes, while the twin tailed mermaid promises harsh caffeine served in partly recycled paper cups. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and many thousands of dollars to the chosen few who profit from their memetic payload.

Interestingly, these corporate sigils have gained power not through gnosis, but an almost ever present familiarity. Their absorption into the zeitgeist has been a slow and steady process, one of saturation as opposed to impact. No altered state was required to install them into our mindscape, no masturbation or flagellation needed to create deep rooted associations between image and outcome. Their constant presence is the key to their success. This idea also has a precedent in magickal terms. Those who invoke aspects of a chosen godform during ritual are in fact working with the accumulated ideas about that particular pseudo-entity which have slowly seeped into their mind over many long years of cultural narrative. An entire coven cannot be ridden by the spirit of the horned god at the same time, for example, but they can play to the memetic data that is already installed in their memory, tapping into the external current associated with his aspect.

From what I have so far managed to piece together, sigils actually seem to work by priming the perception of the occultist towards noticing and seeking out a certain goal within the vast archetypal soup which passes for modern life. They are a purely internalised process, and one which has more to do with psychology than sorcery. Dismantling the actual progression of events leading to even the most outlandish of manifestations will no doubt highlight the numerous subtle interactions which lead to its success. No magick happens in a vacuum. Doing everything to maximise the chances of success in the real world should be top priority at every stage of any occult operation, and sigil magick is no different. It is not that magick is in some way rendered unreal by this revelation. In fact, it is empowered, with the mind of the practitioner becoming the only tool required to generate viable results. We are the microcosm, after all, and the entire macrocosm rests upon our shoulders.

It is also worth noting that in my hard won experience there is nothing to be gained by completely forgetting the meaning of a sigil either. The entire ritual will have a far greater power if you instead create an internal conflict around remembering what it actually means, allowing the answer to bubble just on the cusp of your subconscious. The perfect expression of this concept would involve maintaining a general idea of what you were striving for without recalling every exact detail verbatim. Ideally, it would then be kept within the liminal space between waking and dreaming, on the tip of your tongue but just out of reach of accurate recall. This subtle sigilisation has numerous advantages over the older fire and forget method. Not least in the fact that it allows the chaote to steer a course towards the best possible outcome by virtue of their more complete understanding of why the synchronicities are stacking around them in the first place.

Too many magickians abandon the sigilisation process because they accidentally remember the reasoning behind it, either during the firing stage or long after. This is a pointless and a costly mistake, especially if their need was in any way time sensitive. Much energy is also wasted trying to banish the intent as it rises towards their waking mind. Many years of magickal indoctrination have demanded that the chaote stands apart from his desire to trick it into manifesting. In my experience this is completely pointless, to the extent that I will actually have numerous copies of the sigil pasted around my living space. I share it on social media and draw it on my skin. Anything to actively try and recapture the essence of the desire that fuelled it if not the details. Every time its resurgence draws your attention away from the mundane it exponentially improves the chances of your request coming to be, the intent micro-firing again and again on an almost hourly basis.

As mentioned earlier, chaos magick is evolution personified, and as such we should be ready to appropriate any and all tools that might work in our favour. This remains true even if doing so flies in the face of what we previously accepted as fact, forcing an evolutionary arms race that might ultimately lead to the abandonment of the few sacred cows which we still cling to despite our counter-cultural protests otherwise. I have little interest in the pseudoscientific work of Peter J. Carroll, but Phil Hine will always be a lasting influence on my magickal path. I am in no way seeking to belittle their contribution to what I do, however, but that was then and this is now. The road to godhood is a long and treacherous one, and what we discard can only make us stronger.