I open up a sacred grove with intention. After opening the grove, I sit for a few moments, breathing deeply and centering myself. When ready, I pick up the chalk pastel and I allow the chalk pastel to move across the page, closing my eyes at points, emphasizing lines at points, and letting me be in the flow of the moment. I keep refining the design, moving pieces of it to new areas of the paper. I don’t focus too much, paying attention instead to my overall intention: a specific land healing sigil, a sigil that will link different sacred sites I’m working on and work with ley line energy on the landscape. After a number of versions, the sigil seems complete, and I work to transfer it to a wooden round–the process of transfer allowing it to undergo yet another, final, revision. In today’s post, I’ll share this technique I’ve developed and will discuss how you might use these kinds of sigils for a range of purposes, particularly for gratitude practices and land healing.
What is a sigil?
The concept of a sigil, a magical symbol imbued with intention, has been a longstanding part of many esoteric traditions. All through the history of hermetic magic and western occultism, sigils have been used for a variety of purposes (such at those found in the Three Books of Solomon, including the most famous Lesser Key of Solomon). The term “sigil” derives from Latin, meaning a “sign, mark, or seal”. It comes from the earlier terms sigillum and sigilla (statuettes, little images, seal). What was a seal, after all, but a sign of power and authority? Sigils have a wide range of uses within various magical traditions and there are lots of possibilities for creating them, empowering them, and employing them.
Druids don’t seem to use sigils much as part of our tradition, but occasionally they surface. For example, one of the big rituals we put together for MAGUS 2018, a land healing ley line ritual, used a giant sigil on the earth to help focus our intentions and movement. I have been incorporating sigils for a long time in my own spiritual practices, especially for land healing work and gratitude practices on the land.
One of the ways I like to think about sigils within the framework of Druidry is that they are a synthesis of all three of the druidic expressions: we use the bardic arts to bring them to life, but use druid and ovate wisdom in order to help create the spaces and intentions for their work. It is through this synthesis that the sigil itself can emerge–born of our bodies, minds, and spirits. I think there is a lot of potential for sigil work, both within the bardic arts (integrating specific sigils into your visual arts) and also as part of a larger nature spiritual practice.
In the rest of this post, I’ll share one sigil making technique, adapted and expanded from Jan Fries’ Visual Magic. Early in his book, Fries describes part of this process–what I’ve done is add my own take to it, expend it, and make it fit within a more druid framework.
Supplies. In order to make sigils, you don’t need much. You need something to draw with and you need some paper. I prefer to do sigil making on large paper rolls of recycled paper (you can get brown recycled paper rolls easily). The larger roll allows for more free expression while the sigil is being created. The second thing you will need is some kind of media for drawing: I am using chalk pastels (which show up beautifully on the dark background). You could use a box of crayons (which would work great on white paper), colored pencils, oil pastels, etc. I think you would get a different effect if you used wet media vs. dry (the dry media allow you to pay less attention to the needs of the media, like mixing paint colors or using water). But by all means, experiment!
After I complete the sigil on paper, I like to make it more permanent in some way (particularly for the kinds of uses that my land healing sigils are for). For this, you might create a sigil in clay, in wood, or painted on a stone. In my example above, I am using round wood slices with a wood burner.
Setting intention. The other thing you will need is an intention. Setting your intention in advance is a useful practice and can be done through a simple meditation technique. I used discursive meditation (described in the link the last sentence) to help me set my intentions for my sigil work. I think its important to spend some time with your intentions (the whole idea of being careful what you wish for!) I think it’s useful to consider carefully what intentions you might want to put into a sigil and out in the world: that your intentions are good and with sacred intent.
For today’s walkthrough, I am working on a series of land healing sigils. I used to carry around just one sigil that I’d leave everywhere; like a general blessing sigil. I crafted it many years ago and have been painting it with walnut ink on stones and on the insides of hickory shells and acorn caps. I would take these in a little bag with me wherever I would go. But recently, when I was at a site where they were doing mountaintop removal, I didn’t want to leave one. The general “blessing” energy wasn’t right for that site–it needed a “sleep” and “soothing” kind of energy, and my sigil energy wasn’t working for that purpose. So I decided to create a whole set of new land healing sigils (which I will share in an upcoming post so others can use them too). My intention for the sigil in today’s post is a “linking” sigil for land healing work. I have meditated on this concept and have been working with it for many years and felt it was the right time to put this intention into a visual form.
Sigil Making Walkthrough
Start by opening up a sacred grove or sacred space as your own tradition may offer. If you don’t have a sacred grove/space opening, something simple like calling in the four quarters, purifying the space with the elements, and offering a prayer or two (like the druid’s peace prayer) can work. You can then imagine a grove of trees around you, protecting the space and giving you the sacred time in which to work.
Once your space is set, return to your intention (or spend some time in meditation). Feel through and think through your intention before starting the sigil and make sure it is aligned with your overall journey and goals. Take all the time you need to do this work.
Now, take out your supplies and give yourself a lot of paper to work on. Keep your intention in your mind, and start moving the pastel across the page. Don’t worry about what it looks like or where you are going. Just keep drawing. As you draw, you might switch colors when one particular part of the drawing catches your eye. I do this several times, working my way through my own intentions and allowing the drawing to unfold with different colors. As I work, the sigil itself takes shape (if you see my first photo in this post, that’s after doing a single sigil for quite a while!)
At some point, you may feel the first drawing is done, but the sigil isn’t complete. Take a piece of that drawing, whatever piece speaks to you, and re-create it next to the first drawing on your paper. Now keep going with the same technique as before. Here, we can see part of that first drawing coming into the second one.
I did this a third time and worked with the final sigil a bit more.
Now, consider making it more permanent by transferring it to a more permanent media like wood, stone, thicker board, or ceramic. I want to transfer my paper based sigil to some other surface, something that will actually seal the intention and magic into the sigil. To do this, after meditating on the final sigil on paper, I switch it to a more permanent media (painted stone, woodburning, etc). So for this, I took a cedar wood round and then allowed the wood to work with the sigil, which changed it a bit more. Again, I don’t try to exactly replicate the paper sigil, but allow the wood to speak to the sigil and the final sigil to emerge. Usually, the sigil may be further simplified during this final process.
TAfter making your sigil, you will want to do additional ritual to empower it. I prefer a “raising energy” approach, particularly as you used a more contemplative and inner approach to set your intention. So, in a sacred space, drum around your sigil, raise your voice in song, dance, bring the power of the elements and the powers of nature and spirit that you work with, and ask them for aid in empowering this sigil. There is no right or wrong way; feel your way into this work and do what feels right.
After that, you set it to work helping you with whatever intention that might be. For this specific sigil above, I will create these and put them in a pouch that I carry with me, being one building block of my larger land healing and blessing work. That’s how these particular sigils are best put to use. But other sigils may be put to use in other ways, depending on your intention. If you are seeking a peaceful home, you might create a piece of art with that sigil and hang it on the wall in your house. If you were working on a sigil for healing for a sick friend, you might create it (with their permission of course) and then give it to them to put by their bedside. While there is no wrong way to use a sigil–the energy of it does need to get out into the world in some specific way.
Here are two variants you can try. A more traditional sigil making technique starts not with random drawings, but with quickly written letters from the intention one on top of each other. You write the letters quickly and stylistically, not even caring if they are legible. Then you work with the layer of letters, in the same way I did above. If you are a very word-based person, you might appreciate this way to start your work.
A second variant is an ovate variant where you work with nature to create a sigil for a natural purpose. Take portable media and materials out to a place that you want to work with. Do everything as above, but rather than YOU setting the intention, put it out to nature to set the intention. You are simply, then, the instrument that creates the sigil. This technique is also very powerful for land healing, and I’ll also write about it in more detail in an upcoming post. You can do this with snow sigils among other things!
I hope you find this technique useful and helpful! I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you create sigils, how you use them, and how they might work within nature-spirituality based practices.