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Few topics are as fundamental to magic studies as symbols or symbolism. In fact, it can be said that magic is really all about symbols and when/how they should be applied or combined.
This post will do little justice to the broad topic of symbols in magic as a whole. For such an analysis would really be an examination of the human psyche on its journey from stone-aged prehistory, through modernity and into the current, post-modern era. I am hardly qualified for the latter discourse, but I can certainly render an effective short version to orient you to the topic.
In the process I can also put the ancient technology of basic symbol magic squarely in your hands for whatever personal use is fitting to your mind.
Before the Beginning
Symbols are believed to predate recorded history by tens of thousands of years. The oldest known symbols have been found painted on cave walls or carved into stone and were likely placed there by people who had not yet developed a written language.
In fact symbols may have been in use before coherent verbal languages were adopted by our human and hominid ancestors! Scholars have stated flatly these early symbols were used for…
- Ritual or Religious Functions
- Magical Effect (protection, strength, etc.)
So pretty much the folks who painted the caves in Caceres, Spain 64,000 years ago did so for the very same reasons we use symbols to this very day. The suggestion that these cave artists had no formal language at the time is just fascinating to me.
The Development of Language
The most relevant advance in symbol technology was likely the invention of language. After all, the letters that build the words languages are made of are symbols that represent sounds and sometimes concepts from specific areas of life.
As languages became more complex and even began to influence the origins of newer languages, symbology also became more advanced and open ended. Soon nearly identical symbols could be found across the surface of the Earth, used by cultures who may never have made contact with one-another. Something I have always found interesting is how identical symbols from different cultures can either represent entirely different ideas or can mean the very same thing. If it were always one way or the other, nothing profound about that. What amazes me is the fact that we never know until we research the symbol in each civilization it shows up in whether or not its the same symbol or different signs that simply look alike.
Magic Preserved Through the Millenia
The components used to construct symbols are of the simplest, most fundamental nature one can imagine. We’re talking straight lines, curves, spirals, all the basics from a kindergarten art class. Because these core parts, or elements of symbology are so very simplistic, they do more often than not represent the same idea or motion from one race or people, culture, etc. to another.
I’m going to walk you through a very basic symbol designed with absolutely uncomplicated elements. I will explain each part of the symbol as we proceed, and you will see by the end how the work of drawing the symbol can and will bring magical energies into your life.
I do encourage you to get out a card pr piece of paper and a pen or marker and follow along with me below. Thereafter you can make the symbol whenever you like at your own pace.
We begin with a dot, or point, in an empty, open space. Mystics and magicians today call this the zero point, for it is the beginning of symbolic conceptualization, sigilization, and so forth.
This dot represents the beginning of a task, of your journey, of life itself. In the same way it represents you the individual, or your soul/higher consciousness.
Goi ahead and make the dot in the center of your page. As you do so and then look at it, think to yourself: “You are here. In the center, here am I.”
The circle is another ubiquitous mark that probably fascinated early man and to this day is an enigmatic and beautiful asset to the geometry classroom. The circle can mean eternity, completeness, cycles the womb, perfection, and more.
Draw a circle around your dot, keeping the dot in the center of your circle. If you draw a perfect circle, the line of the circumference will be an equal distance from the dot at any point along its curved arc.
This circle represents your totality. Encircling as it does the point of your higher self, it represents your complete human being on all levels, bodily, mental, spiritual, etc.
Imagine along the line of the circle your thinking mind and your emotional nature as they orbit the central “I” of you. These parts of the mind, along with the body and even unconscious archetypes like the hero and mother, are important parts of your whole but none of them by itself is fully you.
This is a representation of the Kabbalistic idea of the soul, wherein the true center of your being is like the celestial Sun above. As the sun is at the center of its own system with planets (representing forces of nature) encircling and moving around it, so to your soul (from sol) is central to the aspects of your personality, individuality, and energetic matrix with things like your rational mind and etheric body encircling your true central nature.
It should be no surprise, given what I have said above, that a dot in the center of a circle is also the astrological sigil of the sun, or Sol.
Next make a horizontal line from right to left and crossing the center of the circle, connecting the right and left outer arcs. The horizontal line means receptive, or feminine and cast from right to left can mean blessing, revealing, protecting, etc.
Here it represents the passive qualities or elements of water and earth, and the alchemical reaction when fire and water are mixed. It also signals that something about your true nature will be revealed.
The Vertical Line
Finally make a vertical line from top to bottom along the centerline of the circle and crossing through the horizontal line perfectly over the initial point or dot you drew. Vertical lines represent active, masculine, projective energy.
In this symbol the top-to-bottom line represents the penetration of the female energy with the male energy, and thus sacred union. It also references the active elements of air and fire, and the creative force of air densifying into earth.
Making this line through the horizontal line is an act of unifying and of symbolizing spirit entering matter or god entering nature, both of which are analogies for your dual nature as creature of flesh and being of spirit. Together these beams make the equal-armed cross, or Cross of Matter, Cross of Truth, etc. which represents the manifest world and life on planet Earth.
As this cross was made over the symbol of the sun, which was drawn to represent your total being, we have in this symbol the affirmation that you, a multidimensional being of spirit and matter, have within you all the elements and forces of the natural world in which you live.
Don’t try to tell me that’s not awesome.
Can you see how this process can form the basis of an empowering meditation? How about using it at the onset of other magical procedures to bring confidence and power into your work?
And this is just the beginning of what can be done magically through symbols. In fact this exercise is to my e-book Siple Magic with Sacred Symbols what touching your toes is to a full martial arts workout.
CLICK HERE to check out Simple Magic with Sacred Symbols!