The use of abstract symbols for magical purposes predates written language, presumably by millennia, and was very likely what all written languages evolved from. Magical symbols are part and parcel of virtually every brand of magick known to us today. Following are two relatively modern-derived techniques for creating Sigils as a symbolic representation of a magical goal, and Seals as a symbolic representation for a magical entity (a spirit, etc.). Either technique may be applied to either type of symbol.
Spare-Style Sigil Creation
Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) was a colorful character in the history of modern magick, whose art and writings were preserved and promoted by Kenneth and Steffi Grant. The reader is encouraged to research Spare's life and contributions to modern magick, in service of a well-rounded education. He is credited with a method of sigil making that was refined and popularized by a magician/writer best known as Frater U.'.D.'. in a concise little book, Practical Sigil Magick, once out of print but is now back in circulation and readily available from most any bookseller. Spare's theories for how and why personally created Sigil's work is a debatable topic, but that is not important here. The subject of the current instruction is the sigil creation method, and is presented with a basic assumption that sigils created in this manner are effective magical tools when employed properly. The method presented here is an adaptation of Spare's method as related by U.'.D.'., and differs in some of the specifics. Readers are encouraged to research and compare the technique presented here with other available methods, and to use what suits them best.
Step 1: Statement of the Goal
Begin by writing (in capital letters) the goal as a statement of will, with the fewest possible words, in the following form:
MY WILL = [STATED GOAL]
So for example, if ones will is to obtain employment, one would write:
MY WILL = OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT
It's best to avoid constraining the magick by loading up the statement with too many specific details, but some specificity is both desirable and acceptable. In the above example, a magical success may land one a job that is miserably unsatisfying. One may fine tune the statement by saying something like:
MY WILL = SATISFYING EMPLOYMENT
The general rule is to think carefully about what you want, and to be concise when you state it.
Step 2: Reduce the Statement to is Essential Elements
Once the statement is fixed, remove any repeated letters, so that each letter represented in the statement appears once only. Staying with the example above:
L = SAT ISF YING E MP LO YMNET
Step 3: Combine the Remaining Elements into a Single Pictograph
Now combine the fundamental shapes of the remaining letters into a single glyph. Lines and curves may be shared between the individual letters (i.e. 'M' and 'W' are mirror images of one another, so all lines of one are shared by the other and need not be duplicated). Be as creative as you please during this process. An example of the above goal might look like this:
Use your imagination and you'll find each letter represented one way or another. For example, the 'S' shares its lines with the backward-looking 'N' and rather looks like a 'Z' because it's drawn in straight rather than curved lines. So long as you know how each letter is represented at his stage, letters need not appear in typical orientations or formats, etc.
Step 4: Stylize the Sigil
Now it's time to exercise some creative license. Looking at the image above, just about anyone might conclude that it's a collection of letters. Your goal in this stylizing process is to use the basic configuration of lines as a foundational template, but to more or less remove the letter-like qualities within the image. The pictograph above may become something like this:
The only fixed rule at this stage is that the final product should be pleasing to you.
A Zodiacal Method
The Zodiac is an extremely common symbolic representation of the dynamics that govern worldly interactions. It is therefore an excellent template for generating symbolic representations. Of course, this method is most effective for practitioners who already incorporate classical astrology into their cosmological framework and magical practice, but even those who don't consider astrology an important part of their magical work can make good use of this technique, as the basic idea is easy to understand. Stated simply, the method entails casting an astrological chart to represent a specific person (usually the magician her/himself) or a specific place and time (such as a court appearance), and to impose the magician's will onto the chart.
Step 1: Casting a Chart
With the advent of computer software and Internet applications, casting a chart is a fairly simple matter. Professional astrological software is available with a wide price range, from free to out-of-reach for most people. The reader is encouraged to search for and consider such products as may suit their needs. There are also a number of free web-based services available that will generate a chart based on a time and location, such as this site. However one does it, a chart for the person (usually a natal chart) who is the object of the working, or for the place/time the working is intended to take effect, is required.
Step 2: Transforming the Chart into a Sigil/Seal Template
The modern Kabbalah as employed by modern day ceremonial magicians (ala the Golden Dawn, etc.), which is not necessarily the same as traditional Hebrew Kabbalah, relates the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the Zodiac, or more technically, to classical astrology (12 signs, 7 planets) in a specific way. Namely, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is divided into three classes: Three Mothers (from which the other letters are said to be derived), the 7 doubles (letters that can have both "hard" and "soft" sounds) and the 12 simples. They are attributed to to Astrological qualities according to this scheme:
By simple phonetic substitution, the signs and planets of the Zodic, as well as the so-called Active Elements can be converted into their English equivalents as follows:
|Air = A||Sun = R||Aries = H|
|Water = M||Moon = G/J||Taurus = V/W|
|Fire = S/Sh||Mars = P/Ph||Gemini = Z|
|Mercury = B||Cancer = Ch|
|Jupiter = K (or hard C)||Leo = T/Th|
|Venus = D||Virgo = I/Y|
|Saturn = T||Libra = L|
|Scorpio = N|
|Sagittarius = S|
|Capricorn = O|
|Acquarius = Tz|
|Pisces = Q (Qu)|
To convert a cast chart into a template, the relative locations of the signs and planets may be replaced by the corresponding letter, with the Three Mothers (A, M, and S/Sh) clustered at the center. For example, assume you have this natal chart for one John Smith (which was generated on a free website):
Replace the signs and planet with the appropriate English letters and remove any extraneous information:
Now you have a template upon which a name, word, or short phrase may be imposed. Long words and phrases are not recommended for this method.
Step 3: Imposing the Magical Intent onto the Template
Suppose John Smith plans to ask his employer for a raise in salary. A sigil may be created for this purpose from the word, RAISE. To do this, start with a small circle at the first letter, R, then draw a straight line to the next letter, A, then a line from there to the next letter, I, and so on until the word is spelled out. Draw a short perpendicular line across the last line to signify the end of the word.
Note that there really are no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet, though some vowel sounds are clearly present. Where a vowel sound in an English word is missing, draw a perpendicular line across the line spanning between the surrounding letters. If the final letter of a word is an unrepresented vowel, simply draw the final perpendicular line to end the word as usual. You'll also notice that there is no letter 'F' represented, but the Hebrew letter that equates to 'P' is usually used for the English sound 'F' (or 'Ph' as in Phillip). Other transliteration tips between Hebrew and English can be found on the Web.
Then the sigil can be drawn anywhere it's needed, on a talisman perhaps, or on a scrying surface if used for divination, etc.
And here are two more examples of sigils created in the same manner, one for a name and the other for a two-word phrase:
Charging and Using Sigils
Frater U.'.D.'. provides a number of techniques for magical charging sigils that are based on Spare's theories about how magick and magical symbols work. The reader is encouraged to research those methods and theories as desired. The reader is also encouraged to research and review the wide range of charging/concencrating techniques common to other magical systems. Here let it suffice to say that sigils created in either fashion described above may be incorporated into virtually any magical technique where an abstract symbol representing the magician's will may be useful.
These methods are not limited to the expression of magical goals, per se. For example, the name of a spirit, such as an ancestor, an animal spirit/totem, or a named spirit from a known pantheon (such as the collection of Goetic demons) may be sigilized in this manner, in which case, the symbol would more properly be called a "Seal" than a "sigil." The Seal may then be used as any traditional Seal might be used (refer to Goetia for examples).
One final example, Sigils and Seals might be used as part of an astral gateway, wherein the statement, rather than being a practical goal might be the name of a particular plane of existence within a given cosmological structure. The magician would contemplate the sigil while inducing a mild trance-state, would visualize the sigil as large as a doorway (or perhaps on a doorway), and would then step through (in the "astral body") to explore the realm. Ultimately, the use of extemporaneous magical symbols is limited only by the skill level, imagination, and creativity of the magician.