It occurs to me that not a single person who has worked on popularizing Austin Osman Spare’s methods of “sigil magic” has been, like, actually an artist.
So everyone draws these little things that chase the aesthetics of Goetic demon seals. Occasionally people will look at a Vodun veve for inspiration. But whatever they do, they always make little line-drawn symbols that positively reek of Witchiness. Or of the glyphs in Seuss’ On Beyond Zebra. Sometimes you will see people paraphrasing Grant Morrison about how you can see corporate logos as powerful sigils of corporate egregores… but I never see anyone writing about Sigil Majgickqgh who actually tries to use that aesthetic. They just make the usual witchy scribbles. Because none of them seem to, like, actually draw as their vocation.
But I’m an artist. Spare was an artist. Sigils are fucking art majgickqgh.
I mean, I’ve been guilty of making Obviously Witchy Sigils too. It’s what everyone does in their examples, so it’s what I copied. And sometimes that is exactly the aesthetic something needs.
But. Lately I’ve been getting out of my armchair and making some sigils again. I’ve been starting with the usual modern chaos magic workflow of “throw out vowels and duplicate letters, start combining letters into a pleasing pattern”… but instead of keeping it a linear thing I could draw with pen and paper as I start finessing it, I’m just letting my hands do what they do naturally when I’ve got Illustrator open, and using a lot of solid shapes. Treating it as a rough sketch that vanishes, instead of lines to preserve.
I haven’t quite gotten anything down to the graphic power of, say, one of Paul Rand’s logos yet. Or maybe one of Jim Flora’s lively cubist album covers. But I’m getting somewhere that feels right. Somewhere that feels like art as well as magic.
I should probably actually find a copy of Spare’s books and plow through them sometime soon instead of reading yet another person rehashing Peter Carroll’s simplification of Spare.
above: some WIP sigils, none of them are entirely There yet, never mind charged, and in fact one of them saw some major revisions after I asked myself “what would Jim Flora do with this image to make it suck less” in the course of writing this post.
(and yes, I know that there is also a tradition of making sigils by just hooking up points on a grid of letters, and, y’know, that works but it is so utilitarian and boring…)