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A sigil (//; pl. sigilia or sigils; from Latin sigillum "seal") is a symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a demon or other entity; in modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic, it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician's desired outcome.
The term sigil derives from the Latin sigillum, meaning "seal", though it may also be related to the Hebrew סגולה (segula meaning "word, action, or item of spiritual effect, talisman"). The current use of the term is derived from Renaissance magic, which was in turn inspired by the magical traditions of antiquity.
In medieval ceremonial magic, the term sigil was commonly used to refer to occult signs which represented various angels and demons which the magician might summon. The magical training books called grimoires often listed pages of such sigils. A particularly well-known list is in The Lesser Key of Solomon, in which the sigils of the 72 princes of the hierarchy of hell are given for the magician's use. Such sigils were considered to be the equivalent of the true name of the spirit and thus granted the magician a measure of control over the beings.
A common method of creating the sigils of certain spirits was to use kameas (magic squares) — the names of the spirits were converted to numbers, which were then located on the magic square. The locations were then connected by lines, forming an abstract figure.
The use of symbols for magical or cultic purposes has been widespread since at least the Neolithic era. Some examples from other cultures include the yantra from Hindu tantra, historical runic magic among the Germanic peoples, or the use of veves in Voudon.
In modern uses, the concept was mostly popularized by Austin Osman Spare, who published a method by which the words of a statement of intent are reduced into an abstract design; the sigil is then charged with the will of the creator. Spare's technique, now known as sigilization, has become a core element of chaos magic.
The inherently individualistic nature of chaos magic leads most chaos magicians to prepare and cast (or "charge") sigils in unique ways, as the process of sigilization has not been rigorously defined. Sigils are used for spells as well as for the creation of thoughtforms.
Unlike with traditional sigils, whose creators made use of traditional lore passed down from generations or from books, modern users often create sigils entirely themselves and devise individual means of "charging" them with metaphysical power.
A "hypersigil" is an extended work of art with magical meaning and willpower, created using adapted processes of sigilization. The term was popularized (if not coined) by Grant Morrison. His comic book series The Invisibles was intended as a hypersigil.
Along with being used in chaos magic, the practice of using a "Sigil" in magical arts is commonly used amonst Occultist, Spiritual Satanist and New Age Mystics. The purpose of the use of a sigil in these varying groups can be classified under the Conjuration aspect of the Arcane or Magical Arts. Sigils are typically used to summon forth Angelic beings and Demons to commune with or what-so-ever the will and intentions of the caster. Believers in the conjuration workings say that to conjure or summon using a sigil, one must know the intended Demon's/Angel's personal seal and "charge" the sigil calling forth the entity's name requesting their appearance.
In the field of computer science, sigil is a term used in some programming languages (eg. perl) to programmatically describe the type of a variable. For example:
A scalar variable is defined using the dollar sign '$' sigil:
A hashtable is defined using the percent sign '%' sigil:
An array is defined using the at sign '@' sigil:
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- Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of The Occult. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 438. ISBN 1-56718-336-0.
- Morrison, Grant (2003). "POP MAGIC!". In Richard, Metzger. Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. New York, NY: The Disinformation Company. ISBN 0-9713942-7-X. "The 'hypersigil' or 'supersigil' develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent. Results can be remarkable and shocking."
- The Book of Pleasure. Austin Osman Spare ISBN 1-872189-58-X
- Liber Null and Psychonaut. Peter Carroll ISBN 0-87728-639-6