Symbolism and Magic: The Ancient Power of Runes and Sigils

Sigils and runes play an important part in Soul Keeper and our Brotherhood of Shadows world. With the ingenious help of Fiona Jayde Media, we created unique sigils for all our main characters. From there, Fiona designed the Brotherhood of Shadows logo with our sigils an important element of the logo. We’re excited to reveal the individual sigils created for our main characters as their books are released, but in the meantime, we thought we would share some of the more interesting facts we learned.

 Since the beginning of mankind, images have been used for communication—to convey an intention and manifest action. It’s also true that since the beginning of mankind, we’ve been striving to harness universal power and become part of something more.

That’s where magic comes in.

Sigils and runes have been bridging the gap between everyday communication and the mind-body-spirit realms as far back as humanity’s story can be traced. Yet the intention behind the use of sigils and runes has shifted with the changing times… both towards the light and into the dark.  

Sigils and Their Dark History

First things first—what is a sigil? 

In its simplest terms, a sigil is a symbol that has magical power—where intent is the driving force that carries the message of the sigil into a manifested reality. 

The goal of using a sigil in magic is to create change or to receive something that the creator of the sigil deeply desires. The practice of using sigils is nothing new—in fact, use of symbols in magical practice dates back to at least the Neolithic era in regions around the world.

For hundreds of years, the primary purpose of sigils was to call forth spirits and entities, particularly demons. While sigils are not inherently “dark” magic, the intent of the creator is everything. 

By Medieval times, sigils often were used to connect to angels and demons that were summoned by those trained in magic. In order to learn the sigils and their power, magical training books—called grimoires—were written, the most famous of which was The Lesser Key of Solomon.  

The Lesser Key of Solomon
Within this grimoire lies sigils for 72 princes of the hierarchy of hell. It was said that each sigil was equal to the true name of the demon or spirit—when a magician drew the sigil with the intention of summoning the demon, they were able to call the demon to them by their true name and have control over it.

However, just because a demon was summoned doesn’t mean that it was used for evil!

In these times, it was believed that demons were more than just dark entities—they were considered teachers and were often summoned with the purpose of uncovering mysteries of science, mathematics, astrology, and yes, even magic. 

Modern-Day Sigil Magic and Power

While the symbolic power of sigils made them a magical source of summoning for thousands of years, how they’re viewed has begun to shift in modern times.

Today, sigils are still associated with magic, but not necessarily of the demon-summoning kind. 

By focusing on the power of intention associated with symbols, the practice of Chaos Magic—based on sigil use—was created. 

Chaos Magic and Austin Osman Spare

What if sigils didn’t summon entities, but instead created them?

That was the thought that sparked Austin Osman Spare to develop chaos magic—a practice that has had tremendous impact on the modern-day occult. Instead of believing that sigils evoked entities, dark or light, Spare believed that these entities were in fact part of the unconscious that could be created through use of a sigil.

How did Spare believe sigils should be used?

It starts with writing down your intention—you then condense the letters down to a unique image, like a monogram. Then by using the gnostic state, this sigil is charged through force of will and intention to be sent to the subconscious. 

The key is to then completely forget about the sigil… or the subconscious can’t do its magic to draw the intention into your reality. 

Runes—Secret Symbols of the Unknown

Written language, in some form or another, dates back thousands of years—runes are one of these ancient forms of language.

Used to write Germanic languages before the Latin alphabet, variations of runes are also found in Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon culture—dating back to 150 AD. By the turn of the first century, the Latin alphabet had replaced runes in many ways, although they have remained in use for other purposes, from decoration and Runic calendars to the occult.  

Rune Magic and Mystery

While it’s clear that runes have been used for communication for thousands of years, there’s also plenty of evidence—if you look hard enough—that they were a powerful source of magic.

Some say that early runes were used as magical signs or charms, holding a similar magical power to sigils. Others believe that they were used in divination, and their secretive history is enough to make anyone wonder. 

Norse mythology says that the runic alphabet had divine origins, while the word rune translates to something “secret” or “hidden”—suggesting that the original knowledge of what runes are and how to work with them may have once been limited only to an elite few.  

The Modern Magic of Runes

Although there’s little direct evidence of the magic of runes, their mystery and intrigue have made them a source of power in practices that range from New Age spiritualism to Neopaganism. Often, runes are used as a type of amulet, and their purposes in divination and protection are based on a combination of their names and many different influences over the centuries.  

The original language of runes developed into various forms of magic, superstition, and folklore—by the 1980s, modern runic magic was hitting the mainstream:

  • Ralph Blum: In 1982, Ralph Blum wrote the first book on runic magic based heavily on the I Ching—The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle. Not only did this book describe the magical symbolism of each rune, but it also came with a small bag of runes on tiles to practice divination.  
  • Stephen Flowers: With the popularity of Blum’s work, Stephen Flowers wrote a series of books based on his own method of runic divination, which was referred to as “esoteric runology”.
  • Stephan Grundy: Grundy believed that there was more to runes than just passively interpreting their message—he believed in more “active” magic, where an entity is tied to each rune. By possessing the rune with the attached entity, its magic could be harnessed to affect the world as a whole—similar in many ways to sigil magic.   

Harnessing the Power of Runes and Symbols

Both sigils and runes represent magic in the form of an image—how they are used, however, is often quite different. While sigil magic typically involves a step-by-step process of setting intention, creating a sigil, charging the image, releasing it, and forgetting, rune magic is built around divination, like the tarot.

The easiest way to practice divination with runes is to start with a set of “rune stones” or create your own by inscribing each symbol onto a small piece of stone, tile, or glass. 

Then let your inner wisdom guide you—from drawing a single stone to get clarity on a burning question in your mind to tossing all of the stones in front of you to decode a more complete divine message.

Rune magic, like all magic, comes down to connecting with your inner power and divine guidance… the question really becomes whether you can quiet your mind enough to hear their message.