Written July 18th, 2016 | Edited: 28th February 2019
So this time we’re talking about seals: those weird designs in circles that Japanese animators and game designers love.
There are many kinds of seals in Magick: Planetary, Goetic, Angelic, Demonic etc. Seals are essentially symbols that are used to invoke/evoke spiritual energies in a ritual setting, and function similar to idols in pagan religions, though more powerful. Seals are also unique, as traditionally, they are unique to ceremonial magick, especially in Solomonic Magick.
So, if you’re a ceremonial magician, and are ever planning to work with Demons, Angels, Geotic Spirits or the Planets, chances are you’ll be needing to make seals. However, making and consecrating seals is a tricky affair. The grimoires all have grand, or differing methods to make them, and the sheer amount of ways and opinions on the Internet can confuse the novice, especially those making them for the first time. So in this post, I’m going to go over how Seals work, and how best to create them, based on your desired approach. When the theory behind it becomes clear, it is easy to choose and build one’s own practice around it rather than just borrow from others.
Seals From Metals
Most Grimoires, such as the Key of Solomon, will tell you to make seals from metal, as must have been common in the Old days. The metal used depends on the planetary nature of the seal:
Mercury= Mercury (any solid alloy)
Mars= Iron (Although sometimes they say to use a mixture of Copper and Silver)
Since Uranus, Neptune and Pluto aren’t part of traditional astrology, there are no metals associated with them, but they don’t have seals either so it’s fine. I’ve heard someone say Uranium, Neptunium and Plutonium.
These make sense, but you can’t acquire them anyway (even if you got some, a piece big enough to make a seal will probably kill you before the ritual is over, or at least, mutate you into a giant potato). Personally, I feel the correct metals for the new planets would be from the Platinum group of metals (which consists of rare metals like Platinum, Iridium, Indium etc. These are often used in machinery and electronics, and thus correspond well with the Trans-Saturnine energies, even more so than the radioactive metals).
Be careful with Lead or Mercury unless you really know what you’re doing. Both are fairly toxic, if handled without care. Also, possessing Mercury is illegal in some places, so watch out for that.
There was once a time when metal was probably the easy and cost effective way to make seals. After all many of the things, from horseshoes, to tools, weapons, armour, to common day to day items would have been made from metal, so finding a blacksmith would be easy. This would have been the case for most of human history, all the way from Old Kingdom to the Industrial Era. So, all they had to do was get a blacksmith to make it for them, or even make it yourself if you knew how.
What’s important to remember is not the material they used, but that they used what was readily and easily available to them. When the Occult was revived in the 19th-20th centuries, it must have become tricky to get your hands on metal, so at that point they started coming up with other methods.
If you want to use metal seals, go for it. Since the vibration of the metals is aligned with the planets, the seals will be very strong, but the same can easily be done with colour coordination.
You can buy them online, although the ones actually made from pure metal for the purpose of ritual are quite expensive. The price goes up if these were made by hand in the correct day and hour. The cheap ones I’ve seen are usually mass produced, and made of stainless steel or aluminium, and then electroplated.
You can of course, make your own! This is the Age of Information after all, and so it is very easy to learn. DIY shit is abundant these days, for those who have the time, money and space. The most popular example is probably Grant Thompson’s tutorials, but there’s many more. I’m not an american with a garage and industrial equipment lying around, so this isn’t the path for me. But I know for a fact that many occultists, especially those that belong to Orders and Covens, prefer to use real metallic seals.
Most magicians today prefer to use seals made from parchment or paper. If fact, in the Greater Key of Solomon, it specifically says that if you cannot use metals, you should use virgin parchment.
First off, I just want to clarify what they mean by virgin, because when I was new, I had to look around a lot to get my answer. By virgin, they mean a parchment that has never been used for anything else. If it wasn’t already obvious, don’t use a paper with something written or printed on it.
Some old grimoires require you to make other things out of the skin or feathers of virgin animals, but that something else entirely.
Parchment usually meant animal skin, or cloth/linen sheets, rather than modern paper. But I also want to point out that when this was written, parchment was what was generally used to write things. Once again, we come back to how they used what was common and widely available, and the material itself isn’t very important. The kind of paper we have today was not around and skin or linen was much more common, ever since we did away with tablets, plates and papyrus, which were common in their own times.
So, sticking with tradition, you can use paper. A great example of paper seals still used today are the Japanese Shinto seals. I imagine these were made of bamboo or rice paper in olden days.
Now, the kind of paper you want to use may vary. Normal paper is thin, and may not be the best for this. Personally, I use pastel sheets or cartridge sheets for white seals. It really depends on how durable you want it to be. I use black and white papers, depending on the type of forces I’m Invoking.
As for writing on the paper, I use coloured ink. It’s pretty much up to you. If you can’t get coloured writing material, use coloured paper instead and write on it with black. Or heck, just use a black marker on white paper. I’ve had success with torn notebook pages and sigils drawn in pen. Depends on how much effort you think needs to be put into it.
Some people write with dragon’s blood ink, or sandalwood paste, or even real blood.
Just like metals correspondences, there’s also colours associated with each planet. These are the ones commonly used in magick, but they may vary in the astrology of other cultures and religions.
Sun= Yellow (Planetary), Gold (alchemical), Salmon/Azure (Sephirotic)
Moon= Violet (Planetary), Silver/White (Alchemical), Light Blue (Hexagram)
Mercury= Orange (Planetary), Redish Brown (Sephirotic)
Venus= Green (Planetary), Pink (Pagan)
Mars= Red (Planetary), Crimson/Scarlet (Sephirotic)
Jupiter= Deep/Navy Blue (Planetary), Purple (Hexagram)
Saturn= Black (Planetary), Brown (Sephirotic)
Uranus= White (Sephirotic), Electric Blue (Planetary)
Neptune= Gray (Sephirotic), Bluish Gray (Yetziratic)
Pluto= Indigo/Crimson/Black (Personal Opinion)
As long as the colour is correct, you can use whatever tool you want, from colour pencils, to ink. One thing I want to say is that for Saturn, it would be better to use pencil to draw, since the lead in the pencil relates to Saturn. (I know the “lead” in pencil is different from metallic lead, but words have power).
However you make them, make sure they’re kept in a safe place where they don’t get ruined.
Seals from Other Materials
Clay: Seals can be made from clay. They’re not as good as metal, but they’re a bit sturdier than parchment. The clay being used should be natural, brown clay, not the synthetic white or orange clay you get, like air dried or polymer. You can then paint it with the appropriate colour.
The only thing with clay though, is that it contains the energy of the element Earth. Even though everything we use comes from the planet Earth, dirt in particular is traditionally also associated with the alchemical element of Earth as well.
Fabric: Parchment for books was traditionally made from linen/cloth, and seals can be made of fabric in the same way, and instead of using coloured ink, you could stitch coloured threads onto coloured fabric to make it. The Black Pullet actually states that its talismans be made from fabric, and gives an elaborate set of colours for the cloth and threads. Natural fabrics are better than artificial ones.
Wood/Stone: Wood seals can be made the same way as clay seals, but will need tools, so go for it if you know how. Wood is not so strongly associated with Earth, and you could probably use different types of wood based on the nature of the sigil, instead of colouring. In this case wood most closely resembles the original method of using metal. You can do the same with different stone surfaces. You can see John Dee’s Seal of God’s Truth above, made of stone. In fact, stone is the second most common material for ancient seals that we’ve found, after metal (although I suspect that’s because fabric/clay/wooden seals have probably disintegrated, while stone/metallic seals have been preserved. Most ancient seals were probably made from clay or copper)
This is about all the materials I can think of, that magical seals have ever been made from. Avoid artificial materials like plastic, for obvious reasons, but if any other natural material, likes beeswax appeals to you, you may use that. It’s all about remembering the core aspects of a seal, and how it will be used. Good Luck!
EDIT (2019): I have a great post on urban and modern material usage, here
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Until we meet again