Gathering Your Personal Symbol Set

Picking up pieces along the path

Personal Symbol, Algiz Rune. Photo courtesy of author.
Personal Symbol, Algiz Rune. Photo courtesy of author.

The first few years one walks the Crooked Path, is just as the name implies, Crooked, often dipping and looping back on itself.  The hunger that comes with occult fascination is a hunger of the spirit, and it is inspired by spirits.  The entire purpose of the novice seeker is to make that initial connection with spirit, not to find a singular way of working, but to research and attempt as many techniques and practices one can.  Not to say that every tradition explored is delved into deeply, nor is it proclaimed to the world to define one’s practice.  The practice eventually defines itself.  This is a writhing serpent within us, always changing and shedding that which no longer serves them.

In our modern age we have both the blessing and the curse of technology and the availability of information that was not accessible prior to the 19th century.  Great strides have been made in just the past 200 years in regards to the development of magic and occultism into not only a complex science, but many diverse spiritual systems.  Now that we have lived for a couple of centuries without our books being banned, burned or secreted away for safekeeping we are able to study and practice more openly and share our practices with one another.

Prior to the modern age, the average person living in suburban or rural communities had access only to the available hereditary and folk practices known in the area.  Outside academic circles more advanced esoteric knowledge was difficult if not impossible to come by.  These pre-modern practitioners were also limited to the symbolism within the cosmology of the local area and its immediate influence.  Today we have access to the entire spectrum of magical symbols and occult knowledge of cultures across the globe from the past to the present.  This gives modern practitioners the opportunity to build our magical vocabulary, filling in the many blanks often left by the English language.

By being able to peel back historical and cultural layers in sacred symbols we gain new insights into the core truths of ancient beliefs and practices, while adding more nuance to our own conceptions of the Unseen.  Magic is a universal human concept that has developed independently of any one culture or time period.  It is part of who we are as sentient beings on this planet, and although science and religion have relegated it to the realms of superstition deep down in our own sacred core we know that there is more to the world than what meets the eye.  Symbolic language is a way of conveying and understanding that which cannot be communicated using words.  When we bring all of the common symbols together we are able to see the thread connecting the full spectrum of human spiritual experience.

Symbol sets such as the Tarot, the Tree of Life, and the Zodiac are perfect examples of the many layers and influences of magic and occultism and how they come together to create a working frame of reference for magical practice.  Study, spell work, and correspondence is of such import to the beginner because it provides new associations within the mind of the practitioner, and introduces them to new archetypes/entities.  By connecting symbols, concepts and correspondences through the Hermetic Principles, which have had a major influence or modern magical practices, we develop an inner model of the Universe within ourselves.

It is this connection and its Universal nature which gives us the power to affect the outside world, transform ourselves within and draw power from without.  Oftentimes these new associations will clash with misconceptions learned through observing mainstream/materialistic society, which has its own set of symbolic associations that it reinforces.  Challenging these harmful constructs that teach us not to question the status quo transform us from within and influence how we interact with the world.

The connections made between many of the seemingly unrelated forces create the occult field of magic that influences all things.  Our symbols are internalized and become part of us, adding depth and diversity to the underlying primal forces existing independent of us or our awareness.  Many of the mythological descriptions of the gods lead to deeper more primal and pre-historic elder spirits.  These are the entities embodied in the forces of Nature, the great giants of Northern Traditions, those forces first recognized by mankind.  Many of the elder gods and genius loci of the land are anthropomorphic embodying human, animal and spirit all at the same time.  Symbols give us the means to communicate with these primordial forces in such a way that we are both able to understand.

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