Book Review: “Sigil Witchery” by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Book Review: “Sigil Witchery” by Laura Tempest Zakroff November 16, 2017

Greetings, beautiful creatures. Today, I’m going to take a break from my usual habit of kicking the sacred cows of gender and politics to wax rhapsodic about a book, Laura Tempest Zakroff’s upcoming Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols. I mean, we could call this a “book review,” but really, what I’m doing here is telling you how awesome I think this book is, and why I think you should preorder it immediately… or, as a delightful think-global-shop-local alternative, hustle your gorgeous self on out to your friendly neighborhood brick-and-mortar bookstore and buy a copy this January.

“Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols” by Laura Tempest Zakroff. (Llewellyn Publications, January 2018)
First, though, a couple of disclaimers are probably in order.

Disclaimer the First: This review is based on an unproofed edition of the book provided by the author. I have not received any monetary compensation from the author or the publisher for this review.

Disclaimer the Second: The author of this book is a friend of mine, and I have every reason to want to see her, and her book, achieve all kinds of success.

And with that out of the way, let’s talk turkey.

Rather than being a recension of previous texts on crafting and using magical sigils, Zakroff draws on her practical backgrounds in witchcraft and professional art, as well as her academic grounding in art and design, to offer what is essentially a primer in her own idiosyncratic system of magical sigilization. This is a dicey proposition at the best of times; deeply personal systems of magic can be both meaningful and effective for their creators, but often don’t translate well to other practitioners. (I’m looking at you, Andrew Chumbley.) Fortunately for us, Zakroff has taken the time and effort to ground her work in both legitimate art theory and solid magical practice, and to present her thoughts in clear, unambiguous prose devoid of pretension. The resulting book is a delight to read, chatty and erudite in equal measure, and constitutes a serious, accessible contribution to magical theory and practice.

For those of us who haven’t taken college-level art history classes, the book’s opening chapter (aptly titled “A History of Mark Making”) touches lightly on early human cave drawings, pictographic writing systems, tattoo designs, and spray-painted graffiti to provide a high-level overview of the human urge to draw shapes and give them meaning. From there, Zakroff breaks down human symbols and markings into a set of simple components shared across cultures, and offers some commonly-shared meanings and associations for each of them. The heart of the book, where Zakroff truly steps into her own space and shines, is her presentation of methods for using these components to work magic. She covers techniques for creating unique sigils imbued with meaning and power, as well as the variety of artistic skills and tools one can use to bring them into being as talismans, art pieces, articles of clothing, or anything else. (As a child of the ’80s, I was particularly delighted with the inclusion of metallic fabric paint as a medium of sigilization.) She also offers suggestions for ways to use these sigil techniques in practical magic, in the form of various life situations or scenarios and examples of sigils one might create to address or respond to them. The book winds up with examples of sigils and sigilized artwork created by Zakroff for various magical and artistic purposes.

It’s a common complaint in the occult community that most books on magic are either too candy-coated to be of use, too willfully obscure to be of interest to any but the most specialized audience, or just the same old same old. As against this complaint, Zakroff uses clear, straightforward language to offer cheerfully supportive instruction, all without ever speaking down to the reader or assuming familiarity with esoteric terminology, to present us with something truly rare and magical: a new take on a very old idea. Sigil Witchery owes little to chaos magick, Austin Osman Spare, or the Golden Dawn, opting instead for a simple, but highly versatile method of working magic, one accessible to anyone with a will and the means of making a mark.

Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols by Laura Tempest Zakroff will be released in January 2018 by Llewellyn Publications.

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