The Changing Face of the Sigil?

I love anything to do with cave art. I was in the doctor’s waiting room this morning and I saw a magazine about the caves of France and became so engrossed in it, I almost did not want to go in and see the doctor when she called my name. I love it how we can receive messages from out of the blue that confirm our path in life, or perhaps we all just have a nose for sniffing out something we love wherever we happen to be.


These 28 glyphs were found to be commonly used on the walls of 146 prehistoric sites across Europe. How fascinating that since the dawn of time, we have used certain symbols over and over again to represent certain objects and abstract ideas – the very proto-beginnings of our alphabet perhaps. Researchers have even made tentative guesses that the penniforme for example, we could understand as being an arrow, the tectiforme a roof. I like that idea, as it gives us modern people symbols that represent universal concepts, which feels good and I think may go some way to helping us feel safer.

But what about something that takes us a little bit more out of our comfort zone; something that goes beyond the safe universality of the alphabet and moves us into realms more unknown? What about the idea that these marks were put on the walls of the caves as a symbolic representation of an energy or intention that were then ‘activated’ and sent out into the unseen world – perhaps through the very walls themselves – to help manifest certain outcomes? If these caves were a result of dark shamanic practises to encourage successful hunting, as many anthropologists claim, then I would like to believe that these symbols were the shamans’ ur-sigils par excellence.


Writing is magical. Look, you are reading a set of lines and curves right now and making sense of them through an amazing process that you learned when you were about five years old and have kept with you ever since – deciphering all these marks into something rather meaningful (I would hope). What could this be if it is not magic? And why would it have been any different for prehistoric people? Okay, they did not learn to write per se but wouldn’t giving meaning and intention to a mark still have a magical dimension nevertheless? In the beautiful, connected world of these people – who, we have to remember, only ‘thought’ in pictures – there is no way that the symbols adorning the cave walls alongside mammoths, lions, horse and buffalos could not have performed some function of the magical landscape that they inhabited and I want to believe that this function was to effect change on an unseen level.

We can do the very same thing right now on paper, on the back of a cereal packet, on the side of a train in a railway siding, on the computer screen; draw a curve and a straight line and channel our intention into it. The media may have changed but the unseen world on the other side of the cave wall or computer screen that then goes onto create this change is no different than it was 36,000 years ago. I could postulate that our minds are no different either, it is just our belief in the potency of these symbols coupled with our intention that has changed. And we are still in working partnership with the unseen, even if for the most part, humans have completely forgotten that it exists.


There is one thing that we should recognise in this day and age – no matter what we believe man-made marks represent, the intention to change things on an unseen level is a universal desire running throughout all of human history right back to the beginning. And magical intention still works, even if we think we are as far away from those damp prehistoric caves walls as we could possibly be. Our symbols may keep us safe within the known world of the alphabet but that does not mean we cannot use them for magical ends – they have not lost a single molecule of power – if we understand how to put our intention behind them just like prehistoric people did. Remember, our minds have not changed in any real or significant way since then, the only thing that differs is that we do not on the whole, wish for a mammoth or lion for our next meal.

Image taken from: Le Monde (hors série) La Grotte Chauvet Pont-d”Arc April-June 2015.