The Doctrine of Signatures

As an extension of my last post, about learning sign-language and applying symbolic languages for the greater good, I’d like to talk about the role of healing and protection in this practice. Artists are trained to see, not just to create. Drawing, painting and sculpting are ways of seeing – seeing with the heart and seeing with the hands. The doctrine of signatures was a framing concept in medicine that hails from the time of Galen, and states that we should read the botanical world visually, and that each plant in our herbal medicine chest should be used to treat the body part or ailment it resembled in appearance. Paraclesus (credited with the illustration above) is quoted  “Nature marks each growth … according to its curative benefit”, in short – like treats like. 

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Original Sigilcraft

When asked by patrons, I’ve been describing sigils as ‘symbols with intent’. Though certainly more complex than that, it’s a reasonable explanation in a nutshell, to those unfamiliar with their history and pervasiveness in visual culture. A logo is a sigil, a state seal is a sigil, a cattle brand, graffiti tag or maker’s mark can be a sigil. It is a crafted icon in which power has been invested toward a given outcome. For our purposes, it is a seal impressed upon an object (a personal talisman or house warding tile) to be used as a protective, energetic shield or to manifest a desire into being. Although they can be a battery for spiritual energy, the use of a sigil does not require religious belief, it can be viewed as a psychological science.

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