How Symbols Are Chosen and Empowered


One of my former classmates is researching “symbols in dark urban fantasy and contemporary psychological horror,” as part of his Mythological Studies thesis. I was extremely pleased (and maybe a tad smug) when he asked me for an interview to discuss the symbols in “AlmaMia Cienfuegos.”  
The atypical smugness (that swallowed my well known modesty *cough, cough*) is warranted, methinks. Little AlmaMia’s frog, book and skull charms will not only be immortalized in the scholarly work of someone whose theories I respect, but they are also being placed next to Harry Dresden’s staff, Mercy Thompson’s lamb, and Harry Potter’s deathly hallows. How cool is that, my Wicked Luvs?

I won’t tell you about his specific argument because…well, is his thesis. But I can share something that came up after one of our discussions. He asked me, “Who came first, the symbol or the story?”

“They came at the same time,” I said with a giant grin. After we stopped laughing at my immature teenage boy sense of humor, I added that “The charm bracelet was not supposed to be AlmaMia’s talisman. When I began writing the story, I had her wearing a tiny silver mango tree pendant.” He raised an eyebrow, so I went on. “The mango tree was a good amulet at some point. It was AlmaMia’s safe place, its fruit continues to be her favorite, and many events that changed her life take place under its shade. But AlmaMia evolves; she grows up, and so do the symbols she chooses for her protection.”

That conversation danced in my mind this past weekend, while I rearranged my altar and my new writing space (more on the latter soon). I was feeding on the energies of the symbols that have joined my life recently, and finding new strengths in the ones that have been with me for years. 

Some are new but powerful, especially when combined with the old ones. 
my trusty hammer, Mina’s handy wand, Eliora’s athame

Others are archetypal, but made personal by the loving intentions of a friend.
the number 13, a crystal, a skull and holey stone I got from Oma Linda

Some are attached to nature, special people, and events that touched my soul deeply.
stones from my dear Stacy, my first pentacle, petals from a rose a child placed in my little brother’s coffin

Others are empowered by how and why they came to be mine
an old seashell marked by the roots of an ivy, pink pearls strung together by a grateful teenager, 
petals and stones picked on a sunny spring afternoon while walking home from the library

Some are unexpected gifts that came to me exactly when I needed them most.
a homemade citronella candle in an orange peel holder, and a blessing bell bracelet
my eclectic Spring Altar, which says a lot about me, including that I  might have a thing for pink and purple

One of my newest symbols reminds me of love that is empowered by blood and differences.
a pentacle and a cross sent by a friend… after my little brother traveled to the Summerlands

This last symbol is a gift I got in 1999. I named her Creepy Faerie. She evokes focus.
The librarian who gave me Creepy Faerie is no longer with us. She’s probably running the bookish section of the Summerlands. Way back then, I thought the reasons why she gave me the figurine were rather obvious: I love books, coffee, sugar, clocks (I’ve always been obsessed with timeliness), pencils, and who wouldn’t adore a black-eyed faerie child wearing the most mundane of outfits?

Many years after the Creepy Faerie gift, I called the librarian for guidance. I had fallen in love with fiction writing, and was struggling with focus. Like many other artists, I wanted to create a million things at the same time. I could handle several projects at once (at different speeds and levels, you know?), but every knowledgeable body told me to focus on one idea, on one genre, on one project, one

I told the librarian that much, and she said, “Just be the Creepy Faerie, as always. Life and your stories will go where they need to go. Characters are very creative. Write them, you’ll see.”

So today, whenever a story (including my own) starts drifting a bit or a character resists a previously plotted idea (AlmaMia claiming new symbols), I glance at my Creepy Faerie, remember the words of a much-loved librarian, continue writing (and living), and wait to see what happens next…

How do you choose your symbols, my Wicked Luvs? And how do you continue to empower them?

By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m running a giveaway over at my writing blog. The winner (or winners) will receive a copy of “AlmaMia Cienfuegos” and/or a Critique of 5,013 of their fictional words. If you are interested, go ahead and enter before May 22nd at 5:13 pm EST. 

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39 comments:

  1. Hmm generally if I'm "picking" a symbol I choose what calls to me, you know I mean really speaks to me.

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    1. I know. Symbols chosen because they mean something to someone else hold very little (or no) power.

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  2. My symbols are mostly my jewelry. I never buy or make jewelry for myself, or wear gifted jewelry, without it meaning something special to me. In this stage of my life (for the past two years or so), I have been unable to utilize personal symbology in any other form (such as putting up an altar), due to spatial and interpersonal restrictions. So I wear my symbols - gemstones, a ceramic dragon gifted by my grandmother, a pair of dragonfly earrings, a Tibetan crystal bracelet, my bronze Celtic serpent armband, you get the idea - and let them remind me of what it is I'm trying to focus on.

    Other than that, I use the wallpaper on my computer much like you have placed your Creepy Faerie... but it changes sometimes as often as I change the jewelry I wear. I will sometimes hold a rune in my mind, and occasionally write a bindrune if it's something I need to leave to my subconscious. I keep a Cheshire Cat plushie, a white quartz chunk, a selenite stick, and a snail shell my oldest daughter gave me on the dashboard of my car.

    Before these restrictions came along, I used my jewelry, but I also used candles and crystals, sometimes with a little statuary or other miscellaneous things... like three little acorns my oldest daughter gave me, or feathers I would find. I don't keep a traditional altar, but the purpose is the same. I would pattern the crystals and the candles, create a crystal-and-candle mandala for focusing whatever I had in mind at a given moment. Sometimes those would change three or four times in a day...

    I'm rather a chaotic individual, if you haven't already noticed... drives my poor Dragon batty. Lol.

    -Fox ^.^

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    1. I see symbols in the same way I see magic. They are as important or needed as I let them be. I don't use the symbols I speak of to focus when working spells, at least not always. For instance, I have never used Creepy Faerie for direct magic, she is a symbol that reminds me of the librarian's words--a constant thing that works all the time.

      My pentacle has always been home away from home. Having it around my neck reminds me that regardless of where my body is a the time, regardless of what it's wearing, I am still me. Would taking it off change me? I doubt it. But I'll probably find something else to do the job. I like certain constants in my life, even if they change often ;-)

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    2. I actually wasn't meaning specifically in Workings - I meant in a general sort of sense, lol. As you say, regardless of what you're wearing or where you are, you're still you. Well, my jewelry is my reminder - of who I am, and what I'm trying to be that day.

      I think symbols are great for identifying oneself to oneself as well as to the rest of the world... as well as working spells. Either way, for me at least, they make it easier to remember what it is I'm trying to accomplish at the time. Crafting, spellweaving, or just going out to eat and feeling like I need to make a certain sort of impression ;)

      -Fox

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    3. "of who I am, and what I'm trying to be that day." I like that. We should be fluid enough to be what and who we want to be whenever we want and must ;-)

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  3. For the longest time, my symbol was a dragonfly. I was drawn to them in any store I went into, read their sightings as omens (I had one fly in thru my car window at a light and sit in my passenger seat!)and others would think of me when they saw them. I also have just 2 tattoos....they are both dragonflies. They are the Keepers of the Dreamworld....and I lived there often in my youth.

    As I grow older, they don't resonate with me so much anymore. I'm in search of what does.
    I recently collected pinecones and twigs and bark and stones...simply for the sake of decorating the house for Maggie's Woodland birthday...and I have to say, I've never enjoyed the feel of the house more!
    I think my new world may be nestled deep in the forest...and my totem animal may be dwelling there, too :P

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    1. The beauty of growing up spiritually, evolving and claiming something new. I can see why the "pinecones and twigs and bark and stones" feel special. Your baby is growing up and her mommy still know how to make her smile. That is an empowering feeling, my friend ;-)

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  4. My symbols come as quiet as the whisper of a moth wing or as powerfully as the keening of a falcon. :)

    Usually they are a born in a moment that demands must pay attention. They are meaningful markers of a snapshot of the big relationships in my life - the ones of this world and the world unseen. Some are humble. Some are silly. But all are powerful because they are mine.

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    1. "snapshot of the big relationships" of the ones that make us more who we are, indeed...

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  5. I do not typically use symbols in my practice, as I do not require a medium for my workings, however, when a situation requires a proper symbol. I only invoke symbols of the native spirits of the area in which I reside. Today, for example, is the crow.A spirit which only takes his share and will speak secrets to those who will listen. Who sees beyond what is right in front of him. For me, I emphasize that, me. There is nothing more symbolic of forces in motion, or an ideal, that those spirits that dwell around us. These are the traditions passed me by my great uncle, the last Cherokee medicine man in his reservation. That alone is symbolic to me, as his son refused to take his place, Bill "Wise Crow" ~Dragon

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    1. I don't use symbols in spellworking (did I just type that? I think I did lol). But having them around, on my altar, around my writing space, in my life... remind me of all the great things. For instance, this morning I woke up aching a bit. I didn't want to write. My Piano Man brought me coffee, and placed it next to my hammer, Mina's wand, and Eliora's athame necklace. I looked at the tiny blade and remembered how much Eliora likes my words... the pain was scared away, and I wrote on ;-)

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    2. Grandpa painted tortoise views man in need of symbols because that is how the gods passed magic on to us. My workings are a little different from most in that I don't need visual symbols, or physical ones for that matter. I hold everything I'm doing in my head. But Grandpa Tortoise likes symbols, daggumit! Now I have to do a spirit symbology thing! Jeeze Mags!

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  6. As you wrote, symbols of importance come and go as my life cycles. However my enduring signature symbols are celestial - Sun, Moon, and Stars.

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    1. You know what, Eliora luv? The Sun and the Moon are so much part of my life that for a second (or three) I even forgot to think of them as symbols lol. They are always in my mind, in my heart, kissing my skin, reminding me that we all lived under the same warmth and glow, of how similar we are... some things are just always there ;-)

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    2. . . . always <3

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  7. Ever since i read Alma Mia i dreamed of a skull frog and book bracelet, these were wonderful symbols that got me hooked right away! I am so happy for you and your interview!

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    1. I'm pretty sure AlmaMia just grinned ;-D

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  8. Mine are clocks, hearts, stars and checkerboard designs.
    Loved the journey through your symbols!
    Clocks remind me that time is precious...today is important...let tomorrow be!
    Hearts and stars are reoccurring in my collages.
    Checkerboard designs just bless me...make my collages pop!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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    1. After I saw one of your pieces three years or so ago, I have never been able to watch or read Alice in Wonderland without thinking of you ;-)

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  9. I'm not sure about symbols, but I know my bookshelves have evolved as my interests have evolved or changed. As I move around more-than-some-not-often, labor & space are at a premium so for books to remain they must mean something, or have some relevance. For magic, my most enduring symbols are the runes. For animals, long it has been Wolverine & the cry of the Loon. Why these two, I'm not sure but they make my heart smile.

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    1. I understand the power of a loved book... or many loved books that make the heart remember that home is where we make it. When I was in the Marine Corps, I couldn't have tons of book to take everywhere with me. But I had two copies of One Hundred Years of Solitude, one in Spanish and the other in English. I still have them, and they have always been home ;-)

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  10. I love to hear that AlmaMia Cienfuegos is getting the "scholarly treatment" -- you've arrived!

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    1. Let's see how she likes it ;-D

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  11. "How do you choose your symbols, my Wicked Luvs? And how do you continue to empower them?"

    What an interesting question! I do have symbols that revolve around me seasonally, the thorns, ospreys, and rowan being a few of them. I don't really have to empower them, they are already filled with their own magic.

    That said, I do have a necklace from Monica Richards with the Annwyn Cross and surrounded by mermaids that I wear as a symbol of my path when out amongst the world at large. I charge it at the Full and Dark moons.

    The anthropologist in me is really having a time with this question. We talk about symbols as inanimate objects imbued with meaning for an individual or a society... but the witch in me knows that symbols are more than that. They are living expressions of our Will in the world, and are not static. They mean something to us, yes, but they connect us to a living heritage. I guess for me, symbols are mini egregores.

    Then, in my practises, I do use sigils. Those to me are more like symbols used with intent and with direction. They are imbued with Will and intent, but they are designed to be transient and not sink into the Well of Meaning in my soul.

    I think, my gorgeous friend, that I will have to think deeply on this and post my thoughts to my blog. *Gets out notepad and writes a reminder to self.*

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    1. P.S. Will your friend's thesis -- Congratulations on the interview! -- be published? I'd love to read it.

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    2. I think, my beloved Ash *grins* that your symbols show the versatility of your witchy soul. If you are anything like me (and I feel that we are very similar in some ways) the Witch and the anthropology live in the same heart (just like the scholar and the Witch dance with each other inside my mind).

      There are times when I separate the meaning and intention of my research, or my word-crafting... for the benefit of understanding (when others need me to, and I care enough about them to comply).

      We have souls that see a lot, and souls that see attached meaning to a lot of things. And like you said, "they are living expressions" and they see, too... and they claim their own meaning.

      I can't wait to read your own post. And I have a feeling his thesis will be published (it's wonderful), and I'm sure that he would appreciate a few readers and a bit of feedback as he goes along *cough, cough*

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    3. I am slowly collecting my thought on this. It isn't going to be a topic that is rushed -- that would be an injustice to the symbolic thought process -- and might be broken up into parts as I go.

      That is exciting! I would enjoy reading it.

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    4. How wonderful... I can't wait to see what comes out of your mind and heart ;-)

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  12. You help me reclaim my past - my ancestral past, Magaly. Certain stones, objects and things have found me over the years (a bit uppity to think that I found them I now realize), but I didn't realize it was a woman thing from pre-Christian times, kept so secret it was almost lost. Reclaiming the Divine Feminine is a powerful process. And congratulations on your interview - I'm sure he learned a lot!

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    1. And you, my dear Francie, always remember why blogging and writing in general makes me so happy. It is wonderful to share who we are, the things we do and why... The more we do it, the more like-minded souls we find. And we learned a lot from each other. I borrowed a bunch of his books ;-D

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  13. I love this post! I love all your special symbols! I don't know how I pick my symbols? I guess they pick me ;o) If something is given to me, if I picked up something, it's all a calling ;o) I have a candle holder, that a girl gifted to me in blog land. She hasn't been around in a long time! I do hope she comes back. I don't know why, but this candle holder means so much to me! How do I empower my items? With lots of love ;o) Big Hugs ;o)

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    1. I'm right with you in how we pick and are picked by symbols. Your candle holder sounds like the pearl necklace on my altar. I never met the girl who gave it to me. I helped her mom editing some work, and the child (well, teen) was so grateful that she made it for me. Her note said that it was so nice to see her mom free of stress--it made me feel good.

      And love is the most empowering and positive energy, methinks ;-D

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  14. This post has given me a lot to reflect on and think about. The comments had an impact as well. I'm not going to get into what my symbols are but having them there, even when I don't glance at them for a couple of days, is reasuring, and comforting. I guess I don't need them for magick per se, but they have meaning - sentimental value. And to me that makes them special - raises their vibration and connects their vibration to mine.

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    1. I love symbols that are so strong, hold so much meaning, that we don't even have to look at them to feel their power...

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  15. Lately my symbol has been purple hair =]

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    1. Purple is a powerful color ;-)

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