Logos, & Lucky Charms
Magazine - #23, July 2006
One of the first lessons of magic(k) that we learn as children
is that words and symbols have power. Abracadabra. Hocus Pocus.
A 5-pointed star. A 4-leaf clover. As we get older, this primary
notion quickly degrades and often becomes the source of one
of the first dismissive tendencies towards magic(k) that arises
amongst adults. Too many hokey movies and failed attempts to
levitate with an utterance conspire against us. Soon the lesson
is forgotten; magic(k) words and the power of symbols sneak
away to party with Santa and the tooth fairy.
and symbols continue to work their magic(k) regardless of whether
or not we believe in them. Look at the outcry against Madonna
singing from the cross or riots in response to Mohammed cartoons
and we begin to see that the power of symbols is anything but
make-believe. For those who insist that religious sensitivities
are a cheap shot, consider this secular example: For over 150
years the United States had a Department of War. During much
of that time U.S. foreign policy consisted of "neutrality"
and therefore the DoW did not lend any direct military support
in foreign conflicts. World War II put a definitive end on U.S.
neutrality once and for all, and in 1947 the DoW was renamed
the "National Military Establishment" or NME (pronounced
"enemy"). Realizing the error of their acronym, politicians
again changed the name in 1949 to what we know today as the
"Department of Defense." More than half a century
after "war" became "defense" the DoD sits
deep within the Pentagon planning "pre-emptive defensive
strikes" while waving a flag with fifty pentagrams on it.
Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
performs magic(k) in front of a few of his favorite lucky
Ok, so spin-doctoring
isn't exactly the same thing as witch-doctoring. Still, most
performing magicians (conjurors) won't deny the power of language.
And few will debate the fact that word choice makes a difference
when presenting a trick. Many will even insist that the "patter"
makes or breaks the illusion. More to the point, the strength
and efficacy of a trick is often closely tied to the audience's
ability to relate both specifically and abstractly to the overall
illusion. This is precisely why magic with money tends to hold
people's attention more than tricks with handkerchiefs. Money
is already a loaded symbol, whereas how many people revere a
silk hanky? If you still maintain your doubts, try first performing
card tricks over lunch and then later in the middle of a poker
game. Any guesses on which audience gets more riled up when
you magically produce four aces from up your sleeve?
the ability to make a scrap of green paper covered in Masonic
symbols disappear doesn't quite live up to our childhood expectations
of magic(k). Perhaps this is especially true because we become
adept at making dollars disappear all the time. As we grow older,
we become initiated into the Church of Consumerism. It is here
that we become increasingly distrustful of anything "magical"
since we quickly find the mystique tarnished by a barrage of
commodities gilded in glitz. Yesteryear's potions, spells, and
apparatuses are hawked as today's energy drinks, pharmaceuticals,
and hi-tech gizmos. Finding ourselves surrounded by "magic"
cleaning supplies, "power" tools, and Lucky Charms,
it's easy to concede that there's no such thing as "real"
magic(k). Yet, ironically this is where some of the oldest forms
of magic(k) still thrive today.
on nearly every product, within every corporation, and tied
to commodities strewn across the globe one finds logos. We tend
to ignore them; or at least we think we do. However, too much
consideration goes into the creation of an effective logo to
be ignored. Beyond mere aesthetics, a logo is designed to perform
a particular function quite similar to that of a magical sigil.
Specifically, the fundamentals of logo design stress three distinct
phases of association: 1) contextual or relative association;
2) direct or habitual association; and 3) autonomic or hypnotic
association. In contextual or relative association the logo
appears in the same context as the product. Thus, the consumer
understands that there is a relationship between the logo and
the product, thereby making it easier for the consumer to locate
an identical or similar product in the future by seeking out
the logo (i.e. - look for the golden arcs and find the freedom
fries). In the second phase, direct or habitual association,
the logo increases its scope of influence. Through repeated
exposure to the logo, the consumer now identifies directly with
the logo and no longer differentiates between the logo and the
product represented by the logo. The logo has become a direct
stand-in for the product itself. Through force of habit the
logo now represents a standard (albeit an irrational one not
often governed by actual quality) by which all other similar
products are measured and found lacking. (i.e. - why do you
favor one brand of electronics over a brand you have never heard
of or seen before? And, why is it "cool" to where
the logo of that company on your t-shirt?). And finally, there
is autonomic or hypnotic association. Like Pavlov's dogs who
began to salivate at the sound of the dinner bell, the consumer
who has reached a state of hypnotic association will begin to
physically manifest a desire for the product upon merely seeing
the associated logo. In such cases, the consumer's willingness
to act on this irrational desire happens because s/he has not
only come to associate the logo with the product but also with
the feeling(s) s/he's attached to the product (status, sex appeal,
satiety, power, success, etc). Even a momentary, peripheral
glimpse of the logo may be enough to make the consumer hunger
for the product and act towards quenching the thirst of an irrational
desire. To the consumer, the impulse will seem completely logical,
and s/he may not even be consciously aware of having seen the
logo only moments before.
As we lift
our gaze out of the marketing primers and PR manuals and flip
through the pages of grimoires and spell books, we begin to
see the magic(k) ties that bind logos and sigils. Sigils have
been used for thousands of years, but the contemporary use of
sigils in ritual magick owes a great debt to the early 20th
Century artist and occultist, Austin Osman Spare. In its traditional
form, a sigil is basically an abstract mark or symbol that is
magically charged through a process of association with one's
desires. By reducing an idea to a single design, the concept
is mentally planted in a non-linguistic manner and left to blossom
over time. This magical seed can be further fertilized by focusing
on the design (not the idea represented by the design) during
a heightened state of arousal (pleasure, pain, excitement, exhaustion,
fear, ecstasy, etc.). A.O. Spare recommends using your orgasm
to charge the sigil.
a meditative tool used to focus one's conscious and subconscious
attentions towards manifesting a specific result, a sigil can
be made by anyone for any reason. The sigil has no power of
its own, and means nothing to those who have no associations
with it. However, a sigil that is unleashed and gains popular
recognition can maintain a power that is both subjective and
collective. Although Madison Avenue mages now refer to spells,
incantations, and sigils as slogans, jingles, and logos the
effects are just as powerful as ever.
commonly wields power through the manipulation of sign systems
which individuals are collectively programmed to accept as valid
structures of discipline and control. Fortunately, magic(k)
is an open-source technology that doesn't exclusively belong
to advertising execs and policy-makers. Outlined here
is a sequence of actions that will effectively illustrate the
aforementioned dynamics. Further, the following sequence of
actions also serves as a general spell for revealing that "authority"
is a subjective force, and that victory is awarded to those
who play the 'Sign Game' best. While strict adherence to the
spell will often yield successful results, an accurate understanding
of the underlying principles will allow for delightful adaptations
and diverse applications. Have fun & Good luck! And please
let us know of your results by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org