When the angel Azrael first appeared, he had embroidered on his collar a
symbol consisting of four dots equally spaced along a horizontal line. The first and third dots from the left were connected by
an upward-bending semicircle. The second and fourth dots were connected by a downward-bending semicircle. A circle
enclosed the two middle dots.
A larger concentric circle passed through the two outermost dots.
Azrael's sigil should not be considered in isolation, but in
Azrael's Nursery Rhyme, featured
this Web site. The sigil is, in a sense, a graphic
presentation of the same information that is contained in the Nursery
Rhyme. There is no question as to their connection. Azrael
explicitly labeled the first dot on the far left "body," the
second dot "emotion," the third dot "intellect," and the fourth
dot "spirit." These are the four stages in the Nursery Rhyme.
In the process of analyzing this sigil, I decided to stylize it
and present it in a more meaningful and attractive form. The
original sigil contains all the essential information, but is
quite sparse. The relationship between its parts is so basic that
many viewers would have difficulty reaching useful insights.
The most essential aspect of the sigil is its division into four
dots. This allows it to be associated with the fourfold divisions
of esoteric philosophy. Prominent among these are: the
four elements; four levels of the microcosm or human organism;
four worlds of the macrocosm or greater universe; and four
Hebrew letters of Tetragrammaton (IHVH), the ineffable name
of God that expresses in its makeup the structure of creation. In the original sigil the dots are arranged on a horizontal line that passes through all of them and unites them into a continuum.
We know from Azrael's direct statement that the dot on the left
is to be linked with the microcosmic level of the body or
sensations; the second dot with the level of the emotions; the
third dot with the level of thoughts or the intellect; and the
fourth dot with the level of spirit or will.
In the elements, these human levels correspond with Earth
(body), Water (emotions), Air (thoughts), and Fire (spirit).
Instead of dots, the levels are shown in my redrawn version
of the sigil with colored disks that touch each other to indicate that they are a continuum. Green is a color suited to
elemental Earth, since it is the color of grass and other
growing things. The other three colors are those used for
the elements in the Golden Dawn system of magic - blue for
Water, yellow for Air, and red for Fire. Green is one of the
Golden Dawn colors of Earth, but more commonly black is
used to represent the Earth element. I prefer green when
treating the four elements as equals. Green balances each
of the other three elemental colors individually, whereas
black balances all three other elemental colors combined.
Black is useful to represent Earth when you wish to
distinguish Earth from the three higher elements as a
group; but green is better when this distinction is not
The disks representing the four levels in the microcosm have a diameter equal to the distance between the dots in Azrael's
original sigil, which is to say, one quarter of the whole. In the center of each is the alchemical triangle
representing its element. Surrounding each triangle is a
smaller circle that has the color of the opposite element. This
was done to show that everything contains within itself the
seed of its opposite.
The elements are arranged from heaviest to lightest, moving
from left to right. If the four philosophical elements could
be mixed and then allowed to settle into four layers, Earth
would be on the bottom, Water above it, Air above Water,
and Fire at the top. This arrangement is not arbitrary but
dictated by the structure of Azrael's sigil. We know from
Azrael's statements that the dot on the far left in the original
sigil refers to the body, and the element best suited to the
body is Earth; the second dot from the left is the level of the
emotions, and the element of the emotions is Water; the third
dot refers to the intellect, its natural expression in the form
of thoughts, speech and writing, and the element of the mind
is Air; the final dot on the far right is the level of the spirit
or will, and the element of spirit is Fire.
Each of the crescents connects opposite elements. Fire is
naturally the opposite of Water; Air is the opposite of
Earth. Fire is warm, Water cool; Fire is dry, Water moist.
Similarly, Earth is dry, Air is moist; Earth is cool, Air is
warm. That these pairs of elements are opposites is
indicated in their alchemical glyphs by their opposite triangles, one pointing up
and the other down. The Fire-Water opposites are represented
by empty triangles, whereas the Air-Earth opposites have
triangles with horizontal bars through their centers.
Energy flows along each crescent in
the direction in which these triangles point. In the stylized sigil,
energy flows out from the central circle along each crescent,
and creates a spiral vortex that expands in a counterclockwise direction to fill the outer circle. These jets of energy flowing outward along the
crescents would naturally cause the entire sigil to spin clock-
wise in reaction, like a great pinwheel. Without the alchemical
triangles, it would be impossible to determine the direction of
the energy flow on the sigil. This is one of the advantages of
integrating appropriate esoteric symbols into Azrael's original sigil.
The second most fundamental structure of Azrael's original sigil,
after the row of four dots, is the central circle that is balanced
by two opposite semicircles. These naturally suggest the disk
of the Sun and the waxing and waning crescents of the Moon.
Symbolically, the nature of the Sun is expressed by the
wholeness and integration of the circle, the nature of the Moon
by the dichotomy of opposite semicircles. The disk of the Sun is forever changeless, the crescents of the Moon forever changing.
The Sun is central, the Moon peripheral. The Sun is self-
sufficient and radiating, the Moon dependent upon external
radiance for her shape and receptive of radiance.
The waning crescent of the Moon is shown in the stylized sigil
as black, the waxing crescent as white. In myth and magic,
the waning crescent of the Moon relates to the left-hand path,
to works of deception where darkness is required, to evil and
black magic; by contrast the waxing crescent is linked with the
right-hand path, to works of healing and growth, to works of
truth that require light, and to good and white magic.
This traditional division is a bit simplistic. It can be more
useful to think of the waning crescent as relating to the urges
and impulses of the flesh, the aspects of human nature that
tend to drag us down toward the earth. These are often the
impulses for destructive or selfish actions, the impulses of
chaos. They weigh down our souls. By the same token, it is
often more useful to regard the waxing crescent of the Moon as
relating to the impulses and inspirations of the spirit, the
aspects of human nature that tend to elevate and ennoble us,
that lift us above the purely physical impulses of biology.
These are the impulses of order or cosmos.
Black is a color of the body and the earth, white a color of the
spirit and the heavens. The black waning crescent is shown
inverted, with its horns down; the white waxing crescent up
right with its horns elevated. The black crescent connects the
lowest and most physical level of the body with the third level
of intellect. It spans and skips the level of the emotions, yet
at the same time encompasses this level within its points.
Similarly, the white crescent links the highest and most
spiritual level of the will with the second level of the emotions,
spanning and encompassing the third level of the mind.
Since the original sigil does not distinguish between the crescents,
other than to show one with its horns downward and the other with its
horns upward, it may be that they can alternate their places. This
would be in harmony with Azrael's Nursery Rhyme, which presents two
paths, cosmos or chaos, for each advance up the levels of the four
worlds. If Azrael's original sigil were made dynamic, it might show these crescents alternating, so that the dots of body and mind are
connected first by a semicircle with horns down, then by a semicircle with horns up, while at the same time the dots of emotion and
spirit are linked first by a semicircle with horns up, then by a semicircle with horns down. This flicking back and forth would produce a standing wave.
Each crescent defines both two, and three, disks or levels in the sigil.
The two central disks are grouped by the circle of the Sun that surrounds
them. I might point out that I have given the solar disk thirty-six rays,
for the thirty-six decans of the zodiac. This has no great significance,
other than that thirty-six is a very solar number. There are thirty-six
cells in the 6X6 magic square of the Sun. It contains within it the
numbers of the earth and of the Moon (9X4 = 36). Four is the number
of the earth and of the elements, nine is the lunar number.
The third fundamental structure of the sigil is the outer circle that encompasses and unites all four elemental disks. In the original sigil it passes through the outermost dots, linking them with its line. I have modified it to enclose the outer disks rather than pass through their centers. This circle defines the totality and limit of the sigil. It is shown in my modified version as the disk of Earth used by the Golden Dawn to represent Malkuth and the four earthly elements. The colors may not display accurately on your monitor, but the upper quadrant of this Earth disk should be citrine, the lower quadrant sable, the left quadrant russet, and the right quadrant olive. These are the Golden Dawn elemental colors at the level of Malkuth, where they mingle and darken one another. The pure, bright yellow of Air becomes a greenish-tinged citrine, the bright red of Fire becomes russet, !
the bright blue of Water becomes olive, and the black of Earth remains black. These colors represent the earthy aspect of the elements.
A distinction should be understood between the pure element Earth, shown by the green disk with the downward-pointing triangle, and the sphere of Earth, Malkuth, shown by the large outer circle of four elemental colors.
The sigil consists of one set of four, defined by the horizontal line of
the four elemental disks surrounded by the outer circle of Earth; two sets of three, defined by the disks on the
points of each crescent and the central disk lying between the points;
three sets of two, defined by the disks at the points of each crescent
and the pair within the solar circle; and four sets of one, defined by
the individual elemental disks.
The associations for the dots may be grouped in the following way:
Body: physical sensations, elemental Earth, world of Assiah (Action), sphere of Malkuth, final Heh of IHVH
Emotions: mental feelings, elemental Water, world of Yetzirah (Formation), sphere of Binah, initial Heh of IHVH
Thoughts: mental concepts, elemental Air, world of Briah (Creation), sphere of Tiphareth, Vav of IHVH
Spirit: will, elemental Fire, world of Atziluth (Archetypal), sphere of Chokmah, Yod of IHVH
The bridging that is illustrated by the two lunar crescents begins to make
sense when we place the four dots on the Tree of the Sephiroth. We find
that progress from the disk of Earth to the disk of Air, via the dark lunar crescent, leads on the Tree up the central pillar of mildness from Malkuth
to Tiphareth, and unites the Son of God or Microprosopus in Tiphareth
with the Bride of Microprosopus in Malkuth. The light lunar crescent
forms a bridge across the Tree from the left pillar of Severity to the right
pillar of Mercy, and joins two lower points of the triangle of the Supernals,
connecting Binah on the left (Aima, the Great Mother), with Chokmah on
the right (Abba, the Great Father). The Father and Mother (Yod and initial Heh) are higher aspects of the Son and Daughter (Vav and final Heh). It is the solar disk in the center of the
stylized sigil of Azrael that connects Tiphareth, the sphere of the Son, with Binah, the sphere of the Mother.
A path of ascent is defined that leads up the Tree from Malkuth to Yesod,
from Yesod to Tiphareth, from Tiphareth diagonally up to Binah, and
from Binah horizontally across to Chokmah.
The body is the stage upon which the drama of the four levels of man are enacted. It is compound and is made up of all four elements in balance. The level of the sensations is opposed to the level of the intellect - our physical urges are at constant war with our understanding. Similarly, the level of the emotions is opposed to the level of the will. Pure will, unadulterated by desire, is the most powerful force in the world, but emotions such as fear and anger disturb this purity and weaken the will. Will is completed by the physical senses, without which it could not act on the stage of the world; the mind is completed and made responsive by the emotions, since without this union of feeling and understanding we would not be wholly human.
Although I've offered an analysis of some of the relationships between the
parts of this sigil, I have not given a definitive statement on its meaning.
I prefer to leave this question open, and let you come to your own
conclusions, rather than imposing my opinion. It is clear, however,
that the sigil is a dynamic flow chart for the movement of consciousness
through the four levels of man: sensation, emotion, thought, and will.