Saturday, October 12, 2013


A lot of people mistook it for a word…
~Robert Godwin, as quoted in George Case’s Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: An Unauthorized Biography (2007, p114)

Mage Music 74  
Mage Music 74: Zoso

Symbols are remarkable.  Without them, you couldn't read this post.  Without them, you couldn't communicate on more than the most basic of levels.  

Without symbols, there would be very little Magick.

Symbols can convey meaning above and beyond “what you see is what you get” (that is, the denotation or literal, dictionary meaning of a word or term).  The capacity of symbols to carry richness and depth of additional meaning (connotation, or overlaid meanings that convey emotions, values, associations and nuances beyond the literal) makes symbols possibly the most valuable of all the treasures that a human might possess.  For a Mage, symbols are the secret heart of ritual.

In Magick, symbols are most potent when they are maximally realized and intensely embody the desire that fuels the ritual. At their most potent, symbols are so rich that their power carries over to others.  Thus a Mage whose ritual is meant to be shared with an audience - a painter or a musician, for example - can use personal symbols within that ritual that have such extremely powerful meaning that the symbols pack a punch for the audience too.  

The most potent symbols must remain personal to the Mage, though.  To reveal the meaning – if a Mage could even bring himself to do so – would bleed off the pressure of that power, reduce its intensity and thereby weaken the ritual.  

The Eagle and the Horse

Let's use the example of the eagle and the horse to talk about denotation and connotation:  An eagle is a bird, but its deeper meaning is that of wild power used as weapon.  Long a symbol of power, the eagle was the Egyptian symbol for the god Horus, it was the standard of a Roman legion, and today eagle is the US emblem.  Although there are much larger birds in the world, the eagle has long been held as the King of the Birds in mythology by many cultures.  A predator, eagle carries a depth of meaning that includes the danger of a focused and yet unlimited power.  

A horse is a mammal, but its deeper meaning is that of power shaped by human will.  Horses symbolize grace, beauty, nobility, strength, speed and freedom.  These meanings can transcend the normal world when the horse has wings or horns as Pegasus or unicorn.  As a powerful and dangerous animal that is not a predator, horse’s power is broader focused and symbolically horse is a helper.  There is great power with both horse and eagle, but horse carries a feeling of less danger in its symbolism. 

Or not.

Mage Music 74: Janus
Maybe you come from a place like Alaska where there are so many eagles that they’re like pigeons and you have little respect for them.  Maybe you come from a culture that eats horses, or maybe from a culture that has never even heard of either.  Maybe you're scared to death of both of them.

The power of a symbol isn't in the object itself and certainly not in its name or its history, but rather what it means personally to the one who uses it. 

In the right hands, a symbol can carry meaning so powerful, so potent, so filled with possibility that the symbol is the fissionable material of Magick. Such things have no names that you or I could - or should - know.


  1. I agree that symbols just as totems are sacred and should be kept close to the heart. But I had to guess what ZoSo means I would say it was Most High meaning, Love and Light:) As he always gives his best and his most. A Code of Honor.

  2. It could have the meaning you or anyone guesses, or not any of those meanings at all!. The more potent the symbol, the less it can be described because symbols are the most slippery of things, being that they are what the perceiver understands about them rather than what the common agreement among humanity says they mean. Symbols are tough to nail down - that's their nature and that's where their power lies. Just like Magick!

  3. We must know the meaning of symbols. See them without understand their deepest meaning, or the reason for which they're used, it's extremly bad. For example, ZoSo is not a word. It was a letter of a satanic alphabet used in the XVI century; it was also the symbol used for the ascendant of Capricorn - which is the zodiac sign of Jimmy Page. What a peculiar thing, huh? I found these information on the internet after months and months of research.
    A symbol can be interpretated in different ways, like the Middle Age's allegorical lyrics. This beacuse a symbol can arouse in our mind different images, more than its real meaning. And it's weird think that a little sign can sometimes hold so much inside. I loved the example you used of the Eagle and the Horse, especially the part where you writed about the ambiguity that their interpretation can have depending of the differents cultures.
    Symbols give also a shadow of sharm, like a charismatic aura which sourround the Mage, and so do runes, arcane inscriptions and occult signs. That's why I love Jimmy Page. ;)

    1. Zeppelin' On: Knowing and understanding are two different things. We can "know" things like we know our own hand or know our own feelings - they ar part of us without even having to think about it. But do we have to understand what we know? I don't think we do, although you might not agree!

      Most people never give one moment's thought about understanding what they know. Unless a person has studied the hand, for instance - the biology, the art, the chemistry, the mechanics - they will only have a vague understanding of it. Mostly what people end up with is just enough understanding to use what they know, and more understanding than that is never pursued.

      There are many elements that could be interpreted about the Zoso symbol, as you point out. In art, a symbol should resonate for the audience, and the elements you talk about are things that can do just that. But the most important concept to go away with, in my opinion, is that a symbol is only as good to a Mage as it has powerful personal meaning for him or her to use in the ritual. For purposes of Magick, what that symbol might mean to me or you is irrelevant to the Mage who is using it.