The Book of Primal Signs

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-06-30
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions
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An in-depth study of the sacred meanings behind ancient and enduring symbols

• Explains the multiple forms and uses of symbols from ancient times to the present day, reflecting their roots in folk magic and the Western Mystery tradition

• Examines more than 40 glyphs, such as the cross, fleur de lis, and pentagram, as well as several families of symbols, such as craftsmen’s marks and runes

• Includes more than 300 unique woodcuts, drawings, calligraphy, and photographs--many never before reproduced

From ancient rock and cave art to the contemporary brand logos of politics and business, human beings have always created symbols to denote specific ideas, groups, or important objects as well as to convey deeper information than can be communicated in words. Many glyphs have retained their meanings over millennia whereas some have modern meanings vastly different from the original connotation. In this study of symbols, Nigel Pennick explores glyphs as agents of higher consciousness and ports of access to the collective unconscious, acknowledging the continuity of tradition, both deliberate and not, as well as how interpretations of some symbols, such as the swastika, have changed dramatically.

With more than 300 unique woodcuts, drawings, calligraphy, and photographs--many never before reproduced--Pennick examines ancient and enduring glyphs in detail, such as the circle, cross, eye, pentagram, fleur de lis, tree of life, and horseshoe, as well as several families of symbols, such as craftsmen’s marks, runes, symbolic beasts, human heads and skulls, and the sigils of Mammon. The author explains the multiple forms and uses of each from ancient times to the present day, reflecting their roots in the Western Mystery tradition. He explores the symbols of high magic such as the glyph of John Dee’s monad, those of folk magic such as the traditional cock on the weather vane, and the creation of modern glyphs such as the peace sign and the anarchy symbol.

Contrasting the hi-jacked use of power symbols in modern advertising with the vital role of symbols in traditional arts and crafts, Pennick reveals how symbols link the cosmic with the terrestrial and allow us to infuse the mundane with the numinous.

Author Biography

Nigel Pennick, trained as a biologist, has traveled and lectured extensively in Europe and the United States on sacred geometry, the spirit of place, spiritual arts and crafts, and labyrinths. He is the author and illustrator of more than 50 books, including The Pagan Book of Days, as well as numerous pamphlets, scientific papers, and articles. A musician with the Traditional Music of Cambridgeshire Collective, he lives in Cambridge, England.

Table of Contents

Preface: Primal Signs, Traditional Glyphs, and Symbols

Introduction: A Symbolic World

Part I
Traditional Glyphs, Signs, Sigils, and Symbols in Practice

The Runes
Runic Logos and Defunct Organizations
The Pitfalls of Symbology
New Names, New Meanings
The Public Use of Glyphs

Part II
A Box of Glyphs

1 The Sun, the Circle, and the Sun Wheel
2 The Akhet and the Twin Towers
3 The Eight-Spoked Wheel
4 Crosses
5 The Crescent Moon, Star, and Comet
6 Solar Light and Lightning
7 The Cosmic or Philosophical Egg
8 The Omphalos
9 The Pineapple
10 The Tree of Life
11 The Fleur-de-Lys
12 The Rose
13 The Heart
14 Human and Eldritch Heads
15 The Swastika
16 The Skirl, Yin and Yang
17 The Pothook
18 The Trefot
19 The Horseshoe
20 Tools and Craft Symbols
21 The X, Gyfu, Daeg, and Ing Glyphs
22 The Hexflower
23 Woven Patterns
24 Plaits and Knots
25 Straw Plaits
26 The Pentagram
27 The Hexagram
28 The Checker
29 House Marks, Craftsmen’s Marks, and Sigils
30 Miscellaneous Magical Glyphs
31 Alternative and New Spiritual Glyphs
32 Local Glyphs
33 Symbolic Beasts
34 The Serpent
35 The Phoenix
36 The Cockerel and Weathercocks
37 The Eye and the Peacock
38 The Sigils of Mammon
39 The Death’s Head



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