Pagans love their symbols. I gave a workshop not to long ago on Tarot, after the short work shop was over a participant asked what a specific symbol meant. My answer, which was not appreciated, was to say that it could mean many things, it all depends on what books you’ve read and what Religious/Magickal/Cultural system you’re working in.
Those who have been involved in Magickal/Mystical/Faith research for many years understand that symbolism is a tool, and there are no sure meanings for anything, especially symbols.
There are really two main symbols of modern Druid practice and philosophy. The Druid Sigil and the Awen. Are there more, yes…but this is not meant to be an all inclusive historical blog post, merely my insights on the two that I use most often.
The Druid Sigil
This symbol was the invention of the Reformed Druids working from out of the Carleton College Druid group. This symbol resonants for me, and always has. I think its power is in the fact that it has no true meaning. One can contemplate its two lines and circle for years and come up with several working paradigms for reflection and utilization. One question is why this symbol came out of the mind of a NeoDruid in the first place – that in itself is a thing worth contemplating.
There are several ways that I utilize the Druid Sigil; As a symbol of meditative contemplation, a Gate symbol, a symbol of blessing, and as a symbol of consecration/hallowing/purification. When working acts of Sorcery I invoke it prior to whatever work I’m planning as a way to hallow an area and separate it from mundane space. I’m not one for outbursts or directional declaration so I simply trace the figure and extend it out into the area I’m working. A mental image of peace in all spheres of existence and all directions may follow the invocation of the symbol, but it’s not a hard and fast ritualistic affair.
Being that the symbol itself has no set meaning it is an apt sigil for the nebulousness of Druidry and it’s philosophy. I like the fact that it is probably a completely post-modern creation, that because of that it addresses the mystery of Druidry and modern pagan faith expressions. Like Druidry the Druid Sigil reminds those who consider themselves Druidish that they practice a philosophy/faith/cult that is itself a mystery demanding to be scrutinized and understood through the lens of inspiration, practiced with a hint of academic obfuscation. After all the history of modern Druidry is a complex thing, sometimes serious and at other times silly, I like the fact that the Druid Sigil is a very serious/non-serious symbol of ‘who-knows-what’.
The Awen is symbol I don’t utilize to much, but it has it’s place in my practice. The symbol is also a modern creation, but one with an ineresting past. Essentially, according to the inspired mythos put forward by Iolo Morganwyg the Awen represents the knowledge attained by a giant (the first being) from the All/God/Creator. I won’t rehash the mythology, but it is certainly a myth that easily fits with those who study and implement Indo-European mythology and cosmology into their practices.
I see the Awen as symbol of inspired lore. Usually it is used to mean Inspiration and is intoned to reflect this idea. For me it is a reflection of the wisdom and meta-language of Rune wisdom. It’s rays coincide with the three Aetts and it’s story – that it is fundamentally a matrix of lore of all existence, and that it was given to Einigan ( a giant or Jotun) and then discovered by another traveler (Odin) after the Giants destruction. I’m not saying that the Awen is actually the Rune row, but it is a mental association that I have come to utilize and may be helpful to others that incorporate a Revival era Druid knowledge into a Heathen religious practice.
More fundamentally, for me, the Awen also represents three tenets of Druidry that I think are important: Peace, Knowledge, and Power or Truth, Illumination, and Will or The Gods, Ancestors, and Nature. These symbols are powerful and as you can see, personal.