A Book Review
(An interview with Tempest follows this review.)
It was very serendipitous that as this book was coming up for review, I had just registered to take a workshop with Tempest based on this very book.
The word “sigil” means “seal” or an action/word of a spiritual nature. I would hazard a guess that most of us have seen sigils that mean specific things, written and drawn by others.
Tempest brings sigils to us in a more personal way, with the sigils drawn by us, to have meaning to us, specifically. She simplifies it for us, while never detracting from their power.
Before doing this, she gives us a brief history of what she calls “making marks”, discussing the paintings, symbolism and markings of previous civilizations, which are still so important to us today. Tempest does on to explain the differences between sigils and signs, seals, designs, etc.
There are sections on the basic shapes used in sigils and their meanings, adding directions, letters and numbers, how to use the elements in our sigils and how they work.
There is space for us to create our own symbols for specific words that Ms. Zakroff has listed for us, thus building our own library to make our own custom sigils. She gives guidance on designing our own, what tools we can use, why we should craft our own sigils. She offers us suggestion sigils and a gallery of her own custom sigils.
We don’t have to be “high magicians” to utilize the power of sigils and the how-to’s are all right here, in an informative, friendly, easy-to-read-and-relate-to manner.
As one who has never given much thought to sigils, on their own, this book has tempted me to not only think about it, but do it.
Interview With Laura Tempest Zakroff
Susan Morgaine (SM): Hi Tempest – it was so nice to see you while you were on tour.
So, belly dancer/performer, event producer, artist, witch, author and teacher. That is quite impressive. I knew you primarily as a dancer and performer when we met many years ago, and it wasn’t until I saw the logo for Waking Persephone that I realized you were an artist, as well
SM: How did you start and what did you start with, realizing it was most probably a circuitous journey? Please only respond with what you are comfortable with sharing.
Tempest: I definitely started with art, going back as early as age 3. By first grade I was taking formal art classes on a regular basis – all the way through high school. Then for college, I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. I discovered modern Witchcraft and Paganism in my teens, and got into dance in my college years. When I moved to California in 2001, dance and Pagan stuff pretty much took over my life. I didn’t have much room or resources to make the kind of art I had been doing in school, so art took a bit of a backseat. It manifested through my costume designs and creations, graphic design, and some small drawings and paintings. When I moved back to the East Coast in 2007, I started working as a fashion jewelry designer. I did that until mid-2012, when it was time for drastic life shift. In that process I moved to Seattle and began working for myself full-time in all the things I do (dance, design, art). Sometimes I feel frustrated that I didn’t just keep going with the fine art out of school, but I realize I wouldn’t be where I am now, on this path – if I had.
SM: What was the impetus behind the idea of Waking Persephone. I know there were several years here on the East Coast; are you continuing it on the West Coast?
Tempest: I co-produced Gothla US from 2008-2010 – which took place in California. It was supposed to switch coasts, but that didn’t happen. Which was frustrating because most of my east coast, home-base students couldn’t afford to attend it. So much work and the people I worked the closest with couldn’t participate. I also had a vision for something that encompassed more, without stylistic labels – to bring in more ritual/sacred dance, more artistry, more diversity. That became a reality first in Tapestry Dance Retreat (2011) and then Waking Persephone the following Spring. We did 2 years in Providence, and 3 more years in Seattle. At this time, I’m not producing any events, because I needed to focus on my art and writing, but when the time comes, something will probably emerge again. Producing events takes up so much time and energy. I transformed that time and focus into something else. Since the last WP in 2016, I’ve written 4 books, published an anthology, and pushed my art deeper.
SM: When did you realize your were a Witch? It’s so interesting to hear about other’s spiritual journeys.
Tempest: I was at odds with the Catholic Church since my youngest days. I got sent to the principal’s office at age 6 because during a field trip to the church, I insisted on sitting where the priests and altar boys did (like my brothers!), and couldn’t understand while girls weren’t allowed. So much doctrine that made no sense – I felt that God was more present in nature and everywhere around us. I discovered that there were other options to the Abrahamic religions in my mid-teens – that Witchcraft and Paganism was a thing. The realization that there were names for what I believed and felt, and that other people saw the world similarly was a huge revelation.
SM: What made you decide to start to write, and then to follow that with teaching?
Tempest: I’ve been writing for a long time – in high school I was the editor of the literary magazine. At RISD in 1997, I got involved with Crescent Magazine – where I became an associate editor and had regular columns. I started up a website on Modern Traditional Witchcraft around then as well. Around 2000, I started offering Witchcraft classes – and kept that up until around 2005 or so. Then I burned out on being a public Witch, and retreated to a solitary path for almost a decade. After getting my life reset in 2012, I ventured out of my cave a bit with renewed focus and purpose. I started up a blog (which moved to Patheos in early 2016 I think), began teaching again and toyed with the idea of finally writing a book. In the Fall of 2015, I was offered the contract to write “The Witch’s Cauldron” for Llewellyn. It was a wonderful way to just dive right in, and was really well received. So from there, I wrote “Sigil Witchery” – after folks taking my workshops asked why I hadn’t written a book yet on it. And well, it’s just kept going from then.
SM: I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to take your Sigil Witchery workshop (which is reviewed somewhere else this month in Pagan Pages). What did you learn from your travels and sitting with/teaching so many Witches and Pagans around the country? I found it fascinating to see, on Instagram, the sigils you created with each workshop.
Tempest: No matter where folks are located or what path/label they use – Witches/Paganfolks have so much more in common than not. The community (or whatever we wish to call it) is incredibly diverse, but we share many beliefs and loves, as well as fears and concerns. There is so much potential in recognizing our collective power and connections.
SM: So what is next on the agenda for you, Tempest? Any sneak peeks?
Tempest: A. I’m finally working on an oracle deck! The tentative title is “The Liminal Spirits Oracle” and it will be out via Llewellyn I believe some point next year 🙂
You can reach/follow Tempest at the following:
Owlkeyme arts – Design & Fine art by Laura Tempest Zakroff | Seattle, WA
Mago Djinn – Modern Folk Wear
Author Site – www.lauratempestzakroff.com
About the Author:
Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and “Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess”, as well as Mago Publications “She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is [email protected]