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Sacral Chakra See Svadhishthana (Sacral) Chakra.

Sacré-Coeur See Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sacred Alphabet See Kabbalah.

Sacred Chao The Sacred Chao is a symbol of Discordianism or Erisianism, a religion that worships the Goddess Eris, also called Discordia, the Greek deity of chaos, discord, and strife.  Eris is the sister of the Goddess of order and harmony, Aneris (also known as Harmonia or Concordia) - they also have a brother, Spirituality.  The concept of Discordianism and its founding as a religion traces its history to 1958-59 CE when its holy book, The Principia Discordia was published.

The Sacred Chao symbol resembles the Yin-yang symbol and consists of an image of a circle divided into two parts, with a pentagon on one side and a golden apple in the other.  The Pentagon represents the Aneristic principle of order, while the golden apple of discord stands for disorder or chaos that is the Eristic Principle.  Together, the symbol represents Hodge-Podge, the balance between order and chaos that make up the entire universe.

As a symbol of Discordianism, the Sacred Chao represents the religion’s underlying philosophy that chaos is as valid an aspect of reality or existence as is harmony.  Order and disorder are both man-made concepts that are often influenced by the preconceptions and beliefs of the observer.  Enlightened Discordians claim that the world, in general, favours and promotes order without realising that doing so only leads to more disorder and its catastrophic manifestations.  Therefore, they stimulate chaos to maintain the crucial balance between order and disorder.

The Sacred Chao symbol was introduced as the key to illumination by the Apostle Hung Mung, an ancient Chinese sage.  ‘Chao’ is pronounced as ‘cow’; so, the term ‘sacred Chao’ may be seen as a pun on the ‘sacred cow’ status (unquestioned reverence) that the world gives to the principles of order and harmony, while it vilifies disorder.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Today, The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most recognisable symbols of the Catholic faith.  The image originated in France near the end of the 17th century CE when a nun named Marguerite Marie Alacoque (often anglicised to Mary-Margaret) began to publicise her mystical visions of Jesus, who admonished her to devote herself and the country to the veneration of his heart, which she described as the heart at the centre of communication between humans and the Divine.

St Mary-Margaret’s vision, of a heart entwined with thorns and flames, sprouting a cross from the top, was drawn from the visions of earlier mystics, and possibly from alchemical imagery common at the time.  A few decades after the Saint’s death, the Bishop of Marseilles, Monseigneur de Belsunce, consecrated his diocese to the Sacred Heart in an effort to spare the region from plague.  The plague passed over Marseilles, and the symbol became very popular, associated with acts of charity and piety and used as a charm against disease.

Nowadays, to devote oneself to veneration of the Sacred Heart is in effect to make the heart of Christ one’s own, to create within oneself the love and compassion of Christ, in essence, to be Christ-like.

Sacred Ibis See Ibis.

Sagittarius In many cultures, it is believed there is a link between the position of the Sun, the Moon and other planets at the time of a person's birth.  This position gives individuals certain personality traits, as well as predicting events which are likely to occur in their life.

Sagittarius makes up one of the twelve 'houses' or signs of the astrological wheel.  Each of the twelve houses represents the position of the heavens at the time of a person’s birth.  Besides their birth sign, e.g. Sagittarius, an element is attributed to a person at birth, either Earth, Fire, Water or Air:

Symbol: The Archer
Dates: 21 November – 21 December
Constellation: Sagittarius
Zodiac Element: Fire
Sign ruler: Jupiter
Detriment: Mercury
Exaltation: None

The Sagittarius symbol or glyph represents the archers arrow in a bow, and it also represents projection.  It is believed that each one of the zodiac signs represents a particular part of the human body -- the zodiac symbol for Sagittarius relates to the liver and pelvis.

Those born under the zodiac symbol of Sagittarius are considered to have the following personality traits: keen to learn; do not enjoy routine; can become restless; enjoy travelling; adventurous; enthusiastic; honesty; knowledgeable; unreliable.

Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra The Sahasrara or Crown Chakra is generally considered the seventh primary chakra according to most tantric yoga traditions.  The Sahasrara is described as a lotus flower with 1,000 petals of different colours.  These petals are arranged in 20 layers, each layer having approximately 50 petals.  The pericarp is golden and within it a circular Moon region is inscribed with a luminous triangle, which can be either upward or downward-pointing.

Often referred to as the thousand-petaled lotus, it is said to be the subtlest chakra in the system, relating to pure consciousness, and it is from this chakra that all the others emanate.  When a Yogi is able to raise his or her Kundalini energy of consciousness up to this point, the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi is experienced.  This stage is said to bring about rebirth or the siddhis -- powers of transforming into the divine, and being able to do whatever one wishes.  See also Chakra.

Salamanders Within the Paracelsian concept, an elemental is a mythical being described in occult and Alchemical works from around the time of the European Renaissance and particularly elaborated upon in the 16th century CE works of Paracelsus.  From the classical Paracelsian perspective there are four elemental categories: Gnomes, Undines, Sylphs and Salamanders.  These correspond with the classical elements of antiquity: Earth, Fire, Water or AirAether (quintessence) was not assigned an elemental.

The fourth group of elementals works with the Fire element and are called Salamanders.  Their job is crucial, for they serve at the atomic level of all organic and inorganic life, infusing the molecules of matter with the spiritual Fires of Creation.

The Salamanders imbue the entire creation with the energies of the Spirit necessary to sustain life on Earth.  Capable of wielding both the most intense Fires of the physical atom and the purifying, spiritual Fires of Spirit, they control the spiritual-material oscillation of light within the nucleus of every atom.

Whether in electricity, firelight or the flame of a candle, the Salamanders are agents for the transfer of the Fires of the subtle world for mankind's daily use.  Without the spark of life sustained by the Salamanders, life and matter begin to decay, corrode and disintegrate.  See also Fire.

Salt Salt is an element of substance and physicality which starts out being coarse and impure, then through Alchemical processes it is broken down by dissolving; it is hen purified and eventually re-formed into pure salt, the result of the interactions between Mercury and Sulphur.

Thus, the purpose of alchemy is to strip down the self to nothingness, leaving everything bare to be scrutinised.  By gaining self-knowledge about one's nature and one's relation to God, the soul is reformed, the impurities expunged, and it is united into a pure and undivided thing.

Saltire / Saltaire See Cross of St Andrew.

Satanic Cross / Satan's Cross The Satanic Cross, also known as the 'Leviathan Cross' or the 'Cross of Satan', is an intricate glyph made up of several individual components.  It comprises the double cross (as in the Cross of Lorraine in which the lower crossbar is usually represented as being wider than the upper one) standing on the centre of one of the most intriguing and enigmatic symbols known to humans -- the sign for Infinity which looks like the figure '8' lying on its side.

It is perhaps this departure from what are usually simplistic ancient representations (for example the simple triangle and inverted triangle used to symbolise Fire and Water respectively) that gives the Satanic Cross its appeal along with an air of mystery and power.  It is perhaps also a hint of the macabre that makes it so memorable -- and so popular.

The Satanic Cross was originally the symbol for the element which was called brimstone in antiquity, and which we today know as Sulphur.  The association of sulphur with Satanism is rather dated, and has its origins in its use as the symbol for sulphur by European alchemists.  It was associated with Alchemy long before Anton Szandor LaVey (1930 - 1997), author of The Satanic Bible and head of the Church of Satan, portrayed it above his 'Nine Satanic Statements'.

Another version of the Satanic Cross is the Holy Cross with an upside-down question mark attached to its base.  The question mark is there to question the actual Deity of God.  Within the occult it represents the three crown princes, Satan, Belial and Leviathan, and, as such, symbolises complete power under Lucifer.

Satanic 'S' The symbol known as the Satanic 'S' represents a lightning bolt, implying 'Destroyer'.  In Greek mythology, it was the weapon of Zeus, the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus.  His attributes include thunder, the sceptre, the eagle, and the lightning bolt.  As the son of Cronus (who was the son of Uranus and Gaia and the youngest of the twelve Titans) and Rhea (the mother of the gods and sister of her husband), he was the youngest of his other siblings Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon.

The Satanic 'S' is worn to command power over others.  The symbol was worn prolifically during World War II, and could be seen clearly on the uniforms of the much-feared SS troops of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.

Satanic Temple The Satanic Temple is an American political activist group based in Salem, Massachusetts.  It has several chapter groups throughout the country, the largest of which is in Detroit, Michigan.  The group uses Satanic imagery to promote egalitarianism, social justice and the separation of church and state.  Their stated mission is "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people."  The group was co-founded by Lucien Greaves, the organisation's spokesperson, and Malcolm Jarry (both of which are pseudonyms).  ). He is reputed to be Douglas Mesner (born 1976).

The Satanic Temple actively participates in public affairs that have manifested in several public political actions and efforts at lobbying, with a focus on the separation of church and state and using satire against Christian groups that it believes interfere with personal freedom.  The organisation has been the focus of controversy due to several religious challenges, causing some critics to question whether or not The Satanic Temple is a prank, satire, or a genuine Satanic organisation.  Members do not necessarily identify as Satanists -- rather they may consider themselves strong allies who believe in the organisation's political and secular actions.  Same-sex marriage is considered a religious sacrament, so the Temple argues that bans on the practice violate Satanists' freedom of religion.  Because the group regards inviolability of the body as a key doctrine, it also views all restrictions on abortion, including mandatory waiting periods, as an infringement on the rights of Satanists to practice their religion.

The Satanic Temple does not believe in a supernatural Satan and uses the literary Satan as a metaphor to construct a cultural narrative which promotes pragmatic scepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity.  Satan is thus used as a symbol to represent 'the eternal rebel' against arbitrary authority and social norms.

Satanism See Church of Satan and Temple of Set.

Saturn The farthest planet from Earth observable by the unaided human eye, Saturn has been known since ancient times and is named after the Roman god of agriculture and wealth.  His Greek equivalent is Cronos, the father of Zeus/Jupiter.  In astrology, Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn.

Saturn is the 6th planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter.  Surrounded by 53 confirmed and nine provisional Moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system.  From the icy jets of its moon 'Enceladus' to the methane lakes on smoggy Titan, the Saturn system is a rich source of scientific discovery and still holds many mysteries.

It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine times that of Earth.  Adorned with thousands of beautiful rings, it is unique among the planets.  It is not the only planet to have rings -- made of chunks of ice and rock -- but no others could be as spectacular or as complicated as Saturn's.  Like its fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball of mostly hydrogen and helium.

Satyr A goatish symbol of lust and a life of sensual pleasure.  In Greek mythology, a satyr is a member of a troop of ithyphallic male companions of Dionysus -- they usually have horse-like ears and tails, as well as permanent, exaggerated erections.  Early artistic representations sometimes include horse-like legs, but on 6th century BCE black-figure pottery, human legs are the most common.

The faun is a similar woodland-dwelling creature from Roman mythology, which had the body of a man, but the legs, horns, and tail of a goat, and was associated with Bacchus.  In myths, both are often associated with pipe-playing.  Greek-speaking Romans often used the Greek term ‘saturos’ when referring to the Latin ‘faunus’, and eventually syncretised the two.  They are also known for their focus on sexual desires and were characterised by the urge to have sexual intercourse with as many women as possible.

The satyr's chief was Silenus, a minor deity associated with fertility.  Female ‘Satyresses’ were a later invention of poets.

Scallop Shell As a symbol, the scallop shell has much in common with other similarly shaped objects such as the oyster, cowrie shell and coco-de-mer palm nut, which all resemble the female genitalia, and thus carry notions of femininity and fertility.  The renowned Renaissance artist Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 - 1510), used this symbolism to great effect in his famous painting 'The Birth of Venus', where the goddess of love is portrayed emerging from the ocean on top of an enormous scallop shell.

There is, however, another meaning to the scallop shell, and one that some would argue runs in complete contradiction to notions of femininity.  In Mediaeval Europe, there were many shrines dedicated to Christian saints throughout the continent, and pilgrims visiting these shrines usually wore some kind of token or symbol to show they had made the journey.  One of the holiest and most prestigious of these shrines (surpassed only by Rome and Jerusalem) was Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain.  Dedicated to St James the Greater, the scallop shell was its official emblem and an attribute of the saint himself.

There are several varying accounts as to why the scallop shell is particularly associated with St James and this specific pilgrimage route, but regardless of its provenance, pilgrims who made the arduous trek to Santiago de Compostela received a badge shaped like the scallop shell as proof of their piety and devotion (see left).

Scapular The Scapular is a device resembling two postage stamps connected with strings, and usually bearing images or emblems of the Virgin Mary.  It is called a ‘scapular’ because it is designed to hang between the shoulder blades – the amulet is patterned after the aprons of mediaeval monks and nuns.  There are two types of scapulars, the monastic and devotional scapular, although both forms may simply be referred to as "scapular".

The scapular is usually worn to show devotion to the Virgin Mary, and some believe that if one dies while wearing the scapular, one will be saved from hell, a tradition that stems from the practice of granting scapulars to lay supporters of an order.  Scapulars from different orders come in different colours and with differing symbolism; some come with special obligations of prayer and other practices.

Scarab Beetle Nowadays, it is a well-known fact that a Scarab beetle rolls dung into balls and pushes them into a burrow where the female lays her eggs in them.  The Egyptians made a connection between the movement of the sun across the sky and the movement of the ball of dung pushed by the beetle.  This solar connection was enhanced by the fact that the scarab has antenna on its head and when the scarab pushed a ball of dung along the ground, the ball would sit between the antenna in a way that was reminiscent of the solar disc flanked by a pair of horns which was worn by many deities.  See Hathor.

Upon hatching, the larvae use the balls of dung for food, eventually emerging from the burrow in the prime of life.  It appeared to the ancient Egyptians that the young scarab beetles emerged spontaneously from the burrow in which they were born, for they were worshipped as Khepri, the god representing regeneration, new life, virility and resurrection.  This creative aspect of the scarab beetle was associated with the creator god Atum.  In the creation myths, Atum is the primal creator, and is even considered to have created himself.  From his spittle (some say he masturbated) he subsequently created the first gods, Shu and Tefnut.

Sceptre A sceptre is a symbolic ornamental staff or wand held in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.  Figuratively, it means royal or imperial authority or sovereignty.

The Was Sceptre and other types of staves were signs of authority in Ancient Egypt, and for this reason they are often described as 'sceptres', even if they are full-length staffs.  One of the earliest royal sceptres was discovered in the 2nd Dynasty tomb of Khasekhemwy in Abydos.  Kings were also known to carry a staff, and Pharaoh Anedjib is shown on stone vessels carrying a so-called mks-staff.  The staff with the longest history seems to be the heqa-sceptre (the 'shepherd's crook').

The sceptre also assumed a central role in the Mesopotamian world, and was in most cases part of the royal insignia of sovereigns and gods.  This is valid throughout the whole Mesopotamian history, as illustrated by both literary and administrative texts and iconography.

Schwarze Sonne Translated from the German as 'Black Sun', this is a Nazi emblem consisting of three Swastikas arrayed within a Circle to form a Sun design.

The symbol can be found in the ornamental floor design of Wewelsburg Castle (a Renaissance castle located in the village of Wewelsburg, a district of the town of Büren, Westphalia) in Germany, Heinrich Himmler's 'World centre' for the Nazi party, and the headquarters of Hitler's SS.  The design was drawn for Himmler from an old Aryan emblem, and was meant to mimic the Round Table of Arthurian legend -- each spoke of the Sun wheel represented one 'knight' or Officer of the 'inner' SS.  The spokes are made up of the same sowilo (Sun) Rune, two of which form the logo of the SS.  See also Satanic 'S'.

Scientology See Church of Scientology.

Scorpio In many cultures, it is believed there is a link between the position of the Sun, the Moon and other planets at the time of a person's birth.  This position gives individuals certain personality traits, as well as predicting events which are likely to occur in their life.

Scorpio makes up one of the twelve 'houses' or signs of the astrological wheel.  Each of the twelve houses represents the position of the heavens at the time of a person’s birth.  Besides their birth sign, e.g. Scorpio, an element is attributed to a person at birth, either Earth, Fire, Water or Air:

Symbol: Scorpion
Dates: 23 October – 21 November
Constellation: Scorpius
Zodiac Element: Water
Sign ruler: Pluto, Mars
Detriment: Venus
Exaltation: Sun, Uranus

The Scorpio symbol or glyph is believed to represent the mail genitals and is similar to the glyph for Virgo.  It is thought that the arrow at the end of the Scorpio symbol represents the sting or venom in the tail of a scorpion and the letter is based on the Hebrew letter 'mem'.  It is believed that each one of the zodiac signs represents a particular part of the human body -- the zodiac symbol for Scorpio relates to the kidneys.

Those born under the zodiac symbol of Scorpio are considered to have the following personality traits: passionate; determined; love secrets and mystery; have a tendency to over react; loyal friends; private people.

Scorpion Scorpions are predatory arachnids.  They have eight legs and are easily recognised by a pair of grasping pedipalps and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over its back, ending with a venomous stinger.  Scorpions range in size from 9 mm / 0.3 in.to 23 cm / 9 in.

The evolutionary history of scorpions goes back to the Silurian period 430 million years ago.  They have adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions, and can now be found on all continents except Antarctica.  Scorpions number about 1,750 described species, with 13 extant families recognised to date.  The taxonomy has undergone changes and is likely to change further as genetic studies are bringing forth new information.

All scorpions have a venomous sting, but the vast majority of the species do not represent a serious threat to humans, and in most cases, healthy adults do not need any medical treatment after being stung.  Only about 25 species are known to have venom capable of killing a human.  In some parts of the world with highly venomous species, human fatalities regularly occur, primarily in areas with limited access to medical treatment.

Scroll and Key The Scroll and Key Society is a secret society, founded in 1842 CE at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.  It is one of the oldest Yale secret societies and reputedly the wealthiest.  The society is one of the reputed "Big Three" societies at Yale, along with skullandbones and Wolf's Head Society.  Each spring the society admits fifteen rising seniors to participate in its activities and carry on its traditions.

Scroll and Key was established by John Addison Porter, with aid from several members of the Class of 1842, including Leonard Case Jr. and Theodore Runyon, and a member of the Class of 1843, William L. Kingsley, after disputes over elections to Skull and Bones Society.  Kingsley is the namesake of the alumni organisation, the Kingsley Trust Association (KTA), incorporated years after the founding.

Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg wrote that "up until as recent a date as 1860, Keys had great difficulty in making up its crowd, rarely being able to secure the full fifteen upon the night of giving out its elections."  However, the society was on the upswing: "the old order of things, however, has recently come to an end, and Keys is now in possession of a hall far superior, not only to Bones hall, but to any college-society hall in America." /td>

Seal of Babalon The seven-pointed Seal of Babalon is the feminine counterpart of the Mark of the Beast.

Babalon (also known as the Scarlet Woman, Great Mother or Mother of Abominations) is a goddess found in the mystical system of Thelema, which was established in 1904 CE when the English author and occultist Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947) received The Book of the Law, her name being given later in other works.  In her most abstract form, she represents the female sexual impulse and the liberated woman.  In the creed of the Gnostic Mass she is also identified with Mother Earth, in her most fertile sense.

At the same time, Crowley believed that Babalon had an earthly aspect in the form of a spiritual office, which could be filled by actual women -- usually as a counterpart to his own identification as 'To Mega Therion' (The Great Beast) -- whose duty was then to help manifest the energies of the current Aeon of Horus.  He believed the Lady of Babalon was personified as Leah Hirsig, who, after several portraits, was consecrated, taking the name Alostrael.

Babalon's consort is Chaos, the 'Father of Life' and the male form of the Creative Principle.  She is often described as being girt with a sword and riding the Beast.  She is often referred to as a sacred whore.  Her primary symbol is the Chalice or Graal.  As Crowley wrote in The Book of Thoth, "she rides astride the Beast; in her left hand she holds the reins, representing the passion which unites them.  In her right she holds aloft the cup, the Holy Grail aflame with love and death.  In this cup are mingled the elements of the sacrament of the Aeon.”

Seal of Cagliostro This unfamiliar symbol, found amongst the personal effects of Count Cagliostro upon his death in 1795 CE, depicts a serpent with an apple in its mouth, impaled with an arrow.  While the symbol has alchemical elements, its precise meaning remains unknown.  Nineteenth century occult writer Eliphas Lévi says this regarding this emblem:

"As explained by the Kabbalistic letters of the names Acharat and Althotas, it expresses the chief characteristics of the Great Arcanum and the Great Work.  It is a serpent pierced by an arrow, thus representing the letter Aleph, an image of the union between active and passive, spirit and life, will and light.  The arrow is that of the antique Apollo, while the serpent is the python of fable, the green dragon of Hermetic philosophy.  The letter Aleph represents equilibrated unity.  This pantacle is reproduced under various forms in the talismans of old magic  The arrow signifies the active principle, will, magical action, the coagulation of the dissolvent, the fixation of the volatile by projection and the penetration of Earth by Fire.  The union of the two is the universal balance, the Great Arcanum, the Great Work, the equilibrium of Jachin and Boaz.  The initials L.P.D., which accompany this figure, signify Liberty, Power, Duty, and also Light, Proportion, Density; Law, Principle and Right.  The Freemasons have changed the order of these initials, and in the form of L.D.P they render them as Liberte de Penser, Liberty of Thought, inscribing these on a symbolical bridge, but for those who are not initiated they substitute Liberte de Passer, Liberty of Passage.  In the records of the prosecution of Cagliostro it is said that his examination elicited another meaning as follows: Lilia destrue pedibus: Trample the lilies under foot; and in support of this version may be cited a Masonic medal of the sixteenth or seventeenth century CE, depicting a branch of lilies severed by sword, having these words on the exergue: Talem dabit ultio messem -- Revenge shall give this harvest."

The image was later incorporated into the emblem of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, an early occult fraternity.

Seal of Satan The Seal of Satan, or Sigil of Lucifer, is a lesser known historical magical sigil occasionally used as an emblem by modern Satanists.  The image originates in the sixteenth century CE Italian 'Grimoirium Verum', or 'Grimoire of Truth'.  Used in conjunction with other symbols, the original purpose of the sigil was to aid in a visual invocation of the angel Lucifer.

The figure is probably derived from an earlier work, most likely drawn from a magic square whose origins are now lost.  Although the emblem is often referred to as the 'Seal of Satan', this is not a historical usage.

Seal of Shamash See Shamash.

Seax-Wica Seax-Wica is a tradition, or denomination, of the neopagan religion of Wicca which is largely inspired by the iconography of the historical Anglo-Saxon paganism, though, unlike Theodism, it is not a reconstruction of the early mediaeval religion itself.

The tradition was founded in 1973 by Raymond Buckland, an English-born high priest of Gardnerian Wicca who moved to the United States in the 1970s.  His book, The Tree, was written with the intent for it to be a definitive guide to Seax-Wica, and was published in 1974 by Samuel Weiser, and subsequently republished in 2005 as Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft.

The tradition primarily honours four principal deities: Woden, Thunor, Frig or Freya and Tiw.  These are seen as representations of the Wiccan deities of the Horned God and the Mother Goddess.  The tradition uses a minimal set of ceremonial tools, including a spear.  Runes are also significant.

The Seax-Wica symbol represents the sun, the moon and the eight sabbats. ]

Seba The Seba is the Egyptian symbol for 'star'.  This simple line drawing made of 5 equidistant spokes resembles a starfish.  The term 'Seba' means ‘discipline’ or 'learning' and is associated with gates and doorways.  The early Egyptians had a considerable interest in, and extensive knowledge of, the star-filled night sky.

The stars had a great influence on the development of their calendar and also dictated their beliefs in life after death.  The ceilings of their temples were decorated with images of astral deities, constellations and stars.  The Egyptian sky goddess, Nut is also shown adorned with five-pointed stars.  The stars were supposed to represent the souls of the dead and considered to be the followers of Osiris.

The Seba in itself is representative of a star and the star gods or constellations, but when it is enclosed within a Circle, it comes to represent the Duat, the Underworld or the land of the afterlife to where the souls descend after death.

Sekhmet Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of war who was depicted as the lion-headed goddess.  She was the 'Powerful One', depicted as a lioness, the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians.  It was said that her breath formed the desert.  She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare.

Sekhmet was also associated with medicine, disease and health, and is also a solar deity, sometimes called the daughter of the Sun god Ra and often associated with the goddesses Hathor and Bastet.  She bears the Solar disk and the Uraeus which associates her with Wadjet and royalty.  With these associations she can be construed as being a divine arbiter of the goddess Ma'at (Justice, or Order) in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, and with connections to Tefnut alsol.

Semitic Neopaganism Semitic Neopaganism refers to a group of religions based on or attempting to reconstruct the old religious traditions of the Semitic peoples, mostly practiced among secular Jews in the United States of America.  The notion of historical Israelite or Jewish polytheism was popularised in the 1960s CE by Raphael Patai (1910 - 1996) in The Hebrew Goddess, focusing on the cult of female goddesses such as the cult of Asherah in Solomon's Temple.  During the growth of Neopaganism in the US in the 1970s, a number of minor Canaanite or Israelite oriented groups emerged, mostly containing syncretistic elements from Western esotericism.

Forms of Witchcraft religions inspired by the Semitic milieu, such as Jewitchery1, may also be enclosed within the Semitic Neopagan movement.  These Witchcraft groups are particularly influenced by Jewish feminism, focusing on the goddess cults of the Israelites.

1 Jewitchery is the practice of Witchcraft by a Jewish person or the integration of Wiccan or another Witchcraft spirituality with Jewish culture.

Septagram See Elven Star.

Serekh A serekh is an ornamental vignette combining a view of a palace façade and a plan (top view) of the royal courtyard.  The word ‘serekh’ derives from the Egyptian word for 'façade'.  Different serekhs on different types of object display countless variations of the façade decor in its complexity and detail.  It seems no strict artistic rules existed for the design of the serekh.

A serekh was normally used as a royal crest, accentuating and honouring the name of the pharaoh.  Its use can be dated back to as early as the Gerzeh culture2 (c. 3400 BCE).  The hieroglyphs forming the king's name were placed inside a rectangular extension atop the serekh, which represented the royal courtyard.  Additionally, the falcon of the god Horus, or in a few cases the Set animal, topped the serekh, showing the celestial patron of the named king.

2 The Gerzean culture is a material culture identified by archaeologists.  It is the second of three phases of the prehistoric Nagada cultures and so is also known as Naqada II.  Gerzeh culture was preceded by the Amratian culture (Naqada I) and followed by the Naqada III ('protodynastic' or 'Semainian culture').

Servants of the Light (SOL) Servants of the Light was founded in 1965 CE by Walter Ernest Butler (1898 - 1978) who received his training in Dion Fortune's (1890 - 1946) Fraternity of the Inner Light, which in turn stemmed from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; he was also trained by the psychic Robert King.  Butler served as Director of Studies until his death in 1978 when he was succeeded by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki (born 1929).

SOL is a modern-day Western Mystery School teaching the esoteric sciences through correspondence. These sciences, which really constitute the Yoga of the West, had previously been 'hidden', but nowadays they can be taught more openly.  The purpose of SOL is to assist in spreading esoteric knowledge in an ethical manner to all who want to receive it, irrespective of religious denomination, gender, nationality, race, age, social position or income -- all who desire to do so should be able to study the Mysteries.  The primary method for teaching is Hermetic Kabbalah (very difficult to put an actual definition to, but basically non-Jewish Kabbalah).

Set Set is an ancient Egyptian god, originally the god of the desert who was also associated with sandstorms.  Due to the developments in the Egyptian language over the 3,000 years during which Set was worshipped, by the time of the Greek period, the 't' in Set was pronounced so indistinguishably from 'th' that the Greeks spelled it as Seth.

Set is the Egyptian god of chaos, evil, drought, thunder and storm, and destruction, embodying the principle of hostility, even outright evil.  In his hurry to be born, Set tore himself from his mother's womb.  He is associated with the murder of his brother, Osiris, and the attempted murder of his nephew, Horus the Younger.

Set Animal In ancient Egyptian art, the Set animal, or Sha, is the totemic animal of the god Set.  Because Set was identified with the Greek Typhon, a monstrous serpentine giant and the deadliest creature in Greek mythology, it is also commonly known as the Typhonian animal.

Unlike other animals, the Set animal is not easily identifiable in the modern animal world.  There is now a general agreement among Egyptologists that it was never a real creature and existed only in ancient Egyptian imagination.  In recent years, there have been many attempts by zoologists to find the Set animal in nature.  Whether or not the animal existed is currently unknown, but nevertheless it had much significance for the Egyptians.

Seven Society The Seven Society was founded in 1905 CE and remains the most secretive of the University of Virginia's secret societies.  Members are only revealed after their death, when a wreath of black magnolias in the shape of a '7' is placed at the grave, the bell tower of the University Chapel chimes at seven-second intervals on the seventh dissonant chord when it is seven past the hour, and a notice is published in the University's Alumni News, and often in the Cavalier Daily.

There is no clear history of the founding of the society, but there is a legend that of eight men who planned to meet for a card game only seven showed up, and it was they who formed the society.  Other histories claim that the misbehaviour of other secret societies, specifically the Hot Feet (later the IMP Society), led the University President Edwin A. Alderman (1861 - 1931) to call both the Hot Feet and the Z Society into his office to suggest that a more 'beneficial organisation' was needed.

The most visible tradition of the society is the painting of the logo of the society, the number '7' surrounded by the signs for alpha (A), omega (), and infinity (), and sometimes several stars, upon many buildings around the grounds of the University.

The only known method of successfully contacting the Seven Society is to place a letter at the Thomas Jefferson statue inside the University's historic Rotunda, although accounts differ on the exact placement of the letter, either on the base or in the crook of the statue's arm.

Seventh-day Adventist Church Adventism is a branch of Protestant Christianity which was started in the United States during the ‘Second Great Awakening’ when Baptist preacher William Miller (1782 - 1849) first publicly shared his belief that the ‘Second Coming of Jesus Christ’ would occur at some point between 1843 and 1844.  After his prophecies of the Second Coming did not occur as expected, new heirs of his message emerged, including the Advent Christians, in 1860, and the Seventh-day Adventists in 1863.

Much of the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church corresponds with Protestant Christian teachings such as the Trinity and the trustworthiness of Scripture.  Distinctive teachings include the unconscious state of the dead and the doctrine of an investigative judgment.  The church is known for its emphasis on diet and health, its ‘holistic’ understanding of the person, promotion of religious liberty, and its conservative principles and lifestyle.

Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as the only source of their beliefs, and consider the Adventist movement to be the result of the Protestant conviction, Sola Scriptura3 -- i.e. the Bible as the only standard of faith and practice for Christians.

Currently, Adventists hold 28 fundamental beliefs that can be organised into six categories -- the doctrines of God, man, salvation, the church, Christian life and last day events.  In each teaching, God is the architect, who in wisdom, grace and infinite love, is restoring a relationship with humanity that will last for eternity.

  • God -- We believe that God Loves
  • Humanity -- We believe that God Creates
  • Salvation -- We believe that God Redeems
  • Church -- We believe that God Inhabits
  • Living -- We believe that God Transforms
  • Restoration -- We believe that God Triumphs
Despite what you have read above, it is worth considering this little snippet:

3 Sola scriptura (Latin: by Scripture alone) is a theological doctrine held by some Christian denominations that the Christian Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

Sha See Set Animal.

Shamash Shamash, besides being the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, was the solar deity in ancient Semitic religion corresponding with the Sumerian god Utu.  As the solar deity, Shamash was the heroic conqueror of night and death who swept across the heavens on horseback or, in some representations, in a boat or chariot.  He bestowed the power of light over darkness and evil, and in this capacity became known as the god of justice and equity, and was the judge of both gods and men.  At night, he became judge of the Underworld.  According to legend, the Babylonian King Hammurabi4 (c. 1810 - 1750 BCE) received his code of laws from Shamash.

The Seal of Shamash is a typical solar symbol, and probably represents the Sun Wheel, or solar calendar, much like the Celtic Cross or the Pueblo Zia.  The four arms most likely represent the solstices and equinoxes, which were extremely important calendar days in ancient agrarian cultures.

The Tablet of Shamash is a stone tablet recovered from the ancient Babylonian city of Sippar in southern Iraq in 1881; it is now a major piece in the British Museum's ancient Middle East collection.  It is dated to the reign of King Nabu-apla-iddina.

Because he was of a heroic and wholly ethical character, he rarely figured in mythology where the gods behaved all too often like mortals.  The chief centres of his cult were at Larsa in Sumer and at Sippar in Akkad.  Shamash's consort was Aya, who was later absorbed by Ishtar.

4 Hammurabi was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, reigning from 1792 - 1750 BCE.  He was preceded by his father, Sin-Muballit, who abdicated due to failing health.

Shamrock Found growing abundantly throughout the hillsides in Ireland, the shamrock or clover is arguably the most famous symbol of the country.  It is closely associated with St Patrick who used it to teach people the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  As a consequence, the shamrock came to be highly revered by the ancient Celts as a symbol of Christianity, faith, hope, love and spiritual development.  Due to its prolific growth, it is considered to be representative of abundance, nurturing, fertility, productivity and stability.

The shamrock is credited with having mystic powers as its petals stand up when a storm is approaching, warning people of the impending danger.  Because of this, it is also used as a charm for bringing good luck and warding off evil, particularly the four-leaf clover which is a rare variation of the common three-leaf clover.

Shang Shang See Kinnara.

Shankha The Shankha or conch-shell is a traditional Vedic instrument.  Like the shofar of Judaism, it was used originally as a war-horn, and later as a ritual sounding-instrument.  Its sound is believed to banish fear and evil spirits, and causes enemies to tremble.  In Vedic belief, it is an attribute of Vishnu and a number of other deities.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the conch is one of the eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, the Ashtamangala, representing the paths of Buddhism, and is representative of the voice of the Buddha and the truth of the Dharma.  Both Vedic and Buddhist tradition differentiates between shells whose spirals turn clockwise (in the direction of the Sun) and counter-clockwise, the 'right-turning' conch being more auspicious.

Sheela-na-gig The Sheela-na-gig is a shocking, immediately noticeable figure found in Celtic mediaeval stonework.  Sheela is most commonly depicted as a squat, ugly female creature using her hands to display grotesquely large genitals.  Sheelas of various ages adorn stone steles all over the Irish countryside; they are also found in the intricate carvings in cathedrals and stone churches in Ireland, England, and throughout Europe, often in tandem with the Green Man.

Sheela is very likely related to the ancient Celtic Goddess; her images are much older than the churches in which they often appear suggesting they are elements of much older religious sites.  Many closely resemble ancient Viking figures of a creator goddess Ormgudinna.

Shen See Cartouche.

Shield Knot The Shield Knot (also Four Corners and Quaternary Knot) is an ancient and almost universal symbol.  The shield knot has been used for thousands of years by a variety of cultures for protection and warding.  While the common design is most often associated with the Celts and ancient Norsemen, the most basic form is much older.

The fourfold version is Mesopotamian in origin and is associated with protective spells invoking the gods of the four corners of the Earth.  Later, the four corners emblem was used in Kabbalah as a symbol of the Shema, the prayer or spell to invoke the four Archangels; it is the origin of the Kabbalistic Cross ritual still used in magic today.  This knot is sometimes referred to as the Earth Square or St Hans5 Cross, named for the biblical John the Baptist.  The Norse and Celtic versions of the knot are used for the same purposes of protection but are related to the fourfold Solar Cross in origin.

5 The Scandinavian and north European name Hans (or Hannes) is shortened from Johannes, the Proto-Germanic form of John.

Shintoism Shinto, or kami-no-michi, is the ethnic religion of Japan that focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past.  Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century CE.  Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified 'Shinto religion', but rather to a collection of native beliefs and mythology.

Shinto today is the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods, suited to various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals, and applies as well to various sectarian organisations.  Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods (8th - 12th century).

Shiva A popular image of the Hindu deity Shiva, the dance of Shiva, is symbolic of the dynamic forces of creation and destruction, and the harmonious balance of opposites.  Most images of the dancing Shiva depict him with four arms, which represent the four cardinal directions of space, and are symbolic of Shiva's omnipresence.  In each hand, the figure holds a different symbolic object or makes a meaningful gesture -- a drum represents the sound of creation.

A gesture (Abhaya) means 'do not be afraid'.  A gesture toward the lifted right foot is symbolic of release from the cycles of death and rebirth.  Another hand holds a flame, which is the essence of creation and destruction.  The small figure under Shiva's feet is the body of the dwarf Purusha (forgetfulness), who is symbolic of man's inertia, the ignorance which must be overcome for spiritual liberation.  The Circle of flames surrounding the figure denotes the universe in its entirety.

See also Mudra.

Shiva Linga Linga, or plural, Lingam, in the Sanskrit language means 'phallus', but also 'sign' or 'emblem'.  The Shiva Linga is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva as the generative force of the universe, and is used for worship in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects.  The typical Shiva Linga is an elongated, elliptical stone, usually paired with the yoni, a stone receptacle representative of the female genitals.

On the surface, the Shiva Linga is a phallic emblem, but theologically, it is much more complex.  Symbolically, it represents a singularity, but when paired with the yoni, it represents a conjunction of opposites, or life coming-into-being and the formlessness of Shiva in union with material manifestation, the Shakti.  The two together can also be viewed as the axis mundi penetrating the Earth.

Shofar The Shofar is a musical instrument, usually created from a ram's horn (or that of any kosher animal), used by the ancient Hebrews in war and during events of special significance.  The shofar is the legendary horn that was used to 'blow down the walls of Jericho', allowing the wandering Hebrews to take the city.

The shofar is blown to signal the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the most important feast day in the Jewish religious calendar.  It is blown 100 times in a specially prescribed manner to commemorate the Holy Day.  The shofar is also blown at the outset of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as directed in the Book of Leviticus:

"Then you shall transmit a blast on the horn; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, the day of Yom Kippur, you shall have the horn sounded throughout the land…And proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Shriners International Shriners International, also known more commonly as ‘The Shriners’, is a society which was established in 1870 and headquartered in Tampa, Florida, USA.  It is a body appended to Freemasonry, which Shriners International describes as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.  It has approximately 350,000 members distributed throughout 195 temples (chapters) in the U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the Republic of Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Europe, and Australia.  The organisation is probably best known for its administering of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, and the red fezzes that its members wear.

The Shrine is a men's fraternity, not connected to either Arab culture or Islam.  Its only religious requirement is indirect in that all Shriners must be Masons (with the exception being in the State of Arkansas), and petitioners to Freemasonry must profess a belief in a Supreme Being.

Shu Shu (Egyptian for 'emptiness' and 'he who rises up') was one of the primordial Egyptian gods, a personification of air, spouse and counterpart to the goddess Tefnut and one of the nine deities of the Ennead of the Heliopolis cosmogony, according to which Shu and Tefnut, the first pair of cosmic elements, created the sky goddess, Nut, and the Earth god, Geb.

Shu separated Nut from Geb as they were in the act of love, creating duality in the manifest world, above and below, light and dark, good and evil.  Prior to their separation, however, Nut had given birth to the gods Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Set.  The Egyptians believed that if Shu did not hold Nut (Sky) and Geb (Earth) apart there would be no way physically manifest life could exist.

Shu is mostly represented as a man.  Only in his function as a fighter and defender as the Sun god does he sometimes receive a lion's head.  He carries an Ankh, the symbol of life.

Sigil A sigil is a type of symbol used in Ritual Magick.  The term has usually referred to a type of pictorial signature of a Jinn or other entity.  In modern usage, especially in the context of Chaos Magic, sigil refers to a symbolic representation of the practitioner's desired outcome.

The image (sigil) to the right is the Goetia Seal of Solomon

Sigil of Lucifer See Seal of Satan.

Sigil of Saturn The Sigil / Seal of Saturn is a magical symbol representing the Intelligence of the planet Saturn.  The magical tradition of using seals or signatures for spiritual energies or entities is quite old (similar seals can be found on two-thousand-year-old Coptic magical papyri).

This particular example probably dates to mediaeval times, and is drawn from the “magic square” of Saturn, an ancient table of numbers believed to contain the magical essence of the planet.  The magic square of Saturn is a table of the numbers one through nine, arranged in such a way that all rows add to 15.  The seal is created by tracing the numbers in the square in order.

In the Kabbalistic-based traditions of ritual magic, the planets are the manifestation in the physical world of higher cosmic forces, represented by the numbers that embody their qualities.  The seals and symbols are used to invoke those qualities (Saturn in ritual magic represents the forces of containment, time, death, and stagnation) in ritual.

Sigillum Dei Aemeth The Sigillum Dei Aemeth, or Seal of the Truth of God, is most widely known through the writings and artefacts of John Dee (1527 - 1608 or 09 CE), a 16th century occultist and astrologer in the court of Queen Elizabeth I who devoted much of his life to the study of Alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.

Although the sigil appears in older texts of which Dee was probably familiar, he was not happy with them and ultimately 'gained guidance from angels' via the medium Edward Kelley (1555 - 1597), an English Renaissance occultist and self-declared spirit medium, to construct his own version.  Dee inscribed the sigil on circular wax tablets.

He would commune with the angels via Kelley and a 'shew-stone', the tablets being used in preparing the ritual space for such communication.  One tablet was placed upon a table, with the shew-stone being placed upon that tablet.  Four other tablets were then placed beneath the legs of the table.  See also Quarters

Sikhism Sikhism is a religion that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent around the end of the 15th century CE, and thus is one of the youngest of the major world religions.  In the early 21st century there were nearly 25 million Sikhs worldwide, the great majority of them living in the Indian state of Punjab.

Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru, and the nine Sikh gurus who succeeded him.  The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, named the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib as his successor, terminating the line of human Gurus and making the scripture the eternal, impersonal spiritual guide for Sikhs.  Sikhism rejects claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on Absolute Truth.

Two of the Sikh gurus, Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, after refusing to convert to Islam, were tortured and executed by the Mughal rulers.  The persecution of Sikhs triggered the founding of the Khalsa as an order to protect the freedom of conscience and religion, with qualities of a 'Sant-Sipahi' -- a saint-soldier.

Silver Silver is one of the seven metals of Alchemy (gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron and tin).  The symbol for silver is also associated with the Moon in astrology.

A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, silver exhibits the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and reflectivity of any metal.  The metal is found in the Earth's crust in the pure, free elemental form ('native silver'), as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite.

Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.

Simbi See Veves.

Simurg Simurg is an ancient Persian mythological bird.  This immortal, gigantic, female winged creature is usually described as having a body covered in scales, with a dog's head and foreparts, lion's claws and peacock's wings and tails.  It can also be depicted with a human face.

The Simurg was considered a benevolent guardian figure with protective and healing powers, and was believed to purify the waters and the land as well as bestow fertility.  It was also seen as a messenger or mediator between the sky and the Earth, and symbolic of their union.  The Simurg is mentioned quite frequently in classical as well as modern Persian literature, used specifically in Sufi mysticism as a metaphor for god.

The mystical bird appears in several old tales of creation.  According to Persian legends, the Simurg was so old it had witnessed the world's destruction three times.

Sistrum A Sistrum, meaning 'that which is being shaken', is a musical instrument of the percussion family, chiefly associated with ancient Iraq and Egypt.  It consists of a handle and a U-shaped metal frame made of brass or bronze which is between 30 and 76 cm in width.  When shaken, the small rings or loops of thin metal on its moveable crossbars produce a sound that can be from a soft clank to a loud jangling.  The modern day West African disc rattle instrument is also called a Sistrum.

The Sistrum was a sacred instrument in ancient Egypt, perhaps originating in the worship of Bastet; it was used in dances and religious ceremonies, particularly in the worship of the goddess Hathor, with the U-shape of the handle and frame seen as resembling the face and horns of the cow goddess.  It was also shaken to avert the flooding of the Nile and to frighten away SetIsis in her role as mother and creator was depicted holding a pail symbolising the flooding of the Nile in one hand, and a Sistrum in the other.

One of the most prominent representations of the Sistrum is to be found in Dendera in the temple of Hathor.  Even today, this instrument is an important part of worship rites in the Ethiopian and Coptic churches.

Skull & Bones Skull & Bones is an undergraduate senior secret society at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.  The society is known informally as 'Bones', and its members as 'Bonesmen'.  It is the oldest senior class landed society in existence.  The society's alumni organisation, the Russell Trust Association, owns the society's real estate and oversees the organisation.

Skull & Bones was founded in 1832 CE following a dispute among three of Yale's debating societies, Linonia, Brothers in Unity, and the Calliopean Society over that season's Phi Beta Kappa Society (the oldest honour society for the liberal arts and sciences in the United States -- widely recognised and considered as the nation's most prestigious honour society) awards.  William Huntington Russell (1809 - 1885) and Alphonso Taft (1810 - 1891) co-founded 'the Order of the Scull [sic] and Bones'.  The society's meeting hall is otherwise known as the 'Tomb'.

Skull & Bones is featured in several conspiracy theories which claim that the society plays a significant role in a global conspiracy for world control.For example, theorists such as Alexandra Robbins (born 1976), a journalist, lecturer, and author whose books focus on young adults, education, and modern college life, suggests that Skull & Bones is a branch of the Illuminati, having been founded by German university alumni following the order's suppression in their native land by Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria or that Skull & Bones controls the Central Intelligence Agency.  These theories, of course, are very dubious.  Three of her five books have been New York Times Best Sellers.

Some of its Most Famous Members supposedly include:

George Herbert Walker, Jr. (1927), financier and co-founder of the New York Mets and uncle to President George Herbert Walker Bush; George H.W. Bush (1948), 41st President of the United States, 11th Director of Central Intelligence (CIA), son of Prescott Bush, father of George W. Bush; George W. Bush (1968), grandson of Prescott Bush; son of George H. W. Bush; 46th Governor of Texas; 43rd President of the United States.

The Skull & (Cross) Bones is also the flag flown by Pirates of the sea.

Skullcup See Kapala.

Slavic Religion The Slavic religion, in its narrower sense, defines the religious beliefs, godlores and ritual practices of the Slavs before the formal Christianisation of their ruling elites under the influence of Byzantine Orthodox Christianity, beginning with the latter's official adoption in 988 CE.  The Christianisation of the Slavic peoples was, however, a slow, and in many cases, superficial phenomenon, especially in Russia.

Christianisation was vigorous in western and central parts of what is now Ukraine, as they were closer to the capital Kiev, but even there, popular resistance led by Volkhvs, Pagan priests, recurred periodically for centuries.  Many elements of the indigenous Slavic religion were officially incorporated into Slavic Christianity, and besides this, the worship of Slavic gods persisted in unofficial folk religion until modern times.  Since the early 20th century, Slavic folk religion has undergone an organised reinvention and reincorporation in the movement of Slavic Native Faith.

Sleipnir In Norse, Sleipnir means 'gliding one'.  It is the legendary eight-legged horse owned by Odin, the father god of the Norse pantheon.  Sleipnir carries Odin between the world of the gods and the world of matter.

Its eight legs symbolise the directions of the compass, and Sleipnir's ability to travel through land and air.  They were probably symbolic of the eight spokes of the solar wheel, and may relate to an earlier form of Odin as a Sun god.  There is some evidence that Odin himself was at one time anthropomorphised as a horse, and Sleipnir's ability to travel instantaneously associates him with sunlight.

In Norse mythological tales, Sleipnir is the offspring of the god Loki and Svaldifari, the great horse of the Giants, and can be compared with the otherworldly horses of Celtic gods such as Manannan Mac Lir and Im Dagda.

Sma The Sma represented the union of the kingdoms of upper and lower Egypt, and occasionally stood in for the axis mundi, or Earth-axis.  It is described variously as the lungs and attached windpipe, or genitals in sexual union, and appears to have been depicted as both at various times -- the double meaning is certainly intentional.

As an emblem of rulership, the Sma was placed on the chest of a mummy to give it breath (life) in the Underworld.  It was also used as a charm for fidelity in love.

Societas Draconistrarum / Order of the Dragon The Order of the Dragon (Latin: Societas Draconistarum) was a monarchical chivalric order for selected nobility, founded in 1408 CE by Sigismund von Luxembourg who was King of Hungary (r. 1387 - 1437) at the time who later became Holy Roman Emperor.  It was fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades, requiring its initiates to defend the cross and fight the enemies of Christianity, in particular the Ottoman Empire.

The Order flourished during the first half of the 15th century, primarily in Germany and Italy.  After Sigismund's death in 1437, its importance declined in Western Europe.  However, after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, it continued to play a role in Hungary, Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Romania which bore the brunt of the Ottoman incursions.  The Prince of Wallachia Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad the Impaler, took his name from the Order of the Dragon.

Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) was founded in 1867 CE.  It derived from the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia (SRIS) following the admission of William James Hughan (1841 - 1911) and Robert Wentworth Little (1840 - 1878) into that order.  These members were advanced quickly in Scotland and granted a warrant to form a Society in England.  The formation meeting took place on 1 June 1867 in Aldermanbury, London, with Frater Little elected as Supreme Magus.

There are groups (known as 'Colleges') in England and Wales, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the aforementioned SRIS.  There are 9 grades in the SRIA, with very few members beyond High Council.  The main stipulations on being a member of this society are that you are Christian and a Mason.

All three of the male founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.) and the Stella Matutina were originally members of the SRIA, where they gained their initial occult and esoteric learning.  The Stella Matutina was an initiatory Order dedicated to spreading the traditional teachings of the G.D. through the process of initiation.  Between 1900 and 1903, the Outer order of the Stella Matutina was known as Mystic Rose or Order of the Mystic Rose in the Outer.

Society for Psychical Research (SPR) The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) is a non-profit organisation founded in the United Kingdom in 1862.  Its stated purpose is to understand events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal, and describes itself as the ‘first society to conduct organised scholarly research into human experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models’.

History -- The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism: Leah (1831 - 1890), Margaret (also called Maggie) (1833 - 1893) and Kate (also called Catherine) (1837 - 1892).  The two younger sisters used ‘rappings’ (a form of communication between living persons and the spirits of the deceased by tapping out messages on a table or board etc.) to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits.

In the years following the sensation that greeted the Fox sisters, demonstrations of mediumship such as séances and automatic writing, proved to be a profitable venture, and soon became popular forms of entertainment.  The Fox sisters were to earn a good living through it and others followed their lead.  Showmanship became an increasingly important part of Spiritualism -- the visible, audible, and tangible 'evidence of spirits' escalating as mediums vied for paying audiences.

Inevitably, fraud was widespread during this period as independent investigating commissions repeatedly established, one of the most notable being the report commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania by the Seybert Commission published in 1887 and titled Preliminary Report of the Commission Appointed by the University of Pennsylvania to Investigate Modern Spiritualism In Accordance with the Request of the Late Henry Seybert.  The report was angrily denounced by Spiritualists.  Of course, some mediums were genuine, but what was needed was some kind of recorded scientific investigation either to prove or disprove it.

Frederick Myers (1843 - 1901), Professor Henry Sidgwick (1838 - 1900) and Edmund Gurney (1847 - 1888) formed an association of people interested in investigating paranormal claims, including Arthur (later to become Prime Minister) Balfour (1848 - 1930) and Lord Rayleigh (1842 - 1919).  In 1876 one of their first major investigations was of a medium by the name of Henry Slade (1835 - 1905) who was later found guilty of deception.  They continued their investigations over the next six years during which they met and became associated with several other individuals also involved in investigating claims relating to the paranormal.

In 1882 a committee was formed, resulting in the founding of the SPR with Henry Sidgwick as its president.  The initial membership included friends of the original group such as Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) and William Gladstone (1809 - 1898).  Other prominent members included Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), Carl Jung (1875 - 1961), Sir Oliver Lodge (1851 - 1940), Harry Houdini (1874 - 1926), Harry Price (1881 - 1948) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930).

When Harry Price joined in 1920, his career as Britain’s most famous ghost investigator had already begun.  He had spent countless hours at supposed haunted houses, and investigating Spiritualist mediums.  He was also an expert 'magician' and made a name for himself within the SPR for using his skills to debunk fraudulent psychics, which at the time seems to have been the main objective of SPR investigations.  One of his most celebrated ‘frauds’ was William Hope (1863 - 1933), a spirit photographer who had been defended by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The relationship between Price and the society became strained after this, and in 1923 he left the SPR and founded the National Laboratory for Psychical Research, which later became the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation and of which he was Honorary Secretary and Editor.

Despite widespread fraud, the appeal of Spiritualism was strong, particularly among those grieving the death of a loved one.  Perhaps one of the best-known cases is that of Mary Todd Lincoln (1818 - 1882) who, grieving the loss of her son, organised Spiritualist séances in the White House which were attended by her husband, the 16th President of the USA, Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865).  The movement also appealed to some of those who had a materialist orientation and rejected organised religion.

The SPR has been criticised by both spiritualists and sceptics.  Prominent spiritualists at first welcomed the organisation and cooperated fully, but relations soured when they discovered that it would not accept outside testimony as proof, and the society accused some prominent mediums of fraud.  Spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle resigned from the SPR in 1930, to protest what he regarded as the SPR's overly restrictive standards of proof.  Psychic investigator and believer in spiritualism Nandor Fodor (1895 - 1964) criticised the SPR for its ‘strong bias’ against physical manifestations of spiritualism.

Society of Friends See Quakers.

Society of Jesus The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius of Loyola (1491 - 1556), a Basque nobleman from the Pyrenees region of northern Spain, in the 16th century as a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church whose members are called Jesuits.  As members of a religious order, Jesuits take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience, plus a fourth vow of obedience to the pope in regard to its worldwide mission.

Ignatius was a nobleman with a military background, so members of the society were supposed to accept orders anywhere in the world where they might be required to live in extreme conditions, “Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God to strive especially for the defence and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine."

The society is engaged in evangelisation and apostolic ministry in 112 nations on six continents.  Jesuits work in education (founding schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries), intellectual research, and cultural pursuits.  Jesuits also minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

The Society of Jesus is consecrated under the patronage of Madonna Della Strada, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is led by a Superior General.  The headquarters of the society, its General Curia, is in Rome.  In 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first Jesuit to be elected Pope, taking the name Pope Francis.

Society of the Inner Light The Society of the Inner Light (formerly the Fraternity of the Inner Light), a magical society and Western Mystery School, was a dissident offshoot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (G.D.).  It was formed in 1924 by Violet Firth (better known as Dion Fortune (1890 - 1946)) following disagreements with Moina Mathers (1865 - 1928), the widow of Samuel L MacGregor Mathers (1854 - 1918), a co-founder of the G.D.

It was an amalgamation of both magical and Christian traditions and was established to maintain and expand the bridge that exists between outer worldly life and inner, spiritual, forces.  Group work consisted largely of meditation, ritual and visualisation in order to engage with spiritual and psychic forces.  The majority of the symbolism was drawn from the Tree of Life with additions from Western myths (including the Arthurian legends) and from Jungian psychology -- Carl Gustav Jung (1875 - 1961).

The Society of the Inner Light continued largely unchanged for many years after Dion Fortune’s death.  In 1960 the headquarters relocated to 38 Steele’s Road, London, NW3 4RG, and continues today as an initiatory school and magical lodge with much the same principles as those in which it was originally founded.

Solar Cross The Solar Cross is one of the most ancient spiritual symbols in the world, appearing in American, Asian, European and Indian religious art from earliest recorded history.  In Native American traditions it forms the basic pattern of the medicine wheel playing a vital part in major spiritual rituals, while many contemporary Pagans consider it their main symbol for transmitting the energy of the goddess.

It consists of the sacred Circle filled with a cross, i.e., four equal lines pointing from the centre to the spirits of the north, south, east, and west, or to the basic elements Earth, Fire, Water or Air (or wind), and Fire.  It also represents the solar calendar (the movements of the Sun), marked by the solstices.

Churches have used variations of the same popular shape, usually calling it Odin's Cross.  The Swastika is also a form of the Solar Cross, emphasising movement.  The image to the left shows the cross in its most simplified form, known in Northern Europe as Odin's cross; Odin was considered to be the Chief god in Norse mythology.

Solar Lodge Solar Lodge was a secret society in the United States.  It was established in 1965 CE but withdrew into initiatory inactivity in 1972.  It was loosely based on ideas from the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) and used the curriculum of the Astrum Argentum A.'.A.'. established by Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947).

The precursor to Solar Lodge was set in motion by Ray Burlingame (Frater Aquarius), when he initiated Georgina 'Jean' Brayton (Soror Capricornus) in 1962.  Although Burlingame was a Ninth-Degree member of O.T.O., he did not hold a charter to initiate new members or found new bodies, consequently O.T.O. has never accepted Solar Lodge as a valid body of O.T.O.  In 1965, shortly before his death, Burlingame instructed Brayton to initiate other people, which she did, expanding Solar Lodge in the 1960s to include more than 50 members.

By 1967, the Lodge owned several small mansions, a gas station, a bookstore, all in Los Angeles, and a desert property known as Solar Ranch in the Sonoran Desert, a North American desert which covers large parts of the south-western United States.

In 1969, the members of the lodge were charged with maltreatment of the six-year-old son of one the members in a case that came to be known as 'The Boy in the Box'.  Brayton, her husband, and other officers fled to avoid prosecution, travelling to Mexico and Canada, and eventually engaged in a publicity campaign alleging a conspiracy against them by law enforcement officers and the courts.

Initially, a few members went to jail for 6 months on a felony conviction, a few went to jail for 3 months on a misdemeanour conviction, and some had their charges dismissed.  When Brayton and her husband were arrested, she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years of probation along with a $500 fine.

Solar Plexus Chakra See Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra.

Solar Temple See Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS)..

Solomon's Knot Solomon's knot is the most common name for a traditional decorative motif used since ancient times, and found in many cultures.  Despite its name, it is classified as a link, and is thus not a true knot according to the definitions of mathematical knot theory6.

Solomon's knot consists of two closed loops, which are doubly interlinked in an interlaced manner.  When laid flat, the knot is seen to have four crossings where the two loops interweave under and over each other.  This contrasts with two crossings in the simpler Hopf link -- in mathematical knot theory, the Hopf link is the simplest nontrivial link with more than one component.  In most artistic representations, the parts of the loops that alternately cross over and under each other become the sides of a central square, while four 'loopings' extend outward in four directions.  The four extending 'loopings' may have oval, square, or triangular endings, or may terminate with free-form shapes such as leaves, lobes, blades, wings etc.

Solomon’s knot is related to the Swastika and the Shield Knot, and is often interchangeable for these solar emblems.

6 In topology, knot theory is the study of mathematical knots.  While inspired by knots which appear in daily life in shoelaces and rope, a mathematician's knot differs in that the ends are joined together so that it cannot be undone.

Solomon's Seal See Star of David.

Spider The fear of spiders, or arachnophobia, is not uncommon in today's world, but what is uncommon is a deeper understanding of the immense symbolic importance this creature has for many cultures.  For example, in western Africa and among certain Native American populations, the spider plays a prominent role in stories and folktales.  The figure of Anansi (Ananse) the trickster spider is particularly beloved among the Ashanti people of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.  By relying on his wit and intelligence, Anansi is able to accomplish tasks at which larger and more powerful animals have failed, demonstrating that having a strong mind is just as important as being strong in the body.

Because of the spider's ability to spin such intricate webs, Native American tribes of the south-western United States hold it in high esteem as a creator figure (an association shared by other cultures as well).  For one of those tribes, the Hopi, 'Spider Woman' not only created humans and animals, but also spun her silken thread into a ball to create the moon.

According to Greek mythology, the first spider was originally a human woman named Arachne (hence the word 'arachnid') who bested the goddess Athena in a weaving contest, earning her the punishment of being turned into a spider.  The ability to weave, however gave the spider a strong association with fate and destiny.  Just as the spider spun her web, the Fates -- the white-robed incarnations of destiny -- spun the thread of life and determined the eventual outcome for all living things, including the gods themselves.

In Islam, the spider plays a curious role as a protector.  The story goes that when the Prophet Mohammed fled from the Arabian city of Medina, he took refuge from his pursuers in a cave.  While he was hiding, a spider came along and spun a large web across the mouth of the cave.  When his pursuers arrived, they determined that the cave was not occupied since anyone going into it would have broken the web in the process and moved on, thus Mohammed was spared.

Even without esoteric symbolic meaning assigned to it, the spider plays an important role that can have a powerful effect on human society.  By preying on disease-carrying insects such as mosquitos and certain species of flies, the spider helps prevent potentially deadly diseases from infecting the human population -- a role shared by the praying mantis.

Spirit Ship The spirit ship is a common theme of Norse pictograph stone carvings, some dating as far back as the fifth century CE.

It is most commonly found on funerary monuments where it represents the journey to the afterlife.  The symbol has obvious connections to the Viking practice of sending the deceased into the afterlife aboard a burning ship.  Interestingly, the form of the boat in the ancient carvings is identical to the Viking long ship.  Similar carvings have been found in Canada, dating as far back as 800 BCE.

Spiritualism Spiritualism is a system of belief or religious practice based on supposed communication with the spirits of the deceased, especially through mediums, assuming those spirits have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living.  The afterlife, or the ‘spirit world’, is seen by spiritualists, not as a static place, but as one in which spirits continue to evolve.  These two beliefs: that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits are more advanced than humans, lead spiritualists to a third belief, that spirits are capable of providing useful knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about the nature of God.  Some spiritualists will speak of a concept to which they refer as ‘spirit guides’ -- specific spirits who are relied upon for spiritual guidance.  Spiritism, a branch of spiritualism developed by Allan Kardec7 (1804 - 1869) and today practiced mostly in Europe and Latin America, especially Brazil, emphasises reincarnation.

As spiritualism emerged in a Protestant Christian environment, it acquired features in common with Protestantism, ranging from its moral system to practices such as Sunday services and the singing of hymns.  Nevertheless, on significant points Christian Protestantism and spiritualism are different.  Spiritualists do not believe that the works or faith of a mortal during a brief lifetime can serve as a basis for assigning a soul to an eternity of Heaven or Hell; they view the afterlife as containing hierarchical ‘spheres’, through which each spirit can progress.  Spiritualists also differ from Protestant Christians in that the Judeo-Christian Bible is not the primary source from which they derive knowledge of God and the afterlife -- for them, their personal contacts with spirits provide that.

7 Allan Kardec is the pen name of the French educator, translator and author Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail.  He is the author of the five books known as the Spiritist Codification, and is the founder of Spiritism.

Sri Yantra The most recognisable Yantra is the one known as the 'Sri Yantra'.  The symbol is very ancient, and is a variation on the Shatkona, with nine interlaced triangles (four female, downward facing; five male, upward facing).

The Sri Yantra or Sri Chakra is a mystical diagram (yantra) used in the Shri Vidya school of Hindu tantra.  Its nine interlocking triangles surround a central point known as a Bindu.  Because of its nine triangles, the Sri Yantra is also known as the Navayoni Chakra.

Srivatsa / Shrivatsa The Srivatsa, or endless knot, is one of the 'Eight Auspicious Symbols', symbolising the eight-fold paths of Buddhism.  The knot, also known as the 'mystic dragon', is a symbol of eternity and unity.  From ancient times, such knots were commonly found in decorations on fabric and on the exterior of buildings, under the common belief that the endless looping of the designs confused evil spirits and prevented them from entering homes.

The knot is also called the Dragon Knot because it is believed to have evolved over time from images of protective nagas or dragons.

In Hinduism, Srivatsa means 'beloved of Sri', the goddess Lakshmi.  It is a mark on the chest of Vishnu where his consort Lakshmi resides.  It is said that the tenth avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, will bear the Srivatsa mark on his chest.

St Anthony's Cross See Tau Cross

St Catherine's Wheel This emblem, commonly recognised as the symbol of the Islamic faith, has actually acquired its association to the faith by association, rather than intent.

Other than a modern-day firework, the Catherine Wheel is a symbol named after St Catherine who was a saint and martyr from the 4th century CE.  It is a wheel with curved knife blades on the outer rim.

St Catherine was a noted scholar and princess in the 4th century, and the daughter of Constus, the governor of Egyptian Alexandria.  When she was fourteen she had a vision of Mary and Jesus as a child and became a Christian and converted over one thousand people to Christianity.  Maxentius, the Roman Emperor at the time, who was considered bloodthirsty and cruel called St Catherine to meet with him.  She told him he should not be so cruel.  Maxentius called his scholars who debated with Catherine who won the debate and converted some of them on the spot.  Those scholars were immediately put to death by Maxentius and St Catherine was thrown into a cell and tortured.  Anyone who came to visit her was instantly converted to Christianity including Maxentius’ wife.  St Catherine came out of the cell seemingly unscathed and Maxentius ordered her to be put to death by a spiked wheel.  When St Catherine touched the wheel, it shattered.  Maxentius then proposed marriage but St Catherine rebuked him after which he ordered her to be beheaded.  All of this happened when St Catherine was 18.

St Hans Cross See Shield Knot

Star & Crescent This emblem, commonly recognised as the symbol of the Islamic faith, has actually acquired its association to the faith by association, rather than intent.

The Star & Crescent symbol itself is very ancient, dating back to the early Sumerian civilisation, where it was associated with the Moon goddess and Sun god, the 'son of the morning', the name of Lucifer found in Isaiah Chapter 14, verse 12.  With God placed as the Moon (the goddess of love, Diana), Satan assumes the role of the star, a mockery of Jesus as the 'bright and morning star' -- Revelation Chapter 22, verse 16:

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."

Satanism uses the symbol as shown, whereas Witchcraft turns it in the opposite direction.

Star of Auseklis See Ausekla Zvaigzne.

Star of David The Star of David, also known as the Magan David (Shield of David) and Solomon's Seal, has been a symbol associated with Judaism for centuries, but it was not until it was chosen to appear on the flag at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 CE that it officially became associated with that religion.  It was then that it became the symbol of the Jewish people, Zionism, and the Jewish communities throughout the world.

A stone bearing the Star of David in a synagogue in Galilee dates back to the 3rd century -- it is thought it was used as a decorative design.  The symbol was used in the year 1108 in the Leningrad Codex, the oldest complete edition of the Hebrew Bible in existence.  The term, Magan David, was used as early as the 11th century as a name for the God of Israel, where God is compared to a shield in the divine protection of King David.  A 12th century text, Eshkol ha-Kofer, a work on the Ten Commandments by Judah ben Elijah Hadassi (about whom very little is known), also refers to the Shield of David.  Coins found in the 13th century bear the symbol the Star of David.

This hexagonal figure symbolises God ruling over the universe and protecting us from all six directions: north, south, east, west, up, and down with the middle -- the Hexagram -- providing the spiritual dimension.  See also Hexagram.

Stèle of Revealing The Stèle of Revealing (also known as Stèle 666) refers to an ancient Egyptian funerary artefact of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, which played a key role in the creation of the philosophy and religion known as Thelema.  The Stèle came from Thebes, around the time of the XXVI Dynasty.

According to Aleister Crowley, his wife Rose had already reported a revelation from the god Horus, through his messenger Aiwass.  Crowley took her to the Boulaq Museum in Cairo, Egypt (now known as the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, the Egyptian Museum or the Museum of Cairo) to see if Rose could recognise Horus, which she did as an image on a painted Stèle which bore the catalogue number 666.

The Stèle is made of wood and covered with a plaster gesso, which has been painted.  It measures 51.5 centimetres high and 31 centimetres wide.  On the front, Ankh-af-na-Khonsu can be seen as a priest of Montu presenting offerings to the falcon-headed god Ra-Harahkhte (Horus of the Horizon), a syncretic form of the gods Ra and Horus, who is seated on a throne.  The symbol of the west, the place of the Dead, is seen behind Ra-Harahkhte.  Above the figures is a depiction of Nut, the sky goddess who stretches from horizon to horizon.  Directly beneath her is the Winged Solar Disc, Horus of Behdet.

Stork In the east a popular emblem of longevity and in Taoism of immortality.

Its nursing care and association with new life as a migratory bird of spring made it sacred to the Greek goddess Hera (Juno is her Roman counterpart) as a protective divinity of nursing mothers -- the basis of the myth that storks bring babies.

Strophalos See Hecate's Wheel.

Stupa A Stupa is a tower or steeple erected atop Hindu and Tibetan Buddhism temples and tombs, sometimes erected as a standalone monument.  It contains relics (such as sarira -- typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) and is used as a place of meditation.  A related architectural term is a chaitya, which iddhisms a prayer hall or temple containing a stupa.  Stupas may have originated as pre-Buddhist tumuli in which srama?as were buried in a seated position called chaitya.

The stupa is a symbol for the elementary organisation of the universe according to Hindu cosmology.  It is composed of four parts (from the base upwards), symbolising the five tattwas, or elements:

In Buddhism, circumambulation or pradakhshina has been an important ritual and devotional practice since the earliest times, and stupas always have a pradakhshina path around them.

Some authors have suggested that stupas were derived from a wider cultural tradition from the Mediterranean to the Indus valley, and can be related to the conical mounds on circular bases from the 8th century BCE that can be found in Phrygia (tomb of Midas), Lydia (such as the tomb of Alyattes), or in Phoenicia (tombs of Amrit).

Sufism Sufism is often defined as 'Islamic mysticism', 'the inward dimension of Islam' or 'the phenomenon of mysticism within Islam'.  It is a mystical trend in Islam characterised by particular values, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions which began very early on in Islamic history and which represent the main manifestation and the most important and central crystallisation of mystical practice in Islam.  Although the overwhelming majority of Sufis, both pre-modern and modern, have been adherents of Sunni Islam, nevertheless, certain strands of Sufi practice within the ambit of Shia Islam also developed during the late mediaeval period.

All Sufi orders trace many of their original precepts from Mohammed through his son-in-law Ali, with the notable exception of the Naqshbandi, who claim to trace their origins from Mohammed through the first Rashid Caliph, Abu Bakr.  As the orders are mainly Sunni, most of them follow one of the four madhhabs (jurisprudential schools of thought) of Sunni Islam and maintain a Sunni Aqidah (creed).

Sulphur Sulphur is one of the three 'heavenly substances', the other two being Mercury and Salt.  It was widely used in Alchemical practice and was considered the active fiery male generative principle.  In reaction within the female principle of mercury it was thought that Sulphur steadily purify base metals.

Sulphur occurs in volcanic and sedimentary deposits, as well as being a constituent of many minerals and petroleum.  It is normally a bright yellow crystalline solid, but several other allotropic forms can be made.

It is also an ingredient of gunpowder and is used in making matches, as well as being an antiseptic and fungicide.

Sun The astronomical symbol for the Sun is a shield with a Circle inside.  Some believe this inner circle, or 'boss' represents a central sun spot.  The Sun is a star at the centre of our Solar System; it is almost a perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion generating a magnetic field via a dynamo process.

It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth.  Its diameter is approximately 1.39 million kilometres, i.e. 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth, accounting for some 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System.  Almost three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen; the rest is mostly helium, with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.  In astrology, the Sun is the ruler of Leo.

The pantheons of many cultures have included a sun deity, normally a god, but occasionally a goddess.  Solar deities are often creators who bring people into existence.  Some myths reflect the sun's vital role in supporting life: Native Americans from the Pacific Coast, for example, tell how the sun god Kodoyanpe together with the trickster Coyote created the world then set about making people to live in it.

Solar deities have also been associated with fertility of people and the Earth.  The Hittites of ancient Turkey worshiped Arinna, an important goddess of both the Sun and fertility.  In traditional myths from Uganda in Central Africa, the creator god Ruhanga, the Sun god Kazooba, and the giver of life Rugaba are all the same deity.  In some mythologies, Sun gods have healing powers.  Shamash, the solar god of the Babylonian people of the ancient Near East, was known as "the sun with healing in his wings".  Ancient Celtic peoples had Belenus, the god of sunlight.  Besides driving the predawn mists and fogs away each day, Belenus could melt away diseases from the sick.  When the Romans conquered the Celts, they identified Belenus with their own Sun god, Apollo, who was also a god of healing.

As the most important and splendid deities of their pantheons, some solar deities have been associated with earthly rulers, the most powerful people in society.  The Incas of Peru in South America regarded the Sun god Inti, their chief deity, as the ancestor of the Inca royal family.  According to Japanese tradition, the country's imperial family is descended from Amaterasu, the Sun goddess.

Some solar myths explain the Sun's daily movement across the sky from east to west and its disappearance at night.  Such stories often take the form of a journey, with the Sun deity travelling across the heavens in a chariot or boat.  Helios, a Greek solar deity later identified with Apollo, was a charioteer who drove his fiery vehicle through heaven by day.  At night he floated back across the ocean in a golden bowl, only to mount his chariot again the next morning.  The Navajo people of the American Southwest portray their Sun god as a worker named Jóhonaa'éí, or Sun bearer.  Every day Jóhonaa'éí laboriously hauls the Sun across the sky on his back, and at night, he hangs it from a peg in the wall and rests.  The Egyptian Sun god Ra made a similar circuit.  Each day he travelled across the sky in his sun boat; at night he passed through the Underworld, greeting the dead and facing many dangers.  Ra's daily cycle was more than a journey though, it was a daily rebirth.  Dawn saw the new born Sun god rise in the sky.  During the morning he was a child, at noon he was mature, and by sunset he was an old man ready for death.  Each sunrise was a celebration of the god's return, a victory of life over the forces of death and darkness.

The Celts also viewed the sun's journey as a cycle of death and rebirth but on an annual rather than a daily cycle, with midwinter as death and spring as rebirth.  The Celtic celebration called Beltane, held in spring, honoured their Sun god Belenus.

In some solar myths the Sun is paired with the Moon.  The two may be husband and wife, brother and sister, or two brothers.  In the mythology of many Native Americans, the Sun god and Moon god are sister and brother who also become forbidden lovers.  The Moon god's face is smeared with ash from the Sun's fires, which accounts for the dark patches on its surface.  In some accounts, the Moon flees in shame when he learns that his lover is also his sister, which is why the Moon leaves the sky when the Sun comes near.

Svadhishthana (Sacral) Chakra The Svadhishthana or Sacral Chakra, is the second primary Chakra according to Hindu Tantrism.  It is symbolised by a white lotus within which is a crescent Moon with six vermillion or orange petals.

The Sacral Chakra is located in the sacrum (hence the name) and is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle.  Svadhishthana is also considered to be related more generally to the genitourinary system and the adrenals.  The key issues involving Svadhishthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs and pleasure.  Physically, Svadhishthana governs reproduction, mentally, it governs creativity, emotionally, it governs joy, and spiritually, it governs enthusiasm

Svefnthorn The Svefnthorn ('sleep thorn') is a symbol that features in several Norse sagas and magical formulas recorded long after the Viking Age.  Its visual form, when described or depicted at all, varies considerably from source to source -- unlike most ancient Norse symbols, it doesn't appear to have had any one definitive shape.

There are also significant differences in how one would go about applying the Svefnthorn to someone, as well as the exact effects that it would bring about once applied.  Despite this, all mention of the Svefnthorn in the literature has one thing in common -- it was used to put an adversary into a deep sleep from which he or she would not awaken for a long time.  See also Icelandic Magical Staves.

Swastika The 'Swastika' or 'Sun Wheel' is an ancient religious symbol, a version of the Solar Cross which had been around for several millennia before it was adopted officially by Adolf Hitler on 7 August 1920 CE at the Salzburg Congress, when it became the emblem of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

The swastika has been found in Buddhist inscriptions, on Celtic monuments as well as on Greek coins.  It is an ancient symbol which has certainly been in existence for more than 3,000 years, for artefacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show it to have been a commonly used symbol as far back as 1000 BCE.  As such, it pre-dates the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh, which appears frequently in paintings found in Egyptian tombs and other art, often appearing at the fingertips of a god or goddess in images depicting the deities of the afterlife conferring the gift of life on the dead person's mummy.  In Sun god worship, the swastika represents the Sun's course in the heavens.

There is currently a debate as to what the swastika now stands for.  For 3,000 years it represented the Circle of Life and good luck, but because of the adoption of the symbol by the Nazis, it has assumed a new meaning of hatred, death and destruction.

Swiss Guard The Pontifical Swiss Guard (also Papal Swiss Guard or simply Swiss Guard; is a minor armed forces and honour guards unit maintained by the Holy See that protects the Pope and the Apostolic Palace, serving as the de facto military of Vatican City.  Established in 1506 under Pope Julius II, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is among the oldest military units in continuous operation.

The dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance.  The modern guard has the role of bodyguard of the Pope.  The Swiss Guard is equipped with traditional weapons, such as the halberd, as well as with modern firearms.  Since the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the guard's non-ceremonial roles, and has seen enhanced training in unarmed combat and small arms.

Recruits to the guards must be unmarried Swiss Catholic males between 19 and 30 years of age who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces.

The unit's security mission is assisted by the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City.

Sword Beyond its obvious aggressive/protection function, the sword is an important symbol of authority, justice decisive judgement and so on.

In magic, a magical weapon is any instrument used to bring about intentional change.  In practice, magical weapons are usually specific, consecrated items used within ceremonial ritual.  There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes or does not constitute a magical weapon -- if a magician considers it to be a weapon, then a weapon it is.

However, there does exist a set of magical weapons with particular uses and symbolic meanings.  Some such common weapons/tools include the Dagger/Sword, Wand/Baton, Cup/Chalice, Paten/Pentacle/Disc, Holy Oil, Lamp and Bell.

See also Athame.

Sylphs Within the Paracelsian concept, an elemental is a mythical being described in occult and alchemical works from around the time of the European Renaissance and particularly elaborated in the 16th century CE works of Paracelsus.  From the classical Paracelsian perspective there are four elemental categories: Gnomes, Undines, Salamanders and Sylphs.  These correspond with the classical elements of antiquity: Earth, Fire, Water or AirAether (quintessence) was not assigned an elemental.

The sylphs tend the Air element, directing the flow of air currents and atmospheric conditions.  They purify the atmosphere and aerate every cell of life with the sacred breath of Spirit.  They are bearers of the life-sustaining prana that nourishes all living things.  On subtle levels, sylphs transmit the currents of the Spirit from heaven to Earth.

Sylphs often have thin, ethereal bodies that transform gracefully into myriad shapes as they soar through the air.  They are able to travel great distances very quickly, and giant sylphs can actually span the skies and interpenetrate the Earth, the Water and the Fire elements.  See also Air.

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