IMG_1313aHave you ever kept reminding yourself to do something, and then realised, after the day is over, that you forgot it entirely? This happens to one of the knights at the Grail Castle. People keep saying to him “Don’t forget to ask the question!” and three times he says to them “Sure, I’ll ask him what ails him. I promise” and then at the moment he sees the Grail King the question flees his mind and afterward he feels like a bit of a dill.

That’s how I feel about intagilos. I kept saying to myself “You should put that in Land Beyond the Forest” and I’d say to myself “Sure, I will.” and then I was reading my author’s copy of Against the Dark and thought “Oh. I forgot them.”

So, an intaglio is an inscribed gemstone, used as a seal in Roman times. The same term is also used for a printing method. In this method the desired image is carved into a surface to which ink is applied and then wiped away, so that only the incisions hold the dye. The print surface is then pressed on the top.

Now, the reason I wanted to include intaglios in Against the Dark is this: Ars in second edition used the word “sigil” for three different things, and I was hoping to fix it.

A sigil, in 2nd edition was:

* the distinct signature in a magus’s magic.
* the sign of their right to vote.
* the sign a covenant uses to mark its property, and so that its servants can tell friend from enemy in skirmishes.

Now in Covenants: Revised we killed that last one: I believe a covenant’s people now wear a design we call a “badge”, which in Latin is presumably an “insigne” (insignia being the plural in Latin, although it’s now considered singular in English).

That just leaves us with the sigil (Latin: sigilum) for the magus’s token of voting right, and peculiar magical mark. Sigil actually works well here as a word, because it means both a sign and a thing that makes the sign, like the word “seal” in English, which is both the wafer of wax and the thing you press against it. That flexibility as a word makes it a problem as a game term, though. In English if you ask “What’s the Duke of Cumberland’s seal?” and I answer you “It’s a large bee over six stars.” it doesn’t matter if I mean the thing that makes the impression in the wax or the impression it makes.

Now, my idea was that the terms would be as follows:

  • “sigil” refers to the distinctive mark within a magus’s spells
  • “intaglio” is the name for the item a magus carries to show the right to vote. This would mean that Tremere had the “No Intaglio” Flaw for example.
  • “insigne” (badge) is the term for the ownership mark of covenants (or oppida, in this case).

So, what do people think?  Am I right that the Tremere or Guernicus would have come up with a second term pretty sharpish when they kept getting the various sigils confused in conversation?  Should intaglio and sigil refer to the opposite thing? Is the mark on a magus’s spell made by a process of vim flowing over the magus’s soul, like ink on a printing block?




2 replies on “Intaglios

  1. I think two terms make sense, and given the scholarly nature of the Order, it seems right for the magi to differentiate the two like that. With your last bit of description, I think an intaglio should probably be the current casting sigil, and sigil would remain the voting sigil.

    Personally, that’s how I differentiate them; Hermetic sigils are compound terms requiring a “casting” or “voting” descriptor. 🙂



  2. I agree that 2 terms are waaaay better. I’d use sigil for the spells, if only because that’s IMO used way more often that the voting token


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