Glyphs or sigils are visual symbols that represent words or concepts. They are extensively used in astrology to indicate signs, planets, aspects, and sensitive Points in the horoscope. Glyphs serve as a kind of short-hand used instead of writing out entire words. "Glyph" originally meant a symbol appearing in relief as an architectural form or embellishment.
Some glyphs are ancient, appearing as heiroglyphics in Egyptian tombs; yet in the oldest horoscopes discovered from ancient times, the names of signs and planets were written out.
Originally the glyphs were simple abbreviations for or emblems of the gods. For example, the glyph for Mercury is a stylized caduceus. The Mars symbol combines the war god's shield and spear. Jupiter is a stylized Greek letter Zeta, for Zeus. Saturn is represented by a scythe. The cross symbols on today's glyphs date from the late Middle Ages/Renaissance, apparently reflecting a desire to recast astrology's pagan origins in the symbolism of Christianity.
Our current glyphs did not become standardized until early modern times. Even today, different symbols for Uranus are used in Germany and in English-speaking countries, and there are two common glyphs for Pluto. Due to the common origins of astronomy and astrology, glyphs used in astrology often appeared in scientific notation until recent times.
- The Full Circle: Spirit in Matter (Patricia Godden, 2015; Astrodienst)