Magickal symbolism of spirals

In our exploration of symbolism and how it can be used in magickal practice, the spiral is perhaps something you’ll see in virtually every spiritual path, cultural tradition, or religious system. It can mean very different things, depending on the context and the system in which it is being used, but there are some universal consistencies as well.

Spirals in Mathematics

First of all, if you don’t think math and spirituality and occultism are not just intertwined, but deeply embedded in one another, think again. The spiral is perhaps one of the most universally understood examples of where math and spirit overlap.

The spiral is found throughout not just nature on Earth, but across the universe. You can find them in the horns on animals, hurricanes in the ocean, and the shape of galaxies outside our own. On an even more minute scale, you can find spirals in your fingerprints, the shape of the double helix of our DNA, and even some bacteria, which form in spiral shapes.

And these spirals mostly all conform to a certain logarithmic ratio of each new turn about the center to the others. This is referred to as the golden spiral, and based on the golden ratio (represented by the Greek letter phi, 1.618).

The fact that nature and the cosmos display this ratio so mathematically perfectly is thought to hold significant meaning, both symbolically and spiritually, and many different cultures and spiritual traditions observed this phenomena over time (and without the use of modern calculators, I might add).

Spirals in Spirituality

Which brings me to the next point. Spirals can be interpreted based on whether they appear to open from the center or are closing in on the center. Think ‘expanding’ vs ‘contracting.’

They are the archetypal path of growth and transformation, but also decay and dissolution. They can be both waxing or waning.

Examples of spirals commonly found in spiritual symbolism might include just spiral drawings, but also coiled serpents, spiral staircases (ascending or descending, depending on perspective of the viewer), vines twisting around something, a whirlpool of water, and even smoke plumes rising off a flame.

The double serpents of the caduceus are another example of spirals, actually a double spiral, which generally symbolizes the marriage of the two seemingly opposing symbolic paths.

Spirals are often used to depict a journey, especially a transformative one, or just transformation itself. They can also symbolize the winds, especially the transformative winds of time. And similarly, the destructive, but still transformative, whirlpool currents of the ocean.

They are also symbolic of shamanic journeying in many cultures, but they can be used to depict the psychological journey each of us experiences as our psyche, soul, and inner being experiences the same evolution repeatedly, but each time at an increasingly higher level. Profound, right?

The spiral also represents the cyclical nature of life. All life will attempt to expand in a similar pattern through the path of least resistance, which happens to (mathematically) take on the shape of a spiral, through the aforementioned golden ratio.

And last, the spiral is also a symbol of fertility, as life begins at the center, multiplying and expanding in cycles, such as those of the moon, the seasons, and birth/death.

How can you use spirals in your magickal practice?

I think there are so many options here, but most obviously, fertility spells or spells for bountiful harvests. Even if all you do is grow a few things in your home garden, you still want fertile soil and healthy plants, right?

You could also use a spiral pattern you trace during a ritual or spell for transformation. This would be particularly useful if you are experiencing some harsh and uncomfortable events in life through which you are meant to grow, but through which you need some guidance or simply strength. This may help with understanding that each level of the journey creates a higher ascent.

A spiral could also be used in your ritual or spell work with requests for balance. Because spirals are nature’s way of seeking a balanced growth, this would be an appropriate way to depict that.

And finally, I think spirals could be excellent for shadow work or exploring your shadow side. Using the spiral staircase concept in a descending perspective, journeying to the depths in order to address what may be holding you back, and then returning again is simply powerful.