Selling Fu Talismans

In this episode, I answer a question that was presented to me: Can a non-Asian craft and sell Fu talismans to the public?

I recorded the video rather on the fly on the same day the question was presented to me, and didn’t fuss over my face before recording, so now in retrospect when I see the video, I cringe. Ugh. This is what happens when you don’t check your hair or makeup (the eyeliner was already smudging after a long working day) before you hit “record.”

The Fu talisman is a form of Chinese sigil magic that dates back to 400 BC and was later integrated into Taoist mystery traditions around 100 AD. If you’re not familiar with what a Fu talisman is, check out the below links:

The book description for The Tao of Craft (linked here) offers some insights into what a Fu talisman is. On the page of Fu talisman instructables (linked here), you’ll also find images and examples what some Fu talismans look like.

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The question presented, which inspired this video, was not just a question, but also commentary, so many different sub-points were brought up. For instance, there was the issue of restricted symbols. The inquirer wanted to know whether there were restricted symbols in crafting Chinese Fu talismans that a non-Chinese might want to be aware of.

Not that I’m aware of. =)

However, as I mentioned in the video, just be mindful of proprietary styles of crafting sigils. Each established mystery tradition will have its own signature style. Don’t copy the signature styles of established mystery traditions. That extends to notable practitioners of the craft as well.

For example, let’s say Practitioner A is a well-established sigil master and offers for sale a particular talisman design for drawing more wealth luck into your life. Don’t copy Practitioner A’s design and use it for yourself.

One exception to the rule: the Fu sigil designs I offer on my website and instruct in my courses. The intention of those designs are for you to copy them, modify them, mix and match, and use however you faithfully feel called to use them. I’ve put those designs into the public domain and offered them into the psychic collective for free, unfettered use by any and all. Yes, that even includes commercialization.

I would say the same goes for petitioning seals, i.e., seals or sigils for petitioning specific spirit entities. If they are “proprietary” to a particular practitioner or mystery tradition, don’t use them without permission. Develop a working relationship with those spirit entities and then channel your own seal for contact. Again, the exception to the rule are any seals I’ve offered publicly. When I offer a seal publicly, my intent is for it to become free for anyone to use and for it to become available to the psychic collective.

An example the inquirer gave was if a tarot reader who is not Catholic donned full Catholic priest regalia while doing public tarot readings. It would be considered bad form and, in fact, sacrilegious and disrespectful to the culture of Catholic practitioners. What, the inquirer asked, might some equivalents be when it comes to Taoist magic?

This is such a difficult question to answer because there is an inherent “chaos magic” approach to traditional Taoist magic. Then, certain set “chaos magic” approaches that have been practiced consistently and by a fixed group of people become orthodox traditions. And there are many, many different orthodox traditions. There are examples of set mystery traditions that in effect blend many different religious beliefs, mix and match deities of entirely different pantheons, and that very specific combination and portfolio become their mystery tradition. That’s in part what I was making reference to in the video “Syncretic Religious Practices.”

However, don’t hold yourself out to be part of a fixed tradition that you’re not. These would be lineages. For instance, Zheng Yi, Shang Qing, Ling Bao, Mao Shan, Hong Tou, Hei Tou, etc. are established lineages. You can’t practice their forms of magic unless you’re an initiate. But that’s probably not going to be a problem anyway, since their modalities are highly secretive and you’re not likely to know about their modalities unless you’ve been initiated.

On the other hand, practicing and selling forms of craft in the ways of Thunder Rites (thunder magic), shou jing, poison magic (Ku, Ku Tao, cult of Ku, Gu, Gu Shu, Gu Dao, so many inconsistent English translations…), cloud writing, etc. are fair game and not considered proprietary per se because they represent a category of craft. There are specific sects and lineages that may have a proprietary form of Thunder Rites or a proprietary form of poison magic, but thunder magic or poison magic in general is craft anyone can develop, train, learn, study, and practice, and of course, sell to the open public.

The inquirer also brought up the issue of ethics and selling Fu talismans. Again, there is no concrete answer here. If you are not part of an established lineage, then as a solitary practitioner, your code of ethics is whatever you’ve made of it. So then your only limitation is the laws applicable to the jurisdiction you live in.

In terms of existing social constructs in modernity that hold on to the notion that you must be an ordained Taoist priest or priestess to craft and sell Fu talismans (another facet of the inquirer’s question presented), no matter what you do, my friend, I guarantee that you will run in to opposition and someone saying that you’re doing it wrong. It’s a fact of life and something you don’t have a choice but to confront if you sell Fu talismans to the public.

However, I can assure you that it is not the same as wearing a native headdress garbed in a gothic chasuble or wearing the regalia of a Catholic priest while reading tarot (references made in the initial question). My position is and always will be to have the quality of your work speak for itself. If the quality is there, every naysayer who decries that you’re being disrespectful, misappropriating culture, or just doing it wrong will ring as jealousy and static noise. Such cries only begin to ring true to others when the quality of your work is not there. That’s why I say first and foremost, focus on the quality.

As a broad-reaching rule for any craft, put in your 10,000 hours of study, practicum, and training. Seek out working relationships with deities from the Taoist pantheon (or Buddhist… yeah… don’t ask me to comment on that if you don’t know the reference already… books and books are written on the topic of Taoist/Buddhist syncretism…). May those working relationships guide and steer you through your craft. When you arrive at a point where you’re proud of your accomplishments in the craft and you stand by the quality of your Fu talismans, then go forth to sell them to the public.line

“Bell Chimes In” is about discourse, or at least that is my hope and intentions for the video series. It’s about me chiming in on a topic oft talked about, with my own perspective, opinions, or hypothesis, and with that, continuing the conversation on that topic. So I hope you’ll join in.

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