View Full Version : Mandala as magical instrument

Vemy Paw
12-31-2011, 02:47 PM
Maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle". In the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions their sacred art often takes a mandala form (taken from Wikipedia, Mandala).

Is it okay if I use the term "mandala" in my story to define a circle used to cast magic? I don't want to use the term pentagram because pentagram refer to a five-pointed star, and I don't use the star, only the circle.

I hope someone who knows about Buddhism or Hinduism can give their views in this, because if it offends or insulting then I will have to drop the term.

Thank you very much :)

Rufus Coppertop
12-31-2011, 06:40 PM
I'm a Buddhist and my main practices do involve the use of mandalas.

I actually would feel that you were misusing the term if you used it to describe a magic circle as used in the Western systems of ritual magic.

You could use the term pentacle. In Western magic, it generally refers to a piece of paraphernalia you hold or even wear. Usually a disc of metal or even parchment, it can have a pentagram, a hexagram, a septagram, various names of power and sigils inscribed, carved, painted, drawn or engraved on it.

The term pentacle can also refer to the magic circle which a magician stands in when doing a ritual.

Personally, I'd go with calling it a pentacle, a magic circle or even a circle of art.

A possible Latin term for might be "orbis". We get the word "orb" in English from it but in the original it means a circle or an orbit, rather than an actual three dimensional sphere.

It might be possible that people use an archaic word that simply meant "circle" for their magic circles in order to distinguish them from an ordinary circle.

Vemy Paw
12-31-2011, 09:46 PM
The "mandala" in my story is a circle tattooed on the skin of a sorcerer to mark him as a sorcerer. I think about it like a gate to channel his magic to the outside world.

Somehow, I can't see it as a "pentacle"...
Orbis sounds good, though. I think I'll look for other languages for circle :)

Thank you very much, Rufus Coppertop.
Happy new year.

Rina Evans
01-02-2012, 04:35 AM
If I were reading the story, I'd also think it was misused, because my main perception of the word mandala comes mainly from Buddhism and there are special connotations in my mind when reading the word. I don't see it as offensive or insulting, though.

However, I'm not fluent in Sanskrit. If mandala is an everyday word for circle, then I don't see anything wrong with you using it. Sometimes a word 'means' something, but is not in everyday speech, and is only used for special stuff. I don't know if I'm explaining myself right...

You could also try a derivative form, maybe. Something that sounds like it.

Smiling Ted
01-02-2012, 05:25 AM
Here's a trick if you're stuck:
Think of the English word that best conveys the meaning you're trying to convey.
Then go to Google Translate and find that word's synonym in a language that comes closest to what you think of as "magical" - Latin, Greek, etc. And use that.

01-02-2012, 06:22 PM
I agree - the term mandala is generally so tied to the Buddist/Hindu traditions these days to the point that using it for a Western magical circle would confuse your readers. I'd think of this use when I hear/read the word.

And you're using it as a tattoo, rather than a regular magical circle. It might be considered an amulet or talisman. Another word you could use is "sigil". That sounds closer to the purpose you're using it for.

You might want to look up Western magical traditions and see if there are any words related to magical circles that interest you there. I"m sure there's something better suited to what you're looking for.

01-02-2012, 07:33 PM
"magical" - Latin, Greek, etc. And use that.

If you do, though, double check with someone who knows Latin or Greek. It can be a nightmare if you don't get the right declension/conjugation.

Vemy Paw
01-02-2012, 09:02 PM
Thank you everyone for your advice! :D
I'll play around with google translate until I find the right word!

01-02-2012, 09:08 PM
Another Buddhist here; Mandala is definitely not the word you want.

Rufus Coppertop
01-02-2012, 10:03 PM
If you do, though, double check with someone who knows Latin or Greek. It can be a nightmare if you don't get the right declension/conjugation.

Ita esse potest.

01-02-2012, 11:47 PM
Sigil is probably the best way to describe what he has on his skin. You could say it opens a vortex that connects him with the spiritual world, in which he works. That would be an accurate use of the terminology.

Just as a matter of info, not all magical practices work in circles. Those that do, to my knowledge, call them circles.

Smiling Ted
01-02-2012, 11:54 PM
I wouldn't use sigil - it's been used a lot.

01-03-2012, 02:34 AM
I wouldn't use sigil - it's been used a lot.

Maybe but the thesaurus is our friend. lol

01-03-2012, 03:08 AM
A sigil is not a plot device that can be over used. It's not a cliche. It's not a made up thing. If what he has on his arm is a sigil, then that's the best word for it.

If it's not, then find out the RIGHT word for it.

Vemy Paw
01-03-2012, 02:27 PM
Thank you everyone for the suggestions! :D

One thing, though. I know that what he has is a sigil, but the word I'm looking for is something to call it. A name, that I can write with capital initial. I hope I can define this clearer... well, in the first draft I call it THE Sorcerer's Mandala. So now I need a word to replace the mandala part.

No worry, though. I'll play with google translate and make up a new word for it :)

Thank you again!