Satanic deed for collecting souls on Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! Have you ever wondered what typeface Satan would use? No? While this might seem like a trivial question to you, for a graphic designer who wants to dress up as Lucifer himself, this is of course a crucial issue. And now that I have solved this, I may as well let all you Printer’s Devils enjoy it too. So be my guest and download your very own contract (deed) for selling your soul to the devil for free.

I have formatted it so that you can print 2 copies on an A4 sheet and then cut off the white edges leaving just the deed with the parchment background. The quality should be enough for any basic home or office printer.

Download deed for selling soul full colour version here (pdf, 665 kB)
(Coincidentally, nice file size, eh!)

Download deed for selling soul grayscale version here (pdf, 596 kB)


The text is original by me, and I hereby release it under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Feel free to use the deed to amuse you, your family, and your friends. If you want to share this online, go ahead, but I would appreciate a mention of the origin and if possible also a link back to here. The background image is from, which also prevents this being used commercially.

I tried to word it so that it shouldn’t offend or scare anyone too much. It has clauses that are made to be humorous, but should also actually clarify possible legal questions. Also I tried pre-empting some of the debates that it might cause. Like it has an escape clause for the event that there are no souls. It makes clear while it deals in immaterial things (‘souls’) this does not affect other immaterial rights like copyright. And as the Prince of Darkness is a sly one, it only hints at people receiving wealth and sex in exchange for this deed. So you don’t end up with the pressure of actually delivering anything. Of course, it’s totally up to you and your resources if you actually wish to deliver some of these…

The full text of the deed reads as follows:


I, …………  hereby relinquish my soul (my incorporeal essense) to the holder of this deed, to be collected after my death.

  • 1. I retain full possession of my soul as long as I am alive, no matter however so slightly.
  • 2. This deed does not affect any copyright, immaterial, or other earthly rights, recognized by human courts, before or after my death.
  • 3. I take no responsibility about whether my soul does or does not exist. I am not liable in the case there is nothing to collect.
  • 4. Similarly, I acknowledge that in exchange for signing this deed I might or might not receive immeasurable earthly riches, debauchery, and whatever I desire. (But it could happen!)

Signed ……………

In case you or your victims are worried about any legal issues, you can have people sign this with just their first names or even nicknames. You can tell them that, ‘it doesn’t really matter because we know who you are, mwhahaa!’ Another good idea is to burn the deeds after signing if you’re outdoors or have a fireplace or something. This will add a nice theatrical effect – call it something like sending it to hell or archiving it in fire. It at the same time ‘validates’ the contract for HELL and nullifies it for earthly law.

If you are wondering what is the difference between a contract / agreement and a deed, it’s quite simple. A contract would be signed by both parties. A deed is kind of one-way action, and thus it is signed only by one person. Like in this case, the signatory is just giving something away which doesn’t require the consent of the receiving party.

And the typeface issue? Well, I didn’t want to spend too much time on this one, so I kept it simple. At first I thought it should be Didot or Bodoni, because Satan is basically a dandy. And then it needs a drop of blackletter to signify the gravity – and perhaps also the Christian roots of the concept – of the soul. (I know, it’s a cliché, but it works.)

Go and conquer the world childrren of daaarrknessh!

But the combination of a Didone and the background image is not the most readable. I thought that in a Halloween party or club the lights will be dim and perhaps coloured. So best to make it as readable as possible. So instead went for good old Caslon. As they say, when it doubt, set it in Caslon. Caslon is very readable but it also has nice blackness, gravity, and a slight air of an older world.

Phatic seasons greetings

Phatic Communication
Here you go, phatic greetings e-card. Original photo by Laszlo Ilyes @ Flickr.

Timothy Donaldson’s tweet made me think about how much mid-winter is the season for phatic communication. I think phatic communication is one of those small, but nevertheless delightful points of communication theory.

Phatic communication means messages which do not convey new information, but simply aim to keep the communication channel open. The term was coined by Malinowski and elaborated by Roman Jakobson, who writes:

[M]essages primarily serving to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication, to check whether the channel works […], to attract the attention of the interlocutor or to confirm his continued attention […]. This set for contact, or in Malinowski’s terms phatic function, may be displayed by a profuse exchange of ritualized formulas, by entire dialogues with the mere purport of prolonging communication.1

All, or at least most communication, can be said to contain a phatic element. But many messages are almost purely phatic. This includes our daily ‘Hellos’,Good mornings’, and so on. An engineer bent on efficiency might now say that if this communication doesn’t convey information, it seems useless and we might as well stop doing it. But as John Fiske points out, the importance of phatic communication is not so much in what is said, but in the fact that it is said at all:

My ‘Hello’ may not alter or develop the relationship, but not saying ‘Hello’ would certainly weaken it.2

Therefore, I always joke to my students that they should stop saying ‘Hello’ in the morning and simply state ‘Phatic communication’ to each other. After all, it doesn’t really matter what you say, as long as you say something which fulfils the phatic function.

Seasons greetings, Christmas, and New Year cards are a fun example of phatic communication. They are not quite as mandatory as greetings when we encounter each other face to face. However, I think it is the very phatic nature of the cards that make people nervous about them. We realise – consciously or unconsciously – that sending that card once a year sends an important signal, even if you haven’t seen the recipient in a long long time. On the one hand we realise a simple Xmas card is quite trivial, but at the same time we know not sending it might be construed or misconstrued as a message of hostility or neglect.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that women spend more energy on social relationships than men. We can see how this is reflected in the stereotypical couple where the husband isn’t very interested in the cards at all. However, at the moment I don’t have the time or energy to find studies on the matter, but it might be a fun avenue to pursue further some other time.

So, this year, why not just skip the cliche statements of traditional greetings cards, and just send phatic greetings to all! 😉

Phatic Greetings
And one more! It even has the mandatory lens flares! Original photo by Stella @ Flickr.
  1. Jakobson, R. (1960) Closing statement: Linguistics and poetics. In Style in Language, (Ed. Sebeok, T.A.), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA []
  2. Fiske, J. (1990) Introduction to Communication Studies. 2nd edition. Routledge, London. []

We all wear masks – even lovers

only death can strip our last masks
Photo by Audrey Love @ Flickr

I’ve spent the day reading Walter J. Ong’s book Interfaces of the Word. I’m completely in love with his ideas about how the writer’s audience is always a fiction. The ending of the chapter is perfect for Valentine’s Day, although a little cynical. He explains how we all wear masks, all the time. Now, this is not a new idea, but it is nice to stumble on this again. And Ong goes about it very eloquently.

In any act of written communication the writer must imagine the intended readers. This will fuel his or her writing. It will help in selecting what information to tell. How much are the readers supposed to know beforehand in order to understand the new text? Or what kind of things the readers would find important or interesting? But also the readers have to play their role. They must fictionalize themselves, trying to fit the role(s) which the author casts on them. So it is a play with masks. Ong goes on to point out how this is not limited to writing:

Masks are inevitable in all human communication, even oral. (Ong 1977, p. 80)1

And communication practically IS human life. So therefore we all wear mask throughout our lives. And this is the tragedy for lovers:

Lovers try to strip off all masks. And in all communication, insofar as it is related to actual experience, there must be a movement of love. Those who have loved over many years may reach a point where almost all masks are gone. But never all. The lover’s plight is tied to the fact that every one of us puts on a mask to address himself, too. Such masks to relate ourselves we also try to put aside, and with wisdom and grace we to some extent succeed in casting them off.

Reading Ong’s text I once again realised how I’m reading something highly academic and for my PhD, but I’m still deeply moved by it. The text touches me on a poetic level and I’m relating to it as an individual, a partner, a man, a boyfriend, a lover. Not as an academic coolheaded scholar. I feel that I know exactly what Ong is talking about and have had numerous conversations about the topic with my partners. How a relationship becomes strained if there are too many masks. How sometimes the other tries to hide behind additional masks and the other can sense this so easily, instinctively.

Romantics like to say that love strips away the masks. But this is not true. Often love makes us blind or creates new masks. Loving and allowing to be loved honestly can strip away some masks. But love doesn’t automatically do it.

But unfortunately it is impossible for us to cast off all the masks as long as we are human. There is only one cure which will strip away all that lies between two people.

When the last mask comes off, sainthood is achieved, and the vision of God. But this can only be with death.

  1. Ong, W.J. (1977) Interfaces of the Word : Studies in the evolution of consciousness and cultured. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. All these quotes are from the same page. []