Over the years my writing online at Therioshamanism.com and elsewhere has wrapped itself around abstract concepts and theoretical discussions, stories and anecdotes and personal experiences. Here I’d like to have a little spot where I focus more on the how-tos, a sort of casual teaching blog. I’m a naturalist pagan, so look for some ways and means of working with the denizens of nature, spiritual and otherwise! (If you like what you see here, please feel free to visit http://www.thegreenwolf.com for more info on my books, online writings, etc.)
A Brief Guide to Cleansing and Banishing
I mentioned in my past two posts that you can cleanse yourself before and after spirit work, and banish spirits as need be. Some of you may already have your own cleansing and banishing practices, but here are a few basic ideas to start with.
Cleansing Self, Space, and Items Beforehand
Some people feel better about their ritual work if they cleanse themselves and their ritual area prior to getting started with the rite itself. Cleansing is at least as much about getting yourself into the right headspace for ritual work as it is about removing unwanted influences from your working space. The best cleansing rituals are not just physically active, but psychologically convincing.
Here are a few suggestions for preparing for your rite:
--Physically cleaning the area, straightening up clutter, removing litter, etc. can have a pretty significant effect in and of itself. Plus it shows good will to any resident spirits/etc.
--Sweep your ritual area with a broom; you may have a special broom you only use for this purpose, though some people simply use whatever broom is handy and consider the intent to be the important part. Make sure you sweep every little corner out. You can also wave the broom up at the four quarters to "sweep" out any remaining energy. I also like to leave the broom by the entrance to the ritual area, bristles up, for a bit of additional protection.
--Smudge the ritual area and yourself with sage or other herbs. The smoke carries away any energy you don't want there. An alternate option is rain water sprinkled around the area; you can also add the herbs you might otherwise have burned to it for additional "kick".
--The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) and the Gnostic Pentagram Ritual (GPR) are two practices that utilize vocal vibrations and movements to clear an area of energies and other influences. I personally prefer the GPR as it's simpler and a bit more primal. However, the concept is the same--vibrating the voice at certain frequencies clears out both the self and the space, and the movements seal your intent, at least in my experience.
Grounding, Centering and Shielding
Some people don't feel comfortable going into a ritual without establishing a sort of energetic/spiritual "armor". This is the method I prefer, but you're welcome to adapt it as needed.
First, get yourself into a solid position, either sitting or standing directly on the ground or floor if possible. Next, visualize the lower part of your body sinking into the ground, into the cool, dark earth, among the roots and stones and solid earth. Draw that solid, grounded energy into yourself, and feel that you are strong and immovable.
Next, pull that energy into the center of yourself, right around your solar plexus. Feel a powerful cord connecting you to the strength and solidness of the earth, stretching and flexing as needed but never breaking. Let your entire being rotate and move around that central connection and power.
Now, feel that center expanding outward from your solar plexus until it surrounds your entire body, from the very top of your head to the very tips of your toes. Feel the strong, solid energy create armor around you, moving with you, but powerful enough to protect you from whatever threat may come.
There are a couple of different connotations for the term "banish". For some magical practitioners, it means sending off any sort of spirit or deity, whether "nice" or not. For others, "banishing" specifically means getting rid of malevolent beings or energies; I'll be using this definition here. Banishing may be done during a ritual if a problem arises, or immediately thereafter (or even a significant time after if need be).
Over the years I've seen a lot of talk about scary bugaboos showing up for someone's ritual and hanging around after it's done. I personally feel the risk is a bit overblown, in part because on the occasions it does happen it can be pretty unnerving and so it gets a lot of attention when people are trading stories about ritual experiences. However, it can happen on occasion, and it's often because we leave an opening for less friendly spirits to exploit. Belief is power, and those spirits can feed on that belief-power. Banishing rituals are ways of reestablishing our dominance and effectiveness in the ritual sphere, and disrupting whatever the malevolent being is feeding on or attached to. Here are a few possible methods:
--In an earlier post, I mentioned simply calming yourself as a method of banishment. A lot of what malevolent spirits use as leverage against us is our fear of them and what they might do. Reducing or removing that fear and the attention we give them weakens that connection. You can try a simple breathing or other mindfulness exercise, a meditation, even distracting yourself with a book or other gentle diversion. Often this is enough to make the spirit stop trying and go away.
--Try the LBRP, GPR, or similar vibration/movement ritual. Sometimes it's enough to "shake" the spirit off and send it on its way. It's also a great way to detach your mind from the panic of "Holy crap something has a hold of me and it's scary and I don't know what to do and this feels awful" etc. Instead of giving your power over to the being, the LBRP/GPR/etc. gives your mind something else to focus on, which can give your brain and body time to calm down, ground, and center.
--Some people like to burn certain herbs, like asafetida or other smelly things, to drive the spirit away. You're welcome to give this a try, though be aware that it won't be pleasant for you, either! A less offensive but similarly effective method is to use sound; I have a particular brass bell with a clear, loud resonance that I use to drive away anything that shouldn't be hanging about. Other instruments, noisemakers and the like can also be used.
--If you feel the need for some backup, call on any spirits you consider trusted allies to help you chase away the unwanted intruders. They may lend you their energy, or they may simply take care of the problem themselves.
Cleansing Self, Space, and Items Afterward
--You can use the same smudge or water sprinkle that you had at the beginning of the ritual to close things out and push a spiritual "reset button", as it were. Same thing goes for the broom and other methods. Think of it as cleaning up after yourself.
--Journaling or otherwise recording your experience can be very helpful in "bringing you back" after the ritual. It grounds you in this reality and helps you shake off the last of the ritual energy, and the writing or speaking helps you to solidify your experiences and get some closure.
--If you have items, such as ritual tools, that you feel need a bit of cleanup afterward, you can try physically cleaning them as is appropriate. A longer-term cleansing may also be called for; crystals and some metal items may be buried in the ground for a full lunar cycle, or left in running water.
--Take a nice, hot shower after ritual. If you like, have a special bar of soap with cleansing herbs that you use for this purpose alone. You can also burn white candles in the shower (though keep them far away from the shower curtain, towels, and other flammables!) Have clean clothes waiting for you, too.
Troubles and Troubleshooting
In my personal experience, these have been enough to prepare my ritual area and get rid of anything that bothers me, and it's very rare for something to be more persistent. If you have a particularly stubborn spirit, you may wish to ask for help in your spiritual community or try more elaborate banishing rituals than these.
A word of caution: it is important to keep your mental health in good condition when doing spiritual work. Some mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders, may heighten one's tendency toward fear (as someone with GAD, I speak from experience), and that fear can exacerbate any troubles with malevolent beings. I have seen situations in which a person became absolutely convinced that they were being attacked by a spirit and it consumed their daily lives. This sort of obsession might be indicative of a more serious mental health issue that may best be aided by a professional, even in someone who is otherwise mentally healthy.
Alternately, it's easy to confuse negative emotions and mental states, as well as physical health conditions, with possession, psychic attack, etc. If you have a constant feeling of being "down" that lasts for weeks at a time, you may wish to consider being screened for depression, for example. If you find yourself feeling low-energy many days, you may have some physical illness that needs attention. When it comes to possession, psychic attack, and their ilk, I tend toward Occam's Razor: the simplest answer is the most likely.
As always, this is just a brief overview with some basic exercises and practices. You're welcome to share your own techniques here if you like for others to try.
Now that I've gone over some introductory techniques for working with spirits, in my next post I'll start getting into the details about who and what some of these spirits are.
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