The city of Lawrence, KS, is truly a magical place — the sidewalks generate force fields that repel pedestrians, and stop signs become invisible to anyone who sits on a bicycle seat. Lawrence is a typical progressive college town in a typical conservative mid-western state, and as with most locales which celebrate progressive thought and liberal ideology, it is full of people who see most rules and social restrictions as unnecessary limitations. Unfortunately, while ignoring rules and social codes just may be a liberating experience, it can also get you hit by a car. Sometimes, rules are there for a reason, and it is in one’s interest to fully understand those reasons before opting to disregard those rules. This holds just as true whether you are a bicyclist or a magician.
Whether dealing with traffic, social interactions, or magical practices, most rules can be reduced to one simple principle: the establishment and maintenance of boundaries. In traffic, boundaries serve to keep one vehicle from occupying the same space as another vehicle, which makes good sense. In social settings, boundaries help people interact more smoothly by allowing individuals to establish what amount of intimacy they are comfortable with from others. In a magical sense, boundaries usually serve to separate the magician from energies that he does not wish to have influence him or his work, whether these energies are simply background interference or malevolent in some way. Unfortunately, the importance of establishing these boundaries, and the methods to do so — banishing rituals and protective magic — are often neglected by many practitioner of magic.
One example is the number of young eclectic magic users who regard banishing rituals as nothing more than traditional pomp and don’t bother with them. In many cases rituals such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram utilized by the Golden Dawn do contain a substantial among of traditional and dramatic content, but his is often intentional. The pomp of ceremony is an important element to Golden Dawn magic (obviously, as they are referred to as ceremonial magicians), and the symbols in such rituals play to that. However, eager young magicians in a hurry to enchant their way to the top of the Universe may easily neglect to notice that while they do not adhere to the symbolic system of the Golden Dawn, the basic function of the LBRP — to center the magician in the mythic Universe and establish a suitable space for magic — is still a valuable procedure for their own work.
Even in belief systems that do not posit the existence of malignant entities that may interfere with enchantments, “cleaning up” proves useful, if not vital, for successful magical working. You’re likely to experience a bit of bleed through in your world peace ritual if you don’t tidy up psychically after the big argument that took place at the ritual site. The primary argument I have heard against this type of cleansing — that it isolates the magician from the energy he hopes to utilize — doesn’t seem to make much sense, as it’s difficult to utilize any natural energy when you are immersed in a chaotic tangle of conflicting energies. It’s more difficult to bake cookies if your countertop is full of dirty dishes, and your baking sheets are at the bottom of the pile.
Focusing on outside influences also ignores another vital role of banishing rituals — to center the magician in the mythic Universe. Most magic is performed with the assumption that the magician is at the center of the axis mundi and able to influence all reaches of it. Without establishing the nature of the axis mundi, it is very difficult to exert universal influence, especially if your “relative position” is low on the totem pole. Banishing helps establish the mindset that the magician is in a position where he can contact and direct the powers he wishes to influence, which aids in the success of any magical work.
Another aspect of magical practice that is frequently downplayed is that of protective and defensive magic. If shielding and warding are taught, they are typically minimalized, with emphasis given to basic visualizations featuring bubbles or ribbons of light. Recently it was brought to my attention that an increasing number of groups and individuals reject even these basic precautions, adopting the attitude that negative energy — and sometimes even magic in general — cannot affect those who refuse to acknowledge it. While philosophically these notions of ignoring the unpleasantness that shielding and warding are meant to protect us from can help to paint the world in a more positive light, it often ends up leaving novice magicians in trouble, as they find themselves ill-equipped to deal with energies and situations they encounter.
As mentioned above, one argument against magical protection is that what a magician does not empower by acknowledging cannot affect him. This mindset is the magical equivalent of the famous cartoon coyote who doesn’t fall into the canyon until he looks down. It would appear to be the result of a psychological model of magic mixed with a liberal dose of fluffy denial, but needless to say, this theory has the same shortcomings that a purely psychological model of magic has on its own– people who don’t believe in magic, and don’t even know they are targets, are still affected by spells. Just as refusing to believe electricity is dangerous won’t keep you safe if you take a bath with a toaster, pretending that negative energy won’t have an effect on you by virtue of positive thinking doesn’t seem reliable either.
One of the more interesting arguments against protective magic is that shields will actually attract the very negative energies you wish to keep away. According to this theory, a spell for protect you can’t work if there is nothing to protect you from, and hence can actually be the agent that attracts a malicious force. This kind of backward thinking would lead one to believe that locking your car door makes thieves more likely to break in to your car, as they suspect that you have something more valuable to protect, and it simply doesn’t make sense. The minor energies that such shields will filter out are likely to be present anyway, and anything more significant that is attracted to the energy of your shield will most certainly be attracted by the energy that a magical practitioner generates anyway. In addition to this, many protective measures exist that do not attract such attention.
Magical protection is not just for deflecting random negative energies, either. There are entities, spirits, and demons that can and will cause harm, to magicians and mundanes alike. “Psychic vampires” and other people or entities may drain energy from an unshielded individual. And while it is usually a very rare occurrence, curses are occasionally cast, and contrary to popular belief they are not limited to young, impotent novices who haven’t learned better yet, and can be cast by magicians who have the knowledge and ability to make them work. While it isn’t often cost effective to project full-scale magical shields for a very rare occurrence, small protective measures are often very effective in hindering such infringements.
With banishing rituals, the key is to find one that is relatively simple and to practice it regularly, although learning some more advanced rituals for more selective use is always practical. Most banishing rituals also have the benefit of strengthening natural psychic shielding. Magical shields can be learned to the point where they can be erected easily, usually through visualization, or can be established more permanently. Protective amulets can also be constructed with relative ease, and more complex and powerful protections and wards can be placed around homes or into charms and recharged on a regular basis, if that suits the practitioner’s needs better. Any of these techniques, if regularly employed, can greatly increase both the magical efficacy and clarity of mind of the magician. The boundaries established by banishing and protective magic can be of great help to anyone dealing with the magical arts, no matter their goal, by providing clarity and focus, and keeping unwanted influences away.
© 2007 Chirotus Infinitum
Published on The Witches’ Voice September 2007