Basic Spiritual Skills

I thought about posting this here after PantheaCon, because I’m bound to have encountered a lot of questions by next Monday. But it occurred to me that it might actually be helpful to folks if this were available to them before they attend.

When I have a new student, the first things I make sure they know how to do are: Center, Ground (+Crown), Shield, Cleanse and Set Sacred Space, and Meditate. For all of these there are countless methods for accomplishing the same task – I have only described the methods I prefer for my own use here. The point is to find what works for you, and use it regularly. These are not by any stretch the only spiritual techniques in my toolbox. But they’re the basics I use most frequently, in the widest variety of settings.

Centering and Grounding are about establishing that:

I am
I am here
I am now

No more, no less. It is from that point of being that I can choose to go somewhere else, let someone else in, do several things at once, or whatever, as needed.


My preferred method is to picture myself like a sort of energy-octopus, with tentacles reaching out all over connecting with the various things I’m pondering, doing, feeling, and so on. I pull any tentacles in that are attached to temporary things. For relationships, though, it’s like there’s a pipeline built in, and all I want to do is withdraw the substance within back to myself – the connection itself is fine, I just don’t want to be using it at the moment.

When all my bits and pieces are within myself, I then focus on my center of gravity for a moment. From there I usually:

Ground (and Crown)

Starting from my Center, I focus on taking an active line (tentacle, I suppose) down through my body, through my feet, through the floor, into the earth, and usually down to the center of the earth (center to center, I’ve always figured). Then I relax, and let just a bit of the earth-fire come back up to energize me.

From there I let it rise up through my body, up through the air, past the roof, through the sky, past the atmosphere, up into the blackness of space towards a star… and then I focus on that star as actually being a tiny hole in the blackness through which light from beyond the sky is peeking through. I go through that to see a bright whiteness, and let a tiny bit of that come back down to energize me.

Then I breathe for a while, letting the two energies cycle up and down. As I breathe in, the energies come up through me from feet to crown and out. As I breathe out, then cascade down around me and back to center under my feet. That’s the start of my:


Shields are personal boundaries. We all need them to move through the world. Most of us have a sense of “personal space” which we maintain in a variety of ways. One of those ways is by forming a thin boundary of energy at the edges of our personal space. That can be larger or smaller depending on our needs. Most of the time, it’s reflexive. But if one is about to undertake magical work, it’s good to have it be a conscious process.

For me, the above description of the earth-fire and celestial-fire circle is the beginning of my shields. From there I adjust the thickness, hardness, texture, and any parameters. I honestly do this mostly by thinking about what I want to keep out and what I want to let in, and then thinking about what a boundary that filters appropriately would look like.

One of my favorite textures is that if I want people to back off and leave me alone, I make a bigger ball than usual, and I make it spikey all over. This usually works quite well, and people won’t even necessarily notice themselves avoiding me, but I end up with more space that I need, and people leaving me be for the most part. It doesn’t work when the people have a specific personal reason to seek me out, per se, but it reduces ambient interference.

Ward Space/Cast Circle

Oddly, I don’t feel calling quarters is necessary, but I do feel that it’s important to know how to set boundaries around a space, both to last the duration of a ritual or event, and to last for a long time on a space like a home or temple. There are so many ways to do this, and various ritual traditions often have very formalized rules for how to do it properly in their setting.

Personally, if I’m alone I usually just start by pulling energy down into my center and then using it to form a small marble in front of me (in my hands, if it seems needful). I then expand that marble into a hollow sphere until it’s the size I need. I take it down again later by pulling it back into a marble, and then sending that marble down into the earth to ground out.

Purify/Cleanse Space

If I’m alone I visualize a wall of white energy sweeping gunk and nasties out of the space. Similarly, for objects I will send such a wall sweeping within an object, with the gunk dripping out of the bottom to ground out.

If I’m in a group setting, I’ll usually get a bowl of clean water and use it to sprinkle the area and everyone in it, singing or chanting an appropriate rhyme. The same thing can be done individually while bathing, mindful of cleansing each part of the body.

In Seidhjallr we use:

With water from the Well of Wyrd
All ill that has been
All ill that is becoming
All ill that shall be
Be banished away

For folks who aren’t playing with Team Norse, I suggest:

With pure clear water I cleanse this space
All ills left behind, now be gone
All ills that are here, now be gone
All ills that may be, now be gone
With pure clear water I cleanse this space
All Ills Be Gone

(Replace “this space” as appropriate with the name of the object or person you are cleansing.)

Daily Personal Cleansing

River Devora taught me this technique. I’ve seen them do it countless times. They use a cloth for it. I use my bare hands, and cleanse them last.

This is an energetic cleansing that involves direct energy work, but can be done simply no matter what degree of experience you have. It’s like brushing your teeth – it’s a simple repeating task, not a great deed. Keeping up with it keeps a spirit or energy worker in good spiritual (and often physical) health. I do it as part of my overall collection of Basics now – Center, Ground/Crown, Cleanse, Re-Shield.

  1. Grab at the top of your head, as though taking off a wig, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Head, your Aura, and the effects of your spiritual connection. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  2. Grab at your face, as though taking off a mask, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Face, your outward appearance, the effects of your social connections. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  3. Grab at your chest, as though pulling limp vegetables out of a bowl of soup, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Heart, your emotional state, the effects of your relationships. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  4. Grab at your belly, as though peeling off a bandage, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Body, your health, the effects of your physical interactions. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  5. Grab at your feet, as though removing stockings, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Feet, your foundation, the effects of your movement through the world. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  6. If you are feeling particularly gunky, do an all-over sweep, as though removing a tight-fitting body suit. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.
  7. Finally, Grab at your hands, as though removing tight gloves, pulling away any gunky or not-you energy. You’re cleansing your Hands, your will, the effects of your actions in the world. Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away, to let it be absorbed and transformed by the Earth.

Healing/Cleansing Rainbow

This is a practice I picked up while learning Reiki, but it doesn’t require direct awareness or work with the Chakras. It’s for healing, but the difference between healing and cleansing in this context is negligible. It can be done to yourself, or to another person (with permission of course). Most people find it very restful. I don’t always make it through to the end without falling asleep.

Lay down in a relaxed position. Take mental inventory of your body – Are you sick? Are you in pain? Locate the sources of those maladies, and mentally paint them a deep, bloody red color. If you have any major health problems, like a malfunctioning organ, or tumor, you can color it black. If you have any permanent injuries or physical differences that aren’t actually something that need to change, treat them the same as the rest of your not-in-pain body.

Via whatever visualization comes to mind (e.g. rain falling on you, soaking you through with color), carefully paint your whole body fire-engine red with your mind. If you can, feel the energy flowing through your body. When you get to the black damage or bloody-red pain patches, take as long as you need to to bring their darker colors up to the bright red.

Via a different visualization (e.g. passing through a beam of colored light), carefully replace all the red with a bright fruity orange.

Do this again for Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Violet/Magenta each in turn. Try to use a different method for spreading the color each time, or at least don’t use the same method twice in a row. Start with a different part of your body each time, and spread the color accordingly, if you can.

If you know the major Chakras and their meanings, you might consider including that information in your focus, and/or starting from the applicable Chakra at each step:

  1. Red: Base Chakra – Animal Instinct, Needs for Survival, Individual Identity.
  2. Orange: Pelvic Chakra – Reproductive System, Personal Relationship Identity.
  3. Yellow: Solar Plexus Chakra – Personal Power, “Guts”, Family Group Identity.
  4. Green: Heart Chakra – Emotional Perception, Cultural Identity.
  5. Cyan: Throat Chakra – Communication, Human Identity.
  6. Blue: Third Eye Chakra – Intellect, Sentient Identity.
  7. Magenta/Violet: Crown Chakra – Spiritual Connection, Unity.

Finally, when your whole body is bright Violet/Magenta in your mind’s eye, picture a brilliant colorless/white light spreading from your Center outward, overtaking all the Violet of your body and glowing until the light fills your personal space outside your body.

If it suits you, you may want to picture golden, silver, and/or rainbow sparkles descending on you from whatever source of Divinity you connect with most joyfully.

When you feel you are ready, let the glow subside, absorbing the healthful light into yourself, and ground out any remaining energy as necessary.


In my experience and education, meditation is several different things. At essence, Meditation is about letting go of all the thoughts running around in our heads. That’s hard to do for very long, but there is a great deal to be gained from practicing it, and over time the amount of time we can hold that inner stillness and awareness extends. This helps both with the ability to choose how we focus our minds, and with the ability to bring inner peace to our emotional states in the middle of our chaotic lives.

I find several forms of meditation to be useful. The two I have used the most in my personal practice over the years are Concentration Meditation, and Contemplation. More recently I’ve been learning two forms of Zen Meditation – Zazen or “No Mind” meditation, and Mindfulness meditation, which have been very good to me, but it wasn’t a building block for me, personally, so I don’t necessarily consider it requisite the way Concentration Meditation is for just about any magic work, and Contemplation is for any spirit or deity work.

Concentration Meditation: Find a single object, image, or sound, to focus on outside yourself – a candle flame, an iconic image of a deity or saint, a mark on the floor, a repeating mantra – and focus entirely on just that one thing. This may be done while sitting comfortably still, while dancing or moving around, or if it’s auditory, with the eyes closed and the body swaying back and forth. The point is to consciously exclude from focus anything other than the object of focus. When the mind wanders – and it will, it’s pretty well inevitable – do not dwell on it, or condemn yourself, simply return to focusing on the object of focus.

This kind of meditation is often used in devotions, and can create an ecstatic trance state depending on the nature of the focus used, and the manner of focus. If one is in a small space, or surrounded by others who are not engaged in the same focus, I suggest using a simple stillness and silent image focus, rather than dancing, chanting, or other more expansive methods. The main difference between this and Mindfulness meditation or Zazen meditation is that Mindfulness meditation involves holding a general awareness of the surrounding environment, and Zazen involves clearing the mind even of that last singular focus. These are both very useful disciplines, but I find Concentration Meditation to be a more accessible precursor to either of them.

Contemplation Meditation: This is basically a variation on the concept of Prayer, or an inwardly focused form of Concentration Meditation. When I have a question I need an answer to, or a request of the Universe or a particular Power, I will often sit down, having condensed the particular question or request to as small a phrase as possible, and focus on my phrase and the identity of the one I’m trying to reach, and wait silently for some intuition or answer to return to me.

The difference between this and brainstorming an answer, or letting my mind run in circles around my concern, is that I am specifically focusing on the idea of handing my question or request to that greater Power. Other similar exercises include Praise or Celebratory prayer where I offer words or songs of joy to honor a Power, or a Devotional prayer where I repeat a pre-set arrangement of words as a personal spiritual discipline that reminds me of my connections with the world and the Divine.

I hope you find these useful!


About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
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10 Responses to Basic Spiritual Skills

  1. Pingback: DPM 15: Warding For Fun And Prophet | EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir

  2. firechildk says:

    “pulling away any gunky or not-you energy… Flick your hands outward, throwing the gunk away”

    This…I do this. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this, I just started doing it instinctually one day. The first time it was like, “What am I doing? and WHy?” but it seemed to help, so I decided to keep going with it, and it’s part of my routine now. Although I’m not as thorough as you described.


    • EmberVoices says:

      It’s a fairly common technique among energy workers. It sounds like you have a natural talent for energy work, and good instincts. Keep working with that! -E-


      • firechildk says:

        You think so? That’s a really nice thing to hear, because I used doubt myself a lot. Still do, sometimes, but I’m getting better at trusting my instincts.


        • EmberVoices says:

          Well, I only know of you what you tell me, of course, but if your instincts include how to cleanse, then you’re ahead of the game as far as most energy workers go.

          The other major question is: When you do energy work, where do you pull the energy from?



          • firechildk says:

            I don’t want to make this too long, but I’ll start with saying I’m very new. I noticed maybe 5 or 6 years ago that I have a knack for healing myself, but haven’t done anything else until spring 2014. Usually I can’t feel the energy itself, I only notice the effects. Sometimes I feel it a little with qigong.

            I used to only use my own energy, then I tried pulling from outside (like the air around me) but I’ve been considering going back to just using my own as that’s easier to work with. It also seems easier when I have a candle, but I can’t tell for sure if I’m actually interacting with it or not. tbh I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but it mostly seems to work.


          • EmberVoices says:

            Have you studied Reiki at all? It might be a helpful angle. Only using your own energy is fine within the system of yourself, but if you are healing others, it’s very important you not be using your personal energy for that. -E-


          • firechildk says:

            ehh, sort of. I was interested in reiki years ago, but it didn’t work out. I don’t do things with other people though. My friends prefer to deal with stuff without help, and I don’t feel the need to make healing a vocation, so that just leaves me. and maybe pets, but I don’t have any at the moment.


          • EmberVoices says:

            If you’re only working internally, then what you’re doing so far sounds fine, although it won’t generally help if you’re ever short on energy, of course.

            Healing anyone *else* or using energy in a way that expends it rather than just moving it within yourself does require learning how to pull and transform effectively from outside. Otherwise you’ll drain yourself dry, which can make you very sick. -E-

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: When Godphones Ring – Discernment for Pagans | EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir

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