We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers, as well as your thoughts on our answers, in our comments.
15. What methods does your tradition employ for protection and the warding off of malign influences?
(I have finally realized that wherever these questions say “tradition”, I need to mentally swap in “practice”. I am trained in too many different traditions, and not everything I happen to practice personally is necessarily intended to become part of the tradition I am building, or representing.)
Wow, there are a LOT of ways I’ve learned for this. In order to narrow the scope of this question, I’m setting aside healing in the sense of repairing damage, and any non-spiritual methods for avoiding harm. Cleansing is also relevant, but I think I’ll set that aside as well for now.
That leaves me with different styles of personal shielding, space warding, and event warding.
Well, I’ve already explained my basic methods for personal cleansing, shielding, and space warding in my Spiritual Basics resource post. That post exists precisely because it answers so many questions people ask.
Most of my methods for personal shielding are variations of energy work and building thought forms, but I also sometimes use methods with physical world components. Painting Nauthiz on all of one’s nails is a method given in the lore, which I have only used once, when I was extremely worried for my safety, and now I don’t remember why that was. Wearing all silk clothing and wearing a headcovering to keep spirits outside of my body.
I have some jewelry which contain protection charms of one sort or another that I can wear when I need to. Thurisaz and Elhaz are both very handy runes for protection. Thinking about it, Mjolnirs are really intended as warding talismans, although most folks I know wear them to honor Thor, or to represent their Heathen identity. I’ve had dreams instructing me to give other people Hamsa and Evil Eye talismans as wards, but I don’t use them for myself. I have a handful of talismans that I carry in my purse, but those are more for luck and relationship links with allies than per se for warding off malign spirits. (Of course charms for good luck ARE for warding off bad luck, now that I think of it. Is anything ever NOT everything? Argh!)
Space warding comes in temporary and permanent forms. Rune rings can be good for both, if you want a Heathen method. I’ve known Heathens who use the Hammer Rite, but Ceremonial Magick has never been my favorite source of ritual spackle, and I don’t often work directly with Thor, so I haven’t used it much myself. In Hrafnar we usually cast a circle using one or another Skaldic-metered invocation, and then call on the Dwarves of the Directions to anchor the corners of our sacred space:
Nordri and Sudri, Austri and Vestri
Dwarves in all directions dwelling
Honored ones the earth upholding
Ward us as we work our magic!
The closing version ends with “Continue to uphold it NICE AND STEADY!” Welcome to Earthquake territory, folks!
Granted, those dwarves actually hold up the sky, and earthquakes are usually attributed to Loki writhing in pain when the venom hits Him in where He is bound, but I’ve been in Hrafnar long enough that the foibles of this particular invocation are outweighed by the affection, sheer repetition of use. Plus, yay Dwarves!
For temporary sacred space, though, I most often just set up a circle, with or without some kind of poetic invocation. I’m a strong visualizer, and that’s part of how I build thought forms, although if I don’t also feel the energy flowing through my limbs as a tactile experience, I know it’s just pictures in my head. I will generally gesture, but I rarely use tools for this purpose. I am actually still learning HOW to make effective use of tools for this purpose. I often feel as though ritual tools are more in my way than anything else, and primarily serve as inert props for presentation value in group settings. (I have great respect for theatrical presentation value, mind you, but that’s a different mechanism entirely.)
For more permanent sacred space, I’ll do some of the same things, but anchoring the energy construct into the physical shape of the place. I also have some elemental methods I learned my first non-family magical teachers.
There’s land-claiming where we parade around a space. Whether that’s for the sake of touring the local spirits to introduce yourself to the neighbors and offer respect, or a method for asserting ownership of the space depends on why and how we’re doing it. Claiming is for homes, whereas honoring the place spirits is also suitable for large religious festivals.
Event warding is more about keeping active attention on the space and perhaps more importantly, the people. But aside from making sure the space wards stay strong, nobody brings in anything woogie with them, and nobody behaves badly, that’s mostly about keeping people safe and happy in the physical and emotional sense, not about avoiding malign influences per se. So counseling skills, compassion, and a good supply of tissues go a long way there. So do salt, water, or protein-heavy food for people to consume if they feel funky.
As part of warding events, I’ve also had several instances of helping people get out of bad trance states, and a few instances of making possessing entities stop riding an unwilling medium. Those require some counseling skills, some confidence in your own authority, and some ability to use your voice for magical purposes, if not specific Galdr techniques. (Basically? I figure out what they need to do and then Mom-Voice them into doing it. A lot of event warding is basically babysitting, come to think of it.)
Which brings up troubleshooting – except for the last, everything I listed above is a form of preventative warding, rather than a method for countering a specific threat. But what do I do when an individual comes to me upset over a spiritual threat in their personal life?
Well, first of all, we analyze the practical aspects of the threat:
- Is someone upset? Could that upset be assuaged with negotiation in good faith?
- Is there a physical danger? Could that danger be mitigated with appropriate cautions and methods?
- Is something being harmful? Could that harm be reduced or removed by removing yourself from the situation, or removing something else from your environment?
Divination sometimes helps us find the answers to those questions.
Once we’ve gone over what all can be done on a practical level, we may still decide for some magical efforts. At that point, my go-to method is usually candle spells, and offerings to the Powers for assistance, which methods I mostly get from the Umbanda side of my training.
I have an entire kit of oils and herbs and candles of various colors for spellwork. It’s about putting the pieces together, building the energy of the spell, and then letting it run its proper course. I’ll often formulate my intentions into words which I write on a paper that I set under the candle. These days I usually hold the smaller candles up by sticking them in a bed of rock salt. If appropriate, when the candle is done burning and cooling, I’ll take the lump of waxy salt and whatever herbs are left, as well as the bit of paper, and put them in a little bag for the person to carry around until they get what they need from the spell.
For the Powers, it’s about opening the door for negotiation about what is needed, and how we can best compensate Them for such a specific request. Compensation then varies by circumstance. Almost all of the alcohol I own is for the purpose of making offerings, but those are usually just the initiating offerings, not the compensation. Divination methods are obviously key here.
There are also some other kinds of personal protection that apply to me that aren’t something that can be taught or bestowed. But I’m feeling very strongly that I’m not to talk about them here.
Really, much of folk magic is about fending off bad stuff, and much of religion is about how being in right relationship with all things keeps the balance of good and bad stuff manageable and hopefully in your favor.
Lon’s answer: On Good Spiritual Hygiene.