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Protection in Witchcraft: A look at the philosophy...

Protection in Witchcraft: A look at the philosophy, psychology, and methods of keeping safe and growing strong.

I recently read Dr.West’s article “To Become a Warrior Witch” and beginning shadow work. I am a fairly new witch, still learning protection and therefore not ready to attempt the work described, but I think it might be something important for me to address in the future. However I do have a question/ concern. I am a solitary practitioner, I know other witches, but they live several states away and are unavailable to assist with a ritual. How can I attempt a similar ritual safely alone? I am a very private individual in general, so I’m not certain I could be comfortable confronting my personal demons with someone else around, even a non-witch friend. I feel strongly that I will need to preform this sort of healing, but I want to be wise and safe.

Also, do you have any suggestions for important protection practices to master specifically planning for this sort of healing work? Thank you so much for your assistance.

 

Anna.

 

Dear Anna,

Thank you for writing in and posing such an important question. First things first: you are not alone. Many witches choose to walk a private and solitary path for the very reasons you describe.

Once again, I want to set the cultural context of this article. I am a privileged, white, educated, feminist who lives in the developed, gentrified, western culture of Australia. For ease of communication, I will write from this perspective. I will also largely limit my answers and suggestions to those that can be found in modern witchcraft, the craft we in the west are most familiar with.

Social supports are vital whether you are a witch or not. I don’t have a coven but I do have some wise and wonderful witchy friends who I can reach out and talk to about witchcraft. I also feel like I can rely on them if I need magickal help. They don’t need to know everything about what I am doing, they only need to know enough to be able to step in and help if needed. Even solitary witches need friends to lean on.

It is possible to perform rituals as a group even if you are not together in the same place. Some long distance covens connect online and perform rituals and healings from a distance. I once sat in a healing circle where two of the members were Skyping in from overseas. They just had a laptop in place of a person on their chairs. It turned out to be a very successful and powerful ritual. Some other long distance covens just agree on a time the ritual will be performed. If everyone turns up and engages in the ritual at the same time, they can still feel each other’s energy in the ether as they cast. Distance isn’t as much of a hurdle as it used to be, but most witches prefer to meet in person if they can.

However, it doesn’t sound like you have any desire to work with others or in a coven. I respect and understand that. It also seems as though you are very concerned about protection. Before I move on to talk about how you can protect yourself, I want to address the nature and source of your concerns. Most people are concerned with safety and protection. These are healthy and normal concerns. But it is important to understand why these issues are important to you. Is there something or someone you are specifically afraid of, or are you just generally hypervigilant? There are no wrong answers. It is important you are honest with yourself about these questions. You don’t need to share your answers with anyone but it is important you are aware of any foes or anxieties you have so that a) you can work on them and grow past them, and b) so that other people and forces can’t use your fears or vulnerabilities against you.

Existence is as wonderful as it is awful and random. Nature can be an unforgiving mother. Because of this randomness it can be hard to find meaning. And there is no shortage of nefarious spiritual leaders who would like to prey on the uncertainty of young witches, exploiting their fears and doubts in an effort to control them. If you know your vulnerabilities and weakness, they are much less likely to be used against you.

the house of twigs thot catherine winther weaver tarot psychwitch q and a

Title: Origins Artist: Pearl Whitecrow

In the latter half of this article I will include some items and practices you can refer to in order to protect yourself, but before I do that I want to talk a little bit about witchcraft and the nature of protection.

Firstly, it is important that you know you are safe where you are right now. What I mean by that is that no matter what religion you practice or path you follow, you are by and large safe from spiritual attack, possession, hexing etc. Most religions and faiths peddle a HUGE amount of unfounded fear and horror. They do this because it is easier to control and lead a flock that is crippled by anxiety and superstition compared to a flock that is self-aware and trained in critical thought. It is also easier to convince followers to hand over their money if you can create a terror… and then claim that you are the only one offer protection from that terror. However, if you reflect on your life, you’ll see you have been relatively spiritually safe for most of it.

Even though I grew up around some intense and negative occult energies, the majority of the my day-to-day life continues to be free of malicious energies and events. And despite the fact that I work with all aspects of the occult daily, from ghosts to gods, if I broke my hours and days down, a large portion of my time is devoted to interests and responsibilities outside of the occult. Real reports of demons, monsters, ghosts, possession, the devil, hell, spirits, etc., are few and far between. The ‘dark’ might get a lot of attention but that’s not because we are being overrun by evil, it is because humans are curious about the ‘dark’.

Human curiosity is one of the traits that powers our ongoing evolution and inventions as a species, this is because rather than turning away from what frightens us, we often move towards it. Tales and stories of the dark don’t just enthral us, they also ensure we are familiar and informed about the nature of our predators. While it is good to know and study your enemy, our growing fixation and obsession on the dark, coupled with the alarmist nature of the internet, feeds fear around the ‘bad’ to the extent that peoples’ fear is out of proportion compared to the reality.

Please note Anna, I am not saying your fear or focus on protection is in anyway bad or overblown. I just wanted to point ways in which our fears about the supernatural can be exacerbated and used against us. In short, knowing yourself and knowing the culture of fear we live in can help you master your own thoughts and feelings.

Second, if you feel like you need extra protection at any given moment—whether it is during your healing ritual or when you are just walking down the street, you can use what is around you to summon protection. Tools help but they aren’t necessary. As an example, if you found yourself having a spiritual attack in public and didn’t have any of your usual protection items on you, you can still use magick to protect yourself and even fight back. Some ways you might do this include digging your hand into the soil and asking the earth to ground and protect you. Or, pick up a rock and squeeze your hand around it to feel its strength as you cast a protection spell. Don’t be afraid to use man-made products. If there is a brick wall nearby, use that too; place your hands on the bricks, feel their heft and channel that as you cast a protection spell that envisages a brick wall around you, walling you off from any unwanted energies. It is okay to be creative and to just use what you have on hand. The magick and power is all within you.

All of the items I will talk about in the latter half of this article, from herbs to crystals, are helpful but not necessary. While magickal objects and tools do carry their own power and spirit, in the case of spell casting, a large part of their role is to help focus the witch’s power, intention, and energy. If you work on developing a strong and powerful mind, a wise heart, and indomitable will power, you will become your greatest protection. You will be able to use the power of your mind to protect you in numerous ways including; imaging a protective circle, visualizing white light around you person, casting a spell, or reciting a prayer.

At the end of the day, most protection comes down to the strength of your will and mind, and the power of belief. Belief in yourself and belief in whatever deities or religion you work with. The witches who were, and still are, being hunted and burned at the stake had everything stripped from them before they were lashed to their pyre. They were surrounded by enemies and had no hope for escape. But it is said, whispered from grandmother to granddaughter, that as soon as the fires were lit at their feet, those who were real witches used the freshly lit flames to curse their oppressors and their entire family blood-line. The witches used the very fire lit to kill them to perform their swan-song spell. They then became their own sacrifice. Whether this is true or not, it demonstrates that the most important ingredient in a spell is the witch, not her tools. The sheer magnitude of strength, focus, and self-belief needed to use your own funeral pyre to fuel your spell is almost beyond comprehension.

The whole world is at your fingertips, energy and meaning can be drawn from anywhere, even from those things sent to hurt or scare you. It is possible to turn your pain into power.

You have all you need to protect yourself, you just need to learn to trust yourself and your power. Learning to trust yourself takes time and practice. However, should you find yourself in spiritual danger without access to your tools and protection items, you now know that the power of protection comes from within. You don’t need your tools. You only need a single, pure moment of belief and focus to cast protection around yourself. You can also call in higher powers to protect you such as ancestors, gods, animal spirits, angels etc. When it comes to protection it doesn’t matter what you use, just so long as it works. I know some witches who protect themselves by simply trusting they are safe on their path, they claim ‘perfect trust’ is the greatest power than cloak themselves in. It can’t be over stated just how powerful self-belief and faith are. What do you believe in? Who or what do you call out to when the night it is dark and full of terrors? Can you believe in yourself? Can you save yourself? If you can’t trust yourself yet, ask why you can’t trust yourself and start working towards healing that.


As promised, I have listed some of the simple ways you can protect yourself below. I am not going into detail about how these magicks work. You can Google anything that isn’t familiar to you, or reach out to other witches around you. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, at least not for most rituals and spells. You can put your own spin on anything you read here. Being a witch is very much like being an artist; you can’t develop your own style by copying others or following the ‘rules’.

A repeated observation of mine is that witches, new and old, who approach magick with equal amounts of respect, playfulness, creativity, and innovation, are actually likely to have less issues with the darker aspects of the occult or unwanted energies, compared to those witches who remain stuck in perfectionist mode. Why? Because perfectionism is governed by fear and fear restricts personal magick and power. Witches who are creative and vital in their work tend to be of less interest to the darker energies. I don’t know why this is the case. One theory I have is that those people who are confident enough to risk playing with and testing magick are harder to take over and control compared to someone bound and trapped by fear. There are always exceptions to the rule. I am sure other witches have made different observations. I am just sharing my experiences to help people understand and explore varied perspectives.

First and foremost, look at your physical and emotional health. The spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental are inextricably linked. Since I started training as a boxer, the changes and improvements I have seen in myself and my magick are staggering. Feeling fit and strong always promotes good mental and physical health. The knowledge of how to fight has improved my confidence and helped me feel more at home and safe in the world. My energy, focus, and strength have all grown, too. And in turn, my magick and path as a witch have evolved. Training as a boxer has awoken the warrior-witch energy in me. Protection isn’t just a matter of spell work and witchcraft isn’t just a matter of magick. All aspects of your life weave together and inform one another. If you get physically fit and healthy you will improve your ability to protect yourself just as much as any ritual or spell.

Most people start by protecting themselves through spellwork and casting cirles. You can use ones you wrote or ones that you found, whichever you choose just make sure you can feel and believe the words. You can make witch jars and bury them on your property. Not only can you have a cleansing salt bath and smudging, you can also salt and sage the perimeter of your house (it is best to use black salt for this.) You can cleanse the energy inside your house with clove oil, sage, and Palo Santo. Think about growing protective herbs in your garden. Planting mint, rosemary, holly, and lambs ear around your house and near your front door all serve as fantastic protection. I would also suggest making friends with the plants in your garden, they can be helpful magick allies, too.

Herbs in general are fantastic protection. You can either make a small witch-bag/medicine-bag to carry herbs around with you or, some witches just stuff the herbs into their bra. I would encourage you to spend some time researching the meanings, applications, and characters of the different herbs. Pay attention to which ones are for protection but also observe what herbs you gravitate towards. You might find that the herb that makes you feel safest is not necessarily a ‘protection herb’ in the eyes of witch-lore. But more often than not, witch-lore doesn’t account for individual differences. Every witch will have their own unique way of connecting with and using their tools from, herbs to crystals. Trust your gut.

If you want to venture into root work and hoodoo, you might want to look into the Fiery Wall of Protection. You can also make or buy protection mojo bags. I tend to find mojo bags work well. I always say it’s best to make your own mojo bag but purchased bags are effective, too.

Ancestral magick has been a common theme throughout history and across religions. I have a number of ancestors that provide me with protection when I need it. In fact, my ancestors are probably some of the most powerful protective forces I work with. You may want to think about what ancestors you have that you could ask to work with. If ancestral magick interests you, it may be worth researching Vudu.

Sigils are powerful and easy ways to protect yourself. There are a number of protection sigils you can memorize and use, or you can make your own and put it around your home and keep a copy on yourself. There is a lot of conflicting online material in regards to the process of working with sigils. Once again, I encourage people to experiment and find the process that suits them.

Sound is also very healing and protective. Nothing is quite as powerful as the sound of your own voice in song. There are some traditions that suggest every witch has her own tune or musical note that when sounded out will protect and empower, and in some cases call their familiar to them and in some rare cases, guide them home. You can discover your note or tune by experimenting with sound. You’ll know you’ve found your sound, it will be instantly familiar and will vibrate through you like lightening, lifting you up. Some witches equate the positive feeling to that of an orgasm.

Tibetan singing bowls and crystal bowls are often used to cleanse an area. In my experience, Tibetan singing bowls clear and heal places/rooms quicker and more completely than any other method. Music is also a powerful tool for cleansing and protecting. I know one witch that likes to blast rock music and sing and dance to cleanse her house before a ritual. It’s a hoot and works well.

Some witches wear Saint Michael around their neck along with Solomon’s seal—even if they don’t follow the these faiths. The overlap between religions and their symbols is bigger and messier than most people would like to admit. That is why it’s not unusual to hear witches talking to the saints and the angels even though in theory, they don’t necessarily believe in them. However, it is more likely witches will call out to their Gods/Goddesses and/or ancestors when in need of protection. If you are wondering what gods/goddesses provide the best protection, I would suggest you look into working with Hecate. She is known as the protector of witches.

You can ask for protection from any number of supernatural forces and beings, whether that be a God, a Goddess, an angel, a spirit, a totem animal etc., whatever you believe in and feel like you can reach out to in an emergency. If you do plan to work with a deity for protection, remember to look after that deity and make offerings for them. If you only reach out to them in a time of need they can get fickle and unreliable. Ancestors can sometimes be the same. At its most rudimentary and basic level, it can be helpful to think about working with supernatural energies in the same way you would any other human relationship. You have to build and nourish the relationship through respect and communication. The only difference is that they inhabit the other side of the veil. It’s polite to do the work before you need the protection. That’s not to say Saint Michael or Hecate won’t help you if you get into a jam, but it’s easier and far more polite to have introduces yourself first and shown your respect. Also, the more you practice in reaching out to your chosen protectors, the easier it will be to call and connect with their energy in an emergency.

In the first half of this piece you can see how over and over again I emphasize that witchcraft is a unique path for everyone. We all have to develop our own, unique relationship to, and understanding of witchcraft. The protection you use is likely to be unique to you because your energy, needs, and vulnerabilities are unique. Witches are constantly experiencing and creating their own magick, philosophies, and path. That is why approaching witchcraft with a perfectionist mind-set can cause a lot of anxiety because there are no ‘right’ answers, just your answers. Walk your path, explore your magick, express your magick, experience yourself as witch, find what works for you and what makes you happy.

As part of your question, you mention ‘personal demons’. If you are planning to do any shadow work around these ‘personal demon’ parts of yourself, make sure you and your home are clean first. This will help prevent any nasties jumping in while you are focused on your magickal workings. To clean your house I would suggest salting the permitter and any phone or internet lines (demons love to travel down phone lines and across the internet.) Then, smudge your house with either sage or Palo Santo. There are plenty of ways to cleanse a house but these are the basics. Then have a hyssop bath and wash yourself from head to toe and visualize all the dross floating away. You will then be cleansed and ready to work with your shadows.

Despite all I have written here, there is no sure fire way to ensure protection. Sometimes you can do everything right and still lose. That is why when casting magick, it is good to have someone know where you are, what you are doing, and have a time to check in. If you miss checking in, they can come over or send someone over to check on you. They don’t have to be a witch or spiritual but it helps. You could even tell your witch friends who live further away to send protection. If they are tuned in they will likely feel if anything goes wrong.

I know all of this sounds scary and I certainly know witchcraft can be scary and daunting at the start. I remember wanting to make sure I did everything right. I religiously obeyed and followed texts, spells, teachers… but then there started to be conflicting opinions, information, and processes. After a small mental breakdown I came to the realization that in the end, it was all down to me. No one could tell me the best way to protect myself. No one could tell me how my magick worked. Only my soul know what it needs and which way to go. So, I pulled my socks up and got to it. I found what rituals and tools helped me draw out the massive reserve of fighting and protection energy that I already held in me. This journey takes huge amount of courage but it is worth it… and anyone can do it.

There was no specific ritual in my article “Warrior Witch”, but it does talk about doing the work you need to do, shadow or light, to know yourself and your magick. And while I am sure you are incredibly powerful, I would still suggest that you take it slow. As a rule, I don’t introduce a new witch to shadow work straight away unless it was an emergency or there were other extenuating circumstances. Witchcraft isn’t a race. There is no need to rush, and certainly no need to fly before you can run. I would suggest that you spend some time focusing on the basics of witchcraft so you have a good foundation of wisdom and experience to lean on in the future.

Spend time practicing protection spells and spells in general. Find the areas of witchcraft that call to you and follow those up and study them. Follow your passion. Play with energies. Cleanse your energy and your home regularly. Record your dreams every night. Set up your own protective and cleansing rituals for working in circle and in your life in general. Follow your protection rituals and routines religiously, not only to protect yourself, but also to give yourself peace of mind once you start working magick. Stay focused and dedicated. Practice making poppets, spell jars, mojo bags, devil traps, and whatever else takes your fancy and you think will help. Get to know the herbs, crystals, animals, deities,  you are drawn to. Study these and work with them. Find out why you are drawn to them. Develop your relationship with nature.

Title: Epona Artist: Pearl Whitecrow

Much of the defence work in boxing won’t come from conscious choices but rather from instinct. The boxer’s defence instinct comes from millions of hours of training inside and outside of the ring so that the boxer doesn’t have to think about protecting themselves, it is an automatic reflex. Your best protection is to become so at ease with your tools and processes that you can protect yourself instinctively and reflectively.

In short, start slow and small. I know this is hard if you are excited and want to know everything. But if you take your time getting to know the basics of witchcraft and protection, you’ll have a solid foundation for your magick.

As for right now, with you Anna, In terms of protection, keep it simple and easy. Find whatever crystals and herbs talk to you. Keep your mind and ears open for any deities that might be whispering on the wind and want to work with you at this time. Find what protection rituals you are drawn to and what items you feel you can work with.

And perhaps most importantly, work on trusting yourself—no matter what happens, trust you’ll know what to do. Why will you know? Because you are a witch, you have joined a long line of wise women from the past and into the future. The magick and wisdom is in you, it’s in your blood. Even I your intuition is telling you something crazy, trust your gut and follow it. Sometimes the most ludicrous instincts I have had, have turned out to be important turning points in my witchcraft journey.

And finally, one of the best things about being a witch is that there will always be a witch willing to help you if you do end up in trouble. There is a lot of bitching and drama in witchcraft circles, not to mention the witch wars. However, in my experience, if someone is in real need, most witches will drop the petty bullshit and try and help. Never be afraid to reach out to your friends or fellow witches if you feel scared or hurt, myself included. There are no stupid questions. Don’t let fear isolate you.

TL:DR You are safe just as you are. The power to protect yourself lies within you. Even though the likelihood of anything bad happening to you as you explore witchcraft is minuscule, it is still a good rule of thumb to prepare for the worst while expecting the best. The list of approaches to protection I have provided is woefully incomplete. The sheer number of protection approaches out there makes it impossible to cover all of them. I am sure most readers to expand on and improve my list—and I invite them to do so as it might help Anna and/or other readers.

Focus on building self-belief and mastering the basics of witchcraft before moving on to shadow work. I know it can be exciting and the thirst to know ‘everything’ can be overwhelming, but if your number one concern is protection, then the best safety you can have is to take it slow, master yourself and your magick and all that entails, from the bottom up.

Finally, this is a small list of simple things I turn to when I am in need of protection; music, song, and dancing are all vital. I would want to make sure I am exercising, sleeping, and eating well. I’d think about calling on Hecate and/or any other ancestors and guides. I’d make sure I was regularly cleansing of myself and my space using black salt, sage and Palo Santo. Good crystals are black tourmaline, smoky quartz, amethyst, and amber. In terms of amulets I tend to use ‘evil eyes’ amongst other things. I also use living plants and animals as protection through my relationship with them. I always have plenty of onions and garlic on hand. And above all else, I would return to nature, whether that be the nature around me or, my own personal sacred places.

 

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Dr. Catherine ‘West’ Winther is a retired psychologist and passionate LGBTQIA feminist who comes from a long family line of of creatrixes, witches, and wolves. Through her online coven at WeaverTarot.com she offers readings, spell-craft, curios, and counseling. Her passion is holding sacred shadow spaces and fostering alchemy through conversation. She aids healing and growth through encouraging big play, big magick, big nature, cackling, sensuality, and creativity. Freedom is our right and our responsibility. Let us slip these human skins and find our feral selves. Come roll and run through the dirt and the bones and the blood and howl at the ghosts under the Goddess Bone Moon as we listen for the star-songs. Let us remember what and why we are here, and most importantly let us remember how and why and what we love so we can bring that passion back to the everyday and reclaim our magickal birthright as witches. Get dirty. Get wild. Get horny. Get magick. Get witch.
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Dr. Catherine ‘West’ Winther is a retired psychologist and passionate LGBTQIA feminist who comes from a long family line of of creatrixes, witches, and wolves. Through her online coven at WeaverTarot.com she offers readings, spell-craft, curios, and counseling. Her passion is holding sacred shadow spaces and fostering alchemy through conversation. She aids healing and growth through encouraging big play, big magick, big nature, cackling, sensuality, and creativity. Freedom is our right and our responsibility. Let us slip these human skins and find our feral selves. Come roll and run through the dirt and the bones and the blood and howl at the ghosts under the Goddess Bone Moon as we listen for the star-songs. Let us remember what and why we are here, and most importantly let us remember how and why and what we love so we can bring that passion back to the everyday and reclaim our magickal birthright as witches. Get dirty. Get wild. Get horny. Get magick. Get witch.

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