Every time a bell rings, it indicates a change in the fabric of the universe. Wind chimes twinkling outside a witch’s home tells them of shifting air fronts and a possible storm. The otherwise silent cat who wears a bell around his neck reveals his presence with a jingle. A doorbell rings, announcing a guest. Bells also ring to mark the changing of the hour.
But bells don’t only point out physical changes. Their sound also marks an energetic change as well. There’s something about the simple ringing of a bell that changes the energy of a space. This can be felt when priestess rings a bell to move her coven from the mundane to the magical, or during the ringing of a funeral bell.
The bell has been a witchy tool since time immemorial. Doreen Valiente is often depicted holding a bell in her left hand for good reason. Bells have so many witchy uses, something she was aware of. In my opinion, they’re a very underrated altar tool.
Here are some of the ways you can use a bell in ritual and magic
Cleanse the Energy of a Space
Ring a bell to cleanse the energy of a room. This is thought to attract good energy and repel negative energy. I like to do it both before and after rituals.
The ringing of a bell can invoke a spirit ally. I’ve also seen bells used to call the spirits at each of the elemental quarters.
Spirits of the dead have also been associated with bells in the form of funeral bells, which is a longheld tradition that spans the globe. If you wish to summon the spirit of a specific person, you can use a dedicated bell to communicate with them.
On Samhain, people rang bells to banish evil spirits. The sound of bells are thought to banish bad spirits because they can’t be near their beautiful sound. This is why bells are sometimes called “devil drivers.”
Seal The Magic In
After spell work or magic, there’s something that feels so final about ringing a bell. It shifts the energy from “working” or “almost there” to “done.” For this reason, I highly recommend sealing in spell work and magic with the ringing of a bell.
Celebrate the Holidays
Bells were also connected with the holiday Saturnalia, the winter solstice, and Yule in many cultures. The ringing of bells was thought to bring back the sun.
Protect Your Home
Bells can guard doors in your home. In Ancient Rome, people hung tiny bells and wind chimes called tintinnabulum on the gates of their homes and temples. (1) These bells were sometimes found hanging from the figure of a man with a huge, erect phallus, which was thought to magically wield off the evil eye. You can enchant bells to be protectors or to bring cheer to your home every time they ring.
Attune Your Energy and Stay Healthy
Your personal energy can be attuned with the pitch of a bell. The sound and vibration can reset errant energy and can help you get back to your home frequency.
Whenever I hear bells ring, I feel as if something inside of me is ringing too. That’s because the sound they create is a vibration, which is a form of energy. Because everything vibrates, bells have resonated with people for millennia.
In Ancient Greece, 100 CE, the ringing of sistra (cymbals) was even thought to dispell disease. In Book 5 of Moralia, Plutarch said, “The sound of these sistra averts and drives away Typho [typhoid fever].”Tonal healing is also though to clear away energetic blockages. Check out this tonal healing video with its bell-like waves of sound.
Connect with Certain Deities
Bells are sacred to a handful of deities. In Ancient Egypt (circa the third millennium BCE), it was an important part of Isis and Hathor’s worship and had connections to birth. “Sistra had erotic connotations, and by extension, alludes to the creation of new life.” (2)
The Roman deity Jupiter also was connected to tintinnabulum. Augustus dreamed of Jupiter lamenting the lack of worshippers at his temple. Upon waking, he immediately hung little bells around the temple for Jupiter. (3)
Persephone was associated with the sistrum, as seen in the marble statue below, which syncretizes certain Greek aspects of her with the goddess Isis.
Celebrate the Liminal
Many people use a bell to induce meditation, or liminal work. The sound can center and bring the mind into focus. This is one reason why monks use bells.
There are a few other liminal examples of bells. The Fool is the only tarot card with a bell. He’s depicted in several different decks as a man wearing a hood or jester’s hat with several bells attached. He gazes up at the sky, blissful, while one of his feet hovers in the air, caught in the moment he is stepping off a cliff. With a foot in each world, he is a representation of the liminal.
He represents the leap into the unknown: the end of one journey and the beginning of another. He’s also considered the beginning and the end of the major arcana. This echoes the liminal nature and change associated with the bell.
Similar to the fool, the court jester is another archetype associated with bells, usually on a their hats. The jester is known to speak truth in jokes and riddles. Their message is ‘what you see is not what it seems.’ Jesters follow a different set of rules than everyone else. It’s almost as if they are not of this world.
Lastly, the Morris Dance, with its liminal creatures (such as the animal-man) and dancers who wear bells tied to their legs, could be seen to represent folly and things which are not of this world.
I hope this article opened your mind to the many witchy uses of the bell as an altar and magical tool. It’s one of my favorite tools for all of these reasons.
If you liked this article, check out my other magical tool articles:
Until next time!
(1)(3) The Lives of Roman Emperors, Chapter of Caesar Augustus, edited by J Eugene Reed, Philadelphia: Debbie and Co. 154