I am not a magical purist. I do not see any classifications of magic types or tools as isolated bastions, to be used in their most pure state. Instead, I see them as distinct ingredients which can come in handy for accomplishing a wide variety of goals, especially when used together. Classifications like banishing, warding, healing, manifestation, green, baneful, blessing, and so on, are not unlike the different classifications of ingredients in your kitchen. Sure, a chicken dish is a chicken dish, but a good chicken dish is likely to incorporate some vegetables and spices, and be served alongside a grain or starch. In a similar way, we may call a spell a warding or manifestation spell when that is the dominant purpose, but it is likely to include other ingredients as well.
Banishing is used across all forms of magic. It is a lot like a common spice, in that most of the time you do not even realize it is there, but if it is missing something seems off or the whole dish is ruined. Other times it is the star of the show, like ordering a spicy curry at a restaurant, and having to specify which meat or vegetables you want included.
What is Banishing?
Banishing means to make something go away, to put it in the past, and remove it from the present and likely future. It is a loss that is welcome or needed. Most changes, especially deliberate changes, involve some kind of loss or banishment. This can be big things and it can be little things.
You are technically banishing when you dust your home, because you are making the dust go away. New dust will settle as time goes by, but the old dust is gone. That is a little banishment. Banishing an abuser, especially one that is stalking or fixated, is a big banishment that takes a lot more work, but when done effectively can help prevent a resurgence of that problem in your life.
Banishing can be applied to energetic spaces, objects, people, situations, spirits, behaviors, shadow work, etc. If something can change, and no longer exist in your life, then it can be banished.
If you are uncertain about what qualifies as banishing, I recommend meditating on it. Ask yourself what banishing means to you, and explore the nuances of the term.
- What does banishing mean in relation to people you know?
- What does banishing mean in relation to objects you own or encounter?
- What does banishing mean in relation to energies on things or in places?
- What does banishing mean in relation to energies in yourself, be they part of you, or something you picked up during your day?
- What does banishing mean in relation to the situations in your life, like relationships or jobs?
- What does banishing mean in relation to spirits that inhabit the same places you do?
- What does banishing mean in relation to illness or injury?
- What does banishing mean in relation to behaviors you have, like habits, involuntary responses, or how you think of or treat yourself?
- What does banishing mean in relation to shadow work, and the undertaking of healing and addressing trauma and hidden aspects of self?
Banishing and Grief
Banishing is a form of loss. Even good or needed losses can at times inspire grief. Certainly, not everything you banish will cause grief (I won’t be mourning dust). However, when you do find yourself grieving, you must allow yourself the space to process and be in your grief. It is perfectly normal to mourn what was, or what could have been had things worked out differently, even if you are happy for the changes which triggered the grief.
To Banish or Not to Banish…
If you are thinking about doing a spell specifically focused on banishing, it is critical to have conviction about your course of action. If you have reservations, especially if you have significant reservations, the spellwork is likely to fall flat, making it wasted effort and energy.
When you find yourself feeling like banishing might be a good idea, but are not sure if it is really what you want to do, I recommend this exercise:
Grab out a piece of paper or open a blank document in your word processor. Label the top “Banishing X”, where “X” is the subject you are thinking about banishing.
Draw two vertical lines down the page, creating three columns. Label the columns “Benefits”, “Neutral Changes”, and “Drawbacks”.
Use a pencil, so you can move things between the columns if you change your mind about where they belong. Try to think of anything and everything that would or could change if the subject was gone from your life. Write down as many of those things as you can, sorting them into the relevant columns. Feel free to use extra labels like stars, hearts, check marks, underlines, all caps, different font colors or sizes, whatever, to delineate the items that are most important, vs the minor ones.
Sorting out the likely impact can help you decide whether or not you want to go through with the spell. Banishing spells work best if you have thought it through and are fully committed to having the subject gone from your life. If you have reservations, it is likely to make the spell fall flat. Conviction and confidence really matter. If you wait, in most cases you can do the banishment later, should you change your mind and decide it needs to be done after all.
Another option is to focus the spell for temporary banishment, or reduced impact. That is, you can treat your spell like snoozing that friend on Facebook you just cannot take right now, or like the “play this less often” option in streaming music. Getting some space and time away from the subject may help you return refreshed, or help confirm that the subject needs to be gone for good.
How to Banish
Banishing can be accomplished in an infinite number of ways, and no, I am not kidding about that. Every tradition, and every skilled witch, has at least a few dozen different ways of banishing. Exactly how you structure your banishing will depend upon the specific situation and your particular path and practice. The same holds true if you are incorporating banishing aspects into a larger spell. Look for inspiration in what others have done, but follow your heart and intuition, and adapt spells to suit you and your specific circumstance.
Common methods of working banishing spells tend to include smoke cleansing, salt, chants, prayers, sigils or wards, stones or crystals, bells, jar spells, bathing, hand motions, cooking, cleaning, gardening, burning paper, candles, direct energy manipulation, meditation or trance, poppets, etc.
Bear in mind that the permanence or efficacy of banishings is partially dependent on what you are banishing. Some banishings will be permanent and irreversible. Some banishings will aid mundane efforts at removing difficult things that are a struggle to get rid of. Some banishings will need to be refreshed and recharged regularly in order to continue warding off ongoing things. Some banishings will help to reduce the frequency or intensity of occurrences, especially if it is something that is pervasive and unavoidable (like household pests or online trolls). Some banishings are simply not going to work, because what you want is not possible (banishing can remove toxic people from your life, but cannot make it like it never happened – you still have to do the work to process the trauma).
The only thing that is common to all successful banishings is clear intent. Be certain about what you are banishing, and be clear about your reasons for doing so.
25 Forms of Banishing
There are probably an infinite number of ways and reasons to banish. It would be impossible to include everything even in a book, let alone a blog article. Just about any flavor of magic can incorporate banishing. It truly is a versatile tool in a witch’s toolbox. If you want something gone, or want to create change (and let’s face it, most magic is to create change of some sort), then banishing is likely to figure into it somewhere.
What follows are a sampling of places where you find banishing in common kinds of workings, and circumstances where it can be helpful to specifically bring out banishing as a magical tool of choice. They are not listed in any particular order.
Ritual or Circle Casting
Almost all ritual structures, and especially circle casting, include a banishing component. This is usually one of the first things which is done, to prepare the area by removing all detrimental energies which could interfere with the work. It is also common to include a banishing at the end, to remove any residual energy from the work and return the area back to its normal state.
Protection and Warding
Banishing and warding tend to go hand-in-hand, because if you want to ward against something, that means you do not want it to be present. Put another way, if you ward and it shows up anyway, you want it to go away, or be banished. Also, banishing people or things that cause harm can be very helpful as a component in other forms of protective magic. Keep in mind that wards and protection magic need to be recharged and refreshed regularly in order to remain effective.
Some people and traditions see banishing and cleansing as two separate and distinct activities. I see cleansing as a subset of banishing, because cleansing is a specialized, energy-focused form of “making something go away”. Usually cleansing focuses on washing away intrusive or unwanted energies, but sometimes the goal is to make the object or space an energetically sterile clean slate in preparation for conducting further work.
Banishing all old and residual energy is typically the first step before consecration, to ensure the object or place being consecrated is clean and ready for its new purpose.
Banishing illness, symptoms, or injury is one potential approach to bolster healing magic. No, it will not cure everything, but it can help with symptom management and increase the efficacy of medical treatment.
Some forms of manifestation simultaneously require a loss. For example, if you want financial prosperity, you can approach it as banishing poverty. Often the banishment and the manifestation can be explicitly worked into the same spell at the same time, to magically work the problem from multiple angles.
Social justice is needed in situations where inequities exist. You can approach social justice work as banishing the systems or behaviors which create those inequities, be it unjust laws, police brutality, bigotry, racism, other forms of prejudice and discrimination, or a different issue altogether.
Using banishing to aid in shadow work is simple in principle, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. You cannot simply banish your problems without dealing with them. That never works.
If you are committed to dealing with the problematic aspects of your shadow, you can use banishing magic to bolster efforts at dealing with past traumas, low self-esteem, self-destructive behaviors, etc. If you no longer want a habit you have, you can banish it. If you want to stop being self-depreciating, you can banish it. Just take it slow, one thing at a time, and go into it with the understanding that the magic will help bring it to the surface so you can deal with it, heal it, and let it go. The magic will not make it go away instantly.
If you would like far more detailed advice about how to approach and do shadow work, I recommend reading Shadow Work and the Magic of Critical Introspection.
When baneful magic is conducted ethically, it is almost always in response to someone else’s bad behavior. It is usually worthwhile to incorporate an aspect of banishing the bad behavior, or banishing the toxic person.
Spring cleaning is a form of banishment, where you clear out the old to make way for the new. Most seasons or holidays have some form of cleansing or shift to mark the change from what was to what will be.
Waning and New Moon
The waning energies of the moon are all about letting things go, and are perfect for focusing on banishing. The New Moon is the height of banishing energy in the moon cycle.
Banishing can be incorporated into spellwork to keep your garden low on harmful pests, invasive plants, or the neighbor’s dog that keeps digging up your yard. It can also be used to help with spells to prevent problems from heat, cold, over or under watering, etc.
Simplifying and De-Cluttering
When things get too complicated or overwhelming, it can be very helpful to pull back and simplify things. Minor or temporary banishments can help to de-clutter things on emotional, mental, metaphysical, and physical levels, allowing you to remove the things that can wait or are not as important, and allow you to focus on the things that matter most.
Energetic Self Maintenance
No matter how careful we are about shielding and warding, when we interact with the world we inevitably pick up and internalize outside energies. Banishing is a fantastic tool for keeping your energy body clear of detrimental energies which are not actually your own.
Boundaries and Self-Respect
Setting boundaries is a way to respect yourself, by recognizing that certain things, behaviors, and people are either not acceptable to you or actively harmful to you. Exactly what those boundaries are will vary dramatically from person to person and situation to situation. Understanding your personal boundaries is essential for personal wellbeing and overall health.
Banishing comes in by providing an avenue to keep your space clear of those harmful things, and especially for kicking them to the curb when boundaries are inevitably violated.
Curating Social Media
Banishing can be very helpful when you want to free your social media from trolls and other toxic people.
Removing Abusers and Toxic People
All abusers are toxic, but not all toxic people are abusers. A lot of people are toxic due to unaddressed personal issues which make them difficult to be around. Sometimes people are toxic with some people, but fine with other people. Also, abusers are usually just as good at grooming allies as victims, so keep that in mind before dismissing someone who claims to have been abused by someone who has always been nice to you.
In either case, having abusive or toxic people in your life is never fun, and rarely worthwhile. Banishing can be a fantastic tool for helping to permanently remove such individuals from your life.
Banishing can be a helpful component in spells to help your pets stop engaging in unwanted behavior, be it barking, peeing on the floor, waking you up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, or something else entirely. Do remember to also do mundane work, like taking your dog for walks (if your dog is indoors for ten hours straight, of course they are going to pee on the floor), keeping the litter box clean, training, etc.
Creating a Successful Event or Gathering
If you are doing spellwork to help ensure a successful event or gathering, it can be helpful to banish and ward against things you definitely do not want to happen. At the top of my list would be things like exclusionary or elitist behavior, racism, bigotry, ageism, transphobia, antisemitism, ableism, xenophobia, bullying, theft, charlatans and con artists, white supremacists, abusers, rapists, and pedophiles.
Looking for a New Home
If there are deal-breakers for you with a prospective new home, it is reasonable to banish and ward against those things. This will help you to avoid wasting time looking at places which you would find unacceptable or intolerable. Banishings can also sometimes be helpful if you want horrible neighbors to move away from you, but be sure to ward as well to help prevent different horrible neighbors from moving in after they leave.
Creating a Peaceful Environment
Instead of focusing on banishing people, you can instead banish behaviors or circumstances. If you have a mostly OK neighbor who just makes too much noise at the most inconsiderate times, you can foster peace by banishing the noise at those inconsiderate times. You are just as deserving of having a comfortable existence as anyone else, so it might be worth a shot.
Another similar situation would be when you frequently have to hear screaming matches between other people, something that is never healthy for anyone if it happens on the regular. If you can successfully banish it, it not only helps you, but it probably helps them as well.
Banishing sleeplessness, restlessness, nightmares, etc. can be a useful component in larger spells to help with quality and regularity of sleep.
If you are ready to do the work to overcome chemical dependence, banishing is a helpful magical tool to bolster those efforts. Exactly what you banish will depend upon your situation, what you are using, and why you are using it, so try to focus on banishing the aspects which are the hardest for you to let go of. That might mean banishing the cravings, access to the substance, or friends or situations which cause you to use again. Or, you might need to banish more ephemeral aspects, like mental loops, anxiety spirals, self-doubt, self-destructive thoughts or behaviors, or traumas or other issues that fall under shadow work. The ideal focus might be something else entirely.
Ghosts and Unwanted Spirits
Most of the spirits, ghosts, and other noncorporeal entities which inhabit the earth with us are best left alone or treated with respect. They do their thing, we do our thing, and the world keeps on going on. If you do find yourself residing with a problematic ghost or spirit and negotiations are not working out, banishing can be helpful for curbing disruptive behaviors or occurrences, or for removing the entity entirely. Please be careful, though, as banishing in this kind of situation can be viewed as a hostile act, like kicking out a roommate who lived there first. The entity may take such attempts very poorly, and it can potentially escalate the situation if you are unsuccessful.
Echoes and Residual Memories
Very often, the things that seem to be spirits or ghosts are actually echoes of past events, or residual energetic memories. If there is no actual consciousness or awareness, then you can stop them by banishing the energies or echoes which are the source of the events.
Be Wary of Banishing too Much, too Thoroughly, and too Often
It can be incredibly freeing to banish things from your life, especial things that are actively harmful to us or prevent us from being happy. However, it is possible to banish too much or too often, especially if it is a component of toxic positivity.
I have known people who advocated for aggressive cord cutting each and every day, to the point that they would energetically cut every connection they had without first considering what they were connected to and why. Over time they sacrificed not only their connections to harmful things, but also to things in their life that had value. They literally started severing their concern and care for others, thinking it was another harmful “cord” to be cut, draining off their personal energy like a vampire. Eventually they turned themselves into islands focused solely on themselves, and in losing all deep connections to anyone else they also lost compassion for others.
There is a balance between too much and too little. Too much, and you can isolate yourself. Too little, and your lack of boundaries will result in being overrun or overwhelmed with unnecessary and harmful things.
Banishing too much can also be a path of avoidance. Lots of things in life are uncomfortable, difficult, or painful, and not all of those things are bad. In fact, some of the most worthwhile things in life are simultaneously uncomfortable, difficult, and painful. That is why it is so important to critically evaluate what you want to banish, and why you are doing it. If you do so with completely honesty, you will be in a much better position to confidently proceed with the decision to banish, or to make peace with things as they are.