In our lives, and especially in our training as practitioners, at times we will feel beset by outside powers. The first response should be grounding and centering, but these are not always sufficient on their own. Sometimes, it may be necessary to create some form of magical protection.
As a word of caution, when we are drained and empty, even the most everyday situation can seem threatening. Overwhelming stress supposedly coming in from the outside is sometimes just a reflection of (or even caused by) our own internal lack of power.
Protective magic is a useful and worthwhile area of study, but it is not something we should walk around using all the time. On a daily basis, we could better spend those resources elsewhere.
If our response to every threat is to seal up even more, then we will drain ourselves. That being said, protection magic is absolutely something to develop as part of our toolbox.
Types of Protection
There are a number of ways to protect ourselves. Magical shields, wards, and amulets are three common options.
Shields are spiritual barriers that are connected to a person. Wards connect specifically to places. Amulets are objects that provide protection. Of the three, it is probably easiest and most practical to train with shields.(1)
There are a few different approaches that can be used to nullify, prevent, or avoid a spiritual attack. The first, and simplest, is to put attention on the part of the spirit that is being affected. This can sometimes be discerned as a sort-of-physical sensation.
You can shape outer edge of the spirit into a “shield” that will hold out the intruding spirit-form. This is often completely effective, especially for short-term “threats.”
With practice and experimentation, you may be able to create “shields” that are reflective or even spiritually camouflaged. There is more to protection than raw strength, and not every threat needs to be met head on.
To create the simplest shield, visualize a circle of power in front of your solar plexus, at the bottom of the sternum. When the visualization seems firm, move it to the location where you need it by shifting your attention. With this technique, you can protect yourself from others.
Much like practicing a basic block in a martial arts class, defense benefits from repetition. The simplest way to train this is to make it part of your daily practice.
Start with only ten seconds, or thirty, and work your way up to a minute. Form the circular shield at the base of the sternum, and hold it. As always, a little every day is better than all the intentions in the world.
If you find that you have difficulty with visualization, then simply work with feeling or knowing that the shield is there. For some people, this practice is simple, while for others it may take years to develop.
A Word of Caution
The time to learn to protect yourself is long before you need it. In a universe where every person, place, and thing has a spirit, we cannot get along with each and every one of them.(2)
The simple shielding technique above is an expression of the will. It is best used as a temporary measure. This shield is the spiritual equivalent of “putting up your dukes” and will intuitively let the people around you know that you believe the situation to be dangerous.
Being defensive might escalate a situation that you could otherwise have avoided. With training, most difficulties can be handled with either grounding and centering or with banishing.
ProTip: With practice, it may become possible not only to place a shield around oneself, but to extend that protection to others who need it. Such activities can certainly be tiring, however, and should be used with wisdom, sensitivity, and generally a light touch.
However, occasionally we really will need to protect ourselves. And in those moments, it helps to have put in the time and effort in advance. In this way, training in defensive magic is very similar to training in martial arts.
Downsides of Shielding
Shielding is not something that should be held at all times. Proper and effective shielding can also block out many other things in addition to an attack or an antagonist. Relationships, job opportunities, and anything else that might have a spiritual component can also be blocked.
Maintaining a spiritual defense is no different from being consistently verbally or even physically defensive. If overused, it can limit interactions with others and even provoke attacks.
Worse, if you think a problem is external, but it is partially or wholly internal, then shielding will not only be ineffective but counterproductive. It may exhaust personal resources that could have been used to actually fix things. A little self-knowledge can save no end of headaches.
Three Dangerous Situations
Intentional spiritual attack is rare. In most cases where it does happen, it is also clumsy. On the other hand, in an immanently spiritual world, interactions between our own spirits and those of others are frequent.
Not infrequently, an effective salesman may try to imprint your spirit with a desire to buy some product. Just because people do not have real knowledge of, or access to, their spirits, that does not mean that they are completely inactive. And the more sensitive we are, the more this bothersome practice will annoy us.
In fact, from the animist’s perspective, a fair number of “sales techniques” have spiritual components that involve using their spirits to communicate with their marks. And, unfortunately, simply being aware of such techniques is not always foolproof.
Perhaps most rarely, human predators may seek prey on this level, unconsciously reading spirits and seeking an opening. Looking like you are strong enough to put up a fight can avoid trouble before it happens.
In all three of the above situations, the first step is awareness. Often, simply recognizing the spiritual influence in a situation robs any bad actors of their power.
In the first scenario, the inexplicable feeling of dread and danger becomes, “Oh, Bob is angry.” If awareness alone is not enough to deescalate the situation, shielding may be necessary in order to regain your own grounding. Once that is done, you might be able to address the underlying trouble. Failing that, getting out of the situation may be best.
And as for the pushy salesman, when we recognize that the desire for us to buy some gadget is not our own, it becomes easier to walk away. Simply hardening your spirit, combined with grounding and centering, will almost always be effective.
When a predator is stalking, we can choose to walk away, or walk down another street. The best defense against danger is avoiding unnecessary confrontations. Mostly, avoiding battles is better than winning them.
ProTip: In dealing with predators, the trick is to avoid the trap. Not becoming ensnared in a situation is usually the best action unless you are a law enforcement officer.
A Word on Advanced Techniques
Physically, we live in civilized times. Spiritually, however, it is very much the “Wild West” out there. If your choose (or were chosen) to live a spiritually active life then there are dangers that come with that. The challenge is neither to obsess on those dangers nor ignore them.
The good news is that there are advanced protection techniques that do not make us entirely inaccessible. The less-good news is that those skills can take years to develop.(3)
The more your spiritual core is developed, the less you will need to defend yourself. In the meantime, the best defense is not needing one. Avoiding a conflict entirely is more effective than fighting. Running away hurts less then a beat-down. Still, there will be times when these are not options.
For Further Reading
If you are interested in more information, Patrick Dunn offers a brief but useful overview in Postmodern Magic, especially the chapter “Magic in the Street”. For those looking to integrate their spiritual practices with martial arts, I highly recommend Vernon Kitabu Turner’s Soul Sword: The Way and Mind of a Warrior.
(1) One advantage of wards and amulets is that they can be used with more circumspection. If your magical practice involves lots on incense, salt water, chanting, or anything else ostentatious, it can be pretty inconvenient to roll that out in the middle of the street or the office. A prepared amulet, or a warded space, can be readied when you have the time and resources to really cut loose. Shielding, however, is often done surreptitiously and on the fly.
(2) There is no doubt that we, as a species, live in a dangerous universe. First of all, most of it is uninhabitable for us. Beyond that, there are a lot of things out in the world that are pretty dangerous and need to be respected or just plain avoided.
But on a daily basis, Western culture insulates from most of these challenges. Sure, there are dangers in our lives, but our daily world less risky than most other parts of the world as well as any other time in history.
(3) Advanced techniques require depth of experience and honest self-cultivation. In a culture of instant gratification, this work is too often treated as an unnecessary burden. This is not true; it is preparation for advanced work.