When I first started practicing magic as a teenager, the concept of boundaries and protection seemed much less exciting than manifestation spells and love potions. My eyes glazed over the “grounding” sections of witchcraft books, and I skipped over the whole “How To Cast A Circle” thing. For a moment, that seemed to work alright for me. I reveled in the feelings of connection and power created by a magical practice. But quickly, I became overwhelmed. I was too open, not just to positive magic, but to everything. My anxiety skyrocketed, because I was unable to comfortably process all this new information. My nervous system simply could not handle it. This is a common mistake, especially for new witches. And while it’s not the most dangerous mistake you could make, it’s definitely something to avoid whenever possible. Much of this is spoken to in my book, “The Little Witch’s Book of Spells,” which was created as a resource for both little ones as well as budding magical practitioners.
In general, witches tend to be a sensitive group of people. When you open yourself up to receive psychic information or spirit messages, or when you attune yourself to the world around you, it’s easy to get overloaded with information. Much of it is positive and fulfilling, like the sweet rush of a breeze across your skin on an early Autumn walk, or the colorful messages of potent dreams that leave you feeling ready to confront the world with your magic. But when you open yourself up to the beautiful and mysterious, it’s easy for negative energies to come in too, unless you know how to protect yourself.
This is why boundaries are one of the most crucial things for witches to create and regularly tend to. Like a glass window, your energy can easily get a little muddied, so it requires regular cleaning. When you keep your energy clear and positive, it makes it easier to keep the negative energies out. And once it’s cleansed, it’s important to maintain a healthy energetic boundary around you and your physical space, so that you get to choose what comes in. Once you begin this practice, you’ll notice that your magical power multiplies, and your personal witchery becomes much easier to perform.
There are endless ways to maintain energetic boundaries, but I generally recommend a two step process: 1) cleanse your energy and 2) cast protection. You can (and should) personalize this practice, and use whichever methods feel best for you.
Here are some clearing suggestions that have worked for me:
- Take a shower.
- Soak in an epsom salt bath.
- Spray yourself with water or an herbal hydrosol.
- Wash your face and hands, visualizing any negative energies going down the drain.
- Visualize a white light filling your body, replacing any areas where you carry negativity with loving brightness.
- Ground yourself by imagining roots growing from your feet into the core of the earth. Let the earth take away anything that is no longer serving you.
- Burn herbs or incense and let the smoke filter through your energy field.
- Use herbs or tree branches to physically brush down your body, starting with your head. Work your way down to your field, and end with brushing the negativity down into the earth.
- Use cleansing herbs like rosemary, lavender, or yarrow to make an herbal tea, and then spray or splash it onto your body.
- Hold a crystal like clear quartz or selenite in your hand or on your heart.
- Spend time in nature: ground your feet in the earth, let the wind ripple across your skin, take a walk in the sunshine, swim or wade in a river.
Once you’ve done the first step, you’ll be ready to set up magical protections for yourself. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me:
- Cast a circle by imagining a circle of light protecting you and/or your space. You can physically draw this in the air around you with your hand, a wand, or a ceremonial knife (which is traditionally associated with boundaries). Imagine pulling the light through your body from the earth or sky, so that you don’t drain all of your own vital life energy, and then send it out through your hand or magical tool.
- Wear or carry a protective amulet, talisman, stone, or herb bundle.
- Visualize a personal bubble around you. Choose whether or not you want it to be permeable or wall-like, depending on how safe you feel. Choose what energies and influences are allowed to come in. Speak this intention aloud or repeat to yourself silently.
- Physically move away from anything or anyone who seems to disrespect your boundaries. You don’t ever have to hug or shake hands with someone you don’t want to touch.
- Say your name to yourself. Touch your body and say, “This is me.” Look or point at the world around you and say, “This is not me.”
Pay attention to your needs, and honor them. If your inner voice is not as kind to yourself as it would be to your best friend, consider how you can shift that voice. Empathetic folks often contain an abundance of compassion for other people, but not necessarily for themselves. Remember… you are doing a lot of important work on this planet! Being a human can be exhausting. You deserve to take a break if you are tired, and you deserve to do things that make you feel good (which is a particularly pleasurable way to tend to your energetic boundaries).
Here’s a fun way to do it: Consider whether or not you have ever dedicated a single day to doing whatever you feel called to in the moment? Instead of planning ahead of time or doing chores, choose a special day when you will let your body tell you what to do. What does it want to do more than anything? What does it want to do after that? Try following these impulses, one after the other, for an entire day, and see just how cleansing it can be. How does it feel to honor and value your wants and desires? This occasional practice is one of the most healing (and fun) things I do, and it has taught me how to listen to my body and honor my own pleasure in my daily life.
Walking around with other people’s energies stuck to you, or with a muddy unclear energy field, feels like trying to move through mud. Many people live their whole lives like this without realizing it. But when you make cleansing and clearing a regular practice, it becomes easy to maintain and tend to your boundaries, so you can walk around like the radiant witch you are. You deserve to feel powerful, and to embody the clearest, most magical energy you already possess inside of yourself.
Ariel Kusby is a writer and witch based in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of The Little Witch’s Book of Spells (Chronicle Books, August 2020), a magical handbook for children 8 to 12 years old. She lives in an old house with an enchanted garden, where she practices practical, play-based witchery and folk herbalism.