Banishing is the act of cleaning the ritual space (i.e. mind) from unwanted influence. Generally this refers to metaphysical forces, but I’d like to add that sounds, people and surroundings can be just as much of a distraction than spirits or emotions. In ritual magick it’s a good habit to start with a basic banishing and finish in the same way. A circle is a common tool for this, but it can just as well be spell words, mental images or meditation.

Why is banishing important? I’m sure you, dear reader, have noticed your mind is teeming with thoughts and emotions rushing uncontrollably through your mind. If you have tried out meditation you’ll already know that attempting to silence these will only make you more aware of them. Rituals prefer a calm state, where the focus is solely on what wants to be done. Rituals work best when you push mundane thoughts, fears and hopes out of your mind and let the ritual go it’s natural course, without you questioning or doubting the result. Banishing is a good way to prepare your mind for this.

As already discussed in hypnosis, it’s very important to exit the trance state with special care, making sure you or the person you are working with return back to normal consciousness. In ritual settings banishing is performed for the same purpose. However entertaining it may feel at the time, summoning a demon and then not sending it properly away isn’t going to make your life easier in the long run. Insufficient security measures like these are the exact reason why many magicians lose touch of reality, end up depressed or feel they’re not controlling their rituals at all. It’s very important to keep ritual and reality apart – our mind isn’t naturally good at making a distinction between the two.

Not all magicians do formal banishings and I know not all think they’re a necessary part of magical work. While this might be true for some people, I strongly recommend knowing how to make a successful banishing nonetheless. I started my studies without them and have realized later I would have benefited from the practice many times. These days I use banishing as a quick way to calm my mind as well as clearing the space of unwanted influence when I feel the need of it.

Not all banishing rituals are directed at clearing your mind or ritual space completely. Often you see descriptions of banishings for demons, emotions, people with a bad influence in your life and so on. They are all based on the same idea of pushing away, destroying or distancing yourself from the thing you want to get rid of. This naturally means that if you want to banish something that’s in any way tied to the physical level, remember to remove yourself from the presence of what’s bothering you before attempting to banish it.

Sometimes it’s not possible to free ourself from influences completely. Meditation as well as repeating banishings often will however help you to emotionally distance yourself from whatever is bothering you. In the end the key to controlling your surrounding is a calm mind, not the magical means you achieve it with.

Some examples on banishing

Please note that I’m not quoting any specific source in these, but basing the examples on my knowledge of ritual work and psychology in general. For formal banishing, look into whatever magical tradition you follow or, if you lack one, Aleister Crowley’s writings or Hermeticism.

The banishing circle
The circle is very common and can be imagined as well as drawn or marked with candles or other tools. Draw a circle where you can move freely but that is small enough to feel completely under your mental control (you may have to experiment for a while to get what I mean here). When the circle is set you can imagine a wall or a shock wave pushing out unwanted thoughts, energies and emotions of the circle. Give yourself a while to breath calmly while making sure you truly feel in power of the circle and it’s surroundings. If you feel uncertain about your result, break the circle and start again. I don’t recommend leaving the circle until you are done, since crossing the line will likely break the banishing.

Advanced variation: The same circle can also be used the other way around, to separate forces from the outside and calling them inside, thus making a kind of opposite banishing. I’ve found this a good way to gain some control of various summonings, since it takes less effort to control a small area than an entire room. While I don’t recommend beginners to invite spirits into their circle, gathering and focusing energies works just as well.

A banishing incantation
I don’t use incantations myself, but this will include all keywords (hypn.: suggestions)  you need. I’m going to mark the keywords to the reader is able to adapt the incantation for their own magical work.

By the power in me
I banish thee
Unwanted forces and spirits —
By my command
Leave me alone
Until I welcome you again

The purpose is to assert your absolute control over the area and clear out only the powers that you don’t want to invite during your work. Feel free to borrow the incantation like it is or add in whatever deities or spirits you usually work with. Keywords like blessed, safe, clean, and so on will be helpful in defining what you are looking for. As you can notice I added a very important clause in the end: until. I know people who have made such strong banishings that when they want to be in contact with something they banished earlier it won’t come back to them anymore. This is a thing that might not come to one’s mind in a given situation, which is why I recommend adding it to whatever incantation you use. Incantations naturally work best combined with visual tools, but I’m sure it will also function alone.

If someone decides to use this, please tell me how it turned out. I’m very interested in getting feedback to be able to improve my techniques.

The banishing cube
This is a fully mental exercise, but can be strengthened by candles or other magical symbols. The banishing cube is meant to sit in place in a room or house until removed, if removed at all. It’s meant to be used indoors for rooms of houses to clear them for magical use.

Imagine a seal: a form of your choice about the size of your hand. If you use runes or sigils, one of these can come in handy. Simply a circle or pentagram will also do the job. The image doesn’t need to be very detailed, the main thing is that it has a tangible power in your mind. Place the seal in the upper or lower corner of the space. Then mentally draw a straight line to a corner next to it and place another seal in the corner you come to. Go on like this for the chosen wall, forming a square. (Example:  bottom right, top right, top left, top right and back to bottom right where the square is finished.) Now draw a line from the seal you stopped on to the adjacent wall and draw a square again. Imagine that for each seal opposite each other a line will draw itself, combining the squares into a cube.


Removal: Imagine yourself taking hold of a seal and removing it from its place. Then remove the seal next to it, going on like this until the cube has been reduced first to a square, then removed completely. If you imagined pushing something out the last time, it will benefit you to imagine the forces will flow back into the space left by the cube for every seal you remove. This exercise can also work as a kind of ritual to open up your room or house to spiritual forces if you feel like someone or something that closed them out before.

The non-metaphorical way
If you are in a dark place, bring in as much light as you can, like putting the lights on or lighting a candle. Straighten your back back and take a deep breath, slowly letting the air out of your lungs. Think of nothing in particular, simply letting the feeling of your own body fill your mind. Imagine the realness of the reality around you and you as part of it. If you close your eyes, open them after a short while and look at the place around you. Take in what you see, naming them according to what they are (a chair is just a chair, a window just a window). Remind yourself you are safe and normal and in total control of yourself.

If you have anyone close to you you can talk to, pick up a conversation with them about whatever mundane comes to your mind.

Further reading
A very classical example of a banishing ritual and some commentary related to it.
The psychological explanation to how banishing (distancing) works and how to use it to gain better control of your life. I highly recommend reading this.


The benefits of symbolism

Humanity is surrounded by symbols. Some even say the ability to think symbolically is one of the most important things that separate us from animals and make us truly human. We are equipped with the ability to simplify complicated subjects into single words, gestures and images. Many symbols even have a strong emotional value for us, the flag of our country, for example.

Many psychologists have been very interested in symbols. The subject is so wide I feel I’ve barely got started myself, but as a human being I still have experience of symbols in my own life. I write a lot and pay much attention to how different words, although synonyms, raise different feelings in people than the other. According to colour psychology, different colours affect our moods in different ways: yellow is the colour of joy, blue of calmness and so on. Traffic signs quickly convey ideas of danger, order and command. Symbols are small bundles of feelings and ideas.

The makers of Chaos Magic worked out a way to avoid the troublesome work of creating a full symbolic system. Chaos Magic relies on sigils created with very simple graphical rules. When created, the sigil is charged with the intent of the magician and then consciously forgotten. However, historically sigils have been graphic symbols for spirit entities (often demons) used for invocation. While many grimoires contain long lists of magical symbols, the uses of these are generally limited to their original context. Practically these are too outdated to be of much interest to modern practitioners, although their study can well serve as the inspiration for a personal system instead.

As a magician I often work with concepts that are very hard to put into words. This is a very common problem within magick. Many beginners wonder about the large variety of nearly unintelligible symbolic systems like the Tarot or the Kabbalah. Systems like these are so fully packed with ideas it takes a long time for a student to start unravelling the wisdom behind them. However when a symbolic system has became familiar to a person, he or she can benefit from it even outside the context it was originally developed for. Truly versatile systems like the Tarot keep intriguing millions because of their ability to express every aspect of life. A person may pick a card with personal significance to them and meditate on the meaning of that card. The picture will thus stay in their mind for a long time and will help them to focus on those themes in their life.

In hypnosis, symbols can be used to either give emotions a physical form that makes it easier to approach them. The hypnotist may attach suggestions to words, gestures or images in order to anchor them more strongly into the mind of the patient. The same method can be used by magicians to explore their minds – or affect the minds of others. Very often people will notice their mind already contains a symbol language unique to that person. Some of the symbols may scare someone only beginning to explore their own psyche, which is why knowing one or many existing symbol languages may make it easier to approach and understand oneself.

It’s important for a magician to truly understand the symbols he or she is using. If the acceptance of a symbol is superficial outside ideas have a power to change them – if the symbol works at all. Every symbol within the system needs work from the magician to truly became his or her own. Take the much used pentagram, for example. There are many varying ideas on what the pentagram means and how it should be used. Knowing the original historical meaning of the pentagram will make the association stronger in the mind and make it less vulnerable to outside ideas.

Often it takes a long time to become truly familiar with a new symbol. Any doubt or uncertainty may ruin the experience of connection, which makes it hard to actually use the symbol in a magical setting. Personally I need weeks, even months of study before I even attempt to incorporate a symbol in my work. Others on the other hand arise naturally during trance states. Even these still however need a familiarizing period to be used outside its original context.

Starter tip:

For beginners, a very common starting point to understand symbolism within magick is candle magic. Especially Wicca has a long tradition in the use of different candles for signifying different things. There are lots of sources such as web pages introducing their symbolic values to colours, such as cleanness for white and sorrow for black. These are by no means set in stone and I want to encourage anyone trying these to find out meanings with a personal significance for themselves, not someone else.

Also gemstones are popular tools for colour magic. There are some generally accepted ideas of what crystals mean, with some traditions going all the way back to Antiquity. Did you know that the word amethyst comes from the Greek word amethystos, which means “not drunken”?  Think about that next time you walk past a gem shop! Perhaps wearing an amethyst will protect you from having a hangover on Saturday mornings.

Further reading

Carl Jung: Man and His Symbols
One of the classics within psychology discussing symbolism.

Peter Carroll: Liber Null & Psychonaut
Two of the foundation books of Chaos Magic in one bundle, discussing not only sigils but also Chaos Magic in general.

The Lesser Key of Solomon
A 14th to 17th century grimoire explaining how to control demons. For those interested in historical studies. See also: Wikipedia.
An excerpt from the 1999 Book of Shadows discussing candle magic.
A list of the generally accepted interpretations of crystal powers.