Banishing

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.

banishing-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

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos026.htm
A very classical example of a banishing ritual and some commentary related to it.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/06/psychological-distance-10-fascinating-effects-of-a-simple-mind-hack.php
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.

Meditation for beginners

While meditation is originally an Eastern practice many forms of it have arrived to the West. Personally I’m not familiar with the nuances of Eastern practices and will only discuss the general ideas of meditation in a context that’s easily understood by readers with little or no knowledge on the subject. For anyone wanting to know more about Eastern meditation techniques, there are plenty of books and courses available.

When I talk about meditation I don’t mean one specific practice, but a number of techniques that are closely related to each other. As a whole, I view meditation is the art of connecting with ones mind, which can mean calming one’s thoughts or exploring them are they come. All exercises start with finding a calm, silent place, where nothing is going to disturb you. Take a sitting position in which you can breathe freely and have your back straight. Place your limbs in a way in which you feel comfortable, letting your hand rest on your lap, for example. For a beginner one of the hardest things is often to find a position in which the muscles don’t start cramping after a while.

Note on literature: There are few generally accepted ideas on how meditation should be done and every guide and book has it’s own details, imagery and tips. Don’t let this confuse you, but choose a technique that fits you and ignore the rest until you’ve learned the basics.

Exercise 1: Relaxation
Take a deep breath, let the air stay in your lungs for a second and then breath out. Keep doing this until the breathing becomes automatic, following the cycle without any effort from your side. Now focus your thoughts on the tips of your toes. Imagine your consciousness has moved into your muscles, becoming part of the basic sensations of your body. Relax your mind at the same time as you relax your toes. Now repeat the steps with your feet, legs, knees, thighs, stomach, chest, fingers, hands, shoulders, throat, face and finally the head. You can imagine a string of energy streaming through your backbone starting at the small of your back and going up all the way to your scalp.

Expected results:
Hidden tensions in your body will go away and you feel calm and focused on listening to your own body. Ten minutes of daily training for a 2-4 weeks should turn this into a familiar routine for the and you will start finding your muscles relaxing just after a few breaths. You can keep moving your attention up your body or simply focus on imagining a stream of energy flowing through you. Calming your body will also start affecting your mind, shutting out thoughts in favour of silent contemplation.

Exercise 2: Awareness
Important note: This exercise may be unpleasant for people suffering from severe anxiety or depression. I suggest finding a calm, safe place with someone close by you can talk to if you feel you need it. You may want to skip this in favour of exercises 1 and 3.

Preparations: Finish anything you have been doing in good time before starting. You may want to start with a relaxation exercise to calm your mind. Make sure you have plenty of time to meditate without anything catching your attention. I also recommend sleeping and eating well during the time you repeat this exercise.

Relax and close your eyes. Do not focus on anything in particular or focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath, whichever feels most natural to you. Let your thoughts float freely in your mind. Try not to let any of them take your attention away from your focus. Simply be aware of whatever images, memories, sensations of emotions well to the surface and let them disappear just as they arrived. If you lose concentration, open your eyes and start again.

Expected results:
You will experience a flow of unconscious or semi-conscious thoughts (“noise”) coming out. Any fears, hopes or dreams may distinguish themselves in forms you wasn’t aware of. If you keep a magical diary, don’t write anything down of what you experience during meditation. After 3-6 months of daily practice you will start noticing yourself become more aware of your psyche in your daily life outside the meditative state. This will lead to a better understanding of yourself and your emotional responses. This kind of awareness is the basis for later magical work and should be practised regularly by beginners and masters alike.

Exercise 3: Focus
Form the image of a small orb in your mind. When you close your eyes, think the orb is still right in front of your eyes. Relax and make sure also your eyes are relaxed despite “looking” at the orb. Ignore any flashes of light or figures flickering in front of you. Keep doing this until you have a clear sensation of the orb in your mind. It may come to you as an actual image or as an empty area where the orb is supposed to be. If you lose focus open your eyes and start again.

When you’ve found your own inner orb focus all your attention solely on it, gently pushing away everything else from your thoughts. For some people it’s necessary to imagine your will is keeping the orb spinning. Experiment with the image to find your own preferences and you learn to clear your mind of anything else than the image of the orb. If a 3D object causes you trouble for some reason you may also imagine a simple white spot in place of the orb. Whichever object you pick you need to stick to it from then on in order to accustom your mind to it. Finish your session with 10-20 minutes of awareness meditation to deal with any thoughts and feelings you had during the practice or if you avoid awareness meditation, sitting still with your eyes open sorting your thoughts until you’ve processed anything that came your mind.

Expected results:
You will find it easier and easier to focus your mind on a single abstraction. After some months of daily training you should be able to clear your mind in just a few minutes of meditation. You may find emotions rising from inside you. However your awareness and relaxation training will help you to remain focused on the focus instead. The exercise will teach you the type of concentration that is very important for magical work.

Further reading

http://www.wikihow.com/Meditate-for-Beginners
An excellent step-by-step guide for beginning meditation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
Chakras are originally part of Eastern practices, but the idea has also spread in some form to the West. The idea of seven chakras is relatively easy to grasp and works as a good basis for more complicated symbolic systems.

Keeping a dream diary

I’ve already earlier discussed the benefits of symbolism as mentioned keeping a dream diary as one of the keystones to getting started with magick. This week I’m finally going to discuss matters from more than a theoretical standpoint. I’m however still going to start with some basic theory for you, dear reader, to understand the underlying mechanics of dreams and their interpretations.

Dreams could be described as “noise” made by our mind. We know today that dreaming is very important for the brain to recover from the work of the day. This noise takes many forms ranging from supernatural nightmares to mundane rewindings of the events of the day. Often our hopes and fears reflect themselves into our dream world. In short: it’s a gateway to the psyche unlike any other, except perhaps the one of psychedelic drugs.

The exercise I’m going to describe can help a beginner to gain a better understanding of his or her inner symbolic language. I’m also going to describe some practices related to controlling your dreams that rely on recording ones dreams. The purpose is to learn how to remember dreams well enough to be able to return the dreams vivid into one’s mind to be used for meditative work.

Exercise 1: Start keeping a diary
Buy a book that fits well in your bedroom close to your bed. For the next month upon your waking let the diary direct your mind back to the dreams you just might have had. You might not remember any at all or just small fragments from here and there. Write immediately down all you can remember. You can return to fill in the gaps during the day if you suddenly remember something more.

Do not try to interpret or explain your dreams. Simply write them down just as you experienced them. Remember to include any feelings or sensations you have. When you’re done, close the book and do not reread it over the next days.

Expected results:
You will start remembering more of what you dream every night. Writing them down in the morning will make them stick to the waking memory and you might find yourself remembering some dreams for a long time after seeing them. In my own case the content of my dreams also changed over time, as if my mind tried to get through messages I would usually have missed. If you keep a diary regularly for 6-12 months you should also learn to pay attention to the differences within dreams. With some training you may even naturally start to filter significant details from redundant ones while still sleeping.

Exercise 2: Recognize mental symbols
This exercise doesn’t fit any set time scale, but is a continuous study. When writing down your dreams, pay attention to recurring themes and people. Refrain from the temptation to look into dream interpretation guidebooks. If you don’t understand the meaning of a symbol right away, don’t get stressed about it. You can attempt to influence your dreaming by recalling symbols during the day until right before going to sleep. Write down your findings and thoughts to avoid forgetting them. Go back and revise your ideas as many times as needed. The importance of the exercise is in learning to pay attention to your inner language and accustom your mind to become consistent in its symbolic language.

Expected results:
You will learn the basics of mental symbolism and their use. As with exercise 1, you’ll get used to paying attention to and memorizing details in your dreams. With time your dreams will start seeming less confusing. Working with dream logic will make it easier to work with other mental constructs used within magick and will give you a basis for developing your own magical symbolism.

Exercise 3: Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreams are dreams where the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. In this context lucid dreaming refers to the practice of changing the content of one’s dreams by will. The control can vary from being able to remove or add small details into the narrative or feeing oneself from it entirely. The skill generally requires a lot of work and may not be interesting for everyone. However for those who do, there are a plenty of good guides on how to learn the trick. Lucid dreaming can be of special interest to magicians who want to explore mental (and so-called astral) worlds in depth.

Expected results:
Dreams are often thought of as something out of our control. Simply being aware of the possibility of lucid dreaming can take a person far, since he or she learns not to simply give in to unpleasant dreams. When your power over your mind increases you might find yourself instinctively controlling your dreams with magical means, such as banishing. It’s nice to understand where the skill comes from and how to develop it further if the subject interests you.

Further reading

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream
A very extensive article on what dreams are and how our understanding of them have developed over time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dreaming
General information on lucid dreaming, including scientific studies and history.

http://www.wikihow.com/Lucid-Dream
An excellent step-by-step guide to lucid dreaming.