Since many young or new witches today did not start with a fully functioning religious or spiritual tradition, it is important that those of you in that category be trained in the basics of the basics. Before you even start touching spells or conscious will-projecting workings, you need to have mastered cleansing and protection. These techniques are essential in maintaining your spiritual wellbeing.
At the moment, you are like an infant. You have lots of potential, but at the moment, you are barely taking your first steps into a new world. Trying to jump ahead is disastrous. You may be well on your way to being the spiritual equivalent of a great shark hunter, and you may have enough talent to swim fairly well, but someone throwing you into the ocean at this point would simply get you eaten before or after you drowned from exhaustion.
As I have said many times, you should try to find a live mentor/teacher. You will not learn all you need to know from reading about things. It is also a good idea to have a second set of eyes, and an alternative perspective. I may be a good writer, at least as I’m told, but I am not living with you, in your situation, or inside your head. If you can’t find a live mentor, pray and give offerings to both your Gatekeeper and Lawgiver, as well as your parent/head deity towards this goal. Not having a mentor should not discourage you though. From the time you enter this realm, you should be learning. Make due with what you can. I hope that I am some help in this.
These are very basic methods and techniques. Cleansing and protection are huge topics and there is no way I could fit it all, even all of the basics, into one article. This is just a few things to get you started.
Cleansing is the process of ridding someone or something of inappropriate or “negative” energy. In some ways, it is like pushing “reset”. It is not absolution. A person’s actual conscious wrongdoings or harmful behaviors will not be erased by cleansing, nor will the consequences of their actions. It can however, be helpful in changing their ways and opening the way for correction and making amends…or accepting punishment/consequences.
Cleansing breaks negative patterns. It removes blockages and inhibitions to improvement. It also clears the connection between people of inappropriate and harmful energy. A common problem solved in part by cleansing is the “evil eye”. This is a psycho-spiritual situation of harmful energy accumulated or dumped upon someone due to other people’s jealousy, possessiveness, or ill will. It is like a burden that builds in the soul and psyche one stone at a time until the person is drained of energy and may ultimately lose the blessing others were jealous of or exploiting. Cleansing helps to clear the buildup.
It may not seem as glamorous as casting a spell, but it is an extremely powerful thing. Some witches do almost only this, and are never lacking clients. So we’ll start with some simple techniques that you can use on yourself and loved ones. With time and experience, you will be able to apply this to clients.
A word of caution before we begin…some people and places have very nasty, scary stuff attached to them. So don’t try any of this until you’ve read the next section on protection. If you encounter something that you can’t handle, don’t try to be proud. Get some backup. It may be awhile until you encounter something truly horrifying, but it is coming someday. Banishing strong old hostile be-ings requires advance banishing and exorcism skills. It takes most people a long time to master these, and even they take some hits. Hopefully though, Eshu or your Gatekeeper will make your progress gradual so that by the time that day comes, you are fully ready.
To smooth the way, you definitely want to make sure to give some offerings for this work. Unless you’re doing yourself, you really have no idea what your soul may be touching when you cleanse someone. You want there to be a nice padding of divine grace in the mix so that the “fire” required for the cleansing doesn’t burn you out. Again, traditions vary, but usually the offering is going to be something equivalent to a carton of cigarettes or box of cigars.
Except for loose liquids, most people and things can be cleansed reasonably well with the smoke of cleansing incense. The basic recipe for Eshu incense that you can make yourself or buy from another witch or botanica will do the job. Because smoke from certain plants and resins is antimicrobial, some people in arid areas even clean their physical bodies with smoke/soot. The Himba do this. So there is a very long history of smoke for cleansing.
Some typical ingredients used in cleansing smoke are:
- charcoal for burning herbs and various charcoals of sacred trees such as pine, olive, oak, and cedar
- myrrh, especially if there was any psychological trauma involved
- frankincense, drives out harmful energies/spirits
- coffee, also drives away harmful energies, especially those of a parasitic or thieving sort
- alum, aggressively neutralizes harmful energies and those it doesn’t neutralize, it makes very unattractive to stick around
- dragon’s blood, very aggressive and kind of “razes” through the air like little tiny knives against harmfulness
- rosemary and rose in combination, generally cleansing, and tends to ward off evil eye energy especially well
- peppers, for serious banishing of inappropriate and harmful energy
- sage, a bit overused, but it does the job
This is by no means a complete list. I encourage you to study and look around in your local Nature to find cleansing herbs. This list is just to get you started on what you should make or what may be in what you buy, and why it’s there.
Smudging is often done to cleanse places with a rolled stick of burning herbs, a shell or plate, and a feather. You can do just as well with a censer of burning incense and a hand fan. Though there are certain standards that are fairly globally used, there is no universal specific technique for smoke cleansing that works for everyone. Go by your ancestral, local, and/or divination revealed techniques. Futuristic witches who are Ogun or like deity inclined, may be called to use an electric bakhoor burner or USB cup warmer if they like. It’s not “anything goes”, but there are many ways, and one should choose the one that works best for them.
If you are cleansing a person, they should stand with their arms spread and their legs far enough apart to get the censer between them safely. If they are disabled, make the necessary adjustments. Open a window or door to the outside so that the air flows freely.
As with any ceremony, call your Gatekeeper(s) first, and light some incense for them first as well. The general rule is to always feed your Gatekeeper(s) first when doing any magical ceremony. They are the bridge between the realms. In some traditions, such as Vodun and related diaspora systems, Eshu is fed first unless it is a blood offering, in which Ogun would be fed first since he owns all weapons.
Light or put the cleansing incense on the charcoal. Circle the smoke around them. Some traditions start at the head, some at the feet, and some at the center of the body or around the heart. I like to start at the center of the body and “throw” things outwards. Meanwhile, it is good to chant and/or shake a rattle as a way of focusing on the purpose and adding sound vibrations to heighten the cleansing effect.
After the initial smoking, set the censer down between their feet nearby, and use your hands to “brush” away harmful energy. Later, you may use a consecrated broom, fan, or horsetail for this, but when you’re starting out use your hands.
You know the cleansing has done all it can do when the room is fairly full of smoke or the air is heavy enough that there is some coughing, tearing, and/or sneezing. In smoke divination, the fullness means consensus, balance, harmony, or things are in agreement.
Then thank your deities and close the ritual.
Let the person rest in the room. It is a good idea to have someplace comfortable for them to sit or lie down. Give them water to drink, and perhaps some snacks of fresh vegetables if there is time. It is a very good sign if they need to use the restroom after.
To cleanse a home or room, you need to get smoke into all of the doorways, corners, and windows of the home inside and out. It may take more than one dose of incense, and some hours to complete. Be thorough and patient.
Start at the front door, and make a circle around the home. In many cultures, one should make considerable noise so that harmful energies and spirits are scared away. When you get back to the front door, start going through the home. Work your way from there to the back door or window.
Saltwater cleansing is a bit more intimate. It is done calling the Gatekeeper and the Mother. Take the person to the sea, or have them stand or sit in a bath while your pour or splash saltwater over them from head to toe. If it is a bath, the water should be warm but comfortable. The salt concentration should be at least at the level of amniotic fluid. That is around 2%.
You can do this for yourself too. You can also add other cleansing herbs to the bathwater. For driving away harmful energies, I like to make this experience a bit boisterous. That’s my traditions though. Yours may be different.
You can let them soak for awhile, but try to keep the water moving. You don’t want it to stagnate. When the bath or soaking is over, if it is possible, they should let the dried remnants of the saltwater stay on them until the next morning. If not, then it’s okay if they shower, but I find that the cleansing sticks better of the salt is left on overnight.