Author: Taliesin McKnight
The first thing that one should learn to do in magick is to banish. This is a simple precautionary measure. Before conjuring things up, intentionally or unintentionally, banishing should be well understood. Banishing can be defined as cleansing an area (or person) of negative energies or entities. There are various hostile forces in the spirit world that need to be warded off at times.
There are three basic ways to get rid of negative vibrations. These techniques are used in virtually all systems of magick: Wicca, Voodoo, Santeria, ceremonial magick, to name just a few. Once the art of banishing is understood, then it can be done for others as well. After all, magick is not just about your base desires and self-glorification (sobering thought, I know!) , but about helping others. You will be a cunning man or woman, an instrument of the Divine. The three basic methods of banishing are the burning of herbs, the sprinkling of holy water, and ritual.
The burning of herbs is a very ancient form of exorcism (exorcism is another word for banishment) . But not just any herbs are used; they must be cleansing herbs! This may include such plants as vervain, onion, patchouli, and hyssop. You may now be asking yourself, do those herbs really have any power in themselves? This issue is highly debated in the occult community. Some are of the opinion that different herbs have various mystical properties, which can be harnessed and employed by the witch. Others, however, think that it is simply the belief in the mind of the practitioner that makes the employment of herbs effective. Whatever the case may be, virtually all forms of witchcraft regard herbs as highly powerful agents to be made use of in magick.
The basic technique involves burning the herbs and allowing the smoke to touch the area (or person) being cleansed. The smoke is said to drive away impurities. Warning: Do not merely use the incense sticks or cones! Many would-be magicians are conned (intentionally conned by the manufacturers) into using these. Typically, there is no herb in the incense at all. It is merely the “fragrance.” Thus, if you buy lavender incense, chances are there is no lavender in it. So try to avoid merely using the incense named after the plant.
There are various methods for procuring your herbs. The plants can be bought or grown. Most pagans like to grow their own so they can incorporate the seasonal practices of planting and harvest into it. They may also be purchased at your local metaphysical store or online. Another alternative is to simply go to the grocery store and just see what you can find. If nothing else then many of the herbs can be found in the “spices” section. Onion, garlic, black pepper, and rubbed sage are easy to find; these are all powerful herbs used for banishing. Tobacco can be blended with such herbs to help them burn. Tobacco is often used to replace sulphur in old grimoires. It is connected to Mars (the god of war) . The herbs may be burned upon charcoals. Smudge sticks are also quite popular. These are often composed of a mixture of rubbed sage and bluegrass.
The concept of holy water is found in many different systems of magick. Please note that this does not necessarily refer to holy water from a church. The use of holy water predates Christianity and is used in virtually all forms of Paganism. At its most basic, it is water mixed with sea salt. Various other formulas exist in which one mixes the water with various cleansing herbs such as sage, hyssop, and vervain. This is all up to the individual witch. The herbs are boiled in water and then are strained. This is how such herbal mixtures are made. Marie Laveau water (highly prized in New Orleans Voodoo) is one such example. It is composed of 1 cup of rainwater, 1 cup of spring water, 1 cup of lavender water, 1 cup of rose water, and holy water from a church.
Holy water should always be blessed in some way, which can be accomplished by an elaborate spell or a simple prayer. The water is then sprinkled in the area to drive away evil and any negative, hostile forces. This ancient practice goes back to the very beginning of magick.
Ritual is the last of the three methods. Of course, sprinkling holy water and burning herbs do serve as rituals within themselves, but there are other more elaborate forms of ritual. One of these is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This ritual comes to us from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was a secret society that taught initiates the practices of ceremonial magick. Although this rite is derived from ceremonial magickal tradition, practitioners of many different paths and systems have used it. This is simply due to the fact that the ritual is so effective at cleansing the environment of negativity. Another technique is the ringing of a bell, a method used by a number of cultures.
Those of a Christian background may call on the power of God by invocation and prayer. Another practice is to cut an onion into quarters and to place these in the four corners of a room. The idea is that the onion will absorb the negative “vibes” and is later discarded or burned. Chanting may be employed or various candle spells may be used. Once again, there are countless rituals that can be utilized as rites of exorcism.
Remember, banishing is the first thing that should be learned in the practice of magick. From that point on you may proceed, somewhat safely, on the path of the occultist. The three methods outlined above (the burning of herbs, the sprinkling holy water, and ritual) are used in virtually all forms and systems of magick around the world. They are tried and tested methods that have been successfully employed by witches for many thousands of years. When all else fails, appeal to a Higher Power, however this may be defined.
Always remember that the Ancient Ones are there to aid you upon your path.