Cleansing, Banishing and Centering

“Whether we are creating sacred space for others or just ourselves, sweeping away bad vibes, or trying to find our still-point of power, the core magical techniques presented in this workshop will help.” – Treadwell’s Books. 

On Thursday 18th June 2020 I participated in a Zoom Cleansing, Banishing and Centering workshop hosted by Julian Vayne with Treadwell’s Books

This was the first online magickal workshop that I had participated in and if I’m being honest, (which, dear reader, I always strive to be) at the start of the workshop I was feeling sceptical due to the lack of human connection.

But hey, it cost twenty quid, what did I have to lose?

*Spoiler alert* 

This won’t be my last online magickal workshop – it was wonderful.

If you’re considering getting involved with online magick, see below my breakdown of the Treadwell’s Cleansing, Banishing and Centering workshop. 

Treadwell’s offer a range of online workshops –  perfect for Covid times.

The workshop started with Julian and a group of about fifteen attendees considering the magickal circle.

The magickal circle is an ancient protective symbol that traces back to Sumerian material from around 4000 B.C. The magickal circle represents the universe. In a nutshell, the witch or magician casts a circle, positions themselves in the middle (to symbolise being at the centre of the universe) and makes their magick. A magickal circle is both a space that is used to protect practitioners from unwanted external energy and a place where energy is generated, like a battery or a laboratory. Traditionally, if you were a practitioner of traditional Grimoire magick (a.k.a. grimoiric mysticism) your focus would be on the spiritual realm, so when working with a magickal circle you would probably cast a triangle just outside of your circle to act as a holding space for any spirits that had been summoned. Yikes. However, most modern witchcraft practitioners aren’t interested in summoning spirits (I’m definitely not) and they tend to use magickal circles without triangles. 

If you’re looking to carry out any sort of magick, including Cleansing, Banishing or Centering work, it’s a good idea to create a magickal circle and place yourself in the centre. You can do this in several ways, by imagining, visualising or feeling a circle of bright white light around you or by physically creating a circle in the earth with an athame (a.k.a. witch’s knife) or salt. 

King Solomon’s magickal circle with a holding area for spooky guests. 

Once the group had established the concept of the magickal circle we moved on to exploring other symbols and objects that are typically used to support Cleansing, Banishing and Centering rituals. For example, a waving lucky cat, the Hand of Fatima, Witches Marks or God’s eyes. Often these objects will be placed in liminal spaces – at windows, doorways or thresholds as these environments act as gateways to let through good vibes and let out the bad. Allow yourself to be guided by the symbols and objects that you intuitively and culturally register as being your guardians. 

In terms of useful substances, pretty much across the planet salt is used for Cleansing, Banishing and Centering magick due to its biological preserving and purifying properties. Similarly, lavender is a popular plant for this kind of work as it works directly on a human’s neurological system to help ease anxiety and induce relaxation. Palo santo and sage are often used too but do check where these items have been sourced from due to their indigenous roots and specific connections to Native American spiritualism. Big up to my socially conscious witches.

Smudging is a super simple magickal process to cast out unwanted energy.  You can use a variety of herbs but sage, rosemary, thyme and mugwort are the most common. All you have to do is light the smudge, (a.k.a. bundle of herbs) set your intention, (e.g. I want to cleanse my body and this space of stagnant energy) move it across your body and the room whilst imagining the smoke seeping into your skin, the walls, ceiling and floor. Some people like to chant when smudging. Personally, I prefer to smudge in silence with a soft gaze and low lighting. But hey, each witch will have their own way of doing things, and as Julian reminded us all that is 100% okay. 

Water is often used to aid with Cleansing magick, particularly moon water or water from sacred springs such as the white and red springs in Glastonbury. Many witches will have ritual baths with special water, dried herbs, salt and essential oils as part of a Cleansing ritual. When I take a ritual bath I like to light incense, meditate with crystals, set my magical intentions and allow the water to work it’s magick.

One of my favourite plants… the luscious lavender. 

It was at this point in the workshop that Julian spoke about the core of magick being rooted in both the literal and the poetic. In an ideal world, all of the magickal ingredients and tools a magickal practitioner works with should contain both useful physical properties and be imbued with poetic meaning. Successful magick ultimately relies on imaginative power and our ability to shift our state of awareness. Magick hinges on our power to believe.

For example, if Julian wanted to carry out a Cleansing ritual he might drive for forty-five minutes to Glastonbury to collect some sacred water. By doing this, he is investing energy, belief and time into the magickal process. There is a sense of occasion travelling to a special location thus his Cleansing ritual will be more powerful. Or, in other words, the placebo effect will be greater. Of course, when carrying out a Cleansing ritual Julian could simply use the water from his bathroom tap. If he decides to do this, how might he infuse a sense of poetry into this water source? How about watching the water flow from the tap, imagining the divine depth of the great sacred ocean and murmuring a prayer of gratitude? That should do the trick. 

In essence – Magick is most powerful when you infuse imagination with specific physical properties.  

The Pentagram is the central symbol that is used in “The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram”, a ceremonial magickal ritual that was devised by the original order of the Golden Dawn.

Theory aside, it was now time for the workshop to get more physical. 

We explored a variety of exercises including The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and The Gnostic Pentagram Ritual

The first practical exercise we carried out as a group was Light Breathing. This is a quick and simple five minute practice most commonly used for Centering and it goes a little something like this: 

Sit or lie comfortably. Take a moment to relax your muscles, releasing any tension from your forehead and jaw. Breathe in and out through your nose. Focus on slowing your breath. In your own time, imagine, visualise or feel breathing in a radiant white light. Breathe out grey fog. Breathe in this style for a while. Allow yourself to breathe both in and out the radiant white. Breathe in and out the light down to your fingertips and then into your heart. Take one final deep breathe in and then one deep breathe out. Gently wiggle your toes and fingers. Open your eyes. 

As simple as it sounds, I was really surprised by how calm I felt after this exercise. Sometimes simple is best.  

Remember to acknowledge the above in your Banishing rituals. 

Another practical exercise we carried out was the I, A O Banishing Ritual. 

Julian advised us that this ritual works best standing up. So, we all turned our cameras off but kept our mics on (I think to save people feeling silly or self-conscious performing a ritual in front of strangers). The ritual went something like this:

Stand up, close your eyes and ground into the space. Take your time with each step of this exercise. Raise your hands above your head in a prayer position and look up. Make the sound “Eeee”, which is the sound of the universe’s height. Connect to the heavens. Once you have finished making this sound, return your hands to your heart  and open your arms out wide. Move your head back to centre. Imagine casting a circle around you. Make the sound “Ahhh” emanating from your heart. Connect to the expansiveness of the universe. Next, move your hands in prayer, through the heart centre and look down.  Allow your hands to rest on your navel. Imagine rooting down into the molten core of the planet. Draw upon the power of the below. Make an “Oohh” sound. Return your hands once more to the prayer position in front of your heart. Open your eyes.

The I, A, O Ritual is the perhaps the most straightforward, formal Banishing ritual there is. You can perform this ritual independently or use it to punctuate a meditation, Tarot reading or a more complex ritual. For further insight, check out Aleister Crowley’s book Magick.

White sage is a popular substance for Banishing work. 

A member of the group then raised the question – how can you get rid of maleficent energy that’s inside your house?

Julian explained that some of the most effective ways of repelling sinister spirits is to flip the script. He told us this anecdote:

“There once was a battle between the Wind and the Sun to get a man to remove his coat. The Wind summoned all of his mighty power, and violently blew and blew but to no avail. The man held on to his coat even more tightly. Then, when the Sun appeared, he gently warmed everything up and the man took his coat off with ease.”

This story can be applied to a Banishing ritual as it is helpful to approach this type of work without fear, tension or defensiveness. Laughing at the maleficent energy may sound like a bizarre thing to do but it proves to be a powerful Banishing technique. 

Another method of repelling bad spirits residing within your home is to open all of the windows and doors, cleaning the place from top to bottom, lighting incense, or smudging each room. This work is most effective if you do it in a joyful manner. 

A drawing of the four elements. The smaller circle clockwise is in Dutch – ‘geel’ [yellow] – ‘blauw’ [blue] – ‘groen’ [green] – ‘rood’ [red].

To conclude the workshop, Julian imparted to the group some words of witchy wisdom. Forgive me, if I paraphrase a touch but the essence remains the same:

“Remember, that the right version of a Cleansing, Banishing or Centering ritual is the one that works best for you. You can adapt any of these exercises to make them personal but the basic building blocks remain the same. Come into the centre, acknowledge the height (a.k.a. the above), the depth (a.k.a. the below) and get on good terms with the energies, or elements that speak to you. If you are a Tai Chi practitioner you may want to call on the Eight Energies whereas witches whose work is stemmed in the tradition of Wicca may choose to work with the elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. All of these magickal techniques were discovered by or (depending on your belief system) invented by humans. Magickal theory and practice is constantly evolving. What matters is that the individual magickal practitioner finds what works for them. If you would prefer to work with hearts instead of pentagrams, then go for it.”

This final message resonated with me strongly.  Because, yes, when participating in an online magickal workshop you of course want to learn tips and tricks (that’s kind of the point, right?) but we must keep reminding ourselves that the power always lies within us – within you –  the individual witch. Magick is deeply personal. 

My only criticism (if I had to give one) would be that I would have liked to have spent more time working practically. It would have been amazing to have gotten the chance to practically explore all five of the exercises that were discussed, but, hey, I’m picking hairs here. The workshop was really freaking great. 

And there you have it. My breakdown of Treadwell’s Cleansing, Banishing and Centering workshop led by the knowledgeable and charismatic Julian Vayne. 

In fact, I might have a look at what Treadwell’s workshops are coming up next… 

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