& Psychic Self-Defense.
Herne asked me to write an article on the basic dangers of Magic. I had to rewrite that article, because what I was ending up with was more about protecting yourself than about possible dangers. So I finished the first article, and here is the second.
Magic works. This is the first thing you have to learn. If you don't believe that magic gives you the power to reshape the universe, you're wasting your time. Because if you believe a spell or ritual won't work, it won't. Period. And if you do believe in the power of magic, then you need to realize that when you use it you are putting your hands on the same forces that move the tides and spawn tornadoes. And that by doing so, you have the potential to harm yourself or others. I have often compared working magic to rock climbing. It takes years of study and practice before you're ready to try it. It is fairly safe, if you know what you're doing and take appropriate safety precautions. At the same time, a mistake can ruin your whole day or worse.
In this article, I will outline a few basic techniques for protecting yourself and your home. While these are essential while working magic, they are also useful anytime. For example, there's no better night's sleep than in a room that's been magically shielded to keep out psychic noise.
Let's start with Shielding. This is a technique for creating a magical 'force field' around your person or a place, to keep out unwanted energy. This could be psychic 'background noise', nasty astral critters, or magical energy directed at you. Many people do this unconsciously all their lives. Others of us have to learn how. The method I use is to visualize a 'net' of energy around the area to be shielded. Remember to 'see' it in 3D, a sphere rather than a circle. (This is where those visualization exercises come into practical use.) I generally use my personal energy to power it. I visualize negative energy being absorbed by my shields and flowing into the earth. ("Ground and Center" here.) I visualize it as porous, though, so that energy I send can pass through. With practice, you will be able to shield yourself instantly, without thinking.
I have found that exhaustion or alcohol quickly erode my ability to shield, so keep this in mind. Once you have shields, there is lots of nifty magic you can do with them. I'll describe some of these in an article for an advanced class.
Warding is a similar technique. I define a Ward as a Shield anchored to a physical place. Instead of using your energy, though, you let Earth energy flow upward to power it. With practice, you can create a stable, Earth-powered shield. This leaves more energy for spell work, or allows you to drop your own shields and recharge. Reinforce the visualization regularly, and it can be permanent, to protect your Circle or home. I tend to anchor wards with physical objects-a stone, carved runes, etc. But it is the visualization that really matters. If the mental image fails, the shield will fail, no matter how many runes you carve.
Occasionally, when going about my daily life, I will feel a 'tickle' at my aura as some kind of psychic energy contacts it. Other times, the hair stands up on the back of my neck, and I quickly raise my shields. And on rarer occasions, I feel a sudden energy drain as my shields (thank the Lady and Lord) go from standby to maximum power before I know what's happened. In these situations there are a few shielding tricks I use. First is the mirror. I visualize the outside of my shields as a perfect mirror, reflecting any energy back to it's source. Next is making the inside of my shields a mirror. I use this to contain any psychic energy I might be emitting, hopefully making myself psychically 'stealthy'. Last is the 'iron wall' or 'stone tower' visualization, changing the thin energy shield into a massive fortress. This requires a lot of power, but when huge waves of negativity are breaking over you, it really helps.
Now on to a few active techniques. If negative energy keeps coming at me, I don't sit back and continue to shield until exhausted. The ancient warriors knew that any purely defensive battle is doomed, if it goes on long enough. Invoking the Lady and Lord is probably the surest and simplest defense. Malevolent entities (wether astral or earthly) tend to avoid the presence of the Deity. In fact, the nastier they are, the faster they run. But like most kids, I don't like bothering Mom and Dad all the time with small problems I've been taught to handle myself. The most basic technique is calling White Fire. This is the Light energy of the universe, the silver-white of the Moon and the fire-white of the Sun, the sum total of the magical Elements. Let it flow in from all around you until you feel like a ball of lightning, then send a directed bolt of it back in the direction the negative energy came from. While the mind alone is all you need to do this, I find my sword/athame is a perfect tool for this. (I feel the Rede does not prohibit self-defense, but that's another article, too.) If this doesn't work, you can still call on the Lady and Lord in their warrior/protector aspects to help you.
So, good luck as you study the Craft of the Wise. Remember, the Bad Guys are out there, and they're after us. That's how we know we're the Good Guys.
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