The Danger of Magical Energy
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I keep reading in books and hearing from people that there is some magic that is too dangerous or hazardous to do for the untrained newbie. As long as you are ethical, what is so dangerous about magic?
Tired of Being Cautious
Anytime you work, mess, or play with something powerful, it has the ability to hurt you. Or rather, it has the ability to do things counter to your desires and personal preferences. Fire, for example, is great for heating our homes, but too much of it means the fire department has to run to the rescue! It’s the same with magical energy: it is neutral, but it is what you do with it that has moral weight. To that extent, it is more ethical to have a clue about what you are doing, and how to clean up after yourself if things go wrong.
When you draw a magical circle around you, you are not only creating a sacred place between the worlds, you are also creating a microcosm–a tiny universe. Until you put things in it, or invite beings into it, it is a void. But it is a space in which the universe listens. As above, so below, right? So everything in your sacred microcosm gets amplified. It echoes. Ok, not literally, but energetically it echoes, and when you release the cone of power, or take up your sacred space, that energy goes out into the world, unless you put it back.
An elder in my group once told me that creating sacred space is like extending your own aura to make purposeful space. You are making a home, and inviting others in if you are doing ritual in a group. Imagine what would happen if you didn’t take that down–it would be like leaving a part of yourself somewhere. It would drain your energy. It kinda feels like you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
So the sacred space is made up of you and represents the universe and gets amplified. What happens if you cast a hex? Or fight with a covenmate? Or leave the Elemental of Water hanging around? Or offend the Gods? That energy gets amplified and attached to your aura. Now you attract it! You cast a hex? You get hexes thrown back at you (or things that seem like hexes–everything looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer). You send out anger, you get anger. You leave Water hanging out, and your basement floods. You offend the Gods too often and they stop listening to you. In circle, you need to be on your best behavior, be clear with your intentions, and be polite.
Now say you are doing a ritual, and you totally mess up the lines and everyone laughs at you. What gets amplified and stuck to you? Laughter, mirth, changing a potentially embarrassing situation into something positive. That’s magic too. The Goddess says in The Charge that mirth and reverence are her rituals. The best ritual I ever went to was a skyclad ritual where the main working was laughing. Instead of feeling horrified at my imperfect naked body, we laughed at ourselves for being ashamed of the bodies that the Gods and our mothers gave us. Very good self-esteem boost, lemme tell ya!
So you don’t have to do word-perfect ritual in order to be safe while practicing magic and ritual. But here are some pointers to keep safe:
- Ground and center. Use a good breathing meditation before you even begin. Cast off the worries and stresses of the day and put your mind in a ritual space. Not only will you remember the ritual better, but you won’t bring your clutter into the sacred space. If you are casting circle, there will be more “you” to work with.
- Shield when you have to. I’ve been in circle with people where there was not perfect love and perfect trust, and these folks brought all kinds of personal crap in with them. It’s one thing to bring it in as an issue you want to deal with, another thing to use sacred space as an opportunity to bring each other down. I didn’t want any part of that, so I had my defenses up: a tiny sacred space around me I call Aura Armor.
- Make your intentions clear. Nature abhors a vacuum. It WILL fill with something, and if you don’t tell it what you want, you might not like what you get. Make sure everyone on circle knows why you are getting together and what the purpose of your energy raising will be.
- Begin at the the End, and End at the Beginning. Finish what you start. If you draw a triple circle of protection, take up a triple circle at the end of the rit. If you invite the Gods in, let them know the rite is over and they are free to leave. If you call all the elements AND the Fey, make sure you invite them to leave too. No one likes that awkward moment when you aren’t sure if you should leave or not.
- Eat something. I recommend these as they feel traditional. Ground out the excess energy you aren’t using. Come back to your body and the real world. Some sensitive people get light-headed, hyper, or confused if they do not ground the ritual energy. This is the most common side-effect of ritual. Some people get kind of high off of the ritual energy, but will feel burned out if they don’t come back down to earth.
Some Real and Serious Dangers
I would be remiss if I did not mention this. Some people can’t handle ritual and energy work, or advanced workings like Drawing Down the Moon, invoking or astral projection. There is a very small percentage of the population who may have a psychotic break from this kind of work. Other religions may call this possession, but it is not a healthy or desired state of mind. Folks who are predisposed or diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychosis, antisocial personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder should not do advanced workings for the sake of their mental health. ONLY A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION ARE AT RISK. But these are the people most at risk for advanced magical practice. Ideally it wouldn’t happen to anyone, but pagan counselors do see it from time to time. That’s why the warnings are out there.
No one can guarantee that magic won’t affect you adversely. When you work with power, you deal with the consequences of your actions–whether you like it or not. That is why this path, or any magical path, is not for everyone.
Yet the benefits are amazing. Being a powerful Priest or Priestess or magic worker means having power over the decisions in your life, to live free of fear, to see opportunities, create change and beauty in the world around them. Of course we need people like that. The world could use more empowered people. And if there was no risk, the results wouldn’t be so valuable.
Walk with care!