Building a Magical Foundation
By Sheila K. Watkins
Yes we are at the very basics of magic and I admit I've been assuming most of you at least have the basics down--but I get reminded from time to time, never assume.
We are going to
start off with is grounding and centering. I was going to start off with
flowing energy but the first thing you need to know is yourself. What you
need to do is find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed and sit
in a relaxed position. Wear something non-binding and comfortable. (Do
this when practicing all the exercises to start: as our skill grows such
things, as bothersome clothing becomes more easily
To center, close your eyes and look inside of yourself. Where is the most steady, the most stable area. Where is it your emotions are calmest. Find this place and know where it is. For most people this is chest area, for others it's the head but don't worry if it's say your right foot. Once you find this spot you should feel very calm. Your center should feel solid and for most people it feels like a sphere or a ball. You should be relaxed and your breathing should be steady. Once you have found your center, you will want to practice finding it until it's instinctive. Practice until you can center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a deep calming breath. One gentleman I knew trained himself to center by looking at his pinkie ring but I don't like the idea of relying on an object.
Now on to grounding,
which is either sending excess energy into the ground or connecting yourself
into the ground so that excess energy flows into it as needed. It acts
like grounding post on a plug for a piece of electronic equipment. There
are several techniques for grounding. One of the most popular is to envision
yourself as a tree with your roots (feet) deep in the ground and your branches
(arms) touching the sky. One of my favorite ways to ground is to run through
my chakras starting at the crown or top of the head and working down to
the first chakra. Then I plug myself into the ground via a tail. You can
also start from the tail or root chakra and working back to the crown.
(More information on chakras can be found here:
Before I proceed
to visualization and how it works, I am going to discuss other things.
People are all different; each perceives his or her environment in a unique
way. I think that almost everyone can agree on that point. Because
of this not everyone has the same abilities. First of all you have to determine
how you sense the world. One good way to do that is to listen to yourself
when someone is talking to you. Do you say: I can see what you mean;
I know what you mean; I hear what you are saying;
For those of you who work visually, you start off with this exercise. The first exercise is to train yourself to see how the way you want see. Do the whole sit comfortably routine. Close your eyes. Start seeing colors. You can see them as an object or just a flash of color. You don't have to see them for long period of time but you do have to see every one of them before you go one. The colors are as follows: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Running though these colors also will put you into mild trance, which is why I use them for meditations. Practice this until it becomes easy.
In the next exercise, chose an everyday complex object, for example a flower and piece by piece assemble it in your mind. Practice this until it becomes easy as well. You may wish also to look up other visualization techniques and practice them as well.
Now what happens if your attempts to work visually results only in frustration and self-doubt? First off, keep on trying to train yourself to visualize. Don’t give in to “I can never do this” feelings. You don’t necessarily have to completely accomplish this before you move on to the following exercises.
Meditation is the next building block of magic. I’m not talking about guided meditations at this stage although those are an excellent source of learning. What I am talking about is putting yourself in a meditative state. I will also address self-hypnosis since in many ways self-hypnosis is a form of guided meditation. In both instances you should assume a comfortable position. It’s not our goal to come out of the trance with a stiff neck or sore body parts. Start breathing: breath in deeply filling your lungs to capacity to a count of five. Hold it for a couple of seconds and then breath out slowly to a five count. Feel the breath enter and leave your lungs. Keep breathing in this manner for a couple minutes. Once your breathing is in a steady pattern, start to slowly relax the body. Start with your feet and work our way slowly up. Example: Relax the muscles in your left foot; when it feels relaxed, work on the muscles in your right foot. Then relax the muscles in your left calf and so on and so forth. Remember to keep breathing slowly and steadily as you do this.
For a meditation stop when you reached your shoulders-- your head should be still upright, your breathing now a regular, steady pattern. Clear your mind, quieting it -- make it a blank. It’s not easy when you first begin but slowly you can start building your time up to at least two minutes during which your mind remains calm and quiet. When you reach that point begin to accept the information which comes to you to be analyzed. Where does this information come from? That's a good question. I wish the answer was simple. The information could be from memories, experiences, your subconscious, or messengers from other planes. There are a lot of theories. Personally I believe the information is a bit of all of the ones I have listed. This relaxed state is also the one best suited for guided meditation. As with everything worthwhile, it does require practice.
we will proceed to self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is a
The next exercise is to learn to feel energy. Let's face it, if you can't feel it (or sense it in some other way) how are you going to know if you are flowing it? What I mean by flowing energy is sending it out from you in a focused manner. Energy is all around us. Some energy is subtle, some is not so subtle. For example the wind as well as heat from a fire are not very subtle forms of energy, the energy from a rock on the other hand is until you know how to feel it. When we do magic we are not using only our personal energy. Our energy provides the control. It is not the end all, be all of what we do.
When you feel secure in your ability to center and to ground, go outside and find 4-5 rocks. They don’t have to be special, but they should fit in the palm of your hand and each be of a different type; i.e. not all of gray granite. Find a spot, inside or out, where you can sit comfortably. Pick up one of the stones. Some teach that they should be held in your non-dominate hand because that is your receptive hand. In my experience, when for feeling energy from an object, you don’t have to be so picky. Experiment to find out what feels most comfortable to you. Remember that these are guidelines -- everyone functions differently. Clear from your mind all sensations but those from the stone in your hand. Tell yourself you feel the energy held within the stone. Do you feel warmth from it, cold, a pulse? If it’s a pulse, is it fast or slow? Work your way through each of the rocks in the same manner. Notice how the sensations are different as you change from stone to stone. You can do this with plants and many other objects. (With the plants there is no reason to pick or dig up, you can just hold your hand an inch or so over it.) Most people feel energy as varying degrees of heat and cold or as a pulse of varying speeds. Don’t worry if you feel it in a different way.
The next exercise is to learn to feel the energy you produce. You may have read about this exercise before --that’s because it’s simple and it works. Rub your hands together real fast and then suddenly pull them apart. That tingling sensation you feel as you do this is your energy.
OK. Now that you know how to sense energy; it is time to learn how to flow it. To do sit with your hands a comfortable distance apart. Your elbows can be resting on something if that is more comfortable. Feel your energy flow down your arm, into your dominant hand. Flow the energy out of your hand and into your non-dominant or receptive hand. Feel it rise up your arm and flow back down your to your dominate hand and back out forming a current. If you are ambidextrous practice to see which hand receives and flows the energy more easily/more strongly and which directs more easily. Notice how your receptive hand feels as the energy flows into it. Practice this until you can do it easily.
Once you can flow energy easily and comfortably; it’s time to learn how to manipulate it. If you have no problem visualizing, picture a ball about the size of a baseball and change its form by flowing its energy into another shape. Let the ball rest in one hand and move your other hand over it after you see it clearly in your mind. Don’t rush. Go slowly make sure you feel the energy as it changes.
For individuals who have trouble visualizing let me suggest how you may find it possible to deal with energy. Tell the energy it is a ball the size of a baseball and roll it in your hands as you tell it this. Concentrate on what you are sensing, you should feel the energy taking shape under your hands. Once you get confident at making the ball, see what other shapes you can form. Admittedly, when you can see what you want it’s easier-- but you can paint a picture of what you want with words and descriptions. Remember though, if you fail to use words, which express exactly what you mean it, might not be what you truly wanted. Remember the wisdom in the saying, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I often end a spell by saying something like; “I want what I have asked for or something better.”
After you know how to flow your own energy, you need to learn to flow the energy around you. You start of course by pulling energy in. Use the same method you used to feel energy from the stones to sense the energy around you. Start pulling the energy towards you, feel it flowing into you. You might visualize it as you pulling a rope of energy or a stream of energy flowing towards you. If you don’t visualize well. Feel it flow towards you like water from a stream would. Now you use your power to shape the energy that is flowing into you to your will. “I want X so it will be X.” Hold it focusing that intent, that will until it builds up to the point you feel you must send. When you send flow it all at once down your arm to your sending hand and out into the world. The magic has been released: the spell is done. You can also release it in a slower manner for when you cast a circle or do needle work type magic.
These, then, are the building blocks of magic: grounding and centering, visualization, achieving a meditative state, feeling, manipulating and sending energy (both yours and from sources outside of you.) Remember, with magic the more you put in the more you get out. That being said, I can now go onto the matter which was responsible for my writing this article in the first place: How to cast or magically form a proper circle--first ritualistically and then quick and dirty.
Begin by determining how big a circle you need. If it’s only for one person it doesn’t need to be as large as one for a public ritual. (Although if it’s a public ritual, the organizers should have an idea how big of an area is needed ahead of time.) Cast your circle with your hand, an athame, a staff, wand, pointy crystal or whatever you choose to use, as you’re a focus. In this example I am going to use an athame. Step to the edge of your proposed circle. As you start casting, feel/see the outside energy flowing into you and out from you. Feel it flow into your athame through the handle and out through the blade. As it flows, form the energy into white light. See the energy forming part of a dome over you and see it also mirroring underground. Keep flowing and circling, seeing or feeling the circle forming. I personally like to do a three times around casting, but once around is fine. Oh yeah and practice this a bit, I know I keep repeating that instruction; but it provides emphasis
Now the standard rule is when you are casting a circle you are pulling in the energies of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit to cast it. So you are actually invoking the elements as you are casting. This is a tried and true method because it works and it works well. I have used it myself. But see my brain works a bit differently so I usually cast it in this manner. When I call to the elements I’m calling to the spirits of the elements not the elements themselves. Since I am doing this I wants them to know I have a safe place all set up for them. I cast the circle with pure, white, protective energy. Once I have the protective area built then I call out for the spirits to be welcome.
OK. Now I’ll tell you about quick and dirty circle casting. The only way to do this is to practice, practice, and practice some more until you can do it in the time it takes to snap your fingers. You must have fully practiced casting a circle ritualistically before you go on to quick and dirty circle casting. That way you know how a circle feels and you have a visualization of it firmly in your mind. Practice is necessary so your work is not slipshod when you work with others. Rather than forming energy into a sphere, I prefer to visualize tube of white light slamming around me, protecting me from all sides. I then expand the tube into space above and eventually below where it passes all the way through the planet. I will admit though I also like to use a sphere because I can make it mobile, like a big hamster ball rolling around me. So there you have it.
Whichever way I cast the circle, I set it so that helpful energy and entities have no problem entering while anything, which means harm, is kept out. The circle also is made to hold in the energies that you, or the group that you are working with, are raising until you are ready to release it. The whole purpose of a circle is to protect us from those who mean harm and to keep the energy/magic contained until we are ready to release it. Always take the circle down in the opposite way as you cast it.
Of course all of this brings to mind wards and shields. A ward is basically a permanent circle, cast to allow you and whatever you wish to allow to enter and to exit freely. Wards are formed by casting a circle around the area you have chosen to protect. It should be tuned to let in things meant to help you and keep everything else out. It is a mistake to keep things bottled up inside the wards. Shields are basically the same as wards but they conform to the skin and move with you. For shields you want to have several layers and make them of several different substances to protect yourself. Be creative. I knew one young man who put porcupine quills all over himself. Once you can cast a circle, neither of these things should be difficult.
Ok that’s it for now. You have the building blocks you need to start your magical life.
Document Copyright © by Sheila K. Watkins. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without prior permission from author.
Read more of Sheila's articles, poetry and more at Whispers of a Stone Circle and American Witch and Pagan