Why banish?

A banishing ritual is one of the most traditional forms of magickal ritual, and one of the most commonly used. Many magickal practitioners will not do any other act of magick until they have completed a banishing ritual to their satisfaction, and often a banishing ritual is the first ritual a magickian will learn, memorise and master. But why do it? Why banish?

I was asked this the other day, and conveniently part of my banishing ritual is often to consider this very question. Before getting stuck into a ritual I find it useful to pause and consider "What exactly am I trying to achieve here?" This may be referred to as a 'statement of intent' – a declaration to the universe that "This is my will at this moment, this is what I intent to happen."

Over the years of practice, as I've used a banishing ritual a lot and spent time considering it, I've found that my reasons for doing so have becoming more complicated. A banishing ritual can really do a lot for you. So my answer to 'why banish?' goes along the lines of:

To set yourself at the centre of your magickal universe – a banishing ritual is a ritual that sets the magickian at the centre of things. A message that it sends to you is "You are in control of your life, you are the centre of your world, you are in charge." That's a very important message to receive before doing further magick, but it's useful to be reminded of it in life on a regular basis.

To remind yourself you have help – some banishing rituals (for instance the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram) involve a section where one calls on guardians or guides. These may be gods or archangels or spirits or simply elemental concepts. But one of the affects of this is to be reminded, if only briefly, that we aren't alone in this. There are other forces out there. And those other forces probably look favourably on us and want to make sure we're okay.

To practice magick – most banishing rituals are relatively simple, but still involve the use of quite a few techniques (visualisation, gesture, movement, voice, moving energy). These are all great skills to have, but take regular practice.  Regularly performing a banishing ritual is a good way of keeping well practised at these skills, and improving with time.

To push away things that are not congruent with who you really are – I think this is an important use of a banishing ritual, but not one I've seen often discussed. If we want new stuff in our lives – new opportunities, new friendships, new activities – we need to clear some space so that they can appear (space may be physical, or time, or emotional, or energetic…) But often we are 'full' of stuff that is just hanging around, or is habit, or we used to really like. Banishing can be a way to send a message into our life that 'stuff that no longer serves us should bugger off'. People new to magick often report that when they start to properly practice their lives go hay-wire – they lose their job, a relationship ends, they have a big blow up with a friend… It may not occur to them that if part of their practice is banishing that they may… well, banish stuff out of their lives. Even if they haven't figured out that this stuff wasn't serving them any more their personal growth might necessitate it going away. Magick makes things move… a banishing ritual regularly performed will cause things to go away… But generally only things that we are finished with. Even if we don't know it yet.

To push away things that are not you – this is a little more esoteric, but I see one of the useful functions of a banishing ritual is to begin to push away parts of our ego, beliefs or attachments that are not true to who we really are at this stage in life. We all have stuff in our systems that is out of date, or stuff that really belongs to other people, but we are carrying it anyway. One can use a banishing ritual with the intent of pushing that stuff away, getting it out of one's system. It tends not to have an immediate effect, but I think regular practice help improve the fluidity of our sense of self, and allow some old patterns to fade away.

To balance yourself energetically – again, somewhat esoteric, but most banishing rituals will involve something like evoking each of the elements, or working with each element in turn, which can be a great way to 'tap in' to that part of ourselves. Most banishing rituals are designed with the concept of 'balance' at the very centre – they will be very symmetrical, often based around numbers and symbols which we think of as being 'balanced'. They therefore help us find a balance psychologically, and also energetically.

To push away negative influences – this is perhaps what most people expect a banishing ritual to be 'for', but to be honest it is one of the things I consider least when using one. One is banishing away negative influence, 'bad energy', or bad intentions from others. I would say that the most likely source of any bad energy or influence in one's life is from oneself, but there may be occasions when one is working in an unfamiliar environment when it may feel like it has 'bad energy' or negative emotions are hanging around, and a banishing ritual can help sort that out. (There was, in fact, a situation where I was bored at work so decided to do a bit of meditation – as soon as I 'tuned in' I realised that the room was full of really, really negative emotions. I banished in order to try to clear it out.)

To clear a space for future magickal work – again, probably a more 'traditional' take on what a banishing is for – a banishing ritual 'sets the scene' energetically for future magickal work. It allows you to claim a space as your own, to set it up (psychically and metaphysically) in a way that you like (Doing Thelemic work? Start with a Star Ruby banishing. Working with Enochian entities? A LBRT will be more congruent. Chaos magick? Throw around the Gnostic banishing ritual), and 'clears' the energy that may have been there.

To magickally transform oneself – easily said, but a powerful concept. Doing magick changes you. It strengthens you energetically, it causes the Universe to respond to you differently – this may manifest as little piece of luck, odd coincidences, or personal (or Universal) insights coming more regularly. But almost any act of magick, preformed regularly, will transform who we are. For the better.

As I said, I will often mentally run through a list like this as my 'intent' for a banishing ritual before I begin the work. Sometimes I will choose to emphasise one aspect over others if it is something that is particularly relevant to me at that point in time. But I think the important thing is that whilst a banishing is a fairly simple concept, and a banishing ritual is often one of the more simple to complete rituals, the effects can be profound. More so if the ritual is practised daily.

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