Protection magic is always a popular topic in magic circles. Many feel that people who are attuned with the world of magic emit a brighter energetic "shine," and are more visible, and therefore susceptible, to the less beneficial energies and influences in the world. If you are tapped into the current, you are bound to attract some not-so-helpful energies from time to time. Being more open and receptive to the world can sometimes be a difficult thing.
The trick is knowing how to protect yourself. Just as in our emotional lives, putting up an impenetrable shield is not really an option. Sure, you're protected, but you're also closed off from all the good things in the world. Emotionally and magically speaking, you can put up a fortress to keep the pain away, but you also keep away the joy, and end up feeling a whole lot of nothing, which is about as detrimental to your well being as being ransacked by bad spirits.
Many magic workers believe, at one point or another, that they are on the receiving end of a psychic attack or curse of some sort. But, as Christopher Penczak puts forth in his excellent primer on the subject, The Witch's Shield, somewhere around 90% of what we consider to be external psychic attacks really stem from ourselves. Now why, you might ask, would I really want to curse myself—that's just silly. But think about it: with all the self-deprecatory commentary most of us have running in our heads, some of that stuff is bound to manifest. Of all people, magic workers believe in the power of thought and intention. Conversely, no one can live perpetually shielding himself in white light, and only thinking happy thoughts and making positive affirmations. Your shadow has to come out somewhere, and if you're trying hard to repress it, it's bound to come out in ways that aren't convenient. As in all things, balance is key, which is why we also take a balanced approach to protection magic.
An Elemental Approach
For those times when you're feeling "not quite yourself," and are left questioning whether some thing harmful, either from yourself or from an external source, has entered your space, try the elemental approach set forth in The Witch's Shield. In a state of fear and confusion, we are in danger of acting rashly. Instead of being reactionary and potentially harmful, Penczak instead presents a balanced and healthy approach to protecting ourselves from malevolent forces.
- Earth: Grounding
The lesson of earth is one of groundedness. If we are firm in our base, we are less easily swayed (or knocked over) by unfortunate circumstances and encounters. We practice groundedness by being fully present in our lives and our bodies, and living from our authentic selves. This is more easily said than done, which is why it is a practice, a process, something we continually work at. When done right, however, grounding is one of the most important tools you have in your magical tool box; all else leads from it. In the realm of protection, we work with earth to learn how to become more grounded in our day-to-day life. We can do this most simply by engaging in physical practice that gives us a sense of embodiment, and, in tough or scattered times, by simply making contact with the earth beneath us whenever we can.
- Water: Boundary
The water element teaches us about our boundaries. Another reason why magical folk are more often on the receiving end of harmful energies or emotional overload is because so many of them are naturally empathic, often more so than the average person. As an empathic individual, your personal space is more permeable to outside influences, and you need to be especially vigilant about maintaining healthy boundaries. Penczak mentions how the first thing most people learn in physical self-defense classes is how to shout the word "no" at your attacker. In daily life, learning to say "no" to others can be just as powerful. You may also want to consider learning some of the many shielding techniques available to you. You want to be able to interact with others and the world, but not take on a mess of energy that does not belong to you, and shielding can help you with this.
- Air: Flexibility
Air teaches us how to be mentally agile and flexible. So often it is our perspective of a situation, or our obsessive attachment to it, that causes us to be embroiled in it and unable to get free. Think like the Hanged Man in the tarot; flip your perspective, and see if greater understanding results. Sometimes the perspective that needs shifting is the one we put forth in detrimental thoughts about ourselves and others. One simple technique put forth by Penczak is to simply neutralize those detrimental thoughts. Once thought or spoken, something cannot be taken back, but it can be neutralized. This can be done simply by saying "I neutralize that thought."
- Fire: Action
After all the grounding and perspective shifting, sometimes action is necessary. Knowing how and when to act is the lesson of fire. This may manifest as preventative or protective spellwork or may involve some of the more advanced direct-action techniques you can learn from The Witch's Shield.
- Spirit: Compassion
Through spirit we realize that all things are connected. If we are being attacked by another in some way, spirit helps us to realize that the person would not be inflicting harm on others if he or she were not also hurt in some way. While understanding the root of the problem does not excuse others from hurting you, it does help shift your perspective, and generates a more compassionate way of dealing with the situation. Similarly, if you're sifting through a quagmire of detrimental thoughts about yourself, it's probably stemming from your own hurt. When you're really grounded, comfortable, and confident in your skin, the harmful voices in your head are nearly silenced. Penczak advocates "blessing your enemies away." This method involves blessing them not just from the surface with "I'm just doing this to get rid of you" blessings, but from a true state of compassion. If you can't manage this, and there will likely be many situations where you can't, another enlightened approach is to simply laugh it off. Nothing frustrates (or dissipates) malevolence more than laughter.