A CIRCLE FOR CATHARSIS
One of my near and dear once spent an hour in a therapist's office kicking
an innocent throw pillow around the room and screaming out rage at his abusive
father. At the end of the hour, he had a broken foot -- and the first
beginnings of a healed mind.
But we have learned that magic works through symbols. Calling an object by
your abuser's name and then abusing that object is sympathetic magic used for
the purpose of cursing. To throw a curse is to project one's worst feelings out
into the world of form, and to invoke upon oneself the inevitable karmic
It is not our way to blast the crops and sour the milk. Wiccan tradition
and plain common sense both tell us to avoid the practice of baneful magic.
But, as usual, it's not quite as easy as just saying no.
Rape and child abuse, loved ones killed by muggers or drunk drivers,
emotional manipulation and betrayal, economic exploitation and dishonest
office politics - people hurt and victimize other people in many different
ways every day. We are not immune.
At some point in our lives, probably every single one of us will feel
violated by some other human being. Often our feelings will be based in fact.
Whether they are or not, however, we need and deserve a safe way to discharge
Symbolic baneful actions are also cathartic actions. They drain and clear
our poisonous feelings and allow our own emotional healing to begin. If we deny
ourselves this outlet, what happens to the grief and pain and rage?
If projection is bad for us, introjection is even worse. Unreleased bad
feelings are a major source of stress. In a very real sense, stress cripples
and kills. Ulcers, strokes, heart attacks and more are all heavily
stress-related. A simple refusal to engage in baneful magic could easily amount
to punishing a victim by adding serious illness to the original harm.
I am part of the All. "An it harm none" is about me too. Release of my
feelings is my right.
At first it seems like an insoluble paradox. But the same understanding of
magic that forbids projection of our bad feelings can open a safe channel for
those feelings. Here's one possible form:
Think about the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer. "Grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can
change, and the wisdom to know the difference." People of any religion can
recognize the wisdom in those words. This ritual is intended to ease emotional
pressure. I believe that is a step towards granting all three of those things
If your hurt is ongoing, you must take steps to stop it - leave the
abusive relationship, begin searching for a new job, begin organizing
politically to stop your oppression. What good this Circle does you will be
temporary at best if you are not acting on both the magical and material planes
to change the things you can change.
But some of our pain comes from old, old injuries. And some of our
feelings are not based on fact at all. The source of those hurts cannot be
changed, but the pain can be. This particular working is to release any bad
feelings, not to judge them.
Don't worry about justice. You may be mistaken about who has hurt you, but
nobody will be hurt by what we do here. All energy will be contained within the
Circle. The object of this working is healing, not justice. You deserve this
healing simply because you hurt, and even if you are mistaken.
Prevention and healing are human tasks; to do them is to change the things
we can change. Justice - the evening of karmic balances - is the business of
the Gods, and may take place across a span of many lifetimes. Karmic balance
is a thing we cannot change.
2) Set Up
You have some decisions to make. The first one is whether you will work
alone or ask one or more trusted friends to witness and facilitate your
working. Some of us can only let our feelings go in strict privacy. For others,
the presence of people who will make sure we don't hurt ourselves or our homes
removes a source of inhibition. And sometimes simply being heard is part of the
Next, exactly what kind of symbolic action will release your feelings?
Will kicking a throw pillow suffice, or do you need to actually make a poppet?
Or just screaming may be enough. If you want to work with a physical symbol,
prepare it in advance, and be sure not to use anything you will want to keep
after the rite or ever use again.
Figure out whether you can either cast a Circle to include your bathroom,
or leave a cast Circle for a period of time. This will depend on your
particular training. If possible, have a warm scented tub waiting for you. If
not, a basin of warm scented water and a washcloth within easy reach just
outside of your Circle will suffice. Also, a ritual meal should be prepared and
waiting outside of Circle, and this should include something green and growing
- I favor sprouts - and something sweet.
1) Waning moon is a good time for this Circle, and the Dark of the Moon is even
better. Cast the Circle and invoke the Watchers in your usual manner. Call on
the Crone, on She who weeds and prunes and disposes of the obstructive and
2) Just inside the Circle, like the membrane in an eggshell, cast a grounding
shield. One possible image for this shield would be a black absorptive chain
link fence, supported at regular intervals by fence posts that are lightning
rods. Whatever happens within this space will be contained and grounded.
3) Make clear to yourself what wound you seek to drain. Say it out loud, even
if you are alone. Recall what happened to you in detail and let the feelings
4) Now, let go of your feelings. Do whatever will help you release what is in
you. Beat on a pillow or rip up a doll. Scream till you cry. Don't stop till
you are emptied. Then fling the thing you used as a symbol out of your Circle.
5) When you are sure you are all done, all drained, contract the shield into a
tight ball in the center of the Circle. As it contracts, it will gather all the
negative energy from the Circle. Ground it. Affirm that you are sending this
energy to the fire at the heart of the Earth - to Jarnsaxe or to Pele - to be
purified in that blast furnace and cycled to wherever strong energy is needed.
Know that what you now let go is gone. Affirm this out loud.
6) Wash or bathe in a ritual manner, feeling the last traces of your bad
feelings dissolve away. If others are present, allow them to wash and serve
7) Rest a few minutes. Feel the peace of emptiness.
8) Then invoke the Maiden's energy for new beginnings. Have your ritual feast,
and otherwise indulge your senses. Gentle and joyful music would be effective,
and you may want to switch to a sweeter smelling incense. This is a time to
dream dreams and plan plans. You have removed an energy drain from your life,
now you will be able to ... ?
9) Thank and dismiss whatever Beings you have called on, throughout the whole
ritual. Close your Circle as usual. Do not do any other kinds of working or
worship within this particular Circle.
The final part of any effective magical working is "acting in accordance"
on the material plane. By doing this, we give the magic a channel through
which to manifest. For this working, there are three forms of follow through,
and all are important.
1) Remember that painful feelings are partly habitual. Acting in accordance
with magic to banish such feelings requires you to stop feeding the habit.
Don't talk about the pain with anybody until at least the second full moon
after the working. This gives the habit a chance to fade out. As much as you
can, eliminate the topic from your internal dialogue as well. When you notice
yourself dwelling on the old pain, gently and firmly change the subject.
Thinking about action to change your life in the here and now is
perfectly OK. The problem is reiteration of old feelings of frustration and
helplessness that actually impede change.
2) If the hurtful situation is current and ongoing, continue with any steps you
were taking to change the things you can change. In fact, you will probably
find you have more energy than you did before to devote to your projects.
3) Be sure to use some of your newly freed emotional energy to reward
yourself. Take time for friendship, love, and pleasure. The object of the
exercise is to clear space for the enjoyment of life, so start right now.
HPs, Proteus Coven