If you’ve been wandering down the Pagan path for very long, you’ve likely heard the terms “grounding,” “cleansing,” and “shielding” on more than one occasion. These practices are recognized as important across many traditions, but frequently the explanation as to exactly why they are important gets lost. Grounding, cleansing, and shielding are found in many beginning books on Paganism and magick, but it wasn’t until I really started doing ritual and magick regularly that I understood their importance. Opening up as an empath only served to highlight these practices as essential and helped me to understand their necessary differences. This post will focus on Shielding.
This is part of a series – Read about Grounding here and Cleansing here!
Personal shielding is something I never did until I became an empath (or rediscovered my empathic nature, it turns out). I had tried it, and never really felt like it did anything. So I didn’t do it for years.
Walking around unshielded as an empath is like being a lint roller in a house with a long-haired cat. You pick up everything and you get used up very quickly. Your energy gets gunky and depleted. You feel fatigued, and it can start to take a toll on your health. These energetic dynamics affect us all – not just empaths! Empaths are more likely to sense it and feel drained by it, but negative energy impacts everyone on some level.
Of these topics, shielding is the one I had the most trouble with and took me the longest to figure out. For the longest time, I tuned out the energy dynamics around me and projected my own energy out as far as it would go as an unconscious shield. Even when I finally realized that shielding was maybe a thing I should think about doing, it took me months to find what worked best for me. I hope your journey is much smoother than mine (and hopefully the following tips help some!)
One of the things that made figuring out my ideal shielding so difficult was that the situation at my previous job was always changing. Some days would be better, and others would be downright awful. It was impossible to have a controlled environment in which to experiment with my different shield techniques. Ever the scientist, I tried my best to control the confounding variables, but it still took me a while. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just have patience and be kind to yourself. You’ll get there eventually.
I have different levels of shielding that I use:
Some days, I don’t use a shield at all. If I am home all day, or hanging out with friends I know well, I am unlikely to shield. Part of this is out of laziness and old habit (of not shielding), but sometimes shielding can make me feel too cut off from what’s going on. In safe and nonstressful situations, I personally don’t need it.
My next level up is a shield of golden white light. I use this if I need a little boost (the following situations are from pre-pandemic times – figuring out how to shield for the new normal will be a project in and of itself), like at gatherings for my Pagan community (where I know most everyone, but we occasionally get new people), for trips out and about to the grocery store, or for social gatherings with more than ten people. I also use it before I fall asleep at night. I like Tess Whitehurst’s phrasing of a shield in which “only love remains, and through which only love may enter.” I envision the golden white light surrounding me in a sphere. I will call on Aphrodite to surround me in this protective shield of love, and I will infuse it with my own energy as well.
Like I mentioned before, it took me a while to find my best moderate shield, for everyday use. What finally worked for me was something more permeable than I thought I needed, and something that didn’t take so much energy to maintain.
My moderate shield is two-fold. First, I call on Aphrodite to surround me with a crystalline sphere of pink light. I envision this as a shimmering pink lattice-work around me, that contains only love and permits only love to enter. I envision this crystalline sphere as rotating slowly clockwise. Then, I call on the Firebird to surround me with a net of protective orange fire, draped over me in a sphere moving slowly widdershins. The holes in the net are fairly big diamonds – about six inches from tip to tip. I ask that this fire to purify all energy within my field, and all energy entering my field. With a shield of love moving clockwise, and a net of fire moving counter-clockwise, I feel pretty well covered, but it doesn’t take nearly as much energy to maintain as my earlier version – which is now what I call my fortress shield.
For my strongest shielding, I don’t actually envision a fortress – Walls feel too confining to be on the inside. Instead, I envision a clockwise spinning vortex of striped pink and orange fire, with no space between them. It’s a cyclone of pink and orange flame – a brilliant sight! I call on Aphrodite first, to surround me with protective pink fire, and then I call on the Firebird for the orange fire to protect me from any and all harm. I ask for the fire to purify all energy entering my field, and all energy within my field.
This is a very cleansing and very protective shield, but it does take a lot of energy to maintain. Even calling on the Divine for help, it takes too much out of me to hold for an entire day (which I discovered via trial and error and lots of days coming home exhausted from work). Now, I only use this shield if I know I’m going to be in an intense or emotionally stressful situation, or as a reactive protection if I unexpectedly find myself in one of those situations.
There are many other methods of shielding. Some people envision a mirrored sphere, reflecting all energy back to its source. As an extrovert, I thrive on reciprocal energy exchange too much for this method to work for me. Plus, I never liked the idea of sending negative energy back to someone, even if they were the one that put it out.
You can also go through the elements for inspiration for shields.
I’ve used intertwining vines and branches before – coming up from the ground to form a natural canopy around me. If I am particularly working with Earth, I will use this kind of shield, but otherwise it feels too dark on the inside of the thicket for daily use (and I like to be able to see out of my shields).
I know people who use physical buildings as a model for their shields – a true fortress made of wood, metal, or stone. Some people use iron in their shields. This material is traditionally unfriendly to the Fae, so I don’t use it.
An Air shield could be a spinning cyclone, whisking away all the negative energy. You can use sigils or runes to add to your Air shield, or envision the source of the air (saltwater breeze from near the ocean is effective).
I’ve mentioned how I use Fire shields. Fire is good for cleansing and burning away the shit. I’ve tried a wall of fire (as opposed to the cyclone or net of fire that I usually use), and for me this can only be used in specific reactionary situations where a strong and immediate block is required. Some use purple fire to transform and transmute negative energy into positive energy. I’ve used this a few times, and it seemed to work well, but for whatever reason this method didn’t stick with me.
For Water, you can envision yourself in a giant bubble, or surrounded by a waterfall. Water has a very healing energy to it, so this is good if you need to ease tensions for a particular situation. I personally don’t use water shields much, but try it and see if it works for you!
Some Final Thoughts
Grounding, Cleansing, and Shielding are all very personal magickal skills. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s normal. The way I do all of these is different (sometimes very different) than the way my magickal friends do it. It’s different than what I learned in books or on the internet. You’ll need to experiment and find what works for you.
Brightest blessings on your journey!