We are now several days past the March full moon, which for CAYA is known as the Maker Moon, and this Saturday I had the delight and honor of being a guest at one of our Dedicant-led classes for the year. These classes help to keep our Clergy, Initiates, Dedicants, and Aspirants, always learning new skills and connecting with the wide and varied magical practices that CAYA brings together. This class was on Warding and Protection. One of my most favorite topics, as such I thought that I would share one my methods of making warding charms and talismans that I spoke about to the class.
But first perhaps an introduction is in order! My names is Branwen and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking up ways and theories behind making things protective. Protecting from negative energies, from harmful spirits, from malicious intent, from physical harm and damage. I can’t really tell you why; it’s just a habit that I have always had. I see the inherent spiritually protective qualities of most things, since that first time that I just knew that I need to make a circle of my stuffed animals, and then I would be safe from nightmares. (I was correct, for the record- it was a great spell. I highly advise it for children who suffer from nightmares and the like.) In any event, the topic has recently arisen as to how to charge or make warding stones, and/or how to charge up specific pieces of jewelry to be protective.
Please note that pretty much all of my witchcraft/magic is intuitive, and by trial and error. These are the things that work for me, and a little bit of the theory of how and why they work, in the hopes that this may be useful to others.
Warding vs Shielding
The words “warding” and “shielding” get used interchangeably a lot in my community of paganism. The following is my understanding of the terms, and thus how I will be using them in this piece. I look at shielding as the singular: You can shield yourself. You can put a shield on a single object, etc. To ward, on the other hand, implies protecting or shielding more than yourself. You can ward a group of people, a ritual, or a space.Your mileage may vary, of course, but that is my understanding at the moment.
Using multiple talismans for warding:
Why use multiple talismans? Well, in my practice of warding spaces or rituals, I ward by creating an energetic container or encampments of sanctuary. The goal is to create a clear energetic and spiritual boundary. Thus, using a grid type system with warding stones or talismans can help to ensure that boundary has less chance of having a weak point. The stones or talismans then serve as transistors for the energy being used to maintain the boundary, as well as watchtowers around the space being protected. I have found that using talismans in groups of a minimum of 5 or 6 work best for one location. Not for any numerology reason, but because, practically speaking, most spaces you will be gridding out will be rectangular in shape, and generally need at least 4 stones to secure the space. This goes back to the most common and basic fort shape being rectangular; other shapes can certainly be utilized. I have a habit of thinking about my warded spaces to be energetic and spiritual forts, thus some research into their design and uses have proven helpful to me, and may to you as well.
The addition of the fifth stone/talisman I added to provide more control over the doorway, a point that has the most strain, and thus needs the most attention, or alternatively as a tether to provide more energy to the grid by being placed on an altar, etc. I usually view my fifth stones/talismans as the leader of the group; They are the ones with the most responsibility and the most power. As such, when laying out the grid in a space, I will leave the fifth for the last.
The addition of the sixth stone comes into play if I am warding a space that I will not always be inside the boundary of, as a tether of my energy and awareness to that space. When inside the boundary, you should be able to sense the grid and whether or not anything is trying to get in that shouldn’t, or if there is a weak spot, etc. Being outside the space makes that MUCH more difficult. The sixth tether allows you to maintain energetic connection with the grid. It can still be difficult to tell if weird things or influxes are happening when you are away, but it is possible, and the tether stone helps greatly. In a basic sense, it acts like the walkie-talkie to the grid; you can feed energy to it, and it can send you signals.
Step One: Identify what it is you want your stone/jewelry/item to be protecting against.
Is this for spiritual/energetic protection? Is this item going to be used to keep the house or self safe from theft or physical damage? A combination of both? Make sure that you’re really plotting out the things you want this warding talisman to be guarding against. You can make a detailed list, or just keep the running tally in your mind’s eye. This goes a long way in helping you decide what materials or items will be most in tune with your intentions.
Step Two: Identify the people/spirits/energies that you want your talisman to let IN.
This is a step that I think gets overlooked more often than not. Which sometimes is ok, and sometimes can lead to the creation of a dead zone (an area that is cut off from energies going in or out - this can happen naturally, but usually creates a weird vacuum of energy that makes accomplishing anything spiritual or energetic difficult). Or it can lead towards letting things in that you probably didn’t want, but since it wasn’t what you told it to keep out either...accidents happen.
In my mind, all my warding talismans are my guards, my own little inanimate object army, and as such, training them up right means showing them what is “bad”, and needs to be guarded against, versus what is “good”, and should be given admittance. Personally, I feel that the more you nurture a relationship with the spirits of the talisman you are creating, the more it (and you) will flourish. (It doesn’t have to take this rather military/warrior focus; this is what naturally occurs to me, and works for my practice, but clearly you should tailor things to your own thoughts and energies.)
So, is this a warding talisman that needs to let other people’s energies in because you are an empath, and need to be able to connect? How should it identify the friends from those that should not be trusted? Is there a list of things it should look for before allowing admittance (especially important for a warding talisman that will be warding a house)? I find it helpful to visualize the way the talisman might work, if it will scan people like a laser might, or if it will take an infrared of their aura to look for troubled spots, or if they are their own independent spiritual entities with “physical” forms, receiving information from others. The possibilities are as varied as you are.
Step Three: Choose your item(s) to be charged.
Since you already know what it is you are wanting to guard against, you can have an easier time selecting the materials or items to use. This applies more to stones, wood, or metal talismans, as stones, metals, and woods have inherent properties that can help aid in those goals. Example: If you want a talisman that filters, more than puts up a solid impenetrable defense, then you might choose Blackberry Bush wood over Oak, or Jet over Black Tourmaline.
If you are going to charge jewelry, then you can choose what you think would work best, but again, keeping in mind form and materials can be useful. Silver is a natural and historical protector against harmful spirits, whereas Gold is seen as the immortal metal. Choosing a piece of jewelry that is in the shape of a sword or tiger is going to lend itself to protection differently than, say, a heart or bird. Some stones I am particularly fond of for protection talismans include: Garnet, Black Tourmaline, Tigers Eye, Smoky Quartz, Onyx. Woods which I have used for warding talismans include: Oak (strength, sovereignty, a strong connection to the Dagda in my work), Walnut (magic, witches, an ample source of energy), Elder (guards against evil, connections to the otherworld).
Stones: In my experience, stones make great long term warding and shielding talismans, singly or in groups. The different crystals and minerals out there all have their own vibrations, which makes them great for being able to choose very specific energies for the task at hand. Stones that are protective are just that - protective without any extra magic or energy from you; they just exist in that state, and will continue to exist in that state long after we are gone. Their energies do not generally require being fed for that reason. However, on the flip side, our intentions and lives are really just a blink of an eye in their world. So while they do not need an outside energy source, it is helpful to reconnect and re-establish your warding intentions with them periodically to help keep your connection with them.
The Humble and Mighty Field Stone: field stone is the scientific term for “rock”; you know those lovely things you skip on the river and pick up on the beach or forest area. Choosing field stones as warding stones has a lot of benefits! If you are able, you can choose stones (with their permission) directly from the land that you are living on, and that familial tie is a powerful boost to protection magic. But aside from that, it gives you the opportunity to ask permission to remove the the stone from its natural place, and ask for its aid in your working. (side note: Asking permission is as simple as asking, if you are comfortable with communicating directly with spirits, or you can use tools like tarot/oracle cards, pendulums etc.) This again creates another layer of magic. You can also leave regular offerings at the place that they came from in thanks, and thus nurture further relationship with your local surroundings.
Metals: Similar to stones, metals make great long term warding and shielding talismans. Many metals already have strong connections with protection just by the merit of their uses throughout history and, like stones, have specific energies attributed to them. They also benefit from the periodic reconnection of intention to keep them focused on your specific warding needs.
Woods: Wood is a great material for warding and shielding talismans, as, again, many trees/shrubs/vines already have ample folklore of their protective properties. Some general, some specific (example: Mistletoe that hasn’t touched the ground protects a house against storm damage, Elder is said to protect against witchcraft). But, unlike stones and metal, with woods there is a chance that you can form a direct spiritual bond with the source material spirit. Meaning, you can go to the tree and ask its permission to use a branch or other piece for your warding/shielding talisman. That’s huge for me, as I feel it just deepens the threads of the magic you are weaving. It allows you to form a working relationship with the tree by making offerings and taking an active interest in its well being. You can make yearly offerings to help enhance your spellwork charged in the talismans. If you are looking for a way to add more genius loci into your practice this is how. If you are able - now there are plenty of reasons why you might not be able. But do not fret, strong magic can still be worked in the wood in the same way that stone and metal can!
Step Four: Methods of Charging
There are probably a million different ways to charge these items for warding. I cannot possibly hope to cover them all, so below are the methods that I have used with success:
There are many, many methods of sigil creation, and many, many sigils for protection already out there waiting to be Googled. From Icelandic rune staves, to the Wiccan pentacle, whatever flavor of protective sigil you prefer can be used to charge your talismans and jewelry. The intention and will that is placed in the sigil then transfers to the talismans or jewelry, helping to direct the inherent protective energies. The method that I have used for this involves drawing out the sigil that you are using to charge the item(s), and placing the item(s) on top of the sigil for a set amount of time, usually under the full moon. The choice of timing and length of time depends on what your goals for the item are. This is a great method for charging up items that only need to be protective for a finite amount of time, like a pair of high heels to wear to a fancy date out in the city, or jewelry you will be wearing to an interview, as this method does need to be refreshed often.
You can use sigils to power talismans for warding more permanently by having the sigil actually on the talisman. That way, the intention and will are present to continually power the item.
I was really unsure of what to call this, but really I’m just going to stick to enchanting. By enchanting, I mean the practice of using chants, prayers, spells, songs, and so on in order to imbue an item with the powers of protection. Why I think this works: I have felt the power of words, sound and song on myself. Moreover I know that stones and wood also have a strong connection to sound. You just have to look at the studies on plant growth and music to see the effects, or look at the sounds that a tree ring makes when played like a record. It is not a huge leap from energy to sound. Not only that, but, going back to the Fort/military/warrior motif that I run with, sound has been used as a way to intimidate and possibly drive your foes mad from time immeasurable. The Gauls were known to make such a raucous din of noise that Polybius describes “There were innumerable horn-blowers and trumpeters, and, as the whole army were shouting their war-cries at the same time, there was such a tumult of sound that it seemed that, not only the trumpets and the soldiers but all the country around, had got a voice and caught up the cry.” There is a reason that drums and horns were used to accompany armies for so long in warfare; the sounds freaked out their enemies and, if frightened enough, could cause them to run away. On the other hand, battle cries have been used in order to instill courage into the hearts of warriors about to face possible death or worse in battle. Sound. Music. It has an effect that is both tangible and intangible.
Thus, I have had a lot of success with sound as a method of creating energy/magic and harnessing it. I have found that repetition helps to enhance the magic. I have used numbers like 3, 9, and 13 in order to harness their inherent magical energies. I have also just intuitively repeated the incantation until it felt right. Go with what works for you.
You can use prayers that are already written, or chants/spells that you have felt a strong connection with. You can also create your own! And you may need to, if your item has very specific functions.
I have also had really good results with what I might called “impromptu enchanting”. You may very well laugh, but the idea was inspired in part by the fantasy story Howl’s Moving Castle, wherein our main character’s magical abilities are revealed to be through her “talking things to life”. In her talking to the objects and giving them characteristics (more accurately, articulating their characteristics), the objects have life breathed into them, and go on to fulfill her inadvertent wishes and intentions. As someone who already talks to most her things, and thus already felt the strength of those bonds, it just made sense. This is where having clear lists of what you want to protect against, how to identify said things, and what things you want to allow in comes in handy, because then you can just enchant your wards into becoming strong and powerful and exactly how you want. I usually try to repeat a word/intention in this process, such as “protect”, in order to have a good foundation of intention.
There are a wide variety of oils, recipes, and incenses that have been crafted to help aid in protection. Some of you may have your own, already. Anointing or wafting smoke onto the items adds another layer of intention and power to the stone, talisman, or jewelry. This method is an easy way to give an item an extra boost of energy. For example, if you have a set of warding stones that you have charged and enchanted, but haven’t used in a while, you may wish to anoint or bathe them in incense before using them again, as a way to top off the energetic fuel tank. It can also be a method of feeding a piece of jewelry charged for protection that gets daily wear.
All the methods above can be used in the singular to charge/create talismans on their own, however, as with armour and other protective defenses, there is strength in layering. Knights didn’t just put on their metal armour over their bare skin; there were padded garments, leather garments, and chainmail that also helped to protect them. In my experience, approaching energetic and spiritual protection with these same ideas of layers only helps to strengthen the items and spells involved. The methods above are actually presented in the order that I would layer them for creating a new warding stone set, or talisman, from scratch. With the creation and placement of the items on the sigil, enchanting it, anointing it, and letting it sit and charge for however long an amount of time is deemed appropriate, it becomes a ritual in itself. For some items, I have even repeated the entire ritual process for several days.
There is a certain amount of experimentation with my methodology. Seeing what gets the best results, which materials are willing to work with me more than others, which materials provide more protection against what, things like that. It should also go without saying that all these methods have also proven successful in charging items with other intentions besides protection.
This is just one of many many ways out there, that you can create your own warding talismans and charms. The sky is truly the limit (and maybe not even the limit depending on how Outer Space your practice is ;) and hopefully this piece can be a starting point for you to build your own workings and methodologies. I am always willing to “talk shop” as it were, and I know that many other CAYA clergy are the same, so please feel free to contact me through my twitter (@primal_heart) if you have any questions or just want to talk through an idea!