I Grounding and Centering
Grounding and centering are actually two different practices. However, because they are almost always linked in books and done together in ritual practice, we have decided to address them together.  It is possible to ground and not center and vice versa, but, for ritual, it is important to do them together in order to combine their benefits which will strengthen your energy work.

We will address grounding first because it is almost always the first half of this step. I should take a moment to state that if you are performing both steps, you should ground before centering because it will make your centering easier.  The reasoning behind that statement will become more clear when we examine what centering is.

Grounding is the act of mentally (and sometimes physically) linking oneself with the earth or another source of power like the moon, stars, another element, or any other natural source of energy.  By doing this, we create a circuit with our own flow of energy and that source’s (for the purpose of simplicity, I will only be referring to the earth in this article).  When we expend energy, we are not only using our own personal power (the energy that we already had within our bodies) but using more of the earth’s energy to accomplish our goal.  Arin Murphy-Hiscock discusses in Solitary Wicca for Life how grounding also helps prevent a dangerous build-up of power in our bodies during a working:

Think of a three-pronged electrical plug, which has the third prong in it to help ground the excess electrical energy if it builds up…When doing energy work of any kind, you should always have a connection to the earth so that you can safely shunt excess energy away from your own energy center.  This avoids an overflow of energy in your closed system which can lead to the system shorting out.

While some witches prefer to have a more personal interaction with the energy and use only their own personal power, this is not a good idea.  Not only will you deplete your energy stores quickly in ritual if you are doing spellwork which means there’s less energy going into your spell, but it is difficult to balance yourself out after you have finished your ritual.  If your energy levels aren’t back to normal at the end of your ritual, you could become sick, tired, or suffer from other unpleasant physical side effects in addition to the metaphysical side effects that you could encounter, like being unable to sense energy at all, not being able to raise energy, etc. (These are never normal feelings after ritual unless they were present before; you might feel tired after a ritual, but you shouldn’t feel tired because of a ritual.)  That is why grounding is so important.

There is a lot of confusion about grounding and earthing.  This is partially because of bad explanations by authors and/or bad information in general and partially because the terms and practices are so similar.  There will be an entire article devoted to the practice of earthing nearer the end of this series, so I shall only define earthing for the purposes of this article.  Earthing is the act of ridding oneself of excess energy from a working to return to their energy equilibrium.  As we discussed a moment ago, this balance of energy in the body is essential.  Going away from ritual with excess energy may feel good for a while (it is often known as the “ritual high”), but it can cause just as many physical and metaphysical side effects as going away from a working with depleted energy can (these can include insomnia, illness, headaches, over-sensitivity, etc.)  That is why earthing is a vital practice.

Earthing is often confused with grounding because they are both practices which prevent us from suffering energetic side effects, they can both be done (and often are) through meditation or visualization, and the terms sound similar.  In grounding, we often connect ourselves psychically with the earth.  So, why isn’t it called “earthing”; it is called grounding because you are essentially grounding the circuit of energy so it doesn’t short out.  In earthing, you are returning the energy you borrowed to the earth.  That is the best way I’ve heard to remember the difference.

I mentioned above that some witches view the entire process of using energy that isn’t solely from their own body to be less personal.  It should be noted that whatever energy you use in your ritual must pass through your body to be manipulated.  You are acting as a conduit for that energy, and as it moves through you, it becomes colored with your own energy through its interaction with you.  So, though you are borrowing energy, it does become yours.

Other witches frown on grounding because they think that it isn’t right to borrow energy from the earth or nature at all.  It should be noted that the earth is a big thing.  Tapping into its energy for ritual and/or magic is like siphoning off a drop of water from the ocean.  It goes unnoticed.  Also if you believe in the idea that we all have the divine within us (immanent deity), that energy is technically yours to begin with, and you have every right to use it as you see fit because it is a part of you and you of it.  In addition, balance is the goal of everything in the universe.  If necessary, nature will find a way to balance itself.

What else does grounding do?  Why is it so vital?  By linking us with a power source, it helps us maintain evenness, and stability during difficult energy work, periods of emotional stress, and periods of analysis.  It allows us to check our emotions a bit more and be rooted in reality in these situations.  It’s very helpful for meditation (especially those that focus heavily on space, air, or something similar so that there might be a danger of losing our clear-headedness and “getting lost in the clouds”).  Deborah Lipp insists that if people routinely participate in magical workings and/or meditation without grounding first, they are at risk of much worse side effects than those listed above including super sensitivity to the feelings and physical ailments of those around them to the point that they might adopt those emotions/ailments, a loss of color, an extreme loss of appetite, etc.

These are the practical reasons behind grounding.  What about the mystical aspects of this step?  To many, this is the first step of ritual when they create the sacred space within themselves.  They rid their minds of unwanted thoughts (others do this during the ritual bath or other act of ritual purity) and focus on the connection with the earth and the ritual to come.  This is an important step because if they are not focused, their ritual will not be so.  If they are not clean internally, they cannot be clean externally.  “As within, so without.”

Almost every Wiccan/DRW I have met acknowledges the femininity of the earth.  She is our mother from whose womb we sprouted and to whom we shall return in death.  She sustains us and protects us.  Through the process of extending ourselves into Her when grounding, we are connecting with Her on a deep level.  We are asking her (perhaps silently) to continue to aid us and lend us her strength through this process of energy exchange.

Centering is the act of getting in touch with ourselves.  Deborah Lipp goes on to discuss what centering is in Elements of Ritual:

Centering is a process of finding out who and where you are.  It involves increasing your holistic perception—that you are a whole person, not just a collection of parts.  Where grounding is a connecting experience, centering is often a soothing one.  To center is to locate that part of ourselves where we perceive our true and whole self to reside, the center of our spirit, and to function from and with that center.  Life is often reactive; to be centered is to behave based on free will at all times, not in response to stimuli.

In addition, centering connects us with the innermost divine part of ourselves—our immanent deity.  For those that believe that there is a part of the divine in everything because everything is of the divine, this is a powerful experience.  Though this part of ourselves is present at all times, it is often overlooked and forgotten because of the demands of mundane life.  Ritual is a vital outlet for it and our Higher Self.  It helps us reconnect with who and what we truly are if it has been lost in the shuffle of our lives.

Through centering we find that absolutely stillness and calm within us that connects us not just with ourselves but with the entirety of the universe through our immanent deity.  This is a powerful and moving experience that can extend beyond ritual use.  It can be utilized before meditation or any other energy work in addition to acting as a boost whenever you feel that you are getting lost in others’ demands and views.  It prevents us from becoming scattered and unfocused.

There, generally, isn’t a lot of debate about the usefulness of centering.  Even if one doesn’t recognize that what they are doing is centering themselves before ritual or magical work, there is almost always a moment of calming nerves and focusing our energy or meditation.  It is fairly well-known that if one goes about magic in a scattered state, their magic will then take on that trait and be less successful for it.  Our magic is only as strong as we are.  I’m sure there is someone out there that will argue that centering isn’t necessary as a step, but I’ve yet to encounter them.

Centering usually finishes the transition into the ritual mindset.  It brings us to that focused and alert yet relaxed and open feeling from which ritual work is most successful.

When we do it:

I stated in the opening of this article that grounding is always done before centering (which, in turn, is done beforemerging if one is participating in a group ritual).  Deborah Lipp ponders this question in her book Elements of Ritual:

Why do we connect to the Earth before we connect to ourselves?  Why do we connect to ourselves before we connect to others?  The latter can merely be seen as psychological—we must know ourselves before we can form relationships.  But what of the first question?  Perhaps, it means that our selves come from Earth Mother—that we cannot find ourselves without Her.  Perhaps, it is a pattern that teaches humility—that it is wrong to place ourselves before the Earth.  As with many mystical questions, it is an answer you must find for yourself in meditation and ritual.

I cannot add much more to that other than a reminder that we work in the order in which we came; the earth came first and will remain long after we are gone from it.  Then, we came from it.  So we often focus on ourselves second to Her.

Because I have stressed heavily that grounding “always” goes before centering, I find it necessary to present an argument for the opposition.  In Solitary Wicca for Life, Arin Murphy-Hiscock presents the other side of this argument which is rarely, if ever, seen.  I feel, because of its rarity, it deserves a platform.  “You need a place within yourself from which to begin the grounding process.  It makes less sense to reach outside yourself to try to grab earth energy and then use it to pinpoint your center.”  This makes the most sense when you consider the idea that one must know oneself intimately before doing any sort of magical work.  Ultimately, it depends on your interpretation and practice of each step and your own personal preference.

In terms of when grounding and centering comes in the order of ritual, it varies a lot.  Some practitioners will ground and center before setting up their altar, some will do it after they’ve set up and before they perform their act of ritual purification (like a ritual bath or smudging), some will perform grounding and centering just before they cast the circle, etc.  Depending on the order of your own ritual, how you view grounding and centering, and when you will need energy for your working, you can move it around based on your personal preference.

As we covered above, grounding and centering is also useful before prayer, introspection, meditation, astral projection, visualization, psychic work, healing work, energy work, ritual, or any other spiritual or emotional experience in addition to serving as an aid to connect with deity in everyday life when we feel lost, rushed, scattered, or unfocused.

How we do it:

A common misconception about grounding is that one needs to be in direct contact with the earth in order to do it properly.  Though this may help when you are first beginning to ground yourself, it is not necessary.  The earth works just as well as a concept, once your mind is trained, as it does as a reality.  It sounds odd, but even if you are in an airplane, you should be able to think down and work your way energetically to the earth.  As I said in my article relating to performing ritual indoors, “Everything is connected, so everything is nature. As Willow says in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ‘…Giles says everything’s part of the earth, this bed, the air, us’ to which Buffy comically replied, ‘That explains why my fingernails get dirty even when I don’t do anything.’”  If that is true, then we can connect with the earth no matter where we are.

There are various techniques that are taught for grounding (where we’ll begin again in this section), and you will need to experiment to find those that work best for you.  The most common, however, is the tree visualization.  In it, one visualizes (and begins to feel) roots extending either from their feet or tailbone into the earth.  They spread through the soil, connecting the witch to the earth, and they begin to pull energy from the earth into the witch as the witch completes the circuit by allowing some of their energy to seep back down the roots into the earth in return.

From here, they might continue with centering.  However, some practitioners feel this isn’t a complete and balanced grounding because we are only connecting to the (feminine) earth or the Goddess’ energy present there.  This could be because they only see Goddess energy in the earth while others see the earth as being without gender or being balanced equally between the God and Goddess.  If they view this simple visualization as unbalanced, they might complete it by continuing with the tree metaphor and envisioning branches bursting from their head and reaching toward the (masculine) sky, toward the God; this, or something similar, can be done with any other grounding to balance it with masculine and feminine energies.  The branches could also be curved down around back to the earth to complete a visual circuit if one is unconcerned with the perceived imbalance of energy in the earth grounding.

The tree visualization is probably the most common because it is easy to connect with the earth if the object of our visualization is such a common and obvious symbol of it.  The roots are also an easy connection technique.  Trees can also represent all four elements; they are from the earth, their sap is water, they are nourished by the sun, and their branches represent air.

One of the variations of the root technique has the practitioner push their roots to the core of the earth, perhaps wrapping their roots securely around the center of the earth’s power.  Some practitioners prefer this because they have trouble feeling security unless they are very firmly rooted to something while others feel rooted once their roots break the surface of the soil.  This is based solely on personal preference.

Some practitioners have difficulty retaining a feeling of groundedness once they have moved from their original position.  This might require a few episodes of re-grounding throughout the ritual, and it is not a problem.  It is not uncommon for practitioners to re-ground a few times throughout the course of their ritual.  Others who no longer feel grounded once they move prefer to work with other sources of energy other than the earth.

It is not as common to ground with another source of power, but it can be done quite successfully.  It can also add a new feel to your ritual which can greatly influence your working.  For example, if I were doing an ocean ritual, I would ground with water.  Water, air, and fire groundings will often cause some people to scratch their heads because they’re even less common than grounding with the sun, stars, or moon.  They’re seemingly less sturdy, so some would have difficulty focusing themselves with them.  However, used properly, there is nothing inherently wrong with using them.  Generally, if you are going to perform a grounding with one of them, you will need to write it yourself.  Water is the most common of the three of them, so you might be able to find one of those.  Use the same techniques laid out in the root visualization (connect yourself physically with it, draw in power, and finish the circuit) to write one, and play around with it to see if it works.

You may have encountered rituals that are titled “Drawing Down the Moon” by now.  If you’ve found these online or in Wicca 101 books, they are almost always not a real Drawing Down.  Drawing Down the Moon is a serious and intense ritual experience that is pretty much only performed by witches who have been training for years and years in a coven.  This is because it’s a specific ritual from Traditional Wicca that is dangerous if done wrong and can involve a loss of memory on the part of the person serving as the anchor.  This leads to the question:  why would a solitary perform this ritual?  Well, generally, they wouldn’t.  As I said, if you’ve found a “Drawing Down” ritual, it is most likely an elaborate form of grounding with the moon or sun.  These can also be replaced by any other heavenly body you choose.  In these rituals, you channel lunar/solar energy into yourself and use it as a sort of energy boost that makes you feel good.  While this is not aspecting by any means, it is a useful way to illustrate grounding with another power source other than the earth.

Once you have practiced grounding for a while, you will begin to notice your growth.  You’ll start to be able to really feel your roots and the energy of the earth coursing through you in that circuit.  You will also be able to remember what to do.  It is not a difficult process, to be honest, but some writers add to the visualizations we laid out above to give it more personal meaning or to suit the ritual at hand.  If this is the case, it is perfectly okay to record your writing and play it back so you can follow along energetically without worrying about what comes next.  Groups often do this so that every participant is on the same page, especially since this comes right before merging.  The energy of the group is generally better and more unified if they have all grounded and centered in the same manner.

Centering is often described in general and, therefore, vague terms.  It is depicted as a wonderful experience, but it isn’t often discussed how one actually goes about centering.  It isn’t even really discussed where this mystical center is.  This is a major bone I have to pick with Wicca 101 writers; many of them treat the center as being the same in every single practitioner.  That is not even close to being the case.

So, how do you find your center?  Arin Murphy-Hiscock poses a few questions to consider in Solitary Wicca for Life:

• “From where do you instinctively sense your personal energy emanating?

• Where do you first feel emotion?

• Where do you first sense energy, or experience intuitive sensations?

• When you raise energy, is there a point in your body that resonates with it?

• If you relax and allow your awareness to examine different areas within your body, what feels most like a repository of energy?”

For some people, this will be the ever-popular solar plexus (where most books insist everyone’s center is).  For others, it might be a different chakra or another part of the body entirely.  Some will know instinctively where their center is, others will need to ask these questions several times over an extended period of experimentation before they find their own center.

Once you know where your center is and have completed a grounding exercise, you can use the circuit of energy to help you begin the process of centering.  After allowing the circuit to fully function for a minute or two when you feel a deep connection with your chosen power source, focus your entire being on your center and allow a great store of energy to be concentrated there.  Feel what your center has become.  Feel the sense of calm and connection with yourself, your own divinity.  The feelings associated with grounding and centering are more sensations that you will know when you feel them.

The final note on writing and performing these steps is that they should match.  If you do a physical grounding where you connect as much of your body as possible with your chosen power source, you should be just as physical with your centering by bringing as much of your body as is possible (and comfortable) in contact with your center.  If you did a grounding that was pure visualization, complete the process with a centering visualization.

SourcesCreating Circles & Ceremonies by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart

 Elements of Ritual by Deborah Lipp

The Elements
The very fact that many systems of magick utilize the powers of the Elements reveals that magick has its basis and foundation in the world of nature: the wind, the sun and moon, the oceans, the passage of the seasons, and mighty storms is truly the treasure house of magick. To be a student of witchcraft is to be a student of nature, regardless of what form of magick one chooses to delve into. 

The Element of Earth represents the material world. It governs such things as finances, prosperity, good luck, success in business, fertility, harvests, and other such things. Earth also represents the state of solidity in alchemical lore. Earth is the starting place where we begin our journey. To deny the body and the material world in which we live is to live in denial and poverty. Earth is what grounds us and brings us back to the world of the senses. The Element of Earth stands guard and protects the northern section of the magick circle, in which magick is performed. It its the guardian of the north. 

Air represents the world of mind. It is thought and logic. Air, therefore, encompasses such things as knowledge, education, learning, communication, popularity, and philosophy. The witch will invoke the forces of wind and Air in order to gain hidden knowledge. Thus, Air also rules over divination. The mind can, indeed, be likened to the sky. Thoughts pass through the mind as clouds. Sometimes our thoughts are sunny and enlightened. Other times the mind is filled with darkness and dreary thoughts. 

It is thought which vitalizes and manifests reality. Without the force of reason our civilization would be as nothing. Think of the Element of Air to represent the Great Mind of Nature, whilst the powers also represent the faculty of thought within the microcosm: Man. The witch calls down the forces of wind to gain knowledge of the unknown and to advance in education. It also protects and stands guard over the eastern quarter of the magick circle. In alchemical language Air represents gas. 

Water is the realm of emotion. Love, compassion, depression, empathy, and other such emotions are within its domain. Water is also connected to the moon. Emotions are like the tides of the ocean: ebbing and flowing, and always in a state of motion and change. Sometimes the seas of emotion are stormy, while at others it is calm and placid. Water also rules over intuition, artistic inspiration, dreams, romantic love, and psychic ability. It is the realm of the subconscious mind. The forces of Water govern and protect the western part of the magick circle. It represents fluidity in the art of chemistry. 

Fire is also emotion, but represents more fiery emotions such as anger, lust, ambition, and zeal. It can be said that it represents passion more than emotion. Fire is also the destructive Element. It burns away the old and destroys. It is also the Great Transmuter, causing matter to transform from one state into another. In this way, it is the philosophers’ stone of alchemy. Fire also represents the spiritual element in Man. Without light (brought by Fire) , we cannot see. But bring forth the fiery light and we see reality as it truly is. 

Thus, Fire represents spirituality, enlightenment, passion, and destruction. It is called upon by the witch to destroy enemies (however unethical this may be) and to bring protection. Fire is the guardian of the southern section of the circle wherein magick is done. 

The Element of Spirit is not really an Element unto itself. It is more like the primordial essence from which the other four Elements (Earth, Air, Water, and Fire) draws its being. The Element of Spirit encompasses and transcends the other Elements. It is symbolized by the center of the circle. Spirit is called by many names by various traditions and magicians. Some call it the Divine Element, whilst others prefer the more Hindu sounding name of “Akasha.” It can truly be said that the other four Elements are merely manifestations of spirit, or that the other Elements act as intermediaries in which Man may ponder and contemplate the fathomless essence of which Spirit is. It is truly beyond mortal comprehension. 

Do these Elements really reside within physical fire, water, air, and earth? This is highly debated within the occult community. Some will say yes, and that these are merely the astral or spiritual counterparts of the physical elements themselves. Others, however, will claim, just as strongly, that the physical elements are only symbols in the mind of Man. However, even if they are just “symbols”, the powers are still linked to the physical symbols themselves. Thus, whatever the case may be, the Elements are linked to their physical counterparts. 

Now that this is understood, one may grow to grasp the deeper mysteries of magick. One should always keep in mind, however, that the true mysteries or “secrets” have never been written down. They are the secret and unutterable doctrine of occult science. Speaking them to the profane has been forbidden since the beginning of time. Even if one wished to communicate them, they are unable to be expressed into words, as they transcend human language. 

These four Elements will guard and protect you in ritual. They will bend and bring to you your every desire. The Elements will take care of you if you let them. Allow their powers to manifest in your life.

"Attuning and working with these energies in magic not only lends you the power to affect dramatic changes in your life, it also allows you to sense your own place in the larger scheme of Nature."

Scott Cunningham, Earth Power

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