hen I was pregnant with Jasper, I would get up early in the morning with my one legal cup of coffee and swing under the stars. As I rocked back and forth, feeling the wind on my face, I would also pray. I prayed that my little one would be healthy and strong, that he would be protected from all harm and suffering, and that no evil would befall him. It was a good prayer because I meant well; but it was not a true prayer. There is a difference.
The longer I carried him and felt the flutter of his little hands and the sure kicks of his little feet, the more I felt the need to reckon with a single fact: there would be suffering, affliction, and fear in my little one’s life – it was an absolute truth, even if I may not like it. So I decided to change my prayer.
Lady of the Moon, who dances among the stars, help me accept the dangers that come with my child’s living and give him the strength to survive the harms that will fall upon him and the endurance not only to survive but to flourish in his darkest hours. May they be few and far between. May he weather them well.
I still pray a version of this prayer for him and for all of my loved ones. It is the truest protection magic I know.
I am often asked about protection. What is the best formula, ritual, or talisman to keep one safe and sound? The desire for protection is perfectly natural. But for any magic to really work, we cannot stop at a surface desire. We must, in all ways, go deeper.
Often the desire for protection is really a wish that no affliction, no trouble, no difficulty, and no hardship will befall us. Understandable? Yes. Useful or wise? No. In this version, protection is something we view as solely external to ourselves – a bulletproof vest, a helmet, force field, a shield. Protection like that can work for a time, but here is the truth: there will come a day when we must go into danger without our vest, when the helmet cracks, the force field falters, and the shield is dropped onto the dusty earth. Then what?
Then we come to know the nature of true protection. Then we understand that protection has less to do with this or that magical charm or talisman and much more to do with the condition of our mind, heart, and spirit – our inner state, our virtue, the stuff we are made of. So when you find yourself in that place, where you are contending with real risk and danger without a net, be like iron.
Iron is the metal belonging to Mars, the ruling planet of the sign Aries, the sign that our beautiful Full Moon will shine out from on Wednesday. In the old traditions, Iron was called on for its unique protective qualities. One could tap an iron nail into a dying fruit tree, or use iron to nail down and protect a piece of land, or even insert bits of iron into a baby crib to keep the little one safe as they slept. To many, such rituals smack of ignorant superstition, but you all know that I think differently. I believe our ancestors often had surprising insights into the gifts of nature that we, despite all of our sophistication, often miss. I find it fascinating that they already chose to work with a material for protection that is so tied physiologically to our own well being. If you have ever been low on iron in your blood, you know what I mean. Too little iron? Pale, listless, and lifeless. The right amount of iron? Rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, healthy, robust, and vital.
Iron makes sense as a protective talisman because iron is strong, reminding us that in times of danger, we too must be strong. We must elicit internal strength. Iron is life-giving and tied to vitality, reminding us that what we are looking for is never mere survival, but thriving, flourishing – rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and good strong laughter from the belly. What we are looking for is a certain quality of soulful, spirited living. Besides being linked to strength and vitality, Iron endures. Over time it will change its shape, become more twisted, gain interesting colorations and qualities – just like us – but turn up the heat, and melt it down as you’d like, and you will never destroy it. It merely changes shape. Like iron, we must be ready to take on new ways of being in the world.
It is not that working with talismans or rituals for protection is a bad idea: it is not! It is only that when we work with magic externally, we must pay attention to our internal state. And above all, we must realize that no application of magic, ritual or ceremony can take the place of work, attention, and attendance to what matters most.