Removing old energetic ties

One question that comes up from time is how to remove old energetic ties and energetic entanglements that no longer serve us. My own approach to it is pretty pragmatic: clean all the things, see what’s left, and figure out how to untangle that. Cutting is a last resort, because it has some ongoing consequences.

Doing: spiral on a golden background

Before you start:

The methods I describe below are designed to clear out anything that isn’t serving you anymore, rather than focusing on cutting ties with a specific person (I generally think it’s more useful: sometimes we’re being limited by energetic ties we don’t know are there.)

You should be aware that doing this kind of work can change relationships in ways you didn’t anticipate.

You may find that some relationships in your life become closer, others become unexpectedly distant. Because this method is relatively gentle (except for the one place where I note otherwise), if you don’t want that outcome with that person, you can generally fix it with some attention and time.

The practices below mostly assume that you have some solid skills: If you don’t have these yet, you should learn them first and get some practice.


My basic theory on energetic connections goes like this:

1) We are all connected.

We live on the same planet, breathe the same air, and so we’re connected. Often that’s in a very loose way, because we are all part of the larger world and environment.

2) Some more tightly than others

Often, this is because of choices we’ve made, or situations we’ve been in (not always of our choosing). Some choices create closer ties than others.

Going to the same high school as someone creates some ties, but for most people most of them are relatively weak. Being married to someone is a much tighter tie. Having sex (or fooling around) with someone is somewhere in the middle. Working with someone for six months is a fairly light tie, but working together for five years is a much stronger tie.

Magical and esoteric groups, or any setting where there are strong emotions, major life-changing experiences, very new situations, or anything similar can create a very deep relationship tie very quickly. (Think summer camp, too.)

3) Some ties change easily

Others don’t. That doesn’t mean that those ties are bad or wrong – just that if they’re no longer serving us, we might not want to continue adding energy to maintaining them.

4) Some ties are hard to shift.

Very occasionally, someone will get a tie into us that’s really hard to shift. A family member who knows just how to push all our buttons. A boss whose actions take a sharp swipe at our confidence and self-assurance. Anyone who shifts our view of ourselves, or ability to stand tall in our own identity. In these cases, we may want and need to detatch in order to do the stuff we care about – but we may need a bit more effort to do it than getting rid of outgrown ties.

When to consider this work

  • You’ve had a major change in a relationship that means someone who meant a lot to you has either left your life, or the relationship is so different they might as well have.
  • You are tidying up loose ends as you transition into a new stage of your life (as part of a physical move, a new dedication to a particular path or a next step on a path).
  • You feel that there are specific old entanglements that are keeping you in patterns that don’t serve you, and you want to release them so you can move on.

I generally review my life at major transitions (physical moves, new jobs, other noticeable changes in my life), but also do a quick review at least every year (usually around my birthday) or six months (if I’m going through a range of smaller changes.)

What do you need?

Useful tools vary depending on your preferences, but I’m fond of:

  • a handful or two of sea salt (table salt will do)
  • a soap you consider particularly refreshing and ‘new’.
  • incense you consider purifying and cleansing (sage is classic, but there are lots of other choices. If incense is a problem for you, you don’t need this.)
  • music that reflects the kind of changes the new openness might bring.
  • comfortable clothing that helps you enter into a ritual mindset. (For the approaches below, flowing sleeves and long skirts are less practical, but see the notes below.)

You should also include at least one tool that helps you reflect on yourself and what you want. For some people, this is a journal. For others, it’s a divination tool (Tarot, runes, something else). For some people it’s a pad of art paper and markers/paints/whatever.

You also want whatever other things you’d normally use for ritual or magical work. For some people that’s altar clothes, candles, incense, statues, and more. For some people that’s their favorite tree outside. (You will want a bit of privacy for this.)

Starting clean:

A good place to start is from as energetically clean a place as you can. Generally, I suggest:

Center and ground.

Focus on balancing your energy: letting out anything that is no longer serving you, taking in things that allow you to grow and heal.

Wash your various selves.

Have a bath or a shower, a rain showerhead can work wonders, focusing on washing away any energy or energetic ties that no longer serve you. Take it seriously – scrub yourself the way you would if you’d been camping for a weekend, or out playing in the mud. Get between your toes, behind your ears, and everywhere else you can think of.

As you scrub, focus on the unwanted energy washing away from you and (when you open the drain, if you’re in the bath) flowing out through the drain, flowing far far away and dissipating. If you’re in the shower, this is even easier.

I generally prefer to throw a handful or two of sea salt in the bathtub (it’s a great psychic cleanser) along with a couple of drops (3-5) of an essential oil that helps with cleansing and purifying (both lavender and rosemary are cheap and have lots of uses. Right now, I’m using a blend of juniper, fennel, and grapefruit a lot.

There’s a folk tradition of putting a bottle of beer in the bath, and I’ve found that pretty effective, too.

Shower users can use a salt scrub, or hang a small muslin or felt bag of dried cleansing herbs (hyssop, lavender, rosemary are good choices) under the shower spray.

Get dressed as your best possible self.

Best possible self in the sense of what you want to continue to become. If you’re making a transition from ‘stay at home mom’ to ‘back to the workforce’, dress in clothing that at least somewhat reinforces that. If you’re leaving behind a relationship that’s no longer working, consider wearing something that ex really didn’t like – but that you love on you. That kind of thing.

Spend time reflecting:

What do you want to let go of?

Do you feel any resistance to doing that? Why? Why not? What would help you feel like you could move on?

For example: if we’re moving on from a romantic relationship that had – like most of them – some really good stuff, and some really hard stuff, we might want to hang onto the good memories, but recognise that we need to move on, and let go of what might have been.

We might spend time looking at photos or listening to songs that remind us of the good times, or writing a list of the things we’ll miss. But then we might go and continue, and write a list of why we’re done now with that relationship, what we’re not going to miss, and what we’re looking forward to as we move on.

The exact questions you’re going to need to ask yourself depend a whole lot on your situation. In some cases, like the example above, it’s pretty straightforward: there’s a clear ending to work with. In other cases, it’s going to be a lot fuzzier: you may know you need to do something, but not really what you’re trying to change.


Journalling can help here, using prompts like “I wish I could….” or “I miss…..” or “I remember when …. made me happy.” Start with things like that, and free write for 10-15 minutes. Look at what you come up with, and see if there are any patterns, or things that keep coming up.


Divination, if you have a divination method you feel at least somewhat competent with, can also help. (Or get help from a friend with more experience. Some online forums also do a reading exchange.) You probably want a more involved, thorough format, something like a Celtic Cross spread or multiple runes.

Look at what keeps coming up.

Any time I plan to do a major clearing out of old ties, I pay extra attention to what things I keep circling around in my life. Often (because I’m a big reader), I start seeing a similar theme in a range of books, the things I’m drawn to reading. Some people find that their playlist is out to get them: certain songs show up all the time. If you do regular divination, you might find the same cards showing up a lot. You may hear the same word or phrase coming up in unexpected places. Things like that.

These shouldn’t be the only thing you use to make decisions, but they’re often worth exploring in more detail. What is that thing, what does it mean to you? Why?

Taking inventory:

Here we get to the meat of the practice.

First, take inventory. Working your way slowly over your body in your mind, examine your aura and energy by whatever sense works best for you (or more than one sense.)

Take your time and slowly identify any spots that seem dirty, sound fuzzy or off-key, feel mucky or sticky, or that feel tense, tied up, or tangled. Don’t feel like you need to do anything about them the first pass: just identify where they are.

You may find that a specific sensation, emotion, or even person comes up as you look at a particular spot – if it does, make a note of it, and go back to your scan. Good notes can help you decide what to do later.

Cover your whole body:

It’s usually easiest to start at one end (the top of your head), work your way down your back, under your feet, and back up the front (making sure to get the sides of your legs, the underside of your arms, etc.)

Spots of particular interest include:

  • Chakra points (you may want to do more research, if so.)
  • Spots on your shoulder blades or on your back.
  • Areas of old injuries or pains that are strongly associated with someone specific in your past for some reason.
  • Anywhere that just doesn’t feel right.

I’ll note: it’s possible that this scan will turn up spots that aren’t quite right, but that aren’t related to energetic ties. (It could be a physical injury, illness, or something else to pay attention to.) If you’re a heavy computer user, your neck and shoulders aching could be feeling the burden of lots of connections – but chances are, it’s probably that you’re spending a lot of time looking at a screen. Physical stretches, varied exercise, etc. might be all you need.

Take a break if needed

As you build a baseline over months and years, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out what’s normal for you, and what’s something to pay extra attention to. When you’re starting out, taking a break between doing this inventory and making any changes can help you get clarity about which things are actually a problem, and which things are parts of other things in your life.

You may come to feel (with some time for reflection) that specific spots feel directly connected to specific people or events, while others don’t.

Cutting away:

This is the other core part of the practice. I generally suggest a light but firm intention here, of removing those things that no longer serve you, while leaving those things that do. Don’t get too specific: you may not know yet which things those are.

Go slowly, and if something starts feeling like it’s the wrong choice, back off. You can always come back to that spot later. It’s much easier to do multiple passes (doing a little bit, taking a break, seeing how you feel, coming back a day or two later) than to rebuild connections once you’ve broken the energetic tie directly.

On your own:

The one-person method is a bit harder to do, but can work if you have sufficient focus and direction of energy.

Basically, go back over your body, bit by bit, and as you hit a tangle, muddy spot, or fuzzy spot, you slowly focus on the energy clearing and becoming clear, light, and freely moving.

In some cases it may feel like releasing a kink in a hose, so that water can run easily again. In other cases, you may find that releasing that thing is like cutting a piece of string connecting you to something outside of you.

Before you release something like that, take a moment to take a deep breath or two, and let your mind roam a little.

Does this feel connected to someone in specific? Is releasing that energy what you really want to do (releasing the tie entirely can change your relationship with that person quite a bit). Or do you want to take the information, and use it to sit down with that person and work out any problems in your interactions face to face?

You may well find that some spots are a lot easier than others. I generally find it’s harder to reach places I can’t reach physically (middle of my back, for example).  You may need to repeat the whole process a couple of times over the course of a week or two.

You may also find spots that make you feel happy – that are connections to people you love, value, and want to keep in your life. You can renew these areas by directing a little energy to help make them sparkle and flow easily – buffing off a piece of metal with a soft cloth, rather than scrubbing.

With someone else:

The two person method requires someone else who’s good at directing energy. It’s traditionally done with an athame in a number of trads, but you can also do it with your hand. Either way, the person doing it runs their hand or blade at a 90 degree angle to your body. (So, if they’re working on your back, the flat of the blade or flat of their hand is parallel to the floor, and perpendicular to your body as you’re standing up.)

While they’re working, they’re focusing on scraping off or flicking away (depending on whether they’re using a blade or their hand) any bits of aura and energy that are stuck, grungy, or too tangled to be of use. (So you need to trust them quite a bit – both to recognise the good stuff from the bad stuff, and to act in your own best interest.)

This method is often a good bit quicker in my experience than doing it all myself, and there are spots other people find much more accurately. Starhawk and Hilary Valentine describe a general version of this in their book Twelve Wild Swans.

Specific focus

If you’re focusing on a specific person (for example, removing ties with an ex, or someone else you’re removing from your life for good reason), you can focus on that person, and you may feel a very strong physical sensation in a particular spot on your body. (You may not, too, and that’s okay.)

Focus on removing the connection to that person without malice or hatred – you’re pruning a rosebush or weeding your garden. It’s not personal, it’s not emotional, you’re just clearing the way for something new. (Strong emotion will help feed the connection, anyway, which is not what you want right now.)

When you remove a strong connection like this, it can be easy for the connection to try and re-attach. To help prevent this, once you’ve removed it, smooth over the spot where it was until there’s no rough energy for it to reattach to.

Rest. Reflect. Repeat as needed:

Connection with the world, with other people, is complicated. Chances are, you’ll want and need to repeat this regularly. If you haven’t ever done it, you might want to check back in with yourself in a week, a month, three months, and see how you feel. As you get more experience, you’ll get a better sense of when you might want to do it again.

Title index: Removing old energetic ties

Last updated: December 24, 2016. Reformatted November 2020.

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