Bells might just be the earliest form of superstitious practise that I remember. My baba attached three sakura-patterned suzu bells on my schoolbag as a kid, purportedly for good luck and protection from evil spirits – and Japan is far from the only place to have associated bells and bellringing with mystic practise. They’ve been used worldwide to ward off evil and carry messages – and in a more metaphysical sense, sound is the movement of energy through substance. Sounds have the potential to work powerful magic.
Here are some of the ways I’ve found utilising bells to be helpful to my craft. While I’m more likely to use traditional suzu type bells, your own background, path and culture will likely have its own types of bells – and as ever, bells can be ornate antiques or they can be a bottle cap in a tin can, as long as they’re used with intent.
🔔 As with so much of the craft, if you’re new to the witching bell, it’s a matter of exploration and experimentation. Get a “feel” for what works for you and the specific bell you’re using.
It’s good practise to ensure that the bell itself is cleansed, warded and protected – you don’t want anything nasty tapping into that power. All witching tools can do as much harm as good, intentional or accidental.
A good way to begin incorporating bells into your craft is infuse them into any typical ritual that you’re comfortable with, or even just a prayer or moment of contemplation at your altar if you have one.
🔔 Give the bell a soft ring while focusing on the energy it’ll ripple and move, try to track the movements it creates and what it touches. The tone it’s sending out.
The most primal and versatile use of the bell – and what many of the below come down to – is simply another manner of physically channelling energy, giving it shape and direction.
“Passive” bells such as windchimes or small bells attached to belongings you don’t want disturbed are a starting point. They will scare off some forms of spirit all by themselves, especially if appropriately blessed, charmed or enchanted. Or cursed.
🔔 Gently tolling can draw energy into a ward or circle you are forming and enforce its protective properties, or for a simple cleanse, letting the sound travel to every corner of the area you are protecting. It’s a little more “cutting” than a smoke or incense cleansing, which I view as more “gentle” forms of cleansing. Both have their uses.
🔔 Harder tolling is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful ways in which to enforce a banishing – however, it’s best to you know what you’re doing with the bell before you go bashing it about.
Bells can have quite the effect on your perception and awareness. Ringing and then stopping, listening to the silence left in its wake, can bring you new perceptions or make things you’d previously missed obvious. Let it attune your mind and senses to something new, whether that’s in your thoughts or something with a little more presence. Visualise travelling with the sound, taking heed of the energies it touches and disturbs. Take note of the echoes – you’ll learn what they mean with experience.
🔔 A set of windchimes can let you know if something is passing through or if there’s some unusual energy afoot – and, yes, it may also just be letting you know that it’s a particularly breezy day, but that’s witchcraft for you.
🔔 This can be as simple as calling good energies to witching tools, spell jars, tarot decks, crystals, altars and shrines, your favourite teddy bar, anything at all.
🔔 With spirit work, it can truly help to magnify your “calling”. This can range from gently bringing your latest offering to the attention of your friendly neighbourhood house spirit – all the way to trying to catch the attention of something more. Be mindful, however. As I said, I consider bells pretty powerful tools and a call that’s too loud is not good spirit work practise for the spirit worker’s own sake. It can really help coax something out of hiding if you’re gentle with it, though.
Some use bells to mark the beginning and end of a ritual, and I’ve read that in Wiccan practise an altar bell can be used to invoke the Goddess, although as a non-Wiccan, I’ll welcome corrections on that if I’m wrong.
In my experience, very simple forms of communication via bell work a lot better than anything too complex – “come here” and “stay away” have already been covered, and other than that they can serve as greetings or signals of a start or end of some practise or ritual, the opening or closing of a door, etc.
🔔 They can also serve as a warning or a litmus test regarding spirits, a signalling of your presence and awareness, lack of fear, or willingness to defend – but be prepared to deal with whatever responses these garner.
🔔 Bindings are where you most often see that famous (clockwise) circular motion of the bell, embodying the meaning of the spell. This can be a simple binding to seal a spell or charm or enchantment, or a spirit-binding.
🔔 Personally, spirit-binding is something I do as little as possible simply due to my beliefs holding the autonomy of spirits in very high regard. However, sometimes situations arise that call for it, and I’m aware that not all bindings are unwilling. Far from it – and some spirits are dangerous when unbound.
🔔 As an animist (believing that all things, including inanimate objects, contain a spirit of their own), I consider gently nudging a spirit back into its physical form a sort of semi-binding, and that can be useful.
I’ll leave you all with a note that I am an urban apartment-dwelling witch through and through, so I understand that we can’t all be jangling away at all hours. I myself have a glass windchime in my front window that makes a distinct but muted sound when disturbed by passers-through, and highly recommend wooden ones also. I also only use my small and relatively quiet suzu bell for my crafting – one given to me by my baba herself.
Feel free to add any of your own findings, and happy tolling.