We witches talk a lot about magical boundaries—circles of protection, crystal grids, shielding, talismans hung round our necks or carried in pockets, placed at doors and windows, mirror spells, herbal potions, cord cutting and even hexes.
Of course, all of those are effective, but a simple word or two can be an indisputable boundary.
My spoken “No” is holy, and wholly magickal when I need it to be. I don’t owe explanations, nor the right justification to make others accept my decision—this reason isn’t good enough, but that one might not be. “Thank you, but no,” is all anybody needs to hear.
I sometimes forget that my words are the most powerful magick I possess. Simple words, without correspondences, without ritual, without rhyming, just spoken from a place of conviction are all we ever need as witches.
Recently, a friend I hadn’t seen in a year’s time called to touch base. She said she’d like to get together to catch up. It was no surprise; I’d been thinking about her in the days before she called. Our energies were obviously on the same wave length.
We may have been tuned into the same channel, but we were definitely not on the same program. I was thinking of a lunch date, an afternoon of leisure on a sunny autumn day. She was inviting me to her home for an evening gathering of friends. She barely slipped in the part about it being a demonstration party for a direct sales product line.
Honestly, the first reason to say no that came to my mind was the drive. She lives 30 miles away. For years it was a routine trip into town for me—it’s what you do when you choose to be the witch in the woods.
When I was still working in an office, I made the trip every day. In winter the drive home was always at twilight, or after dark if work kept me late. I’ve had more than a few collisions with deer while traveling on rural highways after dark, one that completely totaled the car I was driving. I’m lucky I wan’t severely injured or killed. I surely didn’t need the hassle of being without a car for weeks while the insurance company decided the outcome. Nor the trouble of finding and purchasing a new vehicle . . . or the money and value lost in the deal. And I certainly don’t need any of that now.
After I started working from home, and now that I’m retired, I don’t drive rural roads after dark. So that’s what I told her when I declined her invitation. She immediately countered by offering me her guest room for the night.
I should have led with my holy no from the beginning -“Thank you, but no,” without reason or excuse. I thought, maybe, it wasn’t too late.
“Thank you, but no. I don’t do that. Let’s meet for lunch instead, where we can catch up one on one.”
She persisted, assuring me it would be so much fun, and she was inviting a mutual friend. That sucked me in further. I told her I definitely couldn’t stay overnight in that case, because I’d turned down that same friend’s invitation for sleepovers several times, and she’d be hurt if she saw me staying with somebody else.
“She can stay too! It’s a queen size bed.”
By then my thoughts were racing. I don’t share a bed. I don’t like sharing a bed. I’m a light sleeper, I’m often up for hours in the middle of the night, reading or watching TV to pass the time until I’m sleepy again. Then I sleep in late, because I’m retired now and that is my privilege.
Also, I don’t do direct sales parties. I got out of that loop years ago and I don’t want back in. The hostess always tells you there is no pressure to buy, just friends getting together for a fun time. And maybe she’s sincere. But the company representative is there to do three things, sell product, book more parties and sign up new sales force for her team. There is always pressure.
I felt no need to explain any of this to her, I just kept trying to politely decline. She continued to press, refusing to take no for an answer.
Somewhere in all of the insisting and deflecting we did make arrangements to meet for lunch.
We chose a nice restaurant, requested a small booth for two tucked in a corner and spent an enjoyable few hours, despite her continued pressure on me to accept her invitation. She had many reasons why I should comply—it would be good for me, it’s fun to get out, her guest room is so comfortable, I wouldn’t have to do anything, she’d cook for me, and wait on me, and pamper me.
No matter how many times and ways I tried to politely say no thank you, she ignored my message. I came home agitated and exhausted.
I’ve since realized she was operating from a power dynamic that has long since changed. We met during a trying time in my life. She was older, working in a healing and nurturing profession. She took me under her wing, even became my mentor. But I’ve long since grown beyond the emotionally wounded person she cared for. I believe she doesn’t see that.
Goldilocks and the Art of Self Care
I don’t say no because I’m already too busy, I say no so I won’t be too busy.
My days, my routines, and my activities are structured around my self care and comfort. I prioritize time with my family and time alone over being busy for busy’s sake. I have many pastimes and hobbies I enjoy. I waited many years to have the time to do them.
I also have chronic conditions that limit my energy and mobility. I have to manage my physical activities carefully. I used to hike, bike, rollerblade and kayak. I taught aerobics and yoga for many years. Now, strenuous activity triggers days, if not weeks of pain. Some days I struggle just to get through minimal household chores. By evening, I can’t wait to get into my chair, raise my feet and get some soothing heat on my back.
I go to bed early most nights. My mornings are a slow, silent dance. I often take a hot bath first thing to ease the stiffness in my spine. The idea of spending an evening in a social situation having to mask my pain, a night tossing and turning on a too soft or too hard mattress, and then a morning being talkative and cheerful instead of meditative, is not my idea of fun. I want my “just right” bed, my just right morning routine, and my “just right” cup of coffee in quiet solitude.
Of course I make exceptions for good reasons—a family event, special occasions, traveling, a loved one or friend in need, emergencies. A multi-level-pyramid sales party is none of those things and not a good reason in my book.
I don’t bother sharing these details because people who don’t have chronic conditions, don’t get it. I’m then usually subjected to either a game of 20 questions inquiring if I’ve tried this, that and the other thing, or a barrage of condescending suggestions that I have to keep moving, get out more, not isolate myself, and still have to live my life.
I don’t ever need to explain my reasons for declining an invitation—to anybody. And I certainly don’t need anybody (outside of my healthcare professionals) telling me that I should get out more, or do more.
Frankly, I never expected this friend to violate my boundaries this way. In future I will know to cast my holy no upon her right out of the gate.
The Holy No and Other Powerful Words
The origins of the meaning for spell casting are a bit tangled. Cast comes from Old Norse Kasta, meaning to throw or spread. Going back to a very old meaning (Olde English), spell meant to enchant or influence with words. Even the phrase, Come sit a spell, means to sit down and chat or tell stories.
As a writer by profession, words have always been the source of magic to me. Words have amazing power. They are the bridge between ideas and manifestation. Words define us, not just as individuals, but as civilizations. Words persuade us—and sometimes dissuade us. Words have the power to tell a story, spark an idea, change the way we think, even change the world we live in. Words are powerful magick.
When you get right down to it, the very purpose of words is to manifest a desire, whether that’s sharing an idea or information, attracting or repelling others, entertaining or intimidating, soothing and comforting or giving warning—threatening harm or instilling fear.
Just look at me; here I am, busy using all my words to manifest indignation and convince others I’m right, when a few simple words were all that was needed in the first place to achieve what I wanted.
- The Holy No
I’d have been better off using the power of my Holy No right from the beginning. “No, thank you.” And if she asked why—“Thank you for thinking of me, but no thank you.” Even the most insistent intimidator will get the message if you just say no and mean it.
Another powerful spell word. We often use mirrors to deflect energy or baneful magick directed at us, returning what we don’t want to the sender. Mirroring the question sent your way will turn it back on the sender. Why won’t you, why must you, why do you feel this way or that, why you did or didn’t, why . . . Simply respond with, “Why do you ask?” Unless your inquisitor can truly say they have a right to know, they most likely won’t say anything at all.
- Yes, I know.
Another powerful phrase. Use this one to vanquish the ubiquitous but. But it will be fun, but you should get out, but you used to, but your friends will be there, but you can stay at my place, but . . . but . . . but . . . “Yes, I know that,” validates every protest they have. It says you understand, it says you agree, but agreeing doesn’t change your mind.
If all else fails, Stop usually works the magick. You can dress it up for fun if you like. “Stop, please. In the name of all that is descent and holy, just stop.”
If all of the above word magick fails, then just be done with it. Threaten to turn them into a toad and keep them in a jar for your pet feline to play with.