The Importance of Boundaries

Boundaries are just as important in our spiritual and magical practices as they are in our everyday lives. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

That isn’t to say that boundaries are fixed between people or even in time. They aren’t and each individual is free to decide what they are willing and what they are not willing to take and this may change as they see fit. But boundaries are good.

I was recently invited to be a panelist for a university class, the title of which was ‘What is the Witch?’ Of course I said yes, I mean I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to talk about witchcraft. I’m not lying when I say I could talk the back legs off a donkey when it comes to this particular topic. But seriously though, I had a great time. The students’ questions were intelligent and informed and the other panelists provided thought provoking answers, some of which had had me mulling them over since then.

As with many discussions about witchcraft, the topic of ancestor worship and veneration came up with one person asking the question about having shitty ancestors. Should you still work with them then?

One of the panelists, someone who is a healer in their spiritual and mundane work really got me thinking. She said she sees it as our responsibility to heal them. After all, they are shitty for a reason. What happened to them to make them so? And she is right in that usually, how we are treated can affect how we then treat others. But is it our responsibility to heal them, I say hell no!

Our ancestors are the reason we are here, living the lives we have and for that perhaps we do owe them at least a nod, but it is not our responsibility to heal them. At all. If one wishes to undertake that work then great, but it isn’t easy. It is hard and draining and you best believe you need to be in the right place to undertake such work. But it is here boundaries come into play. If doing that work means it is going to leave you in a worse place than you find yourself now, if it is going to damage you or those around you, the people you care about, then fuck that shit. 

Look at it from a mundane point of view and it is here I will just include a trigger warning for the topics broached. 

Imagine someone is in an abusive relationship. Is it their responsibility to heal their abuser. Absolutely not. I know people who have stayed in such relationships because, at first, they feel bad for the abuser, have some insight into why they might have turned out this way and they love them, perhaps feel they can save them from themselves. But even past this point, many stay because their self esteem is rock bottom. 

Addiction is another area which highlights the need for boundaries. Addiction is an illness, but it is one that changes the people we love. It is painful to see what they go through. There’s the constant worry about their wellbeing and the anger that comes with the lies and the stealing. Addiction affects not only those suffering with it but the people around them and can change the dynamics of that relationship so very much. And while help should be there for addicts, it absolutely should, we cannot be their saviours. They must choose to make that decision for themselves. They must be ready to accept that help otherwise it just isn’t going to work. So as much as we might want to help them, until they are ready, we cannot.

The same logic can be applied to magical work including ancestor veneration. To not work with an ancestor doesn’t mean we don’t care for them and nor does it mean we are not grateful to them, but if they have issues we are not able to help them with, then boundaries are necessary. 

Ultimately, in our mundane and magical lives, boundaries are a must. They are what keep us safe. They are healthy. So if you have a shitty ancestor and you don’t want to work with them, then that is absolutely fine, and when they are really shitty, it is easier to put up those boundaries than if they are difficult because of circumstance. But still, you should no way jeopardize your mental and physical health and well-being because of some sense of responsibility. 

Like I said at the beginning, our boundaries can change and adjust. They are not fixed but they are essential for both our magical and mundane lives.

Published by Emma Kathryn

Emma Kathryn practises Traditional British Witchcraft and Obeah and is also an initiate of Vodoun, a mixture that fully encompasses her heritage. She lives in the middle of England in a rural town where she reads tarot, throws shells and drinks copious amounts of coffee!

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