Experienced spiritual workers and magic practitioners often keep musical instruments on their altars. These could be anything from drums to singing bowls, but there is one specific instrument that you can find all over, in all sorts of religions and magical paths: bells. Bells are used to cleanse, protect, drive away evil, and more. If you have never used one before, here are some of the most common ways to incorporate an altar bell into your practice:
Cleansing a space before ritual work
Bright, clear tones help remove negative or stagnant energies from an area. Before you perform a spell or ritual, ring a bell while declaring your space cleared. If you wish, you can incorporate sound cleansing into a broader cleansing practice, like smoke cleansing with incense, or burning a cleansing candle.
You can also use a bell to help clear unwanted energies from your home. Ring it at least four times in each room, preferably with the doors and windows open and while burning cleansing incense. If you are not able to burn things where you live, then a bell can be a great solution for energy cleansing without smoke or fire.
Driving away evil
Evil spirits are said to hate -- or at least be annoyed by -- the sound of a bell. This may go back to the belief that faeries (including the malevolent ones) hate iron. When bells were made of iron, ringing them would drive evil faeries out of an area. In other traditions, any kind of loud sound was believed to chase away evil forces.
Simply ringing a bell loudly is enough to drive some evil spirits away, but you can also use other tools like Go Away Evil candles, room spray, or floor wash alongside a bell. Give your floors a good wash from the back of your home to the front with the floor wash, use the spray in each room of your home, then light the candle in the kitchen or living area. As it burns, ring a large bell while declaring that all evil spirits must leave.
Small, sweet-sounding bells have a reputation for attracting helpful, benevolent spirits and energies. You can hang up little wind chimes that tinkle rather than ring loudly, or make strings of small bells with colorful beads to hang around your home. You may also tinkle a small bell after cleansing with a louder one, to draw in positive energy and fill the spaces left by negativity.
Invoking and banishing spirits
Bells and chimes are often used in spirit work. They can be helpful for all kinds of spirits, including calling the elemental spirits in traditions like Wicca. In these situations, the bells serve three purposes: Their sound tells spirits when it is time to arrive and depart, marks the beginning and end of specific phases of a ritual, and ensures that you are getting helpful spirits, not evil ones.
In this case, ritual formats will usually have a section for repeating a chant or request to call upon a spirit, followed by a few rings of a bell. Even if you are not following a specific, defined format, you can simply use your bell when it makes sense to you. You do not need a large or loud bell for this -- a small one will suffice. You may also want to have specific bells for different purposes, like a small, sweet bell for calling spirits, and a larger, louder one for banishing unwanted energies.
Since bells are so good at driving off evil, they can also keep it away if you use them preventatively. Objects called "witches' bells" are used by many to ward their homes. These are just a small hoop of metal or wood, with bells, charms, and ribbons tied to them. The user slips the hoop over the inside knob of their front and back doors, and the bells ring every time someone enters or exits. This does a great job of making sure that no malevolent influences or entities come in when the door opens!
If you do not have access to witches' bells or the items needed to make them, you can keep a bell near your front and back doors and just remember to ring it each time you enter or leave your home.
You can also use a bell while calling on angelic protection. If you like, choose a Saint Michael bell, and ring it while reciting a prayer to Saint Michael for protection.
Marking the opening and closing of a ritual
Rituals are usually structured in very specific ways. The atmosphere of the ritual is designed to be a kind of container for spiritual energy, which is raised up, directed, and released. Ringing bells can be a wonderful way to mark the beginning of a ritual, as well as send energy on its way at the end.
You can do this with any kind of bell. All you need to do is set aside a few seconds during your rituals to ring it. The sound of a bell is a beautiful way to mark the difference between mundane reality and ritual space and time.
Bells produce bright, clear tones that send energy out as sound waves. They are great for chasing off evil spirits, dispelling negative energy, protecting from malevolent influences, and much more. If you do not have a bell in your home, it is a spiritual tool well worth investing in.