Witches and pagans tend to go on at length about the idea of “energy”, as it pertains to certain people or places, or to the actions that occur as part of a spell or ritual. But what do we really mean when we talk about “energy”- what are we referring to, exactly? It would seem that there are many viewpoints, filtered through various cultural and historical lenses that have tried to pin down what energy is, leading to perhaps some confusion among those who wish to understand work with it consciously.

In my practice, I have come to understand energy as being the flowing or moving form of spirit. As an animist, I feel that all living things possess spirit (along with a good many things that most of us regard as being non living), which is to say they have an identity that both interpenetrates the form and exists outside of it. Viewed as a whole, spirit is what holds the universe in cohesion and creates “aliveness”, and through its movement there is life force, or what we may perceive as “energy”.

This life force has been called many things in many places and many times. In Hindu yogic tradition, it is prana. In Chinese, it is called qi. In Renaissance high magic, it was called spiritus, deriving from the Latin word for “breath”. In popular culture, George Lucas took the concept and called it “the Force”. A welsh word from druidic tradition which encompasses this idea, and one that I personally use, is nwyfre (noo-iv-ruh). Whatever you call it, it is something that we all have the capacity to experience and work with, even if we are not conscious of it. Whenever we talk about someone having a certain “vibe”, or that the “feel” of a place seems off (or inviting), it is the life force that we are describing, or certain patterns in the life force that we are perceiving. It is the changing qualities of the life force that I consider to be “energy” in the sense that applies to magical work or to our spiritual being.

the flowing power of the ocean

This leads into the question about auras, and what exactly an aura is. I read auras, and I find I am commonly asked about what the aura is, and what I am seeing and sensing when I do a reading. The most straightforward answer is that the aura for me is what is generated in the energy field that surrounds every living thing. Because we all have spirits, and our spirits are dynamic and moved by the life force, we all have an energetic presence that extends some distance around us- almost like an echo. For some people and things, that echo is quite large, while for others it can seem very small. The size of this field can change due to mood or circumstance, and the qualities within it are also similarly changing.

I like to think of our energetic fields as being something akin to an interface between us and other similar fields- for our fields are not impenetrable bubbles shielding us from the rest of the world. If that were the case, we’d never be able to truly communicate or understand one another. Instead, our fields are continually commingling and exchanging with one another and all of the many things that we interact with daily. As we interact with things, and as our thoughts and emotions shift, our energetic field shifts in turn.

This can appear to someone who is sensitive to such things as either various colors, sensations or even sounds or tastes. This sensitivity is something I believe we can all develop with practice, as I feel it was considered to be the norm prior to modern materialistic and reductionist thinking (the reasons for which are another important topic to cover). The colors or sensations can reveal a person’s state of mind, their general health and well being, and key parts of their identity.

This is where things get a bit deep, at least when I am doing readings. When I am looking at a person’s aura, I am perceiving more than a single field. In fact, there are many auras or level or aura that can be sensed. Most typically, I can pick up on about three levels, but some particularly gifted individuals can tap into seven or more extending in ever further layers away from the body like the skin of an onion. The three I am primarily concerned with are associated with the state of the material body, the state of the person’s emotions, and the state of what may be described as the individual’s drives or spiritual purpose.

a sample aura reading

The first layer- let’s call it the surface layer although it’s called many things- is close to the body and it can reveal a lot about one’s health and basic well-being. It is responsible for feeding life force for to the body- for even as we are spiritual beings in motion, we still require life force in order to survive as individuals. It usually looks something like a gray mist when I’m doing readings, but it can pulse and spark or appear to have clouds or blobs in certain areas in the case of illness.

The second layer can be considered the emotional layer. It’s just beyond the surface layer, and when I’m doing readings, it tends to be the busiest and full of the most information to work with. This is where various colors and thoughtforms appear- to use the interface analogy again, reading this field is something like looking at a computer screen or a projector where a person is revealing their emotional state and personality, usually not in a conscious way. It’s here that we can deduce some basic information about someone, such as their motivations and how they are feeling about their day. This layer tends to change a lot, but there are some basic themes that may stay the same throughout the course of one’s life, barring some major changes.

The third layer may be seen as the spiritual layer or astral layer. It extends pretty far away from the body, and is the hardest to pick up on. All of the other aura layers I mentioned earlier? They reside somewhere within this layer and beyond it, perhaps outwards to the furthest edges of cosmos like ripples into eternity. I usually work with my personal guides when trying to access this layer, simply because it is so difficult to perceive unaided. Its information tends to be far less visual (at least in my experience), and instead it is picked up through intuition and subtle sensing. The spiritual layer speaks to the spirit’s development and evolution, over many life times, and where the individual is on their journey at any given time. It can also involve their greater purpose, and how that individual can affect change on a larger level.

Taken all together, an “aura” is something of an ever-changing canvas which reveals how we as living, breathing spirits are shaped by the life force and are in turn shaping life force and our surroundings. We all have some awareness of it, even if we are not conscious of it, just as we all have some basic understanding of what “energy” is even if it is so difficult for us to pin down and describe.

Working with energy and perceiving auras is something I have felt drawn toward for most of my life. I feel that developing a deeper understanding of the life force and energy, and how it shapes our lives, can lead us to a greater understanding of who we are, and where we are going. The book within your heart, where the keys to magic lie, is also a part of that energetic field, and bringing it forth and communicating it is one of the major goals of this path.

Part of how I have tried to practice and develop my ability is through art and the creation of auragraphs, or aura drawings. These portraits are a great way to visualize what is going on in one’s energetic field and to gain greater understanding of how they shift and change over time (particularly when a number are done over a period of time). I’ve tried these with myself and my loved ones for several years now, and I’m happy to start offering them for others as well. The insights that can be gained from these visualizations is remarkable- revealing hidden motives or passions, areas that need healing, and other aspects of the soul that may not otherwise be apparent.

If you are interested in learning more, or perhaps in receiving an auragraph, I am always happy to share my perspective. I am also curious to hear about your experiences as well working with energy and auras.

To schedule a reading, or for further discussion, feel free to email me at saraolwen@gmail.com

May you be filled with the breath of life, joy and magic! ~Sara