I once heard someone refer to breakups as a "luxury problem," and I would like to respectfully disagree. When you deeply love someone, a breakup can feel like part of your soul has been ripped out your chest. Breakups aren’t just emotional torture—they can even feel physically painful. Someone who was your go-to text buddy—perhaps even live-in partner—can go from emergency contact to enemy in a single moment. You may rightfully feel like your life is in shambles as you process the grief and reconfigure your daily routine sans your former love.
So how do you move forward? Witches use a method known as cord cutting—a ritual that can help you let go, heal, and meet someone new. In some cases, it can even reunite you with your ex (if it’s truly meant to be, that is).
A cord-cutting ritual is a type of magic that allows us to sever ties with a person, relationship, place, or even a state of mind that no longer serves us. One of the most common uses of cord cutting is to help get over a breakup or former romantic partner, but cord cutting can be done after ending toxic relationships with former friends, family members, jobs, or even intrusive thoughts and insecurities. The imagery is relatively straightforward. Have you ever felt that an ex, or a family member's cruel put-down, is tethered to you? You want to let it go and move on, but it feels like the words, person, or experience have become a part of you?Cord cutting allows you to visualize that cord and then cut it. This ritual can be done literally using a string, rope, or another form of a cord – it's a form of sympathetic magic, which is based on imitations of life. You don't even need an actual cord – many practitioners find that visualization is enough. As a result, before you start, it's beneficial to imagine you, the other party, and the cord connecting you two. And remember, it's okay to cut cords with someone temporarily. This isn't a ritual to fear but to embrace, to move on, and allow yourself to live happily rooted in the present.
What is a cord cutting ritual?
"Cord cutting is a very useful form of energetic cleansing used to help separate yourself from toxic people and experiences from the past or present," says Hoodwitch writer Michael Cardenas, the head brujo and owner of Olde Ways Apothecary. Cardenas practices cord cutting personally, as well as offering it to clients as one of his spells.Most witches use cord cutting rituals to move on from breakups. It simply severs unhealthy ties between you and another person, helping you to let go without directing any harm at anyone."If you think of the bonds and relationships and connections you have with the world around you as being energetic cords, cord cutting is cutting ties with people, places, or things that no longer serve you—or are actively harming you," says Kristen J. Sollée, the author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. "The practice is frequently used with relationships—platonic, romantic, or sexual—but I personally think you can harness it for addictions, fears, and other traumas that might be holding you back as well," she adds.
If you’re in a healthy relationship and looking to reconnect or reignite passion, cord cutting isn’t the spell for you. Think of cord cutting like getting rid of split ends: You may not want your hair shorter, but if you cut off what’s damaged, you’ll be rewarded with growth. In some instances, a reconciliation of some form may be possible, but first you have to sever yourself from the diseased past."If you do want to get back with an ex-partner, you have to do a cord cutting first," Cardenas explains. "You have to sever those ties to that past relationship because otherwise all we’re going to do is that you’re going to have the same exact problems."Cord cutting requires self-reflection, honesty, and the willingness to take a scary leap that can help your life move on to healthier, more beautiful relationships. "Give it some time," Cardenas advises. "Cut the cord. And I guarantee somebody else is going to come through and you’re going to attract someone from a completely different vibration and you’re going to have a better experience."There are many ways to cut cords. You can cut cords mentally by visualizing it in your head or using actual thread and scissors. For instance, once Sollée had a friendship with an ex that was painful and draining. She didn’t want them totally out of her life, so she severed the dead ends through visualization. "I did a cycle of deep breathing, closed my eyes, and envisioned an electric-pink, glowing cord tethering us together. I used that link to send love and strength their way, thanking them for what they had added to my life," she says. "Then I pictured cutting that cord as I imagined the draining aspects of the relationship dissolving away. I meditated on this image for at least 15 minutes or so, and then went about my day."
While such visualizations can be extremely powerful, it’s sometimes helpful to use actual cords so you can see and hold them, and witness the process take place. Cord cutting can be done on an as-needed basis; while the waning phase of the moon is a great time to perform such rituals, everyone knows that breakups don’t exactly coordinate with the lunar calendar.I asked Cardenas if he’d be happy to give me instructions for a cord cutting ritual. I was in emotional pain due to a falling out with a dear friend who was once a lover, but is a much better fit as a friend. I’d already moved on romantically (the woman I’m now seeing even helped me stock up on the supplies to perform this ritual), but I still felt sad about the loss of my friend.Hours after performing this ritual, he called me. We talked and agreed to forgive one another for all past hurt and to make space for each other to move on as friends. He was also genuinely happy that I had met someone and was doing well. Below is the ritual that Cardenas shared with me, which can be done alone or with a friend.
You will need: a black candle, white sage, Florida water, several yards of black cotton thread or yarn, scissors, and a cauldron or fire safe container.Instructions: You can do this with another person or alone either seated or lying down.
Cord Cutting Ritual, courtesy of Olde Ways Apothecary
Step 1: Open all the windows and doors if possible to let out all of the negativity you will be releasing. Burn sage and spray some Florida water throughout your home to create sacred space.Step 2: Light your candle and center yourself. Take some time to focus on what you want to release from your life and set your intentions.
Step 3: When you’re ready, bind your feet together with the thread and say, "This is what blocks me from moving forward on my path." The thread represents the toxic cords that connect you to negativity.Step 4: Next, bind your wrists together and say, "This is what keeps me from receiving all that I have been asking for."
Step 5: Sit and meditate on toxic experiences from the past and allow the cords to absorb that energy.Step 6: When you feel ready, cut the cords with scissors on both hands and feet. As you do this, you can say, "I release the ties that bind. I claim that which is mine. I move forward in light and freedom. So be it."Step 7: Spray yourself with Florida Water to seal your energy field.
Step 8: Burn the thread and bury the ashes away from your home. It is done. (Note: If you’re a city witch and don’t live near good dirt, make sure the threads are completely burnt to ashes and then flush them.)For Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating the breakups that shaped us, in all their messy glory. Because love is just as much about heartbreak as it is about romance. Read all the stories from our Love Bites series here.What's in the stars for you in February? Read your monthly horoscope here.Want these horoscopes sent straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for the newsletter.This article was updated for clarity. It was originally published in February 2019.