H&G's Feng Shui expert on why you should banish 'dead and stagnant' energy in the home at Christmas

‘Dead’, ‘stagnant’ and ‘cutting’ energy are easy and completely free to fix when you recognize the potential causes, says Suzanne Roynon

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(Image credit: Future PLC)

One of the questions I am asked when people first delve into Feng Shui and read about negative energy that can hang around properties and people is 'What does "dead" or "stagnant" energy mean, and why does it matter my home?'

This is particularly relevant in the Christmas season, as we often decorate our homes with nature’s abundance and can sometimes accidentally bring in elements that actively work against good vibes and the uplifting energy we all deserve. 

As with everything in Feng Shui, getting the balance right means we can both deck the halls and enjoy the holiday.

How to prevent 'dead' energy

The team at Homes & Gardens asked me to explain the definitions of three types of negative energy, and also the ways in which Christmas decorations and traditions may sometimes bring unwelcome ‘ghosts’ or difficult memories to the surface.

christmas dining table with candles and foliage

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In Feng Shui, we primarily talk about ‘dead' energy in the home in relation to physical things like dead or dying plants, along with dried flowers, grasses, and twigs. We would also regard deceased animals used in décor like stag heads and taxidermy, together with ashes as emitting ‘dead’ energy.

These are living things that have expired and no longer emit the vibrant life force or ‘chi’ energy they once had. It matters in a home because, aside from attracting dust and spiders, anything that is dead creates a pocket of negative energy around it.  This will impact on part of life the associated area of the Feng Shui bagua relates to, and potentially on the well-being, happiness, and success of the people who live in the home.

As a reminder, the Feng Shui energy map is a grid of nine equal sections, each of which references a different aspect of life.

The Feng Shui bagua

Bagua map grid

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Centre: Health and Wellbeing
  • North: Career
  • East: Family and the Past
  • South: Reputation
  • West: New Beginnings
  • South West: Relationships
  • South East: Wealth and Abundance
  • North West: Travel and Friendships
  • North East: Knowledge and Spirituality

The bagua is laid over the floorplan of a home to define each area, and the décor items and possessions found in specific places can often explain a great deal about what is happening in the lives of the individuals and families sharing the space.

We regularly find ‘dead’ energy in buildings where people are struggling with their health, fertility, career, or happiness, which, if you think about it, makes complete sense. Dried flower wreaths and twiggy hearts regularly feature in the homes of people who, at face value, want the world to believe they are happy, but in reality, they may feel emotionally alone and disconnected from the things and people that really matter. 

Frequently their relationship is faltering or has ended. If that sounds all too familiar, you may find it helpful to release anything holding dead energy from your home and consider a space-clearing ceremony to revitalize the 'chi' and welcome in some new, positive vibes. You can read more about space-clearing in my book, Welcome Home, at Amazon.

Banish ‘stagnant’ energy

Front door ideas

Photography: Mel Yates

(Image credit: Future)

‘Stagnant’ energy is slightly different. This is more about the flow of positive energy throughout a home and refers to areas where energy is unable to circulate freely, perhaps due to clutter, a junk room, unopened rooms, or blocked drains. This can cause stagnant energy to build up in a home, making life more difficult than it needs to be. 

You’ll potentially have to deal with irksome people and things just not going the way you’d like them to. Money doesn’t flow as freely when you live with stagnation. Imagine wading through quicksand and that’s the impact of a build-up of stagnant energy, so it's important to keep the energy flowing through your home in winter, even when you have the heating on.

If you suspect parts of your home may contain stagnant energy, experiment with Feng Shui by using the compass on your smartphone to identify which compass direction those areas are positioned in and compare it with the list above. It might just give you an ‘aha moment’ and prompt you to do something about it.

Avoid ‘cutting’ energy

houseplants on wooden side table

(Image credit: Future PLC / Paul Raeside)

‘Cutting’ energy is given off by sharp or pointed objects within the home. It’s not quite the same as the ‘poison arrows’ you might also have read about. These are mostly created by other buildings and sharp edges, which tend to be bigger and more permanent issues. 

We use the phrase ‘cutting' energy for plants like yucca, devil’s ivy, and mother-in-law’s tongue which have sword-like leaves, barbs, thorns, or spikes. These slice into the energy around them which can result in irritation, exhaustion, and prickly conversations. Please never gift a new mom a snake plant, even if it does help oxygenate a room. It will do more harm than good to a woman who needs all the energetic support she can get.

You can also experience the effect of cutting energy from some décor items, which is why Feng Shui discourages displaying spears, ceremonial swords and daggers on the wall, or even a knife block on the kitchen counter.

Remove 'ghosts of Christmas past'

1. Pack away or donate items that bring back bad memories

christmas trees

(Image credit: Future)

We all know the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the three spirits who visited him on Christmas Eve to show the error of his ways and help him become happier, more abundant and loved by his family and community.

Fast forward to the here and now, and you may be surprised to learn that the Ghosts of Christmas Past are alive and well and may visit your home this year. Admittedly, they are unlikely to rock up with clanking chains and loud moans, but if you experience a strong reaction to something you see or hear, it might well be one of the ghosts showing you the influence of a burst of negative energy.

My first experience with the Ghosts of Christmas Past began with some beautiful glass baubles bought for the first Christmas in our new home. Two years later, my long-term relationship was over. Christmas came around and I unpacked the decorations ready for the family to dress the tree. As the first sparkling tartan ball came out of the tissue paper, memories of our separation, the sadness, hurt, and pain rushed over me. I sat on the floor and cried. 

We immediately re-packed the six ornaments, along with the snow globes and everything else that reminded me of my ex and donated them to a charity shop. Better to let them go than have constant memories of heartbreak hanging on the tree.

The purest essence of Christmas is joy, happiness, and a glorious new beginning. It’s no time to be dwelling on anger, bitterness, or loss. The ‘ghosts’ or if you prefer, your intuition, will highlight certain memory triggers which can spoil the positive aspects of Christmas. If ignored, they have a nasty habit of reinforcing negative vibes, just as the baubles would have done for me.

If someone special has passed on this year, please don’t rush to let those memories go. Your Christmas ghosts may one day be cherished again after the initial stages of grief have elapsed. If the memories are too painful to bear this Christmas, it’s good self-care to put the decorations away until next time. When you are ready you can bring them out and feel your heart smile with each treasured memory they bring.

2. Embrace new traditions

Christmas dining table with tree in background

(Image credit: Birdie Fortescue)

Another Ghost of Christmas Past, and cause of frequent aggravation at Christmas, is stubbornly maintaining old traditions even if they have become tarnished or no longer sit comfortably with current circumstances.

There is no ‘right’ way to do Christmas because people, situations and locations change. If maintaining it as it has ‘always been done’ no longer suits, consider creating a new celebration to lessen any potential distress for participants. See it as a great opportunity to ditch aspects of the holiday you don’t enjoy, but which might have been ‘set in stone’ through generations. Instead, bring in new positive experiences for the people you love.

My super-practical friend decided to change things up after her son got divorced and his ex-wife took the kids away for a Christmas vacation. Instead of enduring their traditional five-course Boxing Day brunch, where the children would have been sorely missed, the family had a fun blustery picnic at the beach instead. They loved it, and over party games that evening agreed it was the right moment to consign the overindulgent brunch to history and enjoy a healthy new tradition. 

Times change, people come and go, and sometimes it’s better to be flexible rather than cling to the past. Having a positive attitude and being open to a new or different celebration makes the challenge of divorced and blended families a whole lot easier!

In case you’re wondering whether I practice what I preach, I do. This year my close family are all heading in different directions and the tiny Norman village church I’ve attended since childhood has cancelled the midnight service due to a dwindling congregation. Suddenly the world is my oyster, and I just can’t wait to experience the new Christmas delights waiting for me.


Does wooden furniture have 'dead' energy?

In case you’re wondering about wood and whether that’s dead energy too; once it has been transformed into furniture it is regarded as ‘dormant’ because it has a new, practical use. Artificial flowers and plants are treated in the same way. A wooden table or silk orchids won’t increase positive energy around the home, but they won’t deplete it either unless they become dusty or damaged.

Will Christmas trees and festive foliage bring in 'cutting' energy?

The ritual of bringing prickly foliage like holly and pine into a home as decoration during the winter season goes back thousands of years to pagan times, and while the Christmas tree is a relatively new addition, most living trees have sharp needles. These freshly cut boughs and branches may increase tension if left unadorned, but by embellishing them with lights and ornaments you offset much of the cutting 'chi'.

That said, as soon as they start to dehydrate, you’re entering 'dead' energy territory, so make an informed decision on whether to replace or dismantle any dry, drooping greenery before the twelfth night. 

‘Dead’, ‘stagnant’ and ‘cutting’ energy are easy and completely free to fix when you recognize the potential causes and deal with them appropriately. Once that’s done it’s simple to welcome fresh, clean vibes into your space.

Suzanne Roynon
Contributing Expert

Suzanne is an Interiors Therapist, Feng Shui consultant, and author of Welcome Home, how stuff makes or breaks your relationship. She specializes in understanding the energetic impact of homes and certain possessions may have on all aspects of life, health and relationships, and the ways in which ‘stuff’ can actively prevent people and families from thriving and enjoying the lifestyle they deserve.