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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Spellcrafting Series: To Curse or Not to Curse; Ethics is Spellcrafting

spellcrafting, spell writing, spell casting, spell, magick, magic, witchcraft, witch, hedgewitch, ritual, witchy, occult, ethics, curse, hex, jinx, baneful magic,

Before you even begin to write and cast your own spells, you need to decide upon a purpose for the spell. This is usually the easiest part of spellcrafting because you know what you want before you even get started. However, just because you know what you want to cast a spell for, doesn't necessarily mean that you should. This is where ethics come in. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ethics is the "moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity." Ethics is concerned with right versus wrong, and the perceptions around those terms. There is a lot of grey area when it comes to ethics because not everyone has the same values and morals, nor do we all look at an issue the same way. I know this is a hot topic, but take abortion as an example. The reason we can't agree upon a 'right' course of action is that we do not agree upon the ethics of the situation. Pro-choice individuals often believe the fetus is not a human being and therefore does not hold more value than the life of the mother. They also often believe that the bodily autonomy of the mother outweighs the potential life of an unborn child. Still, others believe it's none of their business and should be left up to the individual to decide what is best for them. On the other end of the spectrum, pro-life individuals often believe life starts at conception and that the fetus also has bodily autonomy and the right to life. I'm not here to decide which side is right, but to point out that what is ethical for some is not ethical for others, and that isn't always a bad thing. So how does this tie into spellcrafting? The short answer: cursing, hexing, and jinxing; the long answer: many 'good' spells often harm another individual inadvertently by taking something away from them. Let's discuss these in more detail.

Curses, Hexes, and Jinxes, Oh My!

Beyond a doubt, baneful spells such as cursing, hexing, and jinxing get the short end of the stick when it comes to discussing what they are, how to do them, and why someone might. This is largely due to the rise of Wicca and the desire to separate the magic of white witches from indigenous occult practices. I've discussed the latter in more detail in Decolonizing Witchcraft: Racism, Whitewashing, and Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft and How to Decolonize Your Practice if you are interested in learning more. With the rise of Wicca, came about the Rule of 3 which states that a witch should harm none lest the harm is returned to them three-fold. This same principle applies to 'good' spells as well, but this is often overlooked. Wicca is the most heavily capitalized occult practice in the world, making it readily available to those interested in witchcraft and therefore the more pervasive thought-form in the community. This means that there are a large number of witches, whether they currently identify as Wiccan or not, that strongly believe cursing, hexing, and jinxing should never be done in any circumstance and therefore the topic isn't covered much in introductory books, websites, and online forums. This is a complete shame because witches are purposely ignoring an entire side of witchcraft and their practice hurts because of it. I strongly believe in Z. Budapest's saying, "If you cannot hex, you cannot heal. If you cannot curse, you cannot cure." This doesn't mean that you are hexing and cursing yourself, but that you are learned in the art so you can correctly identify when someone has been hexed or cursed so you can break it. Smoke cleansing is not always the answer, especially when it comes to a more potent spell like a curse. For this reason, it's important to understand their basics and then why people, myself included, would use a curse, hex, or jinx. Let's work our way up from the least harmful to the most harmful, starting with the jinx.

I bet you've jinxed someone before without even thinking about it or knowing you were doing it. Have you ever said something at the exact same time as a friend as yelled, "JINX! You owe me a Coke!" Surprise, surprise, this is an actual jinx. Jinxes are tiny spells that are relatively harmless in nature. They are meant to cause an annoyance in the life of your target and are very temporary. It's often hard to see if these spells actually work unless you are close to the target, such as a friend you jinxed to make them buy you a Coke. They aren't necessarily harmed by the fact that they have to buy you a Coke, unless they are really financially hurting, but it is an annoyance, especially if they aren't supposed to talk until they buy you the Coke. Most jinxes, however, are usually mean-spirited and not in good fun. You want something negative to happen to the person you are jinxing, but you don't want them to be permanently harmed, just inconvenienced for whatever reason. These are usually cast because the person has done something mean or inconveniencing to you, such as calling you a name, cutting you off in traffic, stealing the last parking spot while you were clearly waiting, or any other action that we would classify as being a Karen. Hoping someone stubs their toe, has nightmares, spills glitter on their rug, or steps in a water puddle and spends the rest of the day with wet socks are all examples of jinxes. None of these are terrible, but they definitely ruin the day of the person they happen to!

Hexes, on the other hand, are much stronger than jinxes and last until the target learns their lesson. Hexes are designed to bring long-term bad luck, ill-will, and harm to the target and are often confused with the more potent curse. The key difference that sets hexes apart from both jinxes and curses is that they are specifically designed to teach the target a lesson. These are usually directed toward an individual who is repeatedly causing issues, such as an abusive co-worker or neighbor, cheating spouse, or lying friend, etc in an attempt to get them to stop the harmful behavior. Great examples of hexes have popped up in recent news, such as hexing convicted rapist Brock Turnerhexing Trumphexing the patriarchy when Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in, and hexing the individuals involved in the January 6th insurrection. There were also witches that hexed the election in favor of Biden. Other, less publicized examples of hexes include mirror or return to sender spells that send their actions back to the person doing the harm, hot foot powders (depending on the severity of the spell), continued nightmare spells, and even some banishing and binding spells. These sorts of spells are much more harmful to the individual, many of them focusing on destroying luck, happiness, and sometimes even relationships, but all with the intent of teaching the target a lesson.

Curses are much more potent than both jinxes and hexes and are designed to last a long time, sometimes even generations. Usually, curses are used to seek revenge on the target, sometimes even to bring justice when the system has failed to do so. Cursing is and was heavily used by marginalized groups for justice when the system ultimately fails to help them, especially among the BIPOC and impoverished communities. We see examples of curses pop up in folklore from just about everywhere in the world where they are almost always associated with negative views of witches and witchcraft. If you look at the folklore in the United States and Europe, you will find a number of tales detailing how witches cursed families, how the curse was broken, and how the witch was punished for their cruel actions. However, if you dig deeper into these tales, you find that more often than not, the witch was already an outcast who was repeatedly denied help and services in their time of need, so they retaliated against their abusers to even the playing field, aka bring justice. Curses can take many forms, such as preventing someone from finding love, destroying relationships, destroying crops or other property of value, and bringing long-term ill-will and bad luck. The point of a curse is to make the life of the target a living nightmare. Generally, these sorts of spells are used for abusers, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, animal abusers, and the like, although some people curse for much less. Curses are much harder to break, often requiring the spell remains to be found and destroyed or for the person to go through difficult cursing breaking rituals for several days, even weeks.

The big question, however, is whether or not it's ethical to use any of these types of spells. This isn't a simple answer. Most people will likely agree that a small jinx isn't particularly bad because it isn't particularly harmful. Most people engage in minor ill-wishing when someone does something that upsets them. Does this make jinxing unethical? What about hexing and cursing? These are much more difficult questions to tackle, but important to discuss nonetheless. As you can see from their definitions and the reasoning behind the spell, they aren't entirely bad. Hexes are to teach a lesson and stop someone from continuing to do harm. Curses, on the other hand, are often employed to bring justice to a marginalized and otherwise ignored group when the system has failed them. For some, this is no different than the target going to jail or being executed for a crime. If you are hexing and cursing simply out of spite and the target's actions do not justify the punishment, then what you are doing is likely unethical. However, if you feel the crime warrants the punishment you are sending, then it's probably ethical, or at least justified. I can't answer these sorts of questions for you, but you certainly need to. Before you begin writing your own spells, you need to set the ground rules you wish to follow and write them down somewhere in your Grimore or Book of Shadows so you can refer back to them often.  My advice: Don't cast spells in the heat of the moment if you aren't okay with jinxing, hexing, or cursing.

All that Glitters is Not Gold

Okay so we covered the obviously baneful spells, but what about the 'good' spells? They can't cause harm, right? Sorry to burst your bubble but they most certainly can. Let's break this down a bit. Let's say you are looking for a new job and you decide to do a new job spell to help you find the perfect job. Low and behold the spell works and you have an interview lined up with a company whose values and mission align with yours, it's the right pay, right hours, etc. You decide to cast a spell to help you get the job and succeed in the interview. The company loves you so much they hire you during your interview and all is right with the world! For you, it is, but what about the other candidates? Were they less qualified or less deserving of the job? Not necessarily. When you perform magic to bring about change in your life, you are inadvertently changing the lives of other people as well. When you worked magic to secure the job, you potentially took the job from another who may have needed it more than you. When you work a spell for money and find $20 in the parking lot, someone else had to lose that $20 for you to gain. Where does this fall in ethically? Is it ethical to cast spells for personal gain when others will inadvertently suffer because of it or is that just a consequence of life? Sure, you may have the best intentions, but are you willing to live with the potential consequences of your spells? What about spells that could potentially violate someone's free will, but aren't necessarily malicious, such as a love spell? Do you believe love spells can even violate someone's free will or do they just act upon and enhance what was already there? What about glamour spells? Is it lying to cast a glamour on yourself? Again, these are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself before you cast a spell.

Before you jump into spellcrafting, I encourage you to set your own ethical ground rules for spellcasting and crafting. What are boundaries you are not willing to cross? Why? Are there exceptions to your rules? Spend time journaling about what ethics in witchcraft means to you. What do you hold valuable? What do you believe is beyond a doubt wrong? What is beyond a doubt right? Again, are there exceptions? This is going to take you some time to do, so don't rush it. I know reading this article you have probably already started forming some ground rules in your mind, maybe these rules have changed throughout the article or maybe it has reassured your stance. Either way, spend time journaling about the questions I've posed throughout the article and see where you stand at the end. Once you have your ethical code in place, then we can begin discussing writing and casting your own spells.

Good luck!

Interest in the rest of the series? 

Spellcrafting Series

Correspondences, Substitutions, and How to Write Your Own
Perfect Spell Timing
Spell Wording: Be Clear, Be Heard
Raising Energy, Cleansing, Charging, and Centering Prior to Spellcasting
Breaking Your Own Spells
What to do with Spell Remains
Recording Your Spells
Intuitive Spellcasting
Casting Spells from the Otherworld
Troubleshooting Your Spells and Why They Didn't Work




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6 comments :

  1. This is such a fair, realistic, and balanced look at a topic that is far too frequently misunderstood, misaligned, and even marginalized. A lot of what you said is in line with my own take on these important topics, and I greatly appreciate you penning such a thoughtful, nuanced look at the importance both both cursing (et al) and ethics in general as they apply to witchery/spellwork.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

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    1. Thank you, Autumn. People forget that "white" witches and Wicca purposely stigmatized marginalized groups who were using the occult in protest of an unjust society. Those views are not so entrenched in neopaganism that we don't even realize how harmful that sort of mindset is to other occult practices.

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  2. Very interesting article, lots to think about! Look forward to future posts in the series. :)

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    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the rest of the series. We have tons of books introducing witchcraft and are now getting books on more advanced topics, but no one is really discussing in detail what goes into spells. Hopefully this helps remedy some of that problem.

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  3. Thank you Willow, I enjoyed this article too, much to think about and so well written. Even though I've been practicing for years I don't mind being a novice again relearning what I've forgotten or didn't get right the first time. Thanks for the mirror!

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this post! Sometimes we all benefit by going back to the basics, especially if we are overwhelmed or feeling stuck. Thank you for your lovely comment. I wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors!

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