Sunday, October 21, 2007

Black Magic

Sometimes a cliché just wears out. It loses meaning or, worse, begins to say things we never meant. I think it's time to retire the phrase "black magic." Magic is magic, be it bane or otherwise, it is all sacred, and it is the choice of the Witch for what purpose it is to be used.

I've heard much too often the terms "White" or "Black" magic, and I've heard "Grey" as well. Frankly this only shows me just how much most people, even witches, hold on to their past and what our "Christian" society has embedded in their minds from birth and on forward throughout their lives.Saying "black" when we mean "evil" is nasty nonsense. In the first place, it reinforces the racist stereotypes that corrupt our society.

And that's not all. Whenever we say "black" instead of "bad," we repeat again the big lie that darkness is wrong. It isn't, as people who profess to love Nature should know.

Darkness can mean the inside of the womb, and the seed germinating within the Earth, and the chaos that gives rise to all truly new beginnings. In our myths, the one who goes down to the underworld returns with the treasure. Even death, to the Witch's understanding, is well-earned rest and comfort, and a preparation for new birth.

Using "black" to mean "bad" is a blasphemy against the Crone and the Dark Lord. But even if we no longer speak of magic as "black" or "white," we still need to think and speak about the ethics of magic. Although black is not evil, some actions are evil. It simply is not true that anything a person is strong enough or skilled enough to do is OK, nor should doing what we "will" ever be the whole of the law for us. We need a clear and specific vocabulary that enables us to choose wisely what we will do.

We need to replace the word "black," not simply to drop it. Some Pagans have tried using "negative" as their substitute, but that turned out to be confusing. For some people, "negative" means any spell to diminish or banish anything. Some things - tumors, depression, and bigotry - are harmful. There's nothing wrong with a working to get rid of bad stuff. "Left-handed" is another common term for wrongful practice, very traditional, but just as ignorant, superstitious and potentially harmful as the phrase "black magic" itself. So instead we tried using the word "unethical." That's a lot better - free of extraneous and false implications - but still too vague.

Gradually, I began to wonder whether using any one word, "black"or "unethical" or whatever might just be too general and too subjective.

Now, before I continue, I need to make it very clear that "ethics" is clearly a word that is defined by the individual. What is ethical for me may not be to you, and vice verse. Therefore, take no measure from this for what is or is not ethical. YOU are the judge of what is ethical for YOU. And YOU take the responsibility for what YOU do.

I certainly pass no judgment to any witch for what they choose to do. It is indeed their choice to make, and not mine in any way. I do, of course, have my opinions, but they are simply that, opinions. You may or may not even agree with what is written here. And that is OK too. The God and Goddess will work in any way you ask. This is mainly concerned with the Witch's responsibility to think clearly with as many facts possible before acting. Acting responsibly is not unreasonable, sometimes inconvenient, yes, but nevertheless, it is proper.

I won't settle for blind obedience. If ethical principles are going to survive the twin tests of time and temptation, people need to understand just what to avoid, and why. Even more important, they need a basis for figuring out what to do instead, especially when it comes to projective magic.

Projective magic means active workings, the kind in which we project our will out into the world to make some kind of change. This is what most people think of when they use the word magic at all. Quite clearly, magic that may affect other people is magic that can harm. This is the basis of the proverb "a Witch who can't hex can't heal." Either you can raise and/or direct power or you can't. Your strength and skill can be used for blessing, or for bane. The choice is yours. Just as some people feel that strength and skill are their own justification, others feel that any projective magic is always wrong -that it is a distraction from our one true goal of union with the Divine or a willful avoidance of judgment. I think these attitudes are equally inconsistent with the Witch's philosophy.

We are taught that we will find the Lady and Lord within ourselves, or not at all, that the Witch Mother has been with us from the beginning. We can't now establish a union that was always there. All we can do, all we need to do, is become aware. Knowing what it feels like to heal and empower, again and again till you can't dismiss it as coincidence, is one of the most powerful methods for awakening that awareness. It makes no sense to say that the direct experience and exercise of our indwelling divinity distracts from the Great Work.

Indeed, it is this intimate connection between our magic and our self-realization that our ethics protect. Wrongful use of magic will choke the channel. No short term gain could ever compensate for that.

The "karmic" argument against practical workings seems to me to arise from a paranoid and defeatist world view. Even if we assume that the hardships in this life were put there by the Powers That Be for a reason, how can we be so sure that the reason was punishment? Perhaps instead of penance to be endured, our difficulties are challenges to be met. Coping and dealing with our problems, learning magical and mundane skills, changing ourselves and our world for the better - in short, growing up - is that not what the Gods of joy and freedom want from us?

We, as Witches, believe that we are chosen by or God and Goddess. Yet it is up to each of us individually to choose whether to recognize them or not, to listen to them, commune with them, and to work with and respect our Deities. One of the most radically different things about a Witch's belief system is that each one of us has the right, and the need, to choose the focus of our relationship with our Deities. We make these choices knowing that whatever energies we invoke most often in ritual will shape our own further growth.

Spiritual practices are a means of self-programming if you will. So we are responsible for what we worship in a way that people who take their One God as a given are not.

Think about this: what kind of Power actively wants us to submit and suffer, and objects when we develop skills to improve our own lives? Not a Being I'd want to invite around too often!

So it will not work for us to rule out projective magic; nor should we. Prohibitions are as thoughtless as total permissiveness or blind obedience. Ethical and spiritual Witches ought to be able to make distinctions and well-reasoned choices.

Not so much thought of as "Black", but because I've just talked about Projective Magic, It's probably appropriate to touch on Receptive Magic. Receptive magic can be thought of also as "passive" magic, although it is not at all passive. Carrying an amulet or gemstone charged to attract a lover, money, a job and such are examples of receptive magic. This energy is such that it attracts or is magnetic.

The amulet should not be confused with a talisman. Talismans are not receptive and generally are used as protection, illumination, personal power, increasing self-worth, luck, energy, positive outcomes. In talismans, it is the energy of these power objects that repel negative forces by sending out positive energy.

Projective - Fire - Protection, strength, will power, courage, energy, power, blood,birth, lust, sex, war, anger Carnelian, Garnet, Red Jasper, Ruby

Receptive - Water - Love, acceptance, peace, happiness, joy, laughter, calming, soothing,soothing, opening, de-stressing, Rose Quartz, Rhodonite, Rhodochrosite

Projective - Fire - Protection, illumination, personal power, increasing self-worth, luck, energy, positive outcomes Carnelian, Orange Calcite

Projective - Air - Communication, conscious mind, heightening visualization abilities,travel, digestion, nervous system, skin, energy, movement, mental awareness, Citrine, Yellow Zircon, Yellow Carnelian

Receptive - Water - Healing, fertility, life, plants, gardens, eyes, kidneys, stomach, money, riches, prosperity, luck, love, balance, Bloodstone, Aventurine, Green Moss Agate

Receptive - Water - Peace, calming emotions, sleep, healing, reduce fevers, remove ulcers, eliminating inflammations, remove pain, purification, Lapis Lazuli, Sapphire

Receptive - Earth - Spirituality, mysticism, purification, meditation, psychic work, subconscious mind, healing, peace, removing headache, mental illness, depression, Amethyst, some Fluorite

Receptive - Water/Earth - Sleep, Psychism, luck, protection, removing headache, substitute for any other stone, Snow Quartz, Opal

Receptive - Earth - Protection, grounding, self-control, resilience, quiet power, Obsidian, Jet, Apache Tears

In the example above, you'll notice that projective is associated with Air which could include rituals having to do with travel, instruction, study, freedom, knowledge, and searching. And Fire in which some rituals would include protection, courage, sex, energy,strength, authority, and banishing. Receptive is associated with Earth in which such rituals might include money, fertility, employment, stability, prosperity, and grounding. And Water in which such rituals would include love, purification, psychic abilities, dreams, sleep, peace, marriage, and friendship.

Noticing this will bring you also to the conclusion that projective is male, and receptive is female as Earth and Water are feminine. Fire and Air are Masculine.

Baneful magic is magic done for the explicit purpose of causing harm to another person. Usually the reason for it is revenge, and the rationalization is justice.

For Witches there is no rule without exceptions. If you think you would never torture somebody, consider this scenario: in just half an hour the bomb will go off, killing everybody in the city, and this terrorist knows where it is hidden....

I know, a bit extreme, but you get the point.

It's a bad mistake to base your ethics on wildly unlikely cases, since none of us honestly knows how we would react in that kind of extreme. Reasonable ethical statements are statements about the behaviors we expect of ourselves under normally predictable circumstances.We all get really angry on occasion, and sometimes with good cause.

Then revenge can seem like no more than simple justice. The anger is a normal, healthy human reaction, and should not be repressed. Most times there's no more need to act it out in magic than in physical violence. Instead of going for revenge - and invoking the consequences of baneful magic - identify what you really need first.

For example, if your anger comes from a feeling that you have been attacked or violated, what you may need first is protection and safe space. Work for the positive goal first, it can be both more effective and safer. If this proves to be ineffective, then perhaps the use of baneful magic would be appropriate.

The consequences of baneful magic are simply the logical, natural and inevitable psychological effects. Even in that rare and extreme situation when you may decide you really do have to use magic to give Hitler a heart attack, it means you are choosing by the same choice to accept the act's consequences. Magical attack hurts the attacker first. Let me explain…

The only way I know how to do magic is by use of my imagination, by visualizing or otherwise actively imagining the end I want, and then projecting that goal with the energy of emotional/physiological arousal. All the techniques I know either help me to imagine more specifically or to project more strongly. So the only way I can send out harm is by first experiencing that harm within my own imagination. Instant and absolute consequence - the natural, logical and inevitable outcomes of our own choices.

I would think also, that somebody dumb enough to do such workings too often would soon lose the ability to imagine specifically, as their sensitivity dulled in sheer self-defense. That callusing effect is the reality behind the pious proverb that says "if you abuse it, She'll take it away."

Of course, these effects or consequences can be and most times are minuscule when we act with clear conscience. The greatest consequence of all is to work baneful magic when you know in your heart that it is not the right thing to do and the target person does not truly deserve it.

But not every other magician is ethical. Psychic attacks do happen. Should we not defend ourselves? Of course we should. Leaving ourselves open to psychic attack is no good example of the autonomy and assertiveness our Gods expect. But first, how can we be sure what we are experiencing really is psychic attack?

The fantasy of psychic attack is often a convenient excuse that allows us to avoid looking at our own shortcomings. When lack of rest or improper nutrition is the cause of illness, or a project isn't completed on time because of distraction, it's a real temptation to put the blame outside ourselves. Doing this too easily betrays our autonomy just as badly as meek submission to attack does. Then, to compound matters, projected blame becomes an excuse for unjust revenge - and that is baneful magic without excuse.

Once in a while, some fool really does try to throw a whammy. It's hard to predict when you might be targeted. Passive shields are always a good idea. Like a mirror, these are totally inactive until somebody sends unwelcome energy. Then a shield will protect you completely and bounce back whatever is being thrown. You may not even know consciously when your shield is working, but the result is perfect justice.

Perfect justice is both elegant and efficient. You won't hurt anybody out of paranoia or by mistake. And perfect protection, even though we do not have perfect knowledge.

That being said, it is not the way of the Witch to suffer at the hand of another. And no Witch should allow him or herself to be a doormat! Protection for yourself and those dear to you is indeed reason enough to get "tough" with magic.

Always remember this rule. Once you cast spellwork, no matter what kind or for what reason, put it completely out of your mind. Once done and the circle is opened, it simply never happened. This is the best and only true way to protect yourself from the consequences of your spellwork.

Bindings, according to some, are completely defensive. They do not harm, only restrain. But imagine yourself being bound - perhaps by someone who believes themselves justified - and notice the feeling of impotence and frustration. Binding is bane from the viewpoint of the bound.

Even if restraint were truly not harmful, bindings can be poor protection. They target a particular person or group. What if you suspect the wrong person? Somebody harmless is bound and your actual attacker is not bound. Shields, which cover you, not your supposed enemy, will cover you against any enemy, known or unknown. This is not to say that binding is always improper and/or out of the realm of answers to defend against attack, just be sure you have the right person!

Coercive magic is magic that targets another person to make them give us something we want or need. When most people think of the "Magic Power of Witchcraft," this is for the most part, what they have in mind.

The spell to make the teacher give you a good grade, or the supervisor give you a good evaluation, the spell to make the personnel officer or renting agent choose you, the spell to attract that cute guy or girl, all are examples of coercive magic.

So, what's wrong with high grades, a good job, a raise, a nice apartment and a sexy, horny lover? There's nothing at all wrong with those goals. Go for it! There is certainly nothing wrong with using what you know and have at your disposal to get what you want or need.

But don't actively strive toward good ends by coercive means.Although there is no deliberate intent to do harm or cause pain in coercive workings, other people are treated as pawns. Their autonomy and their interests are ignored.

Forcing the will of another is not always harmless; controlling the independent judgment of another human being can be harmful.

One of the main reasons people fear and hate Witches is our reputation for controlling others.

Innocent people, who are connected to the situation, but invisible to us, may also be seriously hurt: the cute guy's fiancee', the other applicant for that job. What you think of as a working designed only to bring good to yourself can bring serious harm to innocent third parties. This is somewhat a weak argument, since almost always one can come up with third parties that could be affected. Even though this may or may not be the deciding factor in your choice to use magic, it may be wise at times to think of this. I, at times, choose to also ask for protection for innocent parties if I believe that they might be harmed otherwise. Children are most likely to get my attention on this.

That isn't the only way an incomplete view of the situation can backfire. There's a traditional saying that goes, "be careful about what you ask for, because that's exactly what you will get." What if he is gorgeous, but abusive? What if the apartment house is structurally unsound?

Finally, remember this: asking specifically limits us to what we now know or what we can now imagine. I remember a time when I could not have imagined being a Witch and Priest. What if the cute guy in the office is perfectly OK, but your absolutely perfect soul-mate will be in the local Kroger next Wednesday? The more specifically targeted your magic is, the more you chance limiting yourself to a life of missed chances.

This is not to say that you shouldn't be specific. Of course you should! My point here is make sure that you are very well educated and have all the facts before you ask. Patience can pay off if you look deeply into yourself to know for sure what it is you want or need, as well as looking further into the specific objects of your desires.

And beyond all the scenario spinning lies the instant natural, logical and inevitable consequence of the act. It's more subtle than in the case of baneful magic, since you are not trying to imagine and project pain, but the damage is still real. Here are some examples.

Every time you treat another human being as a thing to be pushed and pulled around for your convenience and pleasure, you are reinforcing your own alienation. The attitude of being removed from and superior to other people takes you out of community. As the attitude strengthens, so will the behavior it engenders. The long term result of coercive magic, as with mundane forms of coercion, is isolation and loneliness.

Did I just rule out all the good stuff? Love charms, job magic, spells for good grades? Not at all! It is not only ethical but good for you to do lots of magic to improve your own life. Whenever it works you will get more than you asked for - because along with whatever you asked for comes one more experience of your own effectiveness, your power from within.

Work on yourself and your own needs and desires without targeting other people whenever possible. You should feel free! Ask for what you want. Visualize it and raise power for it and act in accordance on the material plane. "I need a caring and horny lover with a goodsense of humor." "I want an affordable house near where my coven meets with a tree outside my window." "I need to be at my best when Itake that exam next week." Go ahead, fulfill your dreams, and sometimes let the Gods surprise you with gifts beyond your dreams.

Manipulative magic is magic that targets another person for what we think is "their own good," without regard for their opinions in the matter. In the general culture around us, this is normal. As you read this, you may have some friend or relative praying for you to be "saved" from your evil Pagan ways and returned to the fold of their preference. These people mean you well. By their own lights, they are attempting to heal you. We work from a very different theological base.

As Witches, we affirm the diversity of the divine and the divinity of diversity. If there is no one, true, right and only way in general, do we dare to assume that there is one obvious right choice for a person in any given situation? If more than one choice maybe "right," how can one person presume they know what another person would want without asking them first?

No life situation ever looks the same from outside as it does to the person who is experiencing it. Are you sure you even have all the facts? Are you fully aware of all the emotional entanglements involved? Perhaps that illness is the only way they have of getting rest or getting attention. Perhaps they stay in that dead end job because it leaves them more energy to concentrate on their music. How do you know till you ask?

And, to further complicate the analysis, it's possible that the person you are trying to help would agree with you about the most desirable outcome, but fears and hates the very idea of magic. They have as much of a right to keep magic out of their own life, as you have to make it part of yours!

Our craft teaches that the sacred lives within each person, that we can hear the Lady's voice for ourselves if we only learn to listen. "... If that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without." In behavioral terms, when you take another person's opinion about their own life seriously, you are reinforcing them in thinking and choosing for themselves. The more you do this, the more you encourage them to listen for the sacred inner voice.

Conversely, whenever you ignore or override a person's feelings about their own life, you are discounting those feelings and discouraging the kind of internal attention that can keep the channels to wisdom open. Although well-intentioned meddling may actually help somebody in the short run, in the longer run it trains them to dependency and indecision. Few intentional banes damage as severely. This is especially true because even the untrained and unaware will instinctively resist overt ill-will, but in our culture we are trained to receive "expert" interference with gratitude.

Check by asking yourself, "who's in charge here?" The answer to that will tell you whether you are basically empowering or undermining the person you intend to help.

And, as usual, the effects go both ways. The same uninvited intervention that fosters passivity in the recipient will foster arrogance in the "rescuer." Its control and ego-inflation masked as generosity. It's very seductive.

If you make this a habit, you will come to believe that other people are incompetent and powerless. Then what happens when you need help?

Your contempt will make it impossible for you to see what resources surround you. Manipulative magic is ultimately just as alienating ascoercive magic – and it's a much prettier trap!

The way to avoid the trap is to do no working on the behalf of another person without that person's explicit permission.You don't need to wait passively for the person to ask. It's perfectly all right to offer, as long as you are willing to sometimes accept "no" for your answer. For the person who believes s/he isunworthy or who is simply too shy, offering help is itself a gift.

Taking their opinion seriously is an even greater gift: respect.

The rule is that whenever it is in any way physically possible to ask, you must ask. If it's not important enough to pay long distance charges, it certainly isn't important enough to violate a friend's autonomy. If asking is literally not possible, then and only then, here are, of course, exceptions:

Sometimes an illness or injury happens very suddenly, and the person is unconscious or in a coma before you could possibly ask them. If you know that this person is generally comfortable with magic, you may do workings to keep their basic body systems working and allow the normal healing process the time it needs. If they are opposed to magic, for whatever reason, back off!

Traditionally, an unconscious person is understood to be temporarily out of their body. Maintaining their body in habitable condition is preserving their option, not choosing for them. Doing maintenance magic requires a lot of sensitivity. At some point, the time may come when you should stop and let the person go on. Be sure to use some kind of divination to help you stay aware.

This is a hard road. It may be your lover, your child, lying there helpless. Any normal human being would be tempted to drag them back,to force them to stay regardless of what is truly best for them, regardless of what they want. Don't repress these feelings; they do no harm, even though your actions might. It takes great strength and non-possessive love to recognize that your loved one knows their own need. You may be calling them back to a crippled body, to a life of pain. You may be calling them back from the ecstasy of the Goddess. And this is no more your right than it would be to murder them.

If a person is temporarily not reachable, you may charge up a physical object, such as an appropriate talisman or some incense.

When you present it to them, give them a full explanation. It is their choice whether to keep or use your gift. By interposing an object between the magic and the target in this way, you can work the magic in Circle, with the group's power to draw on, and still get the person's permission before the magic is triggered.

With all these rules about permission, perhaps it would be safer to work only on ourselves? Safer yes, but not nearly as good. If you have permission, you may do any working for another person that youmight do for yourself. Coercive magic is just as unacceptable when somebody else asks for it, and you may not do manipulative magic on your friend's mother, even at your friend's request. The permission must come from the magic's intended target and from nobody else. Done properly, working magic for others is good for all concerned.

Every act of magic has two effects. One is the direct effect, the healing or prosperity working or whatever was intended. The other is a minute change in the mind and the heart of the person who does the working. Everything we experience, and especially everything that we do in a wholehearted and focused way - the only way effective magic can be done - changes us. Each experience leaves its tiny trace, but the traces are cumulative. They mold the person we will become.

Logical, natural and inevitable consequences caused by our actions(magic) can be desirable. When you send out good, what you send it with is love. Love is the driving force. When you let love flow freely, the channel down to love's well spring stays clear and open.

When you send out good, you direct it along the web of person-to-person connection, and awareness of that web is reinforced. The totality of that web is the basis of community.

When you send out good it feels good. In the same way that sending out bane requires imagining pain, sending out blessing requires imagining pleasure, strongly and specifically. And, when you send out good, just the same as when you call it to yourself, you reinforce your sense of effectiveness in the world. Blessings grow in the fertile ground of mutuality, to the benefit of all.

So, perhaps there is a descriptive word that covers all wrongful magical workings after all. How about "non-consensual" magic?

Magic can be used for dominance, just the same as muscle or money. There is no difference, ethically, between the magical and the mundane. We are not obligated to tolerate power trippers among us. We are not obligated to run our own community by the slogans and ground rules of the dominator culture.

We need to get away from absolutes and to look in practical terms at the advantages or disadvantages of our choices. Once more, our craf titself shows us the way to steer between the false choices. What aperson does that affects only them - magical or mundane - is truly nobody's business but their own. But they would be wise to at least take a look to see the consequences of their actions and magic!

We have the right to protect ourselves individually and as a group. No ideology should turn us into passive victims when something we hold precious stands to be destroyed. So by this, if magic need be used, no matter what kind, by all means....go for it! As Witches, we do indeed believe in "an eye for an eye". When magic isused "justifiably", the "consequence" is inconsequential, or even, non-existent.

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