Raise your hand if you have heard that said by a pagan? Raise both and wave them about like Kermit the Frog if someone has said that to you.
Neopagan spirituality is to be blunt in it’s late pre-teens to early teens in it’s maturity. By this I mean, it really still is trying to find who it is. You have groups like the British Traditional Witches and the Revivalist Druids of OBOD who might even be mid teens. There is a little more maturity there with the “we are XYZ” but they all still are prone to tantrums over things. It’s to be expected. I believe the early Christian movement had “Did you just threaten me with Jesus?” or “did you wave that piece of the one true cross ™ at me? “. For the most part the Abrahamic Faiths have moved past that (into adult games of territory and back stabbing each other). Buddhism in it’s various forms probably is a mature adult shaking it’s head at the young adults of the two younger Abrahamic faiths (Islam and Christianity) and offering the older adult of Judaism an pat on the back.
Ok enough analogies. Back to the threats of Magic, and the accusations of threats of Magic.
Most Neopagan Faiths have what the majority of them call magic (or Magick or even Magyk) incorporated as part of their practices. Be this energy work, formulaic spells, or full fledged ceremonial summoning of beings to do your bidding. It’ there in some shape or form.
It’s also contentious as to what “magic” is. Through late 14th century Old French magique, the word "magic" derives via Latin magicus from the Greek adjective magikos (μαγικός) used in reference to the "magical" arts of the Magicians (Greek: magoi, singular mágos, μάγος); the Zoroastrian astrologer priests.
I will list a few of the more modern definitions that are out there.
"Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action." Crowley from the Introduction to Magick, Book 4
“Magic is a social phenomenon, akin to religion and science, but yet a distinct category. In practice, magic bears a strong resemblance to religion. Both use similar types of rites, materials, social roles and relationships to accomplish aims and engender belief.” Marcel Mauss A General Theory of Magic
“Science, and religion all have their own “quality of rationality,” and have been influenced by politics and ideology” Tambiah, S. J. (1990). Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality
“the art of focusing your will and emotions to effect change in the world around you and the world within you.” Unattested (likely Gardner)
“The use of natural energies within ourselves and the world around us to effect a physical change in a condition or life situation. Spelled with a "k" to differentiate it from stage magic.” Unattested (likely a combination of Crowley and Gardner)
" This magick can perhaps be defined as the essential energy which circulates in the Universe of the Gods, as well as in that of humans." French scholar, Christian Jacq, who made a study of Egyptian Magick.
As can be seen, there are a lot of different ways to define Magic ™ and I did not even touch on the cultural differences.
Essentially the Neopagan community has for the most part adopted the idea from Wicca “An it harm none do what ye will” and the idea that karma is repaid three fold. While not universal it is I believe the majority.
So why would people threaten or imply the use of magic(k) which is supposed to be sacred?
Simply I return we are in our spiritual teens. It seems to be about points, and cliques, and being right. Not about spiritual growth. Many of us believe we are not like that, but take a moment (I certainly have) and ask yourself. Have I ever done this? I know personally in the 1990’s when I was still dinking about, I’d get into on line flame wars, and often be accused of “casting bad magick”. On one occasion I even stooped to posting “Don’t worry about that headache” to a poster. It’s one of the few occasions I did even in malicious jest what I am talking about here.
Was it mature. No. It was not. But flamewars are never mature. Which is a nice segway into the next topic. Witchwars.
Yep Witchwars again. Witchwars are just a name for bullshit arguments (pardon my anglosaxon). No one is 100% sure when the term witchwar entered the Neopagan venacular. It was used in an episode of Charmed in 2004 (episode 132 in Season six, and yes I googled that I hated that show). An article on this topic appears in Witchvox posted in 1998. I certainly saw the term when I started posting and flaming in alt.religion.wicca in 1995 or so. Whenever the term came along, esentually a Witchwar is an ego driven conflict between two or more Neopagans (they do not have to be “Witches” or “Wiccans”). They are about power, and influence, and ego (yes I keep mentioning that).
In a Witchwar ™ someone always accuses someone else of casting a curse, or hex, or whatever. Both sides always perform banishings and or bindings on the otherside. But it’s ok becasuse they are doing it for the safety of all concerned, right…….. Right??
I’ve personally been on the receiving end of that last one. A local confilct between myself and a local coven leader, had a coven implode due to the leader deciding I needed a good Cursing and Binding. I found out months later when some ex Coven members told me. Now it’s second hand news, and I don’t really care.
But this comes down to the crux of it. In a witchwar, one side will get pushed to the point of breaking their own ethics. We as humans (or Otherkin for those with that bent) are not perfect. We do things under pressure which is out of character.
But that is only one half of the problem. To be honest the use of Magic ™ offensively is in the minority. I will talk about that later.
The accusations of it’s use however is epidemic. I got the Imbas for this blog post from a recent conversation in chat. Here is the line in particular which set me off “Gareth- I pray you are not threatening me magically so I am hiving you the benefit of the doubt”. This was from a discussion on event security, and whether on not someone was allowed to come, due to their previous behavior towards a presenter.
My response was “Dude don’t even go there…” but on reflection I acknowledge he possibly felt that he was under threat of attack. Not from the words I had used, but rather from the fact that in our communities someone would threaten that. So I am not going to attack his beliefs.
So is it ok to use Magic ™ as an offensive weapon? See I finally tie this back to Warrior spirituality ;)
That would depend on ones path. Someone who follows the Rede in it’s initial form (no “if it do harm, do as you must” addition because to be blunt that line is in violation of the first, making the whole thing invalid, and thus letting you be a douche with out having to admit it!). Then no, you ethically believe the deliberate causing of harm by yourself is a violation of your spiritual path, and that you will suffer karmic inflation in return (the Three fold law of return). If you like me are a Reconstructionist of some sort (Celtic, Greek, Germanic, whatever). Our ancestors certain thought it was acceptable. We have evidence from various sources that they did do some less than nice mystical things. Now to be sure, some of these sources are biased. Be they pagan Romans, or Christians, or other groups looking to bad mouth a foe (vanquished or not) .
So lets assume that you are ethically willing to do it (or say screw it all). Should you shout it from the roof tops? Well metaphorically speaking. Sure if you are engaged in a psychological action where you want to keep someone paranoid…. I guess. But that’s like putting your hand in Fenris’ mouth and having Thor hit him in the Nuts to see if he will bite. It will go bad. Honestly if you are going to do it. DO IT. But consider what the consequences are. Its’ the same as physical action. Only do it if you are up to it. Only do it knowing possible outcomes. If the person is mentally unstable, on something, or some such. Don’t do it.
Personally I see Magic ™ as the weak way out. You don’t know if it will work, you don’t know who else will get affected by it etc. Most things you can do with Magic ™ are achievable with much less effort, almost guaranteed success and less danger simply by physically doing it.
If someone is ill. Take them to the Dr. If someone is mentally ill and a danger to society, have them committed. If someone threatens you and you are scared. The police are there for a reason. If someone threatens you and you are not scared. Confront them (in public so nothing stupid happens) etc.
Live your ethics. Be part of community, and don’t think you are above someone because your ego says so or someone is fluffing that ego.
Magic is a tool to be used with caution. As is any weapon. There are not colors of magic (i.e. black or white) just intention by the user.
Which brings me to what is perhaps a benevolent form of Magic with out consent. The “sending healing energies” that we hear all the time in our community. I never do it, even if asked. Why? Because it is not my gift. I am not a healer in that sense. Nor will I ever accept energies from someone who is not very close to me either! If you see someone or hear about someone who is ill, sad, whatever and just decide to cast a spell ™ or send energy ™ then you are no better than someone casting a curse. Bindings are the same. Binding someone who has not asked for it (and some do) is a …. CURSE. You are probably violating your ethics.
Can you live with that?
Think it over. Or perhaps just act. Someone will probably mop up your mess. Perhaps me.