On Cursing: Politics and Ethos
Article ID: 15944
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: July 2nd. 2017
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Most of what passes for Occultism in general and Witchcraft in particular is a shallow, ineffectual caricature of the Art. We could fault the good intentions of folks in the early era of the Revival, who erred on a good image and public relations. We could fault the current culture of instant gratification without hard-ass, sweaty, bone-whitening work. Or we could fault a host of other factors (or combination thereof) . And, truthfully, it is OK: the real Mysteries, the real Disciplines, the real meat-on-the-bones Sorcery, will still exist, quietly, as they always have.
Or will they?
I suppose THAT question is one that is beyond the scope of this article. Some of us will always remember: real Witchcraft and real Magic has fangs filled with venom. Whether that venom kills you, drives you insane, or cures you, is a different thing altogether. And, as long as we live and love and work, that current will be upheld.
Pausing to collect my thoughts, I’d like to address a topic that instantly sends myriad folk into an uproar. That topic is... cursing.
Most will cite the Wiccan Rede of “harm none”, followed by the Threefold Law of Return, as prohibitions NOT to curse. Except most citing these tidbits of lore miss several glaringly obvious points. Allow me to elucidate.
Rede is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “advice, counsel, rule of thumb.” And, as food for thought, “Harm none and do as you will” qualifies as phenomenal advice. We all need reminders to check our motives, consider our consequences, and make the best decision as we see it in any given situation.
What rede does NOT mean and cannot mean is paradoxically what some insist it does mean. A rede is NOT an inviolate law. It is NOT a commandment. It is NOT a requirement.
Again, some of those insist that it is will cite some of the early books of the Wiccan/Wican Revival, which stated that it was analogous to a law or commandment. This goes back to the public relations campaign. People had perfectly good reasons to insist that the Craft and Art were harmless and purely gentle methods. There were very real threats of losing custody of children, losing employment, etc. Mind you, there were other ways that it could have been done, though such would have violated or stepped on a rather fundamentalist reading of certain oaths.
And, regarding the Threefold Law of Return... Well, see my comments about public relations. That said, in Gardner’s published works, there is no mention of this Law. He does mention the European concept of Fate as being analogous to the Eastern concept of karma.
All well and good.
Yet, Gardner also recounted how HIS teachers (the Lindhurst coven in the New Forest) cursed Hitler and how their forebears had done the same before to sink the Armada. Alex Sanders publicly filmed a curse upon a journalist that had attacked some of his coven mates (using an effigy he incorrectly labelled a *fith-fath* vs a poppet) . Doreen Valiente said (in response to an Anglican vicar cursing those who had desecrated his church in a black mass) that “as a Witch”, she had no problems with what the vicar did. Indeed, as a Witch, she applauded the call for justice. And Sybil Leek once told a Satanist that, if he showed up in the New Forest again, she would kill him because “evil may be justified if it is used for the greater good of the whole.”
In each of those cases, our Wican brethren made a decision to break the Rede of “harming none.” And, they lived to tell the tale. Granted, there was and always is a consequence.
Not all of us are of the Wica. Other varieties of the Old Craft, much like other varieties of ceremonial magic, have other ethical/moral compasses.
My own Craft tradition’s coda can be summed up in two words: Honor and Respect. I usually add two more: Personal Responsibility. We also refuse to separate magic from life - they are one and the same. So, to separate magical ethics from real world ethics (to us) is tantamount to hypocrisy!
We have the right to defend our Selves and our Loved Ones. We have the right to right wrongs and work toward justice. And we have the right to protect the innocent, liberate the oppress, and vindicate the disenfranchised. To Italian Witches (and those of us who descend from Italian immigrants) , whose Goddess Diana championed the poor and urged rebellion against tyranny... we have no qualms about exercising our Art to destroy the enemies of Life, Liberty, and Truth. We agree proudly with the line from Jeremiah: “For the spirit of witchcraft is the spirit of rebellion.”
Whether Witches or Magi or Druid or Shaman, we are marked as “other”. We are the elect, the chosen of the eldritch Powers. Yes, we have been loved and respected, but we have also been feared. And being feared rightly for getting things done is a GOOD thing, IMHO.
In Sardinia, they say that the First Witches were born from the Mother’s heart. All others may be Her children, but we alone are Her Sons and Daughters - the arbitrators of Her justice and the maintainers of Her balance.
That said, we agree with the adage: “Thou shalt not coddle a Witch’s conscience.”
I have waxed long - longer than I intended. Let me see if I can sum this all up.
People think that ethics are something you learn when you study Witchcraft, Occultism, or any of the Mystery Cults. It’s not. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The first thing stressed to any postulant is this: Know Thy Self.
And, with the Craft (in all permutations recognizable as traditional) , no one may enter the Craft, save they be a proper person. What does that mean? It means you need to have your sh*t together; it means that you should have a good enough idea of who you are, where you stand, and how you mean to live; it means that you are striving to learn and grow, even if you must falter many times in the process; and it means that you have the courage to cross the Veil that separates the quick from the dead. We are ALL works in progress - perfection is a worthy ideal, but not one any of us can reach...ever.
So, there you have it: If you are a Witch (or equivalent) , you should ALREADY be an ethical and moral person, striving ever towards wisdom.
That means that, if you feel that a Curse is justified, then you are empowered to do so. If you do not feel that it is justified, then... do not do it. The same goes for any other magical-mundane-social-personal-sexual-spiritual act.
Copyright: (c) Jonathan Sousa 2015
Location: Fall River, Massachusetts
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