The theme this week is light and darkness.
First, let’s discuss what “dark” or “black” means in the craft, and what it doesn’t.
We’ll start by talking about what it isn’t, or what misconceptions are often associated with it, and why it sometimes makes even the most seasoned practitioner uncomfortable.
What it isn’t, is evil.
Or at least, not the way most people think of evil.
Evil is a Western monotheistic concept. In Judaeo-Christian philosophy, there is good, and there is evil. One is “right” and one is “wrong.” One is wicked, one is pure. There is no gray. Things or concepts are either one, or they are the other.
Let me stress that there’s nothing wrong with seeing the world this way—–but it isn’t the only way.
Broadly speaking, in the craft, and most especially in the realm of Wiccan philosophy, there isn’t so much “evil” and “good” as there are opposites. In the world of opposites, one opposing force does not exist without the other.
Without darkness, there cannot be light.
From a purely scientific perspective, “coldness” does not exist at all—–it only describes the absence of heat.
There is no need to qualify these things with morality. They are simply forces of nature.
Fire is a force of nature. It can be utterly wicked, blindly destroying anything in its path. But it also sustains life, providing warmth in the bitter cold of an otherwise absolute-zero universe.
From this perspective, “light” and “dark” don’t have moral qualities any more than “wet” and “dry.”
This does not mean we go around willy-nilly behaving any way our emotions pull us just because we feel like it.
It simply means we are guided by the effect we have on reality rather than instructed directly by the laws of religious doctrine.
For the practitioner of witchcraft, there aren’t so much “punishments” and “rewards” as there are natural consequences. Everything you do, mundane or magical, sets these natural consequences into motion. They will come to fruition one way or the other. No amount of prayer or forgiveness will help you escape them anymore than prayer and forgiveness halts ripples on the water after you skip a rock across a still lake.
Newton’s famous Third Law eloquently states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
This concept is both scientific, and spiritual.
(This might be a good time to point out that far from being in contrast with religion, all scientific concepts are also spiritual. And by “science,” I don’t mean kooky fluff bunny soft science, I mean real-deal hard science you’d find in any college biology, physics or chemistry textbook. If those things don’t make you believe in a higher order, I’m not sure what will.)
If you hex someone, you essentially hex yourself along with them. This is sometimes called “the boomerang effect.” It’s why most people decide to approach this form of ritual with extraordinary caution. A sensible person rarely finds the consequences worth the satisfaction of revenge.
We tend to think of our “magical” lives as somehow separate from our “mundane” lives, but really, all aspects of life are spiritual, and these principles apply equally.
It always amazes me how some people self-righteously declare dark magic evil, all the while going around making their own “witchcraft” in a secular way.
You don’t have to hex someone to experience serious spiritual consequences for wishing them ill.
If you go about saying nasty things about your husband’s ex-wife, you send out a negative energy that will come back to you. Usually, this kind of behavior says more about you to others than the person you are slandering, and so you are essentially slandering yourself. Justifying this behavior by saying she’s done X, Y or Z to you will not spare you from the spiritual consequences any more than justifying a revenge spell with similar logic will spare you from the consequences of hexing someone.
Of course, hexing is not the only form of shadow magic. It’s just the most taboo. The following types of spells also fall under the category of “negative” magic. Note that by “negative,” we are not referring to the concept of “bad” or “evil.” Negative merely describes the driving away of someone or something rather than the drawing to.
*Weight loss spells
*Banishing dark energy
*Banishing a person
*Stop gossip spells
Divination also falls under this category. It is sometimes literally referred to as “peering into the darkness.”
Note that we don’t think of these things as “bad” or “evil.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t have consequences, for better or worse.
Now, let’s talk about “white magic,” and why it isn’t any more “good” than dark magic is evil.
While those outside the practice often associate “white magic” with “good, purity and light,” we as practitioners are often guilty of this oversimplification as well.
Just as is the case with “dark” or “black” magic, it is a fallacy to color the concept of white magic with the pen of morality.
Before we get into that, though, let’s look at the kind of spells we think of as falling under the category of “white” or “positive” magic. Again, by “positive” magic, we don’t mean “good,” we mean to draw towards us as opposed to drive away. This concept has no more moral implications than the attraction/repulsion behavior of ordinary magnets.
*beauty and attraction spells
Many new practitioners of modern witchcraft think of these types of spells as safe, good, even angelic. But those with experience (or unique wisdom—-not me, for sure!) recognize that it isn’t about “goodness” and these types of spells are equally fraught with unknown consequence.
Love spells are frequently noted for their unforeseen, unintended consequences. These spells are rarely cast in malice. On the contrary, they are usually undertaken in a desperate attempt to redirect unrequited love. In fact, learning to cast a love spell is often the very thing that draws people to witchcraft, and they are typically disappointed to be swiftly dissuaded by the wise old hand of the craft. (Or swindled by a charlatan. Either way, beware!)
Of course we want to be loved by those we are attracted to. There’s nothing wrong with this. It is not “evil” or “bad.” Even trying to force the issue with a love spell is not inherently “bad.” After all, people use all kinds of mundane tactics to attract a love interest. Makeup, false sweetness, feigning mutual interest in order to seem compatible—-none of these things are any more “dark” in nature than casting a love spell, but we can clearly see they carry with them a similar risk of fallout when the ruse becomes clear.
We may desperately want someone to be attracted to us, but we may not be so attracted to them if they turn into a clingy mess. Or worse, a psycho stalker. In the heat of the chase, most people don’t have the presence of mind to understand that the chase is really what’s driving their infatuation. Once it’s over, so is everything else.
(And although rarely funny to the direct participants, these consequences are often quite amusing to the outside onlooker. Never was the hilarity of these notorious repercussions better exemplified than by the great William Shakespeare himself in his brilliant comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)
This tale of “be careful what you wish for” is almost folklore in witchcraft. But sometimes it doesn’t manifest that way. Maybe you cast a love spell and, by attempting to control another person’s free will, you consequently end up in a relationship with someone who is controlling you.
And it’s not the only example in what we call “white magic.”
Beauty spells often cultivate vanity.
Marriage rites and baby blessings are the staple of any pagan officiant, but any married person or parent knows that marriage and babies have serious consequences.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bless babies, or perform marriage ceremonies, or ever want to make ourselves feel beautiful in a magical way.
Sometimes, it’s all worth it. Sometimes it works out for the best. Just like life. It’s all full of risks.
I can already hear the naysayers crying, “Well, that’s just it! That’s why all magic is bad, and evil, and we should avoid it all together! Stay away from it and spare yourself!”
To that I would point out once more that magical behavior has no more serious consequences than mundane behavior. Everything you do is essentially some form of magic. If you live your life in service to others, it has the “magical” effect of drawing happiness to you, and goodwill from others. If you abuse those around you, take without giving back, and live a life that generally revolves around making others miserable, it has the “magical” effect of making you miserable.
Of course, most people, being imperfect, do a little of both.
In life, we must live our day-to-day experience with a series of actions. Appreciating that you will “be paid” for your actions, whether magical or mundane, does not stop you from falling in love, or baking a cake. To be perfectly still is to be dead. The fact that anything you do, from getting out of bed in the morning to firing an insubordinate employee, has consequences, ought not paralyze a healthy person into fearing any action at all—and it ought not to paralyze the practitioner of witchcraft, either.
Knowing that there are karmic consequences for your behavior either way guides the spiritually-minded person in mundane activities, and it guides practitioner of magic as well.