Unethical Magic

Magic isn’t black and white or light and dark.  In fact, I get irritated when practitioners grandstand about the merits of being aligned exclusively with either side of the craft.  Part of the wisdom of working with the gods and nature is that nothing is clear-cut and life is too complex to be confined in a restrictive mentality.  That being said, there is such a thing as ethical and unethical witchcraft.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Ethics implies that there is a right and a wrong way to approach a situation, and as we established dichotomies suck.  But most ethical traditions and systems of personal ethics embrace the grey areas and nuances to every situation.  So ethics isn’t a dichotomy so much as a multi-layered approach to acting and reacting.

So back to magic.  What makes magic ethical or unethical?  Well, sorry dear readers.  It’s like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart describes pornography.  It’s hard to describe, but “I know it when I see it.”  Of course all practitioners have seen obvious examples of unethical magic.  People who have used the craft for revenge or for manipulative purposes.  But these cases are extreme examples.  What about the day-to-day ethical and unethical forms of magic?  It all comes down to establishing your personal boundaries of right and wrong and all the greys inbetween.  One excellent example is sending energy.  Personally as long as the energy is vaguely beneficial, I think it can be extremely helpful to send energy to anyone who willingly accepts the energy I’m sending.  A few months ago, there was rioting in Baltimore reacting to police brutality.  I have several family members who live in the city, and my best friend lives two blocks from the heart of the violence. You best believe the first thing I did when I heard that shit was going down was to send healing and peaceful energy to the city and protective energy to my friends and family.  And that was, in my view, the absolute right thing to do if I couldn’t be physically present to help in that situation.  However, some practitioners see sending energy without permission as invasive and unethical.  The lovely Ms. Flora Sage (a.k.a. formerly CharmingPixieFlora) in one of her vlog posts presents that perspective quite eloquently.  But the point is that this is an ethical dilemma that each magical practitioner needs to decide for themselves what is the ethical boundaries for sending energy or any type of magical work.

There is one branch of the craft that comes up quite a bit in discussions of ethical magic, defensive magic.  I want to make my stance on the ethics of this part of witchcraft very clear: an appropriate defensive response is never, Never, NEVER dark or unethical.  I know some practitioners believe that responding magically to aggression perpetuates a cycle of violence, but in most cases I strongly disagree.  For hundreds of years people, especially those not in the social or political elite, have been told to sit idly by and not respond to acts of aggression.  And let’s be real, witches have largely been on the fringes.  So it makes sense that magical practitioners bought into that mentality for whatever reason.  However one thing I have learned by observing history is that paradigms designed to keep a group down slowly but surely become obsolete.  And I think the “defensive magic is dark magic” mentality is one of those ideas created to dis-empower witches.  And I don’t know about you, dear reader, but bullshit paradigms designed to dis-empower me just do not work anymore.  Now of course the key here is an appropriate response.  For example if your roommate keeps entering your space without your permission, you wouldn’t respond with the magical equivalent of an AK-47, would you? Answer: no, you would not because that would make you a reactionary asshole. You would first talk to the roommate, then if he continues the behavior give them a little magical push towards giving you some privacy.  I will inevitably have readers who will disagree with my stance on defensive magic, and that’s okay.  If you, reader, have sat with this question and meditated on it and have come to the conclusion that defensive magic isn’t ethical for you, then that’s part of your ethics.

So, dear readers, I’m giving you a bit of homework.  Take some time to establish your personal ethics.  If it is in your practice, commune a little with your gods for their advice as well.  The key is to set your own boundaries about what you believe is ethical and unethical.

© Ariadne Woods

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8 thoughts on “Unethical Magic

  1. My coven specifically sets aside about two months of classes to go over ethics. We discuss our personal ethics, as well as the implications of societal and communal (and coven) ethics. How these overlap affects how we use our magics, and it gives us opportunities to think about things we normally don’t face. I know that myself and one of our elders are COMPLETELY different ethically, but we mesh well thanks to the open and detailed discussions we’ve had on those lovely grey areas.

  2. Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    This is a great post, not just for people who practice magic, but for anyone who works with energy. It raises important questions that often arise in Reiki Certification Classes — questions like, “If I see a car accident, is it OK to send healing to those involved, even if I don’t stop to ask their permission?” The question of self-defense is on the radar for all levels, not just magical these days with all the debates about 2nd Amendment rights. Each person needs to search inside his or her own conscience to find what feels ethical and then act from a place of integrity. I appreciate the discussion, as it encourages readers to find their own balance. Highly recommended. (Slight language warning for those with sensitive “ears.”)

  3. My practice is always to send energy with the intention that it can be accepted or refused by the recipient, or the “higher self” of the recipient if they are not consciously aware, and always include “for the highest good of all.” That way I am not forcing healing or energy on anyone, but making it available if they choose to receive it.

    On protection, I have two tactics: I use a pentacle with the intention of keeping my personal space safe “with harm to none,” and I consciously work on raising my vibration above the level of harm, chaos, and violence. It may not seem “magical” to focus on love, joy, and appreciation, but when you are able to form a habit of vibrating in those energies, you will magically avoid negative or harmful people and places, because your vibrations will not match up. Of course, you also have to pay attention to your intuition and head the other way when you feel a subtle warning that something or someone is not good for you.

    Most magic, for me, is this sort of daily practical practice, and then the rituals, symbols, and communing with deities can serve to enhance and expand consciousness even more.

  4. I totally agree with you about the paradigm of “being made obsolete”. Defensive magic is a must. Without it you get the world we currently inhabit. No more fringe living.

  5. Well, I agree that defense is OK if done properly and with a “warning” But I would point out that question is why is anyone invading your space. I believe everything happens for a reason and if we fight it, we give it energy it doesnt deserve and will repeat itself even more strongly.

    My wife is very interested in magic and witchcraft, she put up a small blog about differenct topics you are welcome to check it out. Magic, witchcraft and more

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