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