Misconceptions on Cursing and its Historical Precedent in Witchcraft

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

Instead of just posting the usual pros and cons of cursing, I figured something more in-depth and fact-based might be helpful. From a historical standpoint, cursing hasn’t always been viewed poorly even by ordinary people who were practicing the religions of the time. The image we have of a curse being an old evil witch cackling over a sacrifice at the behest of another person, usually a woman, for the sake of revenge is (as most negative portrayals of witchcraft) patriarchal propaganda meant to discourage women from seeking out one of the few resources they had access to in times of scarcity. Magic and religion were largely one and the same for many centuries, and cursing was considered a neutral tool which could be used to obtain a wide range of results.

It should be no surprise to you by this point that society has a history of separating women from sources of power, whether they be financial, educational, or physical. This idea can be stretched to anyone exhibiting what was perceived as feminine traits, or even wider to anything non-masculine. This is a topic that’s been written about extensively and well, so I’m not going to rehash all that here (although I definitely recommend reading up on it if you haven’t already).

The modern crusade against cursing (or curse-shaming, as it’s often called now) is often performed under the guise of morality, but as with most crusades of this type it’s based entirely on misrepresentations of what cursing is and what is is for. The less savoury types of curses are brought constantly to the forefront and shown as examples of why all cursing is “bad”, despite the fact that they constitute only one small portion of what cursing can be and has been.

Even Christianity uses cursing. If you’ve ever read Deuteronomy, this might sound familiar:

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:15-19)

Anyway, I think you get the idea. It goes on like this for quite a while (for another 49 lines actually, and further proves my point that the Abrahamic god is extra af… but I digress). In the 19th century, Adam and Eve’s fate was referred to as “the Curse” given down by the Abrahamic god themself, so the idea that cursing is the invocation of demons for the sake of inflicting harm is incorrect. In this context, the god did not want to harm Adam and Eve. The goal was to give a harsh lesson and for their actions to have consequences.

If we take a look at the history of the word “curse”, the most common meaning that has more or less remained relevant to this day is as follows: “to wish evil, to excommunicate”. The word “evil” is where most of the bad rep comes from, because evil is now understood as “extreme moral wickedness” and so for something evil to befall someone would be really horrible.

Once again, let’s look back at the meaning of evil as it was used in old times. In Old English, it was used to indicate disapproval or dislike. In Middle English, it was used similarly to how we would use “bad” or “harm” today, without the heavy connotation that it has now which came around sometime in the 18th century.

To curse someone and wish evil upon them sounds terrible now, but back in the day it was a means of punishing someone via causing an injury of either physical or psychological origin. The degree or level of that infliction could range immensely (think from papercut to severing a limb) and wasn’t always emotionally charged.

In Ancient Greece, Athenian meetings were often started with writing a curse. Curses were largely found to regard legal matters, rather than relationships or vengeful ones. Preventing someone from speaking out in court (or the opposite) were some of the most common. Cities would also use curses to protect citizens from crime and misfortune. It was also used to protect victims and prevent their attackers from causing further harm.

With the advent of science, witchcraft became increasingly construed as an irrational thing and more and more associated with women (or, I believe more accurately, anyone perceived as non-masculine). The witch trials largely targeted women, more often women of colour, and to a lesser but not insignificant extent gay men. Nowadays, the word “witch” is often associated with a woman despite being a gender neutral term, likewise the practice of cursing has shifted into something shameful and morally reprehensible. This is seen over and over again with anything that empowers women, gives them control over their lives and assets, or gives them any type of power over men. It has become “evil” in the modern sense, and once again power is taken away from women under the guise of it being necessary to be a good person.

I’m bored of women being mollified for the sake of a successful patriarchal system. I’m not going to say that cursing is a feminist imperative (although it is tempting…), but I will say that its misrepresentation in the media and even in pagan and occult circles is an attempt at creating this idea of what a woman “should” be, what she is permitted and not permitted to do to be deemed acceptable by society and even by other women.

If the occult community is going to encourage women to practice witchcraft as a way of empowering themselves, but then shame the use of curses in the same breath, it’s removing one of the most powerful tools in a witch’s handbook and saying “you can’t be trusted to use this wisely”. There is no such thing as a tool that can’t be used for bad things, so instead of shaming the use of the tool itself let’s start having open discussions on what the tool is being used for.

Sources:

Ancient Witchcraft and the Spell the Pella Curse Tablet by Natalia Klimczak

Curses and Curse Tablets by Dr CG Williamson

Ancient Greek Curse Tablets by Christopher Faraone

etymonline.com

biblegateway.com (the Deuteronomy passage)

The Process of Cursing in Ancient Egypt by Sarah Colledge

Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith

Measurable Results and Money Spells in Witchcraft

Photo by Jimi Filipovski on Unsplash

If you’ve read How to Start Practicing Witchcraft, you should have a better idea now of how to approach your first spell and develop your craft from there. One question I got from a reader was: What constitutes a measurable result, and what kind of spell is most suitable for that?

Having worked a lot in both academic and corporate environments I’ve adopted the so-called “SMART” goals system and that’s the framework I used when I first started doing magic. S = specific, M = measurable, A = attainable, R = relevant, T = timely. These should be your general guidelines for a spell.

There are a few ways you could go with this, but my go-to when I’m trying a new method of casting is a money spell. It’s specific, measurable, attainable (as long as you’re not asking for a million dollars or something… I usually avoid a specific amount), relevant (as in, the spell is meant to bring you money).

Timely is where most people get stuck. What is an appropriate amount of time to wait for results? Should you wait a day, a month, a year? If the spell allows for it, I include a set time frame of one or two weeks. I don’t recommend going longer than that. You don’t want to be waiting around for one month every time you do a spell hoping it works. One week is usually ample time for things to manifest, and it allows you to try something new the following week if it doesn’t work.

This should probably go without saying, but money spells are for bringing in unplanned income. Before you do the spell, write down any upcoming money you have that is expected to arrive during the timeframe you’ve set. For example, if you have a paycheque coming in that Thursday write it under “expected income”. You want to also have notes on possible known pathways that are uncertain, such as someone who owes you money but hasn’t said they’re paying you back within that week, customers for your business, etc. The third section will be to note down anything that comes in that wasn’t in either of those categories.

Your sheet should ultimately look like this at the beginning of the week:

post1

At the end of the week, you’ll have another category:

post2

You can gauge the effectiveness of the spell by the amount of unexpected income you’ve received. Keep in mind that possible income is a lot easier than completely unexpected income, and the more pathways you have available the more successes you will have. If you don’t get any unexpected income from a spell but you achieve one or two possible income results, the spell may have been partially successful but needs some tweaking. If you don’t get any results at all, ditch the spell entirely and find something else.

As you would with a scientific experiment, do only one test at a time. If you do a ritual spell, then a spell jar, then hearth magic, you won’t have any way of knowing which one worked if something does manifest. Also keep in mind that one success can be a fluke or coincidence, so it’s important to test a spell more than once and take notes on the results each time.

The great thing about money spells is they’re not subjective. It’s really hard to remain objective sometimes, especially when you’re a new witch. We want things to work so bad that we just kind of… tell ourselves they did, even though that’s not necessarily the case. With a money spell there’s no question as to whether or not it worked, you either have money you didn’t have before or you don’t. End of.

As always you can comment here or send me an email at chaoskyan@gmail.com if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help. Have an awesome week!

 

How to start practicing magic

Photo by Tom Quandt on Unsplash

Step 1: Pick a spell. Any spell.
Seriously, it doesn’t matter. Well… okay, maybe don’t try to conjure Baphomet into your living room or something, but pick any random spell that you feel like doing. Don’t worry about what it is, or who wrote it, or how “authentic” it is. Do these things matter? Sure, maybe, depends on who you ask, but you can figure this stuff out later. For now, just pick a spell. The only real guideline I’ll give here is that it should ideally be something with a measurable result within a reasonable timeframe. I’ll get to why later.

Step 2: Bake a cake.
Don’t actually bake a cake (unless you want a cake, in which case by all means please bake a cake), but this is the part where you gather whatever it is you need for the spell and perform it as it’s written. Spells can in some ways be considered recipes in that you want to try following the directions first, and make your changes afterwards. This is especially true for a beginner or someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing yet.

Step 3: Mouth feel.
The spell is done, congrats. You probably feel… nothing, maybe even vague disappointment. Why? Because this wasn’t really your magic yet, and there’s very likely something (maybe even a lot) missing. This is the most crucial part of your process. What were you expecting? What did you like, not like? It’s time to write this down, and if you’re the type of person who wants to keep a grimoire this is a great first entry. Were you hoping for more ritual? Maybe ceremonial magic is what you should look into. Did you want there to be more bubbling cauldrons? Try looking into hearth magic or herbal magic. Were you missing a chant, a poem? Look more into spellcraft and the power of words. Some key subjects you can look up: crystal magic, herbal magic, hearth magic, cosmic magic, spirit work, death magic, healing magic, bane magic, divination, folk magic, chaos magic, technomancy, sigilwork, spellcraft, hedge walking, deity worship, sex magic, blood magic, etc. If any of these sound appealing to you, do a google search and read about them a little more so you can decide whether or not you want to delve in a little further.

Step 4: The cake is a lie.
This is where we drop the food metaphors, and get back to that thing I brought up in step one: measurable results within a reasonable timeframe. This is the part that seems to get lost the most in all the advice going around, and in my opinion it’s the second most important (the first one being that practicing magic feels good/right to you). Grimoires aren’t just supposed to be pretty lists of spells and correspondences, they’re supposed to contain spells that actually work. The key here is to figure out what feels right to you as far as method, and then to refine that method to achieve tangible results. If you already feel great doing magic, let me tell you… you’ll feel pretty fucking amazing when your magic starts having an actual effect on the world around you, and it shouldn’t take years of mastery for that to happen. Small magics and simple spells can be done effectively by beginner witches, and these are the things you build upon to form your craft. If your magic isn’t getting results, it’s not magic: it’s ceremony.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat.
For most people there is a specific facet of magic that attracted them to it before they ever cast a spell, and while some people might know what it is straight off the bat most people don’t, and that’s fine. You don’t need to know what you’re doing right at the start, and making mistakes isn’t going to curse your house or open up a portal into the dark realms by accident (still assuming you’re doing beginner stuff and not trying to invoke dark spirits to do your bidding or something). The witchcraft side of tumblr can often look really serious and like everyone knows exactly what they’re doing all the time, but the truth of the matter is there’s a lot of trial and error and that’s exactly what magic is supposed to be. If you’re looking towards magic as something to provide all the answers for you, you’re gonna have a real bad time. It’s about looking at how other people have gotten to where you want to go, and forging your own route from there.

On a final note, I’d just like to add that if anyone claims to be an absolute authority on any given topic of witchcraft or occultism, be extremely wary. If anyone is saying you need to pay x amount of money or buy x number of things to be a “real witch”, be extremely wary. Witchcraft existed before money, before capitalism, before industrialization and consumerism.

As always, my inbox is open if you have any questions about this (or anything else). If I don’t know the answer, I can usually point you towards someone who does or at least give you a direction to search in. Happy witching!