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Ya’ll wanna know why I got into magic? …Well, I was already into magic…but do you really want to know why I wanted to talk dead people and do necromancy and sorcery? Why I wanted to be able to evoke and command spirits, or invoke the power of wrathful gods? I’m gonna tell you anyway.

My biological father died of cancer when I was 8 years old, making me an orphan (my mother had been missing for a couple years by then, and I was already adopted by that time because she didn’t put him on the birth certificate making his entire side of my family unable to get custody of me). My adoptive father turned out to be a pretty terrible person and an even worse parent. At night I would cry and pray and wish for the ghost of my late father to protect me from physical harm and haunt my evil adoptive father. It actually worked, too. When I was in high school nearly every girl I was friends with had been raped or molested by older men, and a boy, too—a sweet autistic kid. A couple of the rapists even attended the same church as my adoptive parents. (I, myself was never sexually assaulted until I was 18.) I saw the lives and spirits of these mere children crumble before my eyes while their abusers walked around guiltless and free. I was a self-emancipated teen by the time that, in a trembling, screaming, seething rage I shrieked a vow to the Universe and Death Itself and it was answered by the Morrigan. Like a crow carries pebbles to a bowl of water in order to raise the refreshing liquid to its parched beak, She brought me the tools with which to fulfill my desire. You don’t need to know what I did to whom, but I will tell you that at least a few of those children finally found peace through the justice that I manifested. Do I have a magical vigilante complex? Yes, but sorcery has always been the act of “playing god”.

Fast forward into my twenties and I soon learned that sorceresses have a lot of bullshit to deal with in the magical community, simply for being sorcerESSES. Female magicians are constantly being harassed and dismissed by their male peers. It’s even worse for queer and trans women. Most books on sex magic are centered around hetero males, I even read one that only gave like two sentences to lesbian sex magic, basically saying that it’s inferior to straight sex magic because all it is is mushing two “lunar energies” together, and the only way it could work is if one of the women was really “masculine”. And not even a peep about how gender transitioning was a historically sacred process, and how that plays into sex magic. But having our gender and sexual expression reduced to our function as a “chalice” in ritual based on how cis-het men would use our genitalia is just one issue a long list. (That notably, recently includes a transphobic anthology published by so-called “goddess worshiping” women. The subject of discrimination against transwomen in paganism is an entire 3,000-word post of its own that I will probably address more in-depth later.) Yes, misogyny and transmisogyny is alive and well in the occult community.

It’s not surprising, of course, seeing as how many old grimoires, ancient and medieval, have a plethora of horrifying “love spells” (more like “emotion-bindings” or “rape-curses”) intended to cause a woman physical pain and spiritual torment until she finally yields herself to the magician. Despite how prevalent and available these spells are in modern times, a woman is automatically considered “paranoid” and “melodramatic” if she claims that a man used one of these spells on her.

On a more mundane level, older men sexually assaulting or manipulating younger women under the guise of “initiation” is a common phenomenon. Hell, it’s so common that it’s pretty much glossed over in Alan Moore’s comic series/kabbalistic handbook “Promethea” and pretty much turned into a running joke. (I’m gonna give Mr. Moore the benefit of the doubt here and hope that he meant to deliberately disturb his audience into realizing that this is a real problem.) It’s so common it’s often joked about. “You know why I got into Wicca?” one lecherous old man said to a male friend of mine “I get to have sex with hot younger women and convince them it’s feminism.” It’s not just the Neopagan crowd—many a woman has complained to me about how Aleister Crowley’s sausagefest of an occult order has proven to be fertile ground for sexual harassment. Every sect and school of magic is rife with misogyny that is reflective of, and sometimes worse than, that of mainstream western culture.

The truth is the loudest voices in the occult/pagan community/subculture are the same as the mainstream: right-of-center, middle-aged suburbanites. Our pagan “elders” are not far off in their “values” from those of the American evangelical Christian types. They see their spiritual “authority” as a means of gaining and maintaining financial and social power—and they want to hold that power over the next generation of practitioners. The older men are blatantly misogynist (and they keep their racism under a thin veil), and the older women tell us “It’s not really that bad” or “It’s more progressive than _ years ago”. They fear that our generation is freeing itself by rejecting the pseudo-morality they have imposed upon us. (And I really mean pseudo-morality…the “Rede” was not even a real thing, as in Gardner didn’t even make it. It was made up by some Llewellyn author in like the past 20 or 30 years.) These pompous charlatans fear the fact that our generation is no longer buying the hype.

When our spiritual leaders, orders, covens, and elders do not take abuse allegations seriously or turn a blind eye to rampant misogyny, female practitioners are forced to use more esoteric means of finding justice. It’s not even uncommon for a woman who does not practice magic to seek a witch to help her deal with an abuser.

When hundreds of practitioners banned together to curse the rapist Brock Turner, his father, and the so-called judge who let him walk, these self-proclaimed “elders” had the audacity to step up and say that these practitioners (most of them women, many of them assault survivors themselves) were wrong for using magic to seek justice. Most notably, Ray Buckland (I thought that old fart died years ago) insisted that “real witches do not curse”. Clearly he has never read any folklore ever. Cursing is one of the specialties of the witch. I would argue that cursing those in positions of power in order to benefit the oppressed, rejected and impoverished is the duty of the witch to her people. It is often the witch or fairy woman in folktales who curses the greedy to teach them a moral lesson. I saw a similar reaction on the part of male practitioners when there was a group evocation of/petition to Lilith and Ishtar in the name of all the Yazidi women captured and sold into sex slavery by Daesh/ISIL. They mocked it, some even expressed disgust.

In my experience, those who refer to the practice of hexes and curses as “petty” and “immature” are usually male, usually older, and most likely, statistically not victims of assault. They say “what does revenge accomplish?” I would point them to the TV adaption of Game of Thrones [Spoiler Warning!] when Sansa Stark feeds her rapist and abuser Ramsay Bolton to his own man-eating hounds. Satisfaction. Vindication. Justice. Peace of mind. Abolition of fear. That’s what it accomplishes. For those who practice the warrior path, for those who follow the ways of wolves, nothing compares to the defeat of one’s enemies. Rapists, who are statistically repeat offenders, are a danger to the health of the Tribe. Those who endanger the Tribe are Enemy.

One cannot claim to honor the Old Gods, or the Old Ways, yet refer to justice-through-revenge, as “wrong”. How did the Irish goddess Macha deal with the misogyny of the men of Ulster? With revenge, eye-for-an-eye style. She dealt with misogyny through pain, punishment, and destruction. She saw the silence of those who refused to defend her as identical to the sins of the king who publicly wronged her and shamed her and the husband who betrayed her. The sin of omission is a terrible thing indeed. Evil thrives because “good” men are silent. Her punishment for them was just because to deny a woman’s physical and sexual sovereignty is to deny her personhood, if you deny a woman of her personhood because of her gender, you are denying the godhood of every feminine deity.

Denial of the witch’s revenge is a denial of the role of wrathful goddesses everywhere. The way I see it, the “elders” who do not defend the witch’s right to curse her oppressors and abusers, are as bad as those who outright claim she has no right to do so. If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. Taking one’s fate, one’s justice, into your own hands is a powerful act of magic and exercise of will—those who deny this fact can hardly be considered magicians.

To say that cursing has no place in witchcraft is ultimately sexist.

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37 thoughts on “Macha’s Revenge: Why The Esoteric Community Needs to Change its Tune on Cursing

  1. I’m so glad Witches are finally talking about reclaiming our power to curse, bind, and hex for ours and others’ safety.

  2. The white-washing of witchcraft…will it ever end? Will fellow practitioners ever cease to constantly feel the need to make us Sabrina in the eyes of everyone else? It’s getting tiresome. Beautiful, powerful article full of harsh truth and genuine emotion!

    1. Thank you so much! <3
      It actually took me forever to write, even though it ended up being a lot shorter than I had initially planned. It's a very emotionally evocative subject for me.

  3. This was written so well, I could almost hear it! Great job, I’m sharing this….and often!

  4. Loved this because not all of us are Glenda the Good Witch. There are people who well deserve to be cursed and punished. If you are capable of making someone pay for an evil they have done then I’m all for it. This is what Witches have done since the dawn of time.

    1. Glenda helped drop a house on the Wicked Witch of the East….. at least that’s how I view it.

    2. Agreed, but if one paid attention Glenda was not a good witch ;D

      1. Don’t give me any Wicked spoilers. I have yet to see that musical. haha

  5. I’m a Hellenic Wiccan that practices witchcraft. I look at the curse tablets as the source that tells me what kind of curses were cast during ancient times. I don’t follow the damn three fold law, I don’t believe in Karma, and I don’t give a damn what Buckland and his stupid followers think. I didn’t get involved in Wicca to have some old fart tell me what to do and take away the power of the witch or the power that I call upon as a witch. Thank you so much for posting this.

    It needed to be posted.

  6. I took Buckland to task about his comments. It truly pissed me off how he essentially equated all of witchcraft being within the umbrella of Wicca. Plus saying how these individuals couldn’t muster up enough energy to do it. It was a very condescending remarks he posted. The irony is that someone pulled out how he gave a malicious spell in one of his books on candle magick I believe. So I am like you can put all sorts of spells in a book of magick when you need to sell a book but when people who have been wronged use them then they are at fault. Love the way you basically whored out your so called principles to sell a book. Some elders are so pompous it is sad.

    Bodacious Banshee is right. The great majority of spells that have been used to wrong a right have often been by those who were oppressed. Witches in general have been the oppressed in society and the outsiders. They were not going to find justice in the courts when those courts favored the status quo.

  7. Thank you! I feel validated and am grateful for not being alone in my beliefs. Especially being male, I believed it is my responsibility to empower women who seek my help and what a blessing to see them grow so strong in their Goddess. There is therapeutic value when one survivor assists another. We grow together. Many blessings to you. You have a brother here ready and willing to assist as a catalyst for change.

  8. Black and white is a myth, it’s only a power. What we do with it is up to us. Traditionally the community polices itself.

    The declaimer on this kind of magick is that you never really leave the war once you open that box. It can be powerful and cathartic especially for the victims, but running that kind of current has a cost. I have never met someone from this circle of magick that had a easy life or a heart that wasn’t burdened the weight of carrying that flavor of current.

    Even justified use is a heavy load.

  9. thank you. this path is not’ all lavender & light, friendly place BS.’ never has been. this is the real reason christianity is scared of us. b/c we refuse to be vicims any longer.

  10. From FB comment: “(And I really mean pseudo-morality…the “Rede” was not even a real thing, as in Gardner didn’t even make it. It was made up by some Llewellyn author in like the past 20 or 30 years.)”

    The Wiccan Rede was presented in 1964, credited to Doreen Valiente who was a collaborator with Gerald Gardener.

    https://muse.jhu.edu/article/609097

    1. It gets traced back to being in reference to a line in play or poem he or Doreen wrote, but was not actually from his book of shadows, and is not actually a “law” within the tradition. All the BritTrad/Ganderian HPs I know have told me that the rede is not a law within the tradition and was not penned by Gardner. Of course, literally anyone can call themselves a Gardnerian Wiccan these days thanks to the “self-initiation” movement promoted by Llewellyn.

  11. Oh. Em. Gee. I love every single thing ABOUT this. As part of a tradition that practices a balance of Warrior and Healer, and offers no judgment on who is called to which side and at what time, I am so so SOOOO glad to see more and more people in the community stand up and start taking back their own power! <3 Thank you for the terrible and beautiful work that you are doing.

  12. I was initiated into a coven descending from the work of Lady Sheba in 1979, and although I’m now a priest of Obatala in the Lucumí faith (Santeria), I still work as a witch. I’m SO glad you wrote this, and I’m ecstatic over its warm reception. I’ve always said that a witch who cannot hex cannot heal, and when it comes to protecting ourselves and our loved ones, often we need to use both sides of our gifts. Bravo!

  13. Thank you. Just…. thank you. I was one of the abused, one of the nearly-broken. Then, I was for a long time largely self-taught, and had enough critical thinking skills to see through the BS about rejecting hexing and cursing. It’s a tool. It’s power, and as someone said above, power just is. I have claimed my power, and nothing can take that away from me.

  14. I have long held the view that the “rede” was more about personal responsibility than warning or kharmic “no-nos”. Everything Banshee says here is about taking one’s own initiative to bring about justice… and accepting her role in that action. Nothing she has said here is not said without acknowledging her role in taking just action. Its all about taking one’s own action in hand, in full knowledge of what is being done and why.
    I salute you, as a fellow Morrigan woman, for all your words here, Banshee!

  15. Thank you for saying this it is so true in many aspects

  16. 100% agree. Real life isn’t about fluffy bunny BS, but about taking about your power from those who seek to hurt you. So glad someone has the courage to write about this.

  17. I’ve always been on the fence myself. I always wondered why witches had to be “good” all the time. We worship Nature, and along with the good, there is also the bad. Death, sickness, disaster and birth, health, prosperity. There is both and there is balance. But I’m also believer in Karma/Newton’s 3rd law of motion. For every action, there is an equal yet opposite reaction. Do I need to be Karma’s tool to teach someone a lesson? Is it my lesson to teach? Am I willing to pay the price? But then again, I have luckily never been put in a situation where I felt that it was my only recourse. In any case, it’s not something to be taken lightly and I am glad that there is a dialog happening.

  18. Wow. Deja Vu. I too, was abused by a psychopathic stepfather and was subsequently sexually assaulted and emotionally abused in later years. It seems like a lifetime ago as I have exorcised those demons and made peace with my past. However, I couldn’t agree with you more about our right to curse those who physically and emotionally abuse us and attempt to shame us in the process, as if it is somehow our fault. Also, as a mother and a grandmother, I think it is important that we not only provide a role model for the young ones, but we need to educate, protect and support their efforts to be strong, self-assured women.

  19. I love this article and I’m going to send it to everyone who pulls that “real witches don’t curse” bullshit.

  20. A room is filled with people who’s jobs put them at odds with their religions. In the first seat, there is a Roman Catholic who works in an abortion clinic. In the second seat, there is an Orthodox Jewish Pork Butcher. And in the third seat — a Wiccan who works for a news journal as a fact-checker.

    Seriously — do you seriously accept objectivity from a religion that was made-up by Gerald Gardner so that he could get laid? Yes — there have been many pagan religions in the history of Europe prior to the 19th Century — as well as other esoteric traditions — but Wicca wasn’t one of them.

    1. I’m clearly not Wiccan. And no one here is claiming that Wicca is an ancient religion. So what is your point? Your comment seems to have very little to do with the article above.

  21. Holy shit I love this! I don’t curse myself, but have been wondering what the hell has been happening with all the witches…

    You put so many thoughts into an awesome blog post <3

  22. My heart aches for any and all people of all kinds who are subject to abuse by the hands of those who should care for them but choose to hurt them. I’m on the fence about cursing. I don’t consider myself wiccan or follow anyone’s writings or teachings I just go by what’s in my heart. I was dead set against cursing but this article has opened my mind up a bit on the subject.

  23. I feel that cursing takes more skill to do properly, to lessen or eliminate collateral damage. Because I believe that what you put out comes back to you, cursing someone can be God’s work. Growing up, I heard things like “God helps those who help themselves” and “God works through people, they are his hands.” I see no reason why those ideas wouldn’t apply to any deity. Witches can do this by sending back to the abusers the pain they caused. Why is magical justice more of a moral problem than our governmental justice? Especially when governmental justice fails? Abusers need to be stopped. Murderers need to know how many lives they’ve changed. Just as self-defense can justify a killing, protecting oneself and those who cannot protect themselves justifies a cursing.

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