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.