Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Cursework and 'Real' Witches
There's a new round of blogs and online commentary about how 'real witches don't hex' going around, spurred it appears by the recent call to hex a public figure and the support and backlash that garnered. The public call for mass hexwork got a lot of attention and the response across social media has been strong, not only about the subject of the hex and whether it's appropriate to hex a political leader, but whether cursework and hexing in general are acceptable to do. Not at all surprisingly there has been a strong thread of disapproval towards the practice and also a very public outcry proclaiming that 'real'* witches don't hex. Period. The end. A variety of arguments are put forth for why 'real' witches don't use baneful magic but generally it boils down to; 1) it's naughty and naughty magic only really hurts the person casting it; 2) hexes don't work anyway; or 3) a 'real' witch is wise enough to know better than to do naughty magic, because vague reasons.
So let's take a look at this.
I'm not going to speak to whether or not I'm real. I mean I do think a lot which I'm given to understand is one criteria of reality, but for all any of us know we could be a dream within a dream or characters in a story. So let's table the question of reality. I am sure that I'm a witch though, and I do hex. I've talked about it publicly before and I'm not ashamed of it; I don't think it should be done if you aren't willing to own up to doing it. So real or not real, I'm a witch and I hex. I guess that entitles me to an opinion on the subject. I've written about hexing before here and here because its a subject that I feel strongly about. I am not, however, out to convince anyone that they should or should not do it. I believe that it is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether cursework is something they are comfortable doing. What I do want though is to work towards removing the stigma around it that says anyone who hexes is a terrible, morally corrupt person; this is no more or less true than saying a member of the military or a martial artist is inherently violent and dangerous just because they have the skill set to cause harm and an ability to use it if necessary.
Cursework is a specialty. It requires study just as much as healing or prophecy magic does, and I'd argue that to do it well you have to make it your focus, at least for a time. It isn't something you play with. It has its own rhythms and rules, its own flow and form. It's not for everyone, and not every witch needs to do it, just like anything else. Some people are vegetarians and some are omnivores; some are pacifists and some are fighters; some let energy work itself out and some hex. Different witches have different ethical approaches and beliefs that shape the acceptability of cursework and any kind of magic that impacts other people's free will. For some people it will always be out of bounds and for others it will be acceptable within certain contexts. I certainly don't know anyone who does serious hexwork who takes it lightly or sees it as a game, for what that's worth. Rather the other people I know who do it approach it very soberly, and often as a last resort when other options have been exhausted.
Hexing is not inherently dangerous and it isn't a practice that dooms the practitioner to suffer terrible consequences. It is no more or less dangerous to the person doing it than healing is, and just like healing the risk only comes in if the person makes a mistake, which can happen just as easily with blessing magic as baneful magic. I've been at this a long time and I've done more than one hex in my time - and done them knowing exactly what I'm doing and how to do it - and I have never once experienced any negative repercussions on myself, nor has my magic failed to achieve my goal, although it may work faster or slower or stronger than I intended which is exactly why it has to be done with care. This narrative that anyone who hexes will be awash in bad energy, usually described as karma but in the Western sense of instant consequences, is not something I have ever personally seen as true. And I say that as someone who has been practicing witchcraft since the early '90's and admits to hexing, binding, and banishing when necessary. Yes everything we do ultimately affects us but it is far more nuanced and subtle than do good = get equivalent good, do bad = get equivalent bad. And as I like to remind people good and bad are matters of perspective and we must always be careful in judging what is which, especially when it comes to our own actions.
I've also seen a lot of anti-hex arguments that say that positive magic works but negative does not. By this logic healing spells work, but curses do not, because somehow what helps us and is judged good (remember what I said about judging) is effective but what is judged bad or harmful is seen as impossible or ineffective. It can't be both. Either they both work or neither does. We can't acknowledge the power of one and deny the power of the other, whether or not we ourselves participate in it. To me this just smacks of a way to reassure one's self that good magic works but naughty magic doesn't, as if the Universe only allowed goodness. I think it should be pretty self evident that nothing works that way. I'd also point out as an aside that no type of magic is any more or less addictive than any other, as that has also been mentioned as a reason not to hex. absolute power may corrupt absolutely but this isn't some fictional Dark Side of the Force we're talking about here, where even one slip into practicing it will mean your light saber turning red forever. This is reality, where people are nuanced and complicated and can be good people with functional ethics who still believe its okay to bind a stalker or punish a rapist using magic without plunging into uncontrolled all-Evil-all-the-time-ness.
The third main argument I've seen is that a 'real' witch is wise enough to know better than to hex or curse. Um, in all seriousness why? What exactly is so wrong in hexing or cursing that being 'real' enlightens you so much that you won't do it? Ignoring for a moment the enormous implied insult here that everyone who does hex is not only not a real witch but also unwise or uneducated I genuinely don't understand this argument. I'm impeding someone else's free will. Okay. I'm also impeding their free will when I get a restraining order or use mace to defend myself from a mugger, but I'm going to do both of those things if necessary too, and I don't see how defending myself against someone else's aggression isn't the best course. I suspect this ties back into the assumption that hexing is just done to be mean, but let me tell you something here, the hexing that I've done that falls into the bounds of cursework has usually** been done because I had exhausted all my other options and I was desperate. I or people I cared about were usually in physical danger or other serious situations were occurring that needed an immediate response but for which I had no options.
If you want to argue against hexing then argue against it from a moral standpoint making it clear that you are discussing your own morals or explain your own reasoning for not doing it, but don't use scare tactics that make the practice seem like magical Russian roulette. It isn't. If done with skill and knowledge hexing and cursing are powerful tools and can be useful to achieving goals that otherwise may not be achievable, especially relating to justice and some types of protection. I'm not saying it can't be misused just like anything else, of course, but it can and often is done well and safely for the practitioner. And effectively. And keep in mind that anything is judged good or bad purely based on our own perspective. There's nothing wrong with choosing not to hex because it goes against your own morals or makes you uncomfortable. That's fine. But there's also nothing wrong with deciding that you are morally comfortable with hexing.
So can we please stop with this divisive 'real witches don't hex' stuff? Yes some 'real' witches do. And some don't. There is no one single type of witchcraft, no single ethic that unites all witches, no agreed on witchcraft code that defines who and what witches are based on what magic they do. What makes a person a real witch isn't whether or not they adhere to one particular moral viewpoint. And cursing and hexing whether anyone likes it or not are deeply ingrained in historic and traditional witchcraft, and in some forms of modern witchcraft as well. If your particular form or tradition of witchcraft doesn't do cursework, that's okay. Don't do it. But that doesn't give you or anyone else the right to dictate what other witches or witchcraft traditions, or other types of pagans who practice magic for that matter, can and cannot do, or should or should not do. Let us stop with the logical fallacies, the 'no true Scotsman' and the appeals to authority and tradition, that are being used to justify condemning anyone who does things differently or who we disagree with. Witchcraft is dazzlingly diverse in its variety and scope of practice. Let's try celebrating that, even when we don't agree with what other people do in their personal traditional magic, rather than condemning and trying to limit other people to conform to our own expectations and comfort zone.
I am a witch. I hex. And I'm proud of the knowledge and skill it takes to do that well.
*I'm putting real in quotes here to convey sarcasm. I know that doesn't read well online but I can't type real witch in any seriousness.