Sorry for disappearing for 2 weeks. I’ve been fairly busy in the offline world.
I’ve been thinking about what I consider “ethics” for the magical/pagan/practicing world for myself. Last year I wrote a piece on curses and what I thought about cursing. I know that it is for some neo-pagans unethical to curse…other pagans feel that ethically they can curse, given the correct circumstances. As for myself, as I said in that post–ethically I see no reason not to curse, if the situation is right and if it seems warranted.
There are other questions to address in terms of ethics here though. I think I’m going to speak about ethics in magic though. Not ethics in polytheism. Because each pagan or polytheist, depending on their path will look at that differently. For me, there are more broad ways (in my opinion solely) to define ethics in magic.
Curses are for me, ethically bound only by knowing if the person one wants to curse is guilty of what you want to curse them for. So, if you wish to curse someone for stealing from you, they must be truly guilty of stealing from you. And, in my opinion, curses must not be above the level of what the person deserves. So…a person who stole a doughnut does not get a life-long curse, because the punishment far outweighs the crime. These are all just my personal opinions though, and I acknowledge that.
For spells, there is one type of spell that constantly comes up in the discussion of ethics: love spells.
I’m really…well I guess I could say, leery of any such type of spell. See, the types that I always see online are the ones where it’s paraded and touted as “make x-specific person fall in love with me”…which is really sketchy as a spell. See, love should be honest and of full consent for it to be ethical. A spell to make a specific person fall in love with you is taking away that person’s consent into their own decision-making process. If you coerce them, by means of a spell to make them love you…then I feel, you must always wonder if they truly love you, or is it just the spell forcing them to love you. And that is ethically a major problem. Because once you’ve taken away their free-will to choose whether they have real feelings for you or not, ethically you’ve committed a major magical…well, crime sounds harsh. There isn’t really a court system to punish someone for doing it, but it feels like a crime to me.
I know that I take an extremely harsh view on love spells like that. I guess for me I’m really huge on consent. If the person’s consent has even potentially been abrogated by a spell…there’s something wrong. Love spells seem dodgy to me from the beginning, because they skirt on the edge of appropriate. I don’t know that I would ever find a way in which they would be acceptable. Ethically, I think that using a spell to make another person fall in love with you is problematic. It stops that other person from fully articulating and using their own will.
If one were to use a spell to open their own heart to love…that is different. I saw a spell once that was worded in that way. That seems ethically better. It was phrased to open the heart to a healthy relationship of love. To me, that seems fine, because it is not cutting off another person’s will or decision-making abilities. It is instead focusing on the individual themselves and on what they themselves can do. That is a different spell entirely, and does not affect another person, which is ethically a much safer choice, as far as I am concerned.
But…that is also I think because I am against performing spells on another person without their permission. That is a horrid breach of trust, and should not be done unless absolutely necessary. So for me, it is always the ethical choice to not perform a spell on another person without first having their fully informed consent as to what you plan to do to and for them. If you don’t have that, as far as I am concerned…ethically you shouldn’t do anything.
Ethics in magic are for me, a slowly evolving thing. They stay very similar, rarely changing for me. I can admit that I am very black-and-white in how I think about things such as ethics. Once I’ve come to a conclusion, it’s rare that my mind changes…but I will admit that I do take all things on board for consideration. There are circumstances where my mind might change on certain issues within the broad topic of ethics, when things come up that genuinely bring new knowledge to me. Ethics is a tricky subject for everyone though, it shows deep-held convictions, so it’s an interesting topic of conversation.∗