What The Hex? (or, why I’ve never seen a reason to use negative magic)



There are a lot of ethical considerations involved with spiritual and mystical work, and the conversation points surrounding “black magic” is probably where the greater majority of the noise takes place.  Typically, I leave all conversations on “woo” alone because I find them particularly pointless; there are so many different techniques, styles, conceits, and philosophies on the subject that you can say almost anything be circumstantially correct.  It doesn’t help that most of the talk also degenerate into pissing contests; I’ve rarely seen an open and thoughtful discussion being held.  Power trips and ego strutting?  Oh, I can find that easily!  Pardon me while I opt out as hard as I can.

I’ve heard and read a few tangential comments about curses within the last few months, and that is something I have a bit of a stronger opinion on.  I thought this might be an interesting topic for the Halloween season and, considering that my opinion isn’t one I’ve heard reflective (or countered) elsewhere, it might be something that people may want to hear.

So, here we are.

A curse, like anything truly negative, is a pretty pathetic retort for any mundane or simple situation: A vast majority of the situations where I’ve heard someone threaten or imply a curse, they were acting like children.  It wasn’t a measured or correct retort for some unbelievable offense or degradation; it was an action designed to masturbate a single ego and nothing else.

This is one area where Hollywood typically gets it right; a curse in a movie or a TV show is something done for big reasons, and it is justified within that character’s worldview.  Even if they’re a malevolent, evil bastard…a curse is levied as a part of some grand scheme or as retribution for some hideous action taken against them.  It wasn’t made because they had an argument on-line over whether you can spell magic with a “K” and not be an absolute wanker.  See an average fairy tale for a reflection of the same.

"What...you all dressed up as Vikings too?  Man, this is BULLSHIT!"

“What…you all dressed up as Vikings too? Man, this is BULLSHIT!”

I’m reminded about the worst aspects of urban and gang culture; where young men and women, eager to prove their capacity within their social model, will willingly escalate a situation to violence over petty or pointless slight.  As above, so below; there is nothing different between a petty curse and a 16 year old boy with a pistol, trying to prove that he is a “real man”.

A curse can be a plain and simple admission that your enemy is stronger than you, and it’s usually the least effective method you have to resolve any problem you might have: I have people I don’t like.  I could call these people enemies, but I don’t curse them.  One of the reasons I have for this is I consider the vast majority of them unimportant.  If they were important, I would face them directly and/or resolve the situation.  They’re not, so I ignore them.  They represent no credible threat in the present or future, and I’m not going to lower myself to responding to some pointless grudge.*

Such a gesture is far more powerful and self-affirming than any amount of shrill and shrieking condemnations could be.  It is not only a waste of my time to go beg/bribe/force some entity (or equivalent) to go handle my business for me, but it’s also calling out to the world that I can’t handle my own issues.  If I need supernatural forces to resolve my problems, I am embracing my weakness.

“I can’t handle this myself, with my own deeds and actions.” you say to the world.  “The subject of my ire is physically healthier than me, mentally faster than me, and socially stronger than me.  To approach them on any battlefield within the real world is asking to be conquered, so I choose a method of retribution that has almost no chance of granting me meaningful closure and/or the result that I truly desire.  Just so long as the subject of my ire suffers, in some way, by my actions?  I am satisfied.”

My favorite Viking curses all start with F.

My favorite norse curses all start with F.

It’s a very childish statement.  It’s also extreme dense.

Mystical work is almost never a certain thing; it’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees upon.  With such a conceit at hand, you’re never going to know when and where your “attack” will connect, or if it even did at all.  You’re also never going to know the method that attack is going to take, until it’s too late.  Magic goes by it’s own rules, not yours.  Even those who have the capacity to call themselves “masters” of a given art seem fully aware that few things are certain.

If you are doing such work out of emotional pain, chances are your work will only make it worse; you will never know.

If someone sexually assaults one or both of my daughters, I’m not using a curse; I’m using the phone, calling the police, and making sure the person in question ends up in prison with a child abuse charge**.  If that doesn’t work, I’m using a baseball bat, gasoline, and a match.  I’m not going to throw my energy into the void, and hope that it avenges the childhood of my kids.  I’m going to take my agency, and wield it; where I go, so goes my energy and will.

If you are certain whether a curse is needed or not, it’s not needed.:  There are times where dark work could be useful.  Using the rather upsetting example of actions against my kids, if the assailant gets away and can not be found?  Than I will do everything in my power, both physical and spiritual, to bring the just consequences of their actions down upon their head.  If that involves so called “black magic” to get things done, than that’s that.  That, however, is a justified thing.

Curses and dark work because someone called me a bad name?  Or because they engage in mystical practice that I philosophically disagree with?  No.  People who engage in such things need some perspective.  Not because their work is “dark” or “evil”, but because it’s bloody stupid.

*I think this is especially valid for a Norse Polytheistic perspective.  Our Gods were posses of angers and grudges, but they were also possessed of pragmatic common sense in most cases.  You don’t answer a  grudge for grudge’s sake when there are more important things to do, and chances are good there is something more pressing at hand than spitting in someone’s eye.

**Also known as “Death by Sodomy”.  The only thing that’s worse to go into a maximum security prison with than a sexual assault charge against a minor is an oral damn and a tube of lip stick.

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10 thoughts on “What The Hex? (or, why I’ve never seen a reason to use negative magic)

  1. EmberVoices says:

    So mostly I agree with you.

    > Using the rather upsetting example of actions against my kids, if the assailant gets away and can not be found? Than I will do everything in my power, both physical and spiritual, to bring the just consequences of their actions down upon their head. If that involves so called “black magic” to get things done, than that’s that. That, however, is a justified thing.

    Yup. And by the same token, in similarly dire circumstances, if the person who “needed killin'” (to take the stereotypical Texan reason) isn’t somebody I am physically capable of taking out of commission myself, that’s when being able to find them only solves some of the problem. You did address the issue of not being able to take out your enemy directly because of a mismatch of physical or social force, but you *didn’t* address that as a serious possibility in a context where a curse would still be justified.

    Wielding agency for a woman, historically, could include using Seidh against her rightful enemies, but a man doing the same was “unmanfully” admitting he couldn’t take his enemy down face-to-face.

    Another of my considerations, however, is that if I DO go in person to take somebody out, for the reasons you give? Then I’m probably taking *myself* out of the taking-care-of-my-daughters picture, placing myself either in physical danger or prison, probably both. While I don’t necessarily object to paying legitimate weregild for a wrong I’ve actually committed, this may not have desirable results for my daughters’ well being. So more subtle methods may be necessary to take care of that problem without causing more problems.


    • The subtext of this post (which I probably should have done a better job of highlighting) was why *I* don’t use such techniques; my observations and experiences haven’t shed any good light on the personalities of those apt to use them, and my situations have never required I use them. What I’ve posted are me general thoughts and rules of thumb…your circumstances may be far different from mine.

      It’s a tool…like any other mystical technique. It just seems that some people see it as a Swiss army knife or a leather-man, rather than as a sledgehammer.

      • EmberLeo says:

        > It’s a tool…like any other mystical technique. It just seems that some people see it as a Swiss army knife or a leather-man, rather than as a sledgehammer.

        *laugh* Yes.

        And that’s why I agree with you about the rest of it.

        I don’t often see serious practitioners throw around threats of cursing, to be honest. I’ve seen people joke about it, and I’ve seen newbies online talk about it, but I haven’t seen it much in the local Heathen community at all.

        When the Nithing staves *are* broken out ’round here that I’ve seen (maybe twice), they’re handled proportionately and intelligently.

        The only times I’ve even considered it, there was a lot at stake, we were already doing all the mundane efforts we could, and for various reasons the potential cursing efforts were rejected before implementation in favor of other ideas, or no magick at all.

        But I *have* had to consider in a fair amount of detail, what makes a curse worth the effort, and justified. It’s good to see a more nuanced opinion online than “Look at me, I’m so powerful!” or “Curses are bad, m’kay!”


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  3. Sianna. says:

    I’m one of those who did resort to using hexcraft and cursing in order to obtain some kind of revenge..and yes, satisfaction…after one of my daughters was abused and the man got away with it through a technicality. So what to do when the relevent authorities refuse to take an abused child seriously, and when you have no one else to turn to? I did two things…hired a couple of thugs to knee cap the man (for which I have no regrets) and cursed him in a very heathen way. I should note, I’m a heathen woman and have never been raised in any orthodox faith. Again, no regrets. Sometimes, the ability to do something is ours to use when it’s fitting. It’s easy to sit in judgement of the actions of others from a moral standpoint. But walk in their shoes awhile, or feel the helplessness of being on the sharp end of a useless and blind authority who, for the sake of a quiet life, won’t do their job correctly and supply protection to the vulnerable, and, well…my ancestors used cursing when all else failed. They used it to employ powers beyond the mundane, to achieve retribution, revenge, or vengeance. And I am glad I inherited some of that. For the sake of my child.

    • When I wrote the material above, I was coming from a perspective of having just seen some truly idiotic threats being tossed back and forth. Those circumstances colored my language, and I didn’t leave much wiggle room as a result. Thinking on your circumstances, it’s clear I spoke more harshly than I should have.

      My comments about my daughters being abused, and my reaction therein, are somewhat related to my circumstances and my life experience. My mother is a professional within an attorney’s office , which means I’ve enjoyed connections to experienced and well informed lawyers for most of my life. Now, I haven’t needed this much (save for the odd speeding ticket and a single worker’s compensation claim)…but it means that if something does happen? I know that I’m going to have someone I can trust handling my circumstances. The likelihood that I would need to use a curse to get things done is fairly minimal as a result.

      Talks of physical violence were, also, my own machismo talking. While I would definitely want to? An abused child needs a father…especially as they go through the legal proceedings; one doesn’t have much of a chance to be that father is they’re serving time for an assault charge.

      The terms and circumstances you did work for seem just, valid, and completely understandable. If people are out there performing work to ensure that Cross in convicted and shown absolutely no mercy, I agree with that as well. I’m sorry my agitation with childish stupidity had me worked up enough that I used language that suggested I looked down on someone in your circumstances. Were I in your situation, I’d have likely done the same.

      • Sianna. says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond. I probably sounded harsher than I meant to, sorry for that.
        I was raised in a heathen family where cursing was viewed as part and parcel of the folk memory of who we were, (I’m half Scot half Swede, raised in the Highlands here) and in living memory there were usually older women with “the evil eye” who could be hired for precisely that purpose. Cursing and this kind of employed hexwifery was seen simply as part of the folk magic of everyday people. I guess the viewpoint that rankled me was the comparism with gang culture and the seeing the enemy as one more powerful. This might indeed be the case..in my own example, the man in question held a high position in our community and that made him “untouchable” when it came to punishment for what he did. My girl wasn’t the only one he’d abused either. And that isn’t even a unique situation…in the past, in many communities, atrocities could be committed by people who would easily avoid consequences because of social standing, or monetary wealth or some other form of influence. So I do believe that for common folk, resorting to hexcraft or cursing was an acceptable practice when the more mundane methods wouldn’t be there to help them.
        But, I also believe that cursing is a complex art and that true and effective cursing is less common than people think. Simply erecting a nithing pole or casting curserunes isn’t the be all and end all if that makes sense? You need to have pretty advanced knowledge and some kind of power, clout, behind it. Hence the old spae wives of the highlands, or the people that folks would go to, to do the job on their behalf. Specialists with the talent for the job.
        Re physical violence, I was lucky..the men I asked to knee cap the abuser were clever enough to not be caught, but I was willing to do my time if it had come to that. My daughter lives every day of her life with the consequence of the rapes, for him to get off scot-free was simply unacceptable to me. I DO believe there are times in life when violence can be justified, and am not a pacifist when it comes to things like this.
        There is no need for you to ever apologise for your own opinions and viewpoint and I hope I haven’t been offensive in stating my own. I do like your blog and find it interesting reading!
        Sorry for rambling. Thanks again for responding.

      • Not a problem at all. And you haven’t changed my mind, but rather you gave me some additional perspective.

        I still feel that a majority of the situations where people start talking curses, the people involved are really just trying to be mystically petty. You just reminded me that those practices exist for a reason, even if a few of the modern practitioners have completely forgot it. 😉

      • EmberVoices says:

        I think it’s just like any other posturing, in that sense. People who are seriously intending to violently transgress are not likely to brag about it in such a way that would get them caught if they have much in the way of brains. If you’re serious about doing something dangerous, you’re going to be careful about it.

  4. Sianna. says:

    I agree with you both. I’m old enough (52) to remember the resurgance of the pagan scene back in the seventies and eighties. That’s when the New Age kicked in and people began eclectically claiming everything from everywhere, regardless of source or heritage behind the things they appropriated. In the same way that “being Celtic” became “cool”, I am guessing so did becoming heathen but focusing predominantly on the aspects of heathen culture that seems, to some, most impressive.
    I believe all pagan cultures of the past have their traditions of being able to seek revenge or justice by magical means, but as you state those ways wouldn’t be used indiscriminately and certainly couldn’t be worked by any old person.
    Thought provoking subject and one with many shades of grey in it. 🙂

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