To Anyone Who Plans to Sell Their Soul on eBay…

Too bad. As of August 30th, eBay’s putting the kibosh on sales of anything that’s not quite tangible, including a lot of things that probably should’ve been prohibited a long time ago because they’re just scamming gullible people:

The following items are also being added to the prohibited items list: advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions; work from home businesses & information; wholesale lists, and drop shop lists.

Doug Barry at Jezebel doesn’t seem too fazed by this:

Maybe this sort of news comes as yet more proof that the Wild West age of internet entrepreneurship is ending and a new age of the internet being a boring, calcified thing is upon us… We need to think about these things before excessive regulations sap all the wonder, danger and, yes, magic out of the internet.

Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets screwed over because they think they’re purchasing a potion that’ll cure them of who-knows-what and they blame eBay for letting the scam continue.

I say it’s about time. Those things shouldn’t have a price because they have no real value. “Healing sessions,” prayers, and curses don’t do a damn thing for anybody.

Meanwhile, some of the comment threads are calling this discrimination against Wiccans and Pagans. I don’t buy that. eBay is basically saying “We can’t verify that these things are real so we don’t want them on our site.” If the people who believe in things like curses want to sell them, the burden’s on them to prove they’re selling a real product.

Which is why, even in tepid support of eBay’s new rules, I can’t really take Pagan Soccer Mom‘s claims seriously:

Crap like this makes any legitimate spell caster come off looking like a crook. It’s the difference between a tarot reader who helps counsel someone on an issue in their life, and the reader who tells a client that they can remove the curse on them for $20,000 (right before they have to mysteriously leave town). Given the huge number of these kinds of ads, and with no ability for a buyer to prove it was or wasn’t successful to get their money back, I sort of see Ebay’s point for banning them.

Yes. Right. Legitimate spell caster… I’ll grant that some people really do believe they have magical powers, but good intentions are irrelevant here.

The rest of her comments make sense, though:

So does this ban actually constitute religious discrimination? It certainly doesn’t narrow the ban down to “Pagan prayer” or “Wiccan spells”. I admit I’m a bit torn on the subject. While I see the possible beginning of the end for sellers on sites like this, I won’t be sad to see the sham “spell casters” go, and the end of taking advantage of desperate people with promises of something that can’t possibly be delivered. As I sell products of a magical variety, I definitely don’t want to lose my Etsy shop.

But are magic spells and potions actual religious items? As both a Pagan and a witch, there is a line for me between my religion and my magical practice. All I need for my religion is my faith in deity. I can pray with no accouterments, speak with my deities with nothing but my words or thoughts. Spells, potions and magic are a separate thing that I do to incite change in my world, or the world of a client.

I might not be thrilled at the limiting of my ability to do these things on a certain online site, but I’m not convinced that it’s religious discrimination.

To be clear, no one’s suggesting eBay has banned tangible products relating to Paganism. Just the sham ones.

For what it’s worth, I’m not actually sure if the rule change means my “selling my soul” (but not really) several years ago would have been allowed now, but I feel like I was selling a tangible product so it might pass the test.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Damn, I’m sure my soul could have gone for a decent price. 

  • Glasofruix

    Naaah, they’ll just sell “unique” postacrds with “FREE” stuff attached to them.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Can’t she just cast a spell to influence the CEO of Ebay to change the rules?   But then again, I am only a legitimate unicorn urologist, and therefor lack the necessary expertise to criticize a legitimate spell caster.  

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/K6JWA5SOEG2L7WZF2SNZYEHTME Jeff

      You mock her, but I’ll bet you believe in Noah’s Ark…

  • kagil

    When you have faith that you can direct magickal power, why would you need to sell that to anyone else?  Use it for yourself and just get what you want.  I never understood the selling or buying of magick.  

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    Ebay has refused to have ads for selling souls for years.  Guess how I know….

  • http://stevearm.com/ Steve

    This sounds like I’d still be able to “bind my soul to an orb” and sell the orb (just a plain marble) for an elevated price. They seem to be banning intangible things and services (casting of a spell), but you can still sell the physical trappings of supposed magic working.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/ krisbradley

    Lol!  Spells are very much like prayers, which may not make them that much more legitimate here, I suppose.  “Legitimate” spellcasters are generally folks who try to work towards changing energies out in the universe in a way that benefits them or a client.

    It may sound like hokum to some, I understand that, but even we consider the “WICCAN BIG PENIS SPELL” to be horrible and fraudulent.

    • Sindigo

      Oh I didn’t realise that you you were changing energies out in the universe. That sounds much more legit.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      Which energy?  Weak force, strong force or electromagnetic?  Wait don’t tell me…  you found a way to change gravity from a universal negative energy to a universal positive energy.  Quick get the nobel prize….

      • Gus Snarp

        Duh, it’s dark energy ;)

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          Then she’s an evil witch.   Time to get the torches and dunking chair out of the basement. 

          • Gus Snarp

            Can’t we just weigh a duck or something?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

        I guess “friendly” atheist doesn’t extend to commenters…

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          I’m sure you’re a fine and decent person.  And I do not have any torches and or dunking chairs in my basement.  And yes maybe it was out of line for me to invoke medieval witch burning.  And I think should be completely free to practice your religion how you seem fit.  If that means selling your services on ebay, go ahead. 

          However, there is no need to treat bad ideas with kiddy gloves.   But the idea that you can change “energies out in the universe in a way that benefits them or a client.” is a really really stupid idea.  And there is no distinction between a penis spell, a prayer and what you claim to do.  All are equally frauds.  And if I assume correctly, you’re response suggests that you have taken money in the past to provide a spell.  If so then you, personally, are a fraud, just like every single preacher and minister.   You are claiming to do something that you can not possibly do.   

          You seem to have mistaken the term ‘friendly’ for ‘not pointing out the inherent fraudulent nature of my business.’  

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

            Pointing out fraud is one thing, but implying stupidity for belief is another.  I do take money for Reiki sessions (as well as donate my time to various health/hospice patients), for tarot readings, and for crafting various poppets and charms, which I suppose are a certain kind of spell.

            The difference between me and the “big penis spell” people is that I am completely committed to the belief that what I do works and makes a positive difference in people’s lives.  I don’t charge people for advice, which I give freely and often.  I don’t charge people that I know can’t afford it.  I don’t charge the people in my direct community, a few who consider me a mentor.  I don’t try to cheat people, I do it as a way to contribute to the positive state of the world.

            If that makes me stupid, delusional, or the butt of jokes, so be it, I’m tough and I can take it.  

            • MatthewD

              Of course your committed that it works…what’s your livelyhood otherwise?

              You run a  business….so having people tell their friends and family about your kindness and charity is part of running it….in other words, you still expect compensation, just in the form of word of mouth to boost your legitimacy and customer base.

              • http://patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/ krisbradley

                Lol.  The little bit I make on Etsy is not “running a business”, it’s making a couple of extra bucks pocket money.  I don’t do kindnesses for business purposes, I do it to be kind.  

                • pureone

                  I share skepticism for free.

                • Pureone

                  Actually, the “pocket money” comment bugs the bejeebus outta me.  There are many here, if not most, who know how to cold read and do the tricks of the trade better than “true believers”. We know we could rake in the moolah from gullible people, and I mean really  pull in fat stacks of cash. 

                  We don’t.

                  We care whether what we believe/know is true or not and have good morals. Which is more important than bilking for Benjamins.

            • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

              Whether or not you believe in it is besides the point.   You are claiming to be able to do something (realigning the energy of the universe) that you clearly can not do.   What is the energy of the universe you claim to change?   How is it changed?   Is there any tangible proof that you actual can do what you claim?   Can your claims about paganism with stand examination?  Swallowing your own Kool-Aid doesn’t make it  any less poisonous.      

              Also it doesn’t matter how many people you don’t defraud.   You could work with 100 people.    You can have honest business with 99 of them, and only defraud one of them.  That still makes you a fraud.   Look at Key Lay or Bernie Madoff, each of them gave tens of millions of dollars to charity, and yet who would argue that they weren’t frauds?

              You are not stupid.  You may be delusional.  And you may accept what I think are stupid ideas.    But I would not mistake you for stupid.   

              Belief and faith can not be used as shields to protect ideas from examination or mockery.  Think about how truly horrible ideas have been wrapped up in faith and religion.

              • http://patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/ krisbradley

                Just going to have to agree to disagree with you on this.  While I agree there have been plenty of bad things that have come out of religion and faith, I also think good things come out of it as well.  I know my faith brings me plenty of happiness.  I know it’s not something that works for everyone, and that’s fine, too.

                Believe me, I know that faith can’t be used as a shield, especially after the death threats I got from the fundy Christians after someone nominated me for the Circle of Moms moms of faith contest.  I’ve endured plenty of mockery, a  couple of stalkers and several threats.  It doesn’t change my beliefs – which I also don’t try to foist on anyone else, though I defend my right to have them.

                Delusional or not, I do wish you well.  =)

    • Gus Snarp

      And legitimate spellcasters are willing to sell those prayers and manipulations of the universe’s energies for money? Isn’t that kind of disgusting if you actually believe in it?

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      Also I would like to add that “changing energies out in the universe in a way that benefits them or a client.” is just a more delicate way of writing “WICCAN BIG PENIS SPELL” 

  • Lurker111

    This reminds me of the John Collier classic, “The Chaser.”

    Note:  The title won’t make any sense to you if you don’t imbibe just a bit.
     

  • Mike Caton

    I’m ambivalent about this.  Of course it’s all nonsense and of course Ebay has the right to sell or not sell what they want, but how are we to transfer cash out of the pockets of the irrational and gullible and into ours?  I’m still going to put my magic sticks up there.  As my customers will tell you, who are YOU to decide for them what they’re supposed to buy?  What will really be interesting will be if crucifixes, communion wafers, kosher products, etc. are banned as well.  For some reason I think not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miranda-Carie-Cunningham/1309677162 Miranda Carie Cunningham

    Being snide about someones beliefs dose not make you a better person. Spells and healing session are just another form of pryer.  There meant to give people focus and support. Some hope and something to lean on. Even as an Atheist you must recognize the human need to have something to believe in.  In my belief most of these people manage the changes there selves. Its there own energies and belief that makes a difference. Plus I never have been a believer in trying to protect the worlds population from them selves. If you are stupid enough to think the BIG PENIS spell will actually work someone is going to find you and scam you . Its the peoples job to protect them selves. And this still dosent fix things like the wedding dress scams.

    • Nena

      I do agree with you that people really do need to take responsibility for believing in bullshit; but I think you are mistaken in your idea that atheists must recognize the human need to have something to believe in. There is no need to believe anything without evidence. 

      The fact that I don’t believe in spells or prayer doesn’t prevent me from making a difference in my own life. I do that with actions and with the help of the fantastic people in my life. Not with universe juice.

    • Gus Snarp

      Then doesn’t the notion of selling them disgust you?

  • Sindigo

    “Crap like this makes any legitimate spell caster come off looking like a crook. ” Hahahahaha!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

      If it makes you feel better, I’m also an ordained minister and Reiki Master.

      Oh, wait, that probably doesn’t help here, does it?  Lol.  =P

      • Sindigo

        Snap and snap. Though I filled in my application for ordination online a while ago. I think it still counts…

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

          Just making a friendly joke at my own expense.  I understand that many here think that my beliefs are ridiculous and unfounded.  I’m not above a little self-deprecation.

          I try to be respectful of others beliefs or non-beliefs as the case may be, even when they aren’t respectful or even tolerant of my own.

          • amycas

            I respect people, not beliefs. I see no reason to respect beliefs that haven’t been shown to be true.

          • Sindigo

            A belief isn’t necessarily worth respecting just because it’s sincerely held. I believed in Reiki when I did it but I grew out of thinking I had magical powers some time ago. Some of my friends still believe in all that hokum. I respect them but never pass up the opportunity to point out where they’re wrong.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        The Reiki treatment I received for shock when my step dad died when I was 14 made me feel a lot better.

        But it also might have been the dark room, the warm blanket, and the caring person.

        We (ok, I) try to respect people, not necessarily beliefs.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

          I’m sorry for the loss of your step-dad.

          Maybe it doesn’t matter if it was the Reiki or the caring.  Maybe  what matters is that it helped make you feel better.  =)

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I will say this to your credit, you’re not trying to tell other people what kind of sex they can have or that we should teach divination in science class.

            And for that I say “Blessed be”

  • Michael

    Souls have been banned for a while on eBay. The only debate is whether they are banned for trying to sell human parts or trying to sell something that doesn’t exist.

  • Theodore (Tugs) Njáll McCowan

          At the high school I taught at a few of the more creative students had an interesting take on the “soul”. It started when a student David wanted a plate of fries and was broke at the time. He jokingly sold his soul to a fellow student for the fries and gave him a receipt. When it came time to pay back his friend he found that his buddy had subdivided his soul and traded it for favors from other students. Those students had also fractioned David’s soul fraction as well. By the end of the year there were a dozen “souls” and fractions there of being traded. 
           It was a true underground economy.       The goal of course was to get your entire soul back by the end of the year. On one occasion the very talented musician David was reduced to performing a small concert in the stair well for a mere eighth of his original soul.      For which his friend charged admission .       The price of course. Your soul. Or someone else’s.

    • amycas

       That’s awesome. At this year’s camping trip with my local atheist group, they held a soul auction at the beginning of the day (I unfortunately couldn’t get there that early), but later I bought a guy’s soul from one ofthe kids for a handful of chips, then I sold it to somebody else for a hot dog or something. It somehow ended up back with the kids and they did all sorts of mean things to it (singed the edges and stomped on it and stuff).

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    I see they are still selling homeopathy though.  Maybe there is a way to flag items, and tell them that homeopathic stuff is no different than a magic potion.

    • Gus Snarp

      That’s a bit tricky, since homeopathy does sell a tangible product, whereas this move only addresses intangible things. Homeopathic remedies actually are what they say they are (as far as I know) in terms of materials, it’s just that they’re making false claims about what those materials can do and that people don’t know what the language describing the materials means (e.g.  Antimonium Tartaricum 6C means pure water).

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        A LOT of people think “homeopathy” means “herbal”.  I think if more people understood that homeopathy is JUST water, it might help.  I’m sure some will still buy the ‘water memory’ stuff, but at least it would open up a) tap water is a homeopathic remedy and b) you only need to buy any remedy once.  When you get down to your last drop, just add more water.

  • Gus Snarp

    For all those saying spells are like prayers and we shouldn’t be insulting and this move by Ebay is awful, or whatever, I’d note a couple of things.

    1. The move by Ebay *includes* prayer. So does Hemant’s post. Yeah, we get that spells are like prayer – i.e. they don’t do anything.

    2. If spells are like prayer and an essential part of your religious beliefs, feel free to go on performing them and believing in them, but how shitty are you if you want to buy and sell them? Buying and selling prayers? Spells that may “change energies”? And they’re an essential part of your belief? What is this, the church of Capitalism? Seems to me any true believer ought to be disgusted by this, whether Wiccan, Pagan, or Christian. Just as the selling of indulgences became a scandal tearing apart the Catholic Church, selling of prayers and spells ought to immediately signify someone who is completely illegitimate. They’re just con artists using someone else’s beliefs to make a profit. If you’re really a devout believer, you ought to be more disgusted with the sale of prayers and spells than we non-believers are.

    Oh, and if you’re going to sell something, you ought to have to show that there’s something there and it works in a concrete, measurable way. You believe in it? Fine, give it away, but don’t sell it if you can’t show effectiveness.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    no one’s suggesting eBay has banned tangible products relating to Paganism. Just the sham ones.

    Tangible products and sham products aren’t discrete categories.  Magic potions are included in the list.  Potions are shams, but they are tangible products.  Magical portions are commonly sold in brick-and-mortar New Age stores.

    I have zero problem banning the sale of prayers or spells because such sales require absolutely no follow-through on the part of the seller.  I’m a little more ambivalent about banning the sale of magic potions, since that involves a tangible good.  I’m only a little ambivalent, because in the end they’re still selling a product that won’t(can’t) work as advertised.

    I’m guessing a lot of potions will be relabeled as aromatherapy or something similar as a way to circumvent the rule.  If I can say one positive thing about Wiccan sham products, it’s that a lot of them smell really good. 

  • RosieY

    Don’t worry everyone, you can still buy blessed holy water on eBay. Whew!

  • amycas

    Anyone else notice that more than one Pagan has come on here to defend the selling of spells by saying they’re selling legitimate spells and not “make your penis bigger” spells. Are penis enlargement spells some sort of problem or meme in the Pagan community?


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