“One cannot shape the world without being reshaped in the process. Each gain of power requires its own sacrifice.” –Phil Hine
A lot of Witches have a specialty — something they excel at above everything else. Sometimes it’s herbalism, or astrology, or occult business management; maybe they’re professional cartomancers, or they can heal with energy to an almost miraculous degree.
Me? I’m just really good at binding. It’s kind of a gift. And I have made peace with that.
As previously mentioned, one of the first spells I ever cast involved binding a co-worker who was stalking me, and I’ve learned a lot since then. Seeing as how we’re currently stuck within the confines of a Mercury retrograde (and because there’s still a name-paper in my freezer), I figured now would be a good time to expound on the subject.
All Bound Up and Nowhere to Go
The scene in The Craft in which protagonist Sarah casts a spell on antagonist Nancy nicely encapsulates the process of binding: While wrapping ribbon around a photo of Nancy, Sarah intones, “I bind you, Nancy, from doing harm; harm against other people, and harm against yourself.”
Note that it wasn’t, “I curse you, Nancy” — Sarah didn’t want to hurt her. But she also didn’t want Nancy to hurt any more people, and she didn’t want Nancy doing any further damage to her own psyche.
Bindings are protective as well as restrictive. And the mechanism is a little different than other types of coercive magic, in that in order to achieve results, the Witch must also place the restrictions they’re imposing on someone else upon themself.
At least, that’s my experience. But my experience has not failed me yet, so I’m rolling with it.
[Content Warning: Mention of sexual assault.]
Way back in the early 2000s, a serial rapist was terrorizing the Bay Area in Northern California, and a group of Witches decided to do something about it. In the dead of night, they gathered at a spot where one of the attacks had occurred, and they performed a binding ritual against the unknown assailant, who was “coincidentally” identified and arrested the following afternoon.
And this is how I learned how binding really works. In order to power the spell, the Witches who cast it renounced the ability to cause harm with their genitals, thus binding the rapist from causing any further harm with his.
That right there is the key to effective binding. We’re not just tying a person up with metaphorical string: We’re preventing them from taking a certain course of action by relinquishing the ability to pursue that course of action ourselves. For instance, if I’m going to bind someone from spreading rumors about me, I’m also binding myself from spreading rumors about them. It’s basically a metaphysical quid pro quo.
Binding by the Book
If you find yourself needing to cast a binding spell, the following template from The Spiral Dance by Starhawk might be helpful. It’s similar to the spell from The Craft (and may have inspired it, for all I know) — it just calls for a poppet instead of a picture.
According to Starhawk:
Hold the poppet in your hands. Visualize a silver net falling over it. and binding the person it represents.
Take red ribbon and wrap it around the poppet, tying it firmly, and binding off parts of the body that could conceivably hurt others. Charge the binding with power.
By air and earth,
By water and fire,
So be you bound,
As I desire.
By three and nine,
Your power I bind.
By moon and sun,
My will be done.
Sky and sea
Keep harm from me.
Cord go round,
Power be bound,
Now be sealed.
Bury the poppet during a waning moon, far from your house, under a heavy rock.
A poppet can really be anything, from a handmade doll to a store-bought action figure, but a photo of your target will work just fine, as will writing out their name five, seven, or nine times on a small, square piece of paper. Once you’ve got one of the above ready to go, you can move forward with the binding as described.
Frozen Just Desserts
Freezer spells come out of Hoodoo: As long as there has been easy access to ice, rootworkers have been using it to freeze adversaries in place, or into silence, or out of their lives.
While related to regular binding spells, freezer spells are unambiguous in their intent. The link at the beginning of the previous paragraph will provide you with a ton of info on the subject, but the down-and-dirty is that a freezer spell is cast by getting hold of someone’s personal concern (or picture, or name-paper) and freezing it in a liquid with magical properties, such as urine, vinegar, or War Water.
I was taught that there is a taboo in Hoodoo against using tap water for freezer spells, and I mostly try to adhere to that. However, if there’s an immediate need for spellwork, sometimes I just have to make do with what I have on hand — if I’m fresh out of vinegar and don’t need to pee, it’s better to just go with tap water than not cast a spell at all.
But before I get into examples, I want to hand out a wee bit of advice.
If you are a Pagan on the Internet, and you don’t want your “true” identity to be public knowledge, maybe — and this is only a thought — don’t share multiple pictures of the self-published poetry collections you penned under your legal name, with captions like, “Look!!! I wrote books!!! This is definitely me.” Because then your followers will, y’know, know what it is. That’s just science.
So, with that covered: A few months back, a self-proclaimed Big Name Pagan started harassing an acquaintance of mine on Twitter. the gist of the situation was that he’d swiped the title of her blog for an upcoming project, and when she was like, “Hi, that’s not okay,” he explained that he was “much more successful” than she was and therefore entitled to it.
It was really none of my business, but I don’t like it when people are mean to my friends, so I jumped into the thread and posted some thoughts. Dude came for me, of course, in this very “Your comments do not follow Robert’s Rules of Order and also you’re dumb” kind of way. In response, and because I knew he got frothy when people used his legal name, I aimed low and was like, “Whatever, Frank.”
Okay, it was a dick move on my part. I own that. And I figured he would deservedly call me bad words and block me, but that that would be as far as it went. Instead, he lost his damn mind, y’all. Like, screaming about being doxxed and threatening legal action against me and the person whose intellectual property he was trying to steal.
A week later, he’d dropped the whole thing entirely. He also ended up making some rather unfortunate remarks about cultural appropriation, which led to him locking his tweets in defense against the resulting tsunami of enraged comments.
So yeah, I’m just saying that tap water will work in a pinch. But I am also now never without vinegar in my pantry, because it always pays to be prepared.
Sulfur on the Soles of My Shoes
Other methods of magic can be combined with binding to create stronger overall effects, my personal preference being Hot Foot spells, which are designed to drive away troublemakers. A basic Hot Foot recipe is black pepper, red pepper, and salt, although traditional blends usually include black mustard seed and sulfur as well. Some people will also toss in dirt from an anthill or wasp nest for added oomph — I’ve never found this necessary, but if it sounds good to you, go for it.
My late friend Eddy used to cast what he called “Go With God” spells, in which he’d incorporate the herb Abre Camino (the name of which literally translates to “Road Opener“) into his Hot Foot workings. The idea was to send problematic people towards new opportunities, far, far away from him, which impressed and inspired the hell out of me.
And here’s what I did with that inspiration.
My buddy Alejandro and I were once on an event planning committee together, along with his ex-boyfriend, Jimminy, who absolutely refused to leave him alone. Jimminy wasn’t a bad person, really, but he had a lot of problems, along with an untreated personality disorder, and in his determination to rekindle his relationship with Alejandro (who was decidedly not having it), he was making it excruciating for the rest of us to try to get the event up and running, and he was making a good number of people miserable, including himself.
Reasoning with Jimminy didn’t work — he was convinced that he was the victim in this situation. [Spoiler: He was not.] Setting firm boundaries didn’t work, either — he just kept blundering over them. At one point, I put my foot down and was like, “You are not to speak to, email, instant message, call, or in any way interact with Alejandro,” and his response was to do the exact opposite, repeatedly. Finally, having exhausted all other means, with several committee members ready to quit and the event itself about to fall apart, I channeled Eddy and took the following steps:
- I carved Jimminy’s name backward across the top of a seven-day Road Opener candle and dressed it counterclockwise with anointing oil, Hot Foot Powder, and marjoram (to protect friends and family).
- While the candle burned, I bound an image of Jimminy and placed it in a small, black, velveteen pouch, along with a heaping teaspoon of the Hot Foot/marjoram blend.
- I placed the pouch at the base of the candle to marinate, and once the candle burned down, I put the pouch in a padded envelope and mailed it to a non-existent address in Jimminy’s home state. (I also made sure there was no return address on the envelope.)
I am happy to report that the event went off with only a couple of minor apocalypses, and that Jimminy is happy and healthy somewhere that’s not here. And honestly, I would love to say grumpy things about him — or Frank, for that matter — but I can’t. It’s not even about the ethics at play: I just gave up the option of slandering them when I fixed it so that they couldn’t continue slandering me.
But let’s take a moment to talk about ethics anyway.
Regardless of my history with binding work, I am not here to dictate ethical principles to you. If your personal moral code prohibits you from casting binding spells, that is totally okay; if your personal moral code allows for the use of binding magic, that is also totally okay.
And if your personal moral code demands that other people either follow whatever rules you arbitrarily decide are best for them or face the consequences, please reply to this post with your full, legal name and a recent photograph. No reason. But thank you in advance for your assistance.