“White magic is poetry. Black magic is anything that actually works.” –Victor Anderson
Although I dislike the word “uptick,” it’s appropriate in this situation: I’ve noticed an uptick lately in the number of Pagans and Witches complaining about a “Love and Light” attitude permeating social media groups, and how annoying it is to deal with in the midst of conversations on (and I quote) “Dark Magick.”
Like, someone will have a conniption about how awful the Love and Light people are, and a bunch of other people will jump in all, “Yes! And they’re very judgemental,” which always nails me in the funny bone. And then someone else will be all, “You can’t have Light without the Dark!” and everyone starts chanting about how real Witchcraft is neither black nor white but gray, and 80% of them end their comments with “Blessed Be!” Which cracks me up even further.
Personally, I don’t really understand what “Dark Magick” is supposed to be, nor where the demarcation is between the “Dark Magick” and the “Love and Light” crowds. When the superficials are scraped off, both sides seem pretty identical to me — discussing manifestation and sharing the same viral memes and whatnot.
Plus, each side has its own restrictions in place: The LAL people may be misinterpreting the Threefold Law, but the DM people are often hobbled by a misunderstanding of closed practices. And they’re all making moon water and casting cord-cutting spells, so in the long run, the commonalities outweigh the divergences.
I get what people mean when they say that “true Witchcraft is gray,” but I feel like it’s more accurate to say that the true Witch is gray, existing liminally outside of socially-approved ethics and using whatever works in any given situation to get the results they’re looking for. Sometimes that’s going to look like “light,” and sometimes it’ll look like “dark,” but the outcome the Witch achieves is more important than the aesthetics of the mechanism.
Within Discordianism, the only real binary is creation and destruction: Everything else is bimodal or an illusion or both. “Light” and “dark,” for example, aren’t really opposites, because both are dynamic — there are points where they are distinct from each other, and points where they are indistinguishable. Plus it depends on who’s viewing them, and the grid they’re using as a reference point.
Following is a passage from the Principia Discordia that I always fall back on when the Love and Light vs. Dark Magick debates kick into overdrive:
The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Eristic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper that is the level of distinction making.
With our concept making apparatus called “mind” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper that is the level of concept.
We look at the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids.
A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle.
Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.
DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like “relation”, no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is “absence of female-ness”, or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.
The belief that “order is true” and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.
The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered.
To sum all that up, “Light” and “Dark” in reference to Witchcraft are both arbitrary and contingent on the given grid applied. I can look at my practice through one grid and say, “Witchcraft is only Love and Light,” but this would be an illusion. I can look at my practice through a different grid and say, “Witchcraft is only Dark Magick,” but this would also be an illusion.
Or, I can set the grids aside and say, “Witchcraft is Witchcraft,” at which point I’d be looking at some truth. And I’d also be emulating one of my dearest friends, who’s always talking about his Reiki attunements and is currently trying to convince me to accept the cosmic power of moldavite, but who also has expert knowledge of herbal poisons and could easily take out his entire homeowners’ association with one batch of cupcakes.
That is the kind of Witch worth striving to be.
And this feels like a jarring segue, but someone recently asked if I could update readers on my work with the Liminal Spirits Oracle, and I’m happy to oblige, especially since it currently ties into the light/dark dichotomy. I’ve been doing daily readings with the cards, but answers to yes/no questions are sometimes enigmatic, so I’ve been wanting a companion something-or-other to help offer clarification.
What I needed, I decided, was a yes/no divination coin, which I could use to add positive or negative takes on readings. Like, if I pull the Peacock card in response to a question about handling a delicate situation, I could flip the coin to determine whether the best course of action would be holding my tongue or speaking my mind.
Bopping over to Etsy, I found a righteously extensive selection of reasonably-priced “decision-making” coins, but I was eventually able to narrow it down to three options. With all three listings open in my browser, I pulled a card for each one.
My thinking was that since the coin would be used to facilitate communication with the spirits of the deck, the deck itself should pick the coin it liked the best. And the cards themselves were clear enough to immediately identify a preference.
Option 1: Burial Ground – Something to be left in the past. Okay, then. We’re moving away from this one.
Option 2: Cat – Wait until the right opportunity. Definitely not a go-ahead in this situation.
Option 3: Toad – Familiar of Witches; Fortune reveals itself. Ding ding ding. We have a winner.
With the deck’s blessing, I went ahead and made the purchase, and the coin should arrive within the next week or so. And I am buoyant about that.
And in keeping with the hazy shade of Witchcraft, here’s the coin the deck picked:
I sent this pic to Tempest, who was like, “On brand,” which made me feel like I was on track with the work I’m doing. So that was pretty cool. And I appreciate that a deck without good/evil connotations picked a good/evil coin, and that either side of the coin could mean yes or no, depending on the situation and the question asked.
But what I really love is that the coin will create new grids through which to view the cards, and that it will reinforce the illusory natures of Light and Dark in general.
Will “Stay Evil” lead to happy endings? Will “Be Good” have me breaking laws and furniture? We’ll just have to wait and see. But every flip of coin and card will be a little taste of metaphysical reality, and that in itself will be enough to keep me contentedly in the gray.