In a recent private conversation, a friend mentioned that they once wished something would go away forever – and it did.
That was then – this is now. Now they have a rather different outlook on life (they’re a Pagan and not a Christian) and they regret the absence of something they’d like to have back. They said “I really shouldn’t have cursed myself like that.”
I’m not sure how widespread self-cursing is. Most times we don’t realize what we’re doing even after it’s done. And self-curses tend to be rather embarrassing – it’s not something most of us want to talk about. But I know it happens – I’ve done it myself. I’ve also successfully removed a curse I placed on myself. So I think the matter is worth a deeper look.
Idle words are not curses
Self-help gurus warn us to watch our self-talk. They’re not wrong. If we hear something frequently enough – no matter where it comes from – we will often start to believe it. Particularly when we move into “always” and “never” language (“I always screw this up” “I’ll never have a decent life”) we can set ourselves up for failure.
But there’s a huge gap between words spoken in anger or in depression and an actual magical working. If words alone could work magic, thousands of bad drivers would burst into flames on a daily basis.
Beyond that, an obsession with careless words is often a form of toxic positivity and victim blaming.
Words can have great power, but they require the proper context to be anything more than idle chatter. You did not create a curse just because you said bad things about yourself.
Words plus desire is magic
A cliché reminds us that talk is cheap. You can say anything, whether it’s true or not, whether you mean it or not, whether it’s harmful or not.
But put desire behind the words and something changes. Desire adds power.
We often use “desire” in a sexual context. While its use here is much broader, the sexual connotations of the word can help us understand its role in creating magic. Desire isn’t a want. It isn’t a whim or a fancy. Desire flows from a deep, primal need. That need may be short-sighted and fulfilling the desire may have serious unintended consequences, particularly if it’s done in a reactive manner. But it’s deep and it’s real.
Most self-curses begin as a desire expressed in words. “I never want to see that again.” “I want my ex to come back to me.” “I just want to be normal.” These aren’t mere words. They’re words with power behind them – the power of desire.
Words plus desire plus will is strong magic
A simple look at the state of the world shows that desire – no matter how strong – is no guarantee that change will happen. Some of that is because even the strongest magic has limits. If you’re trying to stop a hurricane – or change an unjust society – you’ll quickly find out that while you may be strong, the storm is stronger.
On a personal level, though, getting results requires more than saying “I want.” The Universe is not full of servant spirits waiting to bring us what we ask for. Neither is it full of demons waiting for us to ask for the wrong thing so they can give it to us and then delight in our misery.
Defining “will” can be difficult, particularly in a magical sense. My best definition is choice plus commitment. Will is saying “out of many possibilities, I choose this” while also saying “and I will do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
Words powered by desire start the engine of magic. Will shifts the transmission into drive.
When we want what we say we want badly enough to work toward it, we start to get results.
And if what we say we want isn’t what we really want, or if it’s something harmful? We get it anyway.
And that can be a curse.
Is it a curse?
Most times when people say “I think I’ve been cursed” what they really mean is “I’ve made a long series of bad choices and it’s a lot easier to blame it on some witch I don’t like than to admit I need to re-evaluate my decision making processes.”
Still, sometimes it really is a curse. And sometimes it’s a curse you put on yourself.
As always, when you suspect something has a magical cause, first eliminate all mundane possibilities. Mundane problems are best solved with mundane solutions… and mundane solutions are almost always simpler and more reliable than magical solutions (even though they may be harder to achieve). Do divination to help you find the cause, whatever it may be.
If you suspect you’ve cursed yourself, I recommend a series of contemplative meditations to call up old memories. Understanding what you did, why you did it, and why it was ultimately bad for you will go a long way in not only helping you remove the curse, but also in keeping you from making the same mistake again.
A ritual to remove the curse
Most self-curses are a form of binding. We don’t really want to harm ourselves. We just want to restrict ourselves and what comes into our lives in a way that seems right at the time, but that ultimately does more harm than good.
[If you’re thinking of self-harm, please read Living With Thoughts of Suicide – A Personal Story, or at least the TL;DR Summary at the bottom of the post. That’s a different matter than the unintentional self-harm we’re discussing in this post.]
Fortunately, bindings are relatively easy for the magician who created them to undo. This is a method I’ve used with good results.
Begin by casting a circle, calling the spirits of the elements and directions, and inviting the land spirits and ancestors to join you and add their magic to yours. If you don’t have a standard way of doing this, use the Opening and Invocations from one of the Solitary Rituals. If you regularly work with a deity, invite Them and ask for Their help.
Do not call someone based solely on function – the Gods are not vending machines. If you need the help of a God and don’t know who to call, now’s a good time to start forming a relationship with Someone.
You will need something to represent yourself: a picture, a doll, some object you identify with strongly. It may get damaged during the working (particularly if it’s a picture) so choose mindfully. Hold the object in your hands: touch it, feel it, look at it. Say three times “this object is me and I am it.”
Take some cotton string or cord and wrap it around the object that is you. Wrap it as tightly and as many times as seems appropriate. As you do, say “this cord represents the curse I have placed on myself, the restrictions and limitations I created.” The more specific you can be with these words (“this represents my desire to live the life my mother wanted me to live and to meet her expectations”) the better. When you’re done wrapping, tie it tightly and cut the excess cord or string.
Spend a few minutes looking at the bound photo or other object. Feel the bindings that surround you and constrain you. They’ve been there for a long time – now you’re aware of them. Now you can do something about them.
Cutting the bonds
When you feel the curse in your body, use a knife or scissors and cut the cords all the way through. If you have a special knife you keep for cutting material things for magical reasons, use it. If you don’t, an ordinary knife will do just fine. As you cut, say “I sever and release the bonds I placed upon myself.” Add other words to customize the working to your particular situation.
Feel yourself growing loosed and free.
Now place the cut cords in a cauldron or other fire-proof container and set them on fire. It may help to use a bit of 91% rubbing alcohol as a fire starter. Watch them burn and feel the curse burning with them. Feel yourself completely free, ready and able to make new choices better in alignment with your deepest desires and your true will.
When the cords are completely burned, say “the curse is broken and I am free to live as I choose to live.”
Hold the object used to represent yourself and say three times “this photo/doll/etc is now only a photo/doll/etc. It is it and I am me.”
End the ritual. Thank all the spiritual persons who watched and aided your rite, then open the circle.
When the fire has cooled safely, gather the ashes into a bag of some sort and tie the bag shut using fresh cord. Now dispose of the remains somewhere out of your house and off your property. When I did this, I drove to a nearby convenience store and dropped the bag in a public trash can.
This ritual will remove a self-imposed curse. It will not undo all the damage that curse has caused you over the years. But it will allow you to open yourself to paths and possibilities that were closed off. And that will begin the process of healing, and of building a better, more fulfilling life going forward.