Hang around with magical people for very long – in person or on-line – and the question will come up. “Can somebody really curse someone else?” “Are psychic attacks real?” And eventually “I think I’ve been hexed.”
My standard answer is that it’s real but it’s rare.
Most people who would hex you don’t have the necessary skills to do it. Most people who have the skills have better things to do than to spend their time hexing you. As I discussed in A Ritual to Remove Curses We Place On Ourselves, idle words are not curses. Effective magic – for good or for ill – requires words plus desire plus will.
But rare doesn’t mean impossible. A casual survey of historical magic from ancient times to the present turns up plenty of hexes, curses, and other manipulative magic – somebody was using them. We occasionally run into people in the ordinary world who mean us harm – the same is true in the magical world.
Beginners tend to worry about being hexed far too much. Spend your time building a good, consistent, healthy spiritual practice instead.
But do this work for long enough and eventually you’re going to run into a legitimate hex, either directed at yourself or at someone who comes to you for help.
Here’s what to do when you think you’ve been hexed.
Hexes, curses, and psychic attacks
As with much in the realm of magic, the terms used in these conversations are rather loosely defined. To me, a hex is a one-time, one-shot, specific magical working intended to harm someone. A curse is deeper, more complicated, and longer-lasting. It takes more work to create, and generally, more work to remove. A psychic attack or energy attack is someone trying to harm or influence you in real time, although psychic attacks can be set up to be “automated” and persistent (think of advertising).
In practice, these categories have a lot of overlap. They’re all forms of baneful magic. Figuring out what do to about them is more a matter of examining your specific circumstances than in putting everything in the right category.
Which is to say, don’t get hung up on terminology.
How to determine if you’ve been hexed
Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy test to determine if you’ve been hexed. It’s mostly a process of elimination.
Before starting this post, I did some googling to see what others have written on the topic. The first site that came up had a list of “signs you’ve been hexed” that was so long and so vague it could apply to virtually anyone at any time. And while yes, those are all symptoms of hexes and curses, the list is useless as a diagnostic tool.
When I ask someone “what makes you think you’ve been hexed?” the answer is usually a run of bad luck. You got sick, you had an accident, you lost something of value. And usually, the tangible problems are accompanied by bad feelings, either about the situation or about life in general.
The first step is to eliminate mundane causes. Diseases are caused by viruses and bacteria, and they’re amplified by environmental factors like stress and fatigue. Accidents happen when we’re distracted or impaired, or when we fail to properly assess risk factors. Bad things happening makes us feel bad, especially when we try to assign existential meaning to random events.
Most times, bad things happening have ordinary causes, and multiple bad things happening just means random chance is against you at the moment. If you examine things mindfully, you will usually find that an ordinary explanation is the best explanation. You aren’t hexed – you just need to be more mindful and remove stress from your life (I know, easier said than done).
But one of the definitions of magic is moving the odds in your favor. Or, someone else moving the odds against you. If an ordinary explanation doesn’t fit, look for a extraordinary one.
Is the problem in your own spiritual life?
Before you look for external causes, take a good look in the mirror. If your mundane life isn’t going well – whether it’s your fault or not – that can increase the odds that bad things will happen to you, and that you’ll react to them badly.
But also look at your spiritual life. If you’re ignoring your ancestors, they may be ignoring you. Our Gods are not petty and vindictive, but if you promised to do something and you didn’t, They’re not shy about letting you know about it. If you asked for initiation, you may be getting it in ways you never imagined.
Have you had dealings with the Fair Folk? Have some of them set up operation in your vicinity? If so, have you been less than impeccable with your word? Have you been less than respectful – by their standards, not by yours?
What feels like having been hexed may simply be the consequences of your own actions – and that will require more action to remedy.
Who might want to hex you?
If there’s no good ordinary cause, and you’re sure you haven’t offended your Gods or the Good Neighbors, then maybe you have been hexed. The next question is who would go to the trouble of hexing you? Do they have the ability to do it? Are they likely to know someone who would do it for them?
For all that some people joke about turning their ex into a toad, most people simply don’t believe that (or any other form of hexing) is possible, so they never think to try it.
You don’t have to discover who cast the curse to break it. It helps to know and it makes it easier to keep them from doing it again. But most curse breaking techniques will work whether you know where it came from or not.
Beware of jumping to conclusions. Especially beware of making accusations without proof. That’s how witch hunts get started: the kind of real witch hunts with real witch burnings that still happen today in some parts of the world.
If you don’t know anyone who might have both the desire and ability to hex you, you may need to do some more digging.
Divination can help – but choose your reader carefully
Identifying root causes of problems is one of the most appropriate uses of divination. If you can read for yourself, break out your cards or runes or whatever you use and see what you can see. If you can’t read for yourself, engage the services of a competent reader or diviner.
But choose your reader carefully. The most common form of divination fraud is someone who tells you there’s a terrible curse on you, and then offers to remove it for a fee. Sometimes they ask for several thousand dollars up front. Other times it starts small and builds and before you know it, an unsuspecting person has lost their life’s savings.
The vast majority of readers, witches, and other people offering magical services are ethical practitioners who charge a fair price for a fair service. If their rates are comparable to what a plumber or an electrician would charge for a similar amount of time, pay it and say thank you. But if their rates are more like a Wall Street lawyer’s, if they pressure you to pay for more readings and more workings, and if they aren’t producing results, walk away.
Never be afraid to get a second opinion. That’s no excuse for “reader shopping” until you find someone who will tell you what you want to hear, but if what a reader tells you doesn’t seem right to you, ask someone else.
Prevention is the best cure
Build a good, consistent, daily spiritual practice. Ground and center every day. Learn how to shield. Cleanse and ward your house periodically. Charge and carry an amulet or other apotropaic materials. Basic spiritual hygiene doesn’t just protect you from residual energies, it also protects you from run-of-the-mill hexes.
These practices are also the best initial treatment if you have been hexed. They strengthen you and they strengthen your protections. They break lesser malevolent connections and they weaken the stronger ones. They make it less likely that what got in once can get in again.
If what you can do isn’t enough, call in some help. Get your magically-inclined friends to add their power to yours in the cleansing and shielding. They don’t have to be witches and Pagans to do this. So long as they aren’t aggressively skeptical or think magic is evil, they can help. This works best in person, but it can be done remotely, especially if the remote work is coordinated and done at the same time.
Break the connection
The good news is that cleansing and shielding will take care of most of the hexes and curses you’re likely to encounter. The bad news is that if cleansing and shielding doesn’t take care of it, the next steps get more complicated.
Most magic requires a connection. Find that connection and break it. Cord cutting spells can help. So can physical isolation – this is why it helps to know who’s hexing you.
It is absolutely not true that people can’t hurt you if you aren’t aware of their magic. That idea is rooted in a materialist worldview that sees magic as nothing more than psychological manipulations. A competent magician can hex someone without their awareness. But the stronger the connection between the hexing magician and their target, the easier it will be for the hex to get to the right place and do its damage. Isolation – in person, in the spirit world, and on the internet – makes that connection harder to maintain.
And while magic is more than psychology, there is a psychological element to it. Take that away and the hex becomes less effective.
Another good method is a mirror spell. Patti Wiggington describes this (and some other useful curse-breaking techniques) in this article on the Learn Religions website. Better shielding can also help break the connection.
More extreme curses
If they’ve sent a demon or other spirit after you, things get really complicated – you’re probably going to need help from your ancestors at the least, and maybe your Gods. Pray and make offerings for their intervention. If you need to make amends for something that might have caused them to withdraw their protection, do it now.
Sometimes the only defense is a good offense. For those times, I offer A Modern Pagan Guide to Cursing.
If none of this works, it’s time to call in a professional: the best witch, Druid, priest, or other spirit worker you can find. You need someone with the knowledge and experience to figure out what’s wrong, and the skills and connections to do what needs to be done to remedy it.
Magical battles between magicians make for great fiction. Reality is rarely so dramatic. Those who wish us harm use mundane methods – those with power do so effectively. Traditionally, witchcraft has been employed as asymmetric warfare by those who had no other recourse.
But hexing and cursing are tools in the magic user’s toolbox, and occasionally those tools are wielded against us. Prevention is the best cure.
And what can’t be prevented can be broken.