Banishing, binding, cursing and hexing. Some consider these forms of witchcraft “baneful,” implying that these practices are inherently harmful. There are those who avoid these types of workings, instead focusing on “blessings.” However, baneful spells and spirits are a necessary part of witchcraft as a whole. Denying this is dangerous, much more so than working with such fierce energies.
“I’m Saying This Out of Love” Usually Means The Opposite
Whenever I read the words “I’m saying this out of love,” I instantly start to twitch. The comment on a social media post went on…and on…about how baneful witchcraft was completely wrong. Saying all this “out of love” when it was very critical. Of course, it’s a personal choice to engage in any form of witchcraft. The post went dangerously into the arena of toxic positivity by claiming that anyone who feels they’ve been cursed is letting this happen to them. It continued to say that hexing and binding were wrong, proclaiming that “blessings” were the only acceptable form of witchcraft. This post got me to thinking about why baneful witchery is necessary.
The Foolishness of Believing That Baneful Magick is “Bad”
The overall tone of the comment I read, which is only one example of the many similar things I’ve heard over the past two decades, is that any practice that involves perceived risk of harm to another is to be avoided. Sometimes this gets extended to any witchcraft involving another. Often the basic premise is that witches shouldn’t go around impacting the lives of others. This idea is problematic for many reasons. First, it assumes that witchcraft works in such a powerful way that our love spells, for example, will irrefutably force someone to do something that is entirely against their will. True witchcraft doesn’t work like that. It’s a subtle push in a certain direction almost all of the time.
A second issue with the baneful magick is “bad” mindset is this weird idea that we can do witchcraft that doesn’t impact others. It always does. I can’t imagine a witchcraft that doesn’t involve others, at least in tertiary ways. If I am working magick to manifest something for me, there’s a chance that it will be taken from another. A prosperity spell for myself will ultimately benefit those I am close to. Healing myself undoubtedly changes my relationships. Everything we do impacts the others in our lives and often complete strangers. Ripples in the pond. Drops of water in the ocean. As above, so below. We are all connected in ways known and unknowable. To assume otherwise is naive.
Victim Blaming And Witch-splaining
Baneful magick has long been associated with marginalized witches, who often don’t have the luxury of white-lighting things that they may desire, but aren’t necessary for their survival. If you’re in a desperate situation where you have little power, baneful witchcraft offers a way out. Cursing an abusive partner. Banishing prejudice, racism, sexism and homophobia. It’s easy to be “love and light” when your life is not in danger. Finger-pointing at those who have traditionally used baneful witchcraft, or who cast such spells to survive in the here and now, comes from a place of privilege.
It’s potential witch-splaining when this sort of talk gets extended by those who have a privileged position to those who don’t. Talking down, victim blaming, high-horse riding. All imply that others aren’t capable of making their own decisions. Very different than sharing knowledge. We don’t always have a choice, or the best one is to use a baneful spell. This is more true for vulnerable witches.
Being On The Receiving End And Protection Magick
The other side of baneful witchcraft is being the recipient of such acts. Some think that performing them renders us more vulnerable to them. I would argue the opposite is true, at least when they are properly done. There’s a deeper concern about this sort of “you get what you ask for” approach. My problem is with implying that hex-acceptance is always a choice. It’s not, anymore than the sometimes required cursing. I typically have a sense when someone is up to no good, but not always. I can be busy, distracted, etc. My energy radar can be busy with other things. Protection magick, shielding and boundaries are all baneful in the sense that they impact the lives of those attempting to mess with us. Honestly, if you’re coming after me, but your attempts bounce back at you, you are getting exactly what you deserve.
Saying that we can always resist harmful witchcraft directed at us leans in the direction of “it’s her fault because she was wearing a short skirt,” while claiming we always have a choice to resist the seduction of “bad” magick is like saying we should never fight back. Both are foolish.
Benefits of Baneful Magick
Beyond the obvious potential benefit of achieving our desired goal, there are many other reasons why baneful magick is a required part of witchcraft as a whole.
Embracing The History of Witchcraft
Witchcraft has a past that was at least partially built upon the practice of baneful magick. Perhaps more importantly, the perception of the power of these spells led to witches being feared and worse. A phenomenon I noticed over the years is that a lot of those who endorse only “white” magick aren’t scholars of the history of the craft. There’s nothing inherently wrong with not being fascinated by ancient texts or practices, but there is something to be said for having some understanding. The more I’ve learned about the known history of witchcraft, the deeper – and more effective – my own practice has become.
Not Letting History Repeat Itself
There’s also something profound to be gained by studying both the historical practice of witchcraft and the records railing against it. Perhaps the latter is even more important. We live in an age of incredible personal freedom, and are experiencing an unprecedented shift in the ways witchery is practiced. While this is wonderful, the lessons of the past clearly demonstrate that a backlash always occurs. The more witchcraft claims to move away from the past, ignoring our history of baneful practices, the more we place ourselves at risk for another public movement against us. The mantle of witchcraft is heavy with responsibility. Baneful magick has always been part of witchcraft. Denying this dishonors the craft and practitioners.
Allowing The Spirits To Be WholeWitchcraft requires working with natural and supernatural forces. Some of these forces are best used for baneful techniques. Binding botanicals, like my beloved birch, are one example. There’s great variety in which ones any individual practitioner uses, but the spirits are what they are. Denying these spirits their true talents by forcing them to only behave in truncated “positive” ways is a bit like denying someone their truth.
Honoring The Ancestors
When I cast a banishing spell, I feel the presence of Hekate’s ancient witches. I’ve learned from their baneful sorcery, their failures and triumphs. While knowing this history honors witchcraft, working with the witch ancestors and associated deities, including demons for some of us, further respects the craft as a whole. Moreover, even angels can be involved in baneful practices. White-lighting all of witchcraft robs the spirits who share their powers with us their true nature. It also dishonors them.
Practicing Sovereign Witchcraft
Using the full array of witchcraft techniques available permits us to stand fully in our power. Returning, reversing, transmuting, etc. of energy directing at us and banishings, bindings and cursings are all basic practices of sovereign witchcraft. Denying these techniques as valid for all witches is unwise. You do you. However, these practices exist. Personally, I’d rather control the energy being directed towards me than let it get dumped elsewhere, as happens with vague self-protection techniques. Cursing is almost always done as a response to a threat to our personal agency.
Problem Focused Magick
“Energy flows where attention goes” so that the more we focus on a problem of any kind, the more powerful it becomes. This depletes our sovereignty when we aren’t focused on the solution, what we psychologists call “problem focused coping” and instead is “wishing thinking” or “avoidance coping.” To me, hexing, binding, banishing and all forms of witchcraft are only effective when their psychospiritual energy is more about “problem focused coping.” Highly emotional witchery is risky business, no matter what the focus. Even in situations where we have little actual control, baneful witchcraft offers the promise of gaining sovereignty.
Baneful Witchcraft Helps Us Grow
Summoning baneful spirits is challenging. It’s only through expanding our capabilities that we grow. Rebirth often happens by banishing our former selves, or those who caused us harm. This is exhilarating, providing the opportunity for us to become powerful. Of course, we can go too far beyond our talents and suffer consequences. Isn’t that how we grow? True initiation comes from our heartbreaks and mistakes. Being ethical about our magickal choices is sovereign. There’s no separation between “life” and witchcraft. Without pain, there is no power. All life needs friction. Baneful witchcraft provides this.
All Witchcraft Can Be Baneful
One of my ultimate pet peeves is when someone claims that they never do “negative” or “black” magick, but goes onto explain how their “blessings” or “positive” spells have remarkably similar intentions but are wrapped up in different language. If you’re protecting yourself from someone, you’re potentially impacting their lives. If you are “blessing” yourself, possibly you are taking from someone else. A banishing can be exceptionally beneficial. Binding yourself, for example in a handfasting, is very loving (I hope so). Cursing gives us power against those who control us. All of these speak of “positive” witchcraft, just like “white” magick can be very baneful. Witchcraft is witchcraft. It’s what we do with it that matters.
Baneful Witchcraft Is About Facing Our Shadows
Avoiding baneful witchcraft is like never going outside in the dark, except much more dangerous. To avoid darkness is to forever be trapped in a false existence where the shadow self reigns supreme. Witchcraft is about reaching into the shadows and facing our own. It’s through baneful magick, including working with poisonous herbs and spirits, that we develop a full understanding of the darkness in the world and within ourselves. What we don’t seek to understand often controls us. The more I try to understand my own shadows through the practice of baneful witchcraft, the more truth and freedom I find. Ultimately, whether anyone includes baneful workings as part of their practice is an individual decision. However, the more we honor these spirits and techniques, the stronger witchcraft as a whole becomes.
This article was inspired by an excellent discussion in my group, The Witches’ Realm. Apply to join.