Back again for another helping? Come inside and sit for a spell, we have a lot of lies to tell, and the kids are asleep until morning. Tonight’s topic is betrayal. Most of us have experienced this crisis in various degrees. Betrayal is a byproduct of material existence, dealing with others, and having unfulfilled expectations. Bitter and burning, once savored, it changes the person, whether giver or receiver. The experience of betrayal is both an action and a response. Like the process of combustion, it a chemical reaction ignited by a single spark. The event has an irrevocable effect on one’s consciousness. Relationships undergo an atomic alteration, and something new is formed.
One interesting characteristic of this experience is that much of it is perceptual. There is a relationship between two parties, which is changed and redefined by a great wound. The person in the active role feels empowered, that the choices made are necessary. The receiving party feels disempowered, that a crime, whether moral or legal, has been committed. Neither side can fathom the other’s motivations. This is the essential conflict, as each party feels an intense desire to be granted some validation from the other side. Fundamentally, most agree that some misdeed has occurred, but no one agrees on the appropriate resolution.
The ancients were not strangers to the concept of betrayal. Most religious texts abound with concepts or stories of transgression, and various consequences that ensued. Historically, most practical magick is focused on propitiating spirits, deities, or other entities in an effort to win favor or to punish one’s enemies. It is only recently in the twentieth century that magical traditions have evolved in the West that focus almost exclusively on healing arts, and discourage practitioners from expressing violent or combative energies in directed attack. One recognizable example is the Wiccan concept of “Harm None” which advises adherents to adopt a policy of non-aggression when working with magickal energy. The idea being that there are less retaliatory methods to settle debts. By sending out curses or other forms of destructive energy, the originating issue will not be resolved, and ultimately leads to karmic fallout for the sender.
I endorse this concept, and strive to abide by this principle in my own practice. However, this is a challenging stance to maintain when threatened. In the midst of a betrayal, one is already in an altered state with adrenaline running high. It is difficult to hold to an ethical standard when loved ones have used our trust as a weapon. Extra-legal, or other-worldly methods of finding satisfaction are tempting. For those of us in tune with the Ancestors, the call to be on the offensive can be almost irresistible. Our foremothers did not grow up in these enlightened times, and their voices are literally bonded to our DNA. When our children are harmed, livelihood or homes destroyed, or court is involved, it is difficult to think clearly. Personal emotions and hormonal responses are enhanced by the sound of the blood in our veins demanding immediate, decisive action, if not a reckoning.
What should a witch do? There is no absolute answer, or consensus on how to proceed. Many contemporary practitioners agree that ultimately, each person has free will to act in according with their nature. Some actions may warrant the karmic debt of retaliation. Another method is to simply pay someone else to do the dirty work, as several traditions believe that by taking payment, the sin of casting the destructive energy is lifted from the conjurer, and returned to the one who initiated the request. This topic is frequently debated in the Pagan world, as traditional practices might coincide or conflict with personal choice, and each circumstance is unique. I’m not here to offer advice or pass judgment on these matters. Instead, I am interested in examining the evolutionary significance implied by the act of betrayal, and the energy that it is designed to express.
The act of betrayal is rooted in a bid for freedom. The active party is convinced that there is an imbalance, or unfulfilled need that is denied by current conditions. Whether this perception is based on facts or fantasy is insignificant. Betrayal is a subversive act born of desperation. It appears as if no alternative will satisfy the unmet desire. Eventually, the person will find some way to act on this need, whether it is the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. However, there are elements of the current situation that are pleasing, so the giver attempts to maintain order and find satisfaction through deception.
Truth is buoyant. It will surface. The receiver is confused. The conditions of the previous order seemed workable, if not optimal. Most people do recognize moments of dissonance. However, the receiver firmly believes that there were other options available. If finances or family are involved, the magnitude of the transgression increases, as the receiver believes that the giver could have put more efforts into finding an alternative solution that could have maintained cohesion.
Treachery, secrets, and subversive acts are ruled by the influence of Pluto, which is ultimately provident, though the methods are painful. The question is, what is the redemptive quality of the pain that accompanies betrayal? The answer lies in the concept of chemical imbalance. The conditions that create these situations are either stagnant, or volatile. Pluto governs chemical reactions, and the act of betrayal irrevocably alters the atomic level of relationships that are not in equilibrium. For whatever reason, the established order was unhealthy, even if both parties reject this truth. Cohesion is not advantageous if evolution is impaired. Pluto, through the agency of betrayal, wipes the slate clean. There is no going back. In time, all is revealed. The pain is the necessary component that insures that previous conditions will not be repeated. Both parties are granted the freedom to create something new. The detonation of betrayal is a powerful force for transformation. It feels like napalm, but can be the rocket fuel that propels us to new horizons. The choice is up to us on how this energy is used.
Ultimately, revenge is a waste of this energy. It has no evolutionary goal, and is similar to using high-performance petrol to light a torch. The flames will most likely flare out of control, and what was meant to shed light or scare some beasts off becomes an inferno. Plus, all your good fuel is gone. Revenge is disadvantageous in the sense that the repellent energy of betrayal which forces people apart, to gain distance and clarity, is negated. Both parties are tied together in another unhealthy pattern of moves and counter-moves. It’s exhausting and totally useless, yet can be seductive. In my opinion, the optimal use of the energy that is released from these explosions is to first contain and eliminate the corrosive conditions, and then forge a new path away from these destructive patterns. The traveler determines the destination.