The subject of cursing clearly brings up a lot of emotional response, but I often wonder how much critical thinking is involved in that reaction. So let’s look at that, shall we?
The following scene is from one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the movie Moonstruck. You can scoot ahead to about 1:11 to get to the scene I want to talk about it, and please do watch it all the way until the end of the clip:
I love this movie, and especially this scene so much because it reminds me of my Sicilian and Italian family (even though my family was based in Philly and the movie takes place in New York…) Religion, love, anger, words, strength, and actions mixed up in a fantastic bowl with a side of garlic and a glass of wine. It also gets to one of the key elements of cursing (and the emotional response): belief.
But let’s back up a step. Honestly, when most of people think of cursing, they source from fairytales and myths – like an angry fairy from Sleeping Beauty or the Greek gods being petty and doling out punishments, like those bestowed up Cassandra of Troy, Medusa, Psyche, or pretty much anyone hero or heroine you can think of from those stories. Or scams where someone is made to believe their bad luck is the result of a curse – that can be cured of course, if you hand over a large sum of money. So basically, mostly “innocent” people are attacked for no good reason, or for cruel and petty reasons.
Then there’s also the folks who like to drop supposed hexes and curses like they’re going out of style, as a means of control, making threats, and generally trying to make themselves look bad-ass and powerful somehow. They’re often trying to propagate a fantasy of themselves to others. Someone transgressed them (in their opinion), and they’re going to publicly make a stink of it.
In the case of fairytales, myths, and legends – the supposed curse is a plot vehicle to drive the story along, and/or a way of trying to assign reason to a world that rarely makes sense. Bad things happen to good people, and it makes us feel better to assign a reason for it. In the case of scammers and the hextastic, they’re both preying upon human nature. They see an opportunity to make money or to push their agenda, and they are usually also skilled manipulators*. They know how to plant a seed and make it grow in someone’s mind. They don’t have to believe in the “curse” – only their target does. If the target doesn’t believe, they hold no power.
(*FYI – Frankly, we’re ALL manipulators from our earliest hours, we all seek to influence and control our environment, from a baby’s cry to cologne. It doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing.)
Which brings us back to the moment in Moonstruck – the old woman sought to strike fear into the heart of her sister for a treachery from long ago, though she didn’t believe in the curse or very likely wanted her sister dead either. Loretta (Cher) also says she doesn’t believe in curses, but we’re shown a moment where doubt creeps in, and it becomes a sub-theme in the movie. It’s that mind over matter thing (hello metaphysics) where if you believe you’re going to have bad luck or think you’re cursed, you pretty much are doing it to yourself without any additional help.
Now, when I look at hexing, cursing, and other baneful work, I’m not coming from a place of fiction, fairytales, fraud, or egomania. I’m looking at the various sides of the same coin – the same force of energy that’s used to heal, to grow, and to bless. We can prune plants so that they can have new growth. We can set up fences to protect people, pets, and places. We march, write, and make phone calls to aid the rights of others who are in danger. We can spread ideas that cause folks to think more deeply, more openly, and create balance and equality. It doesn’t have to be public, raw, or extravagant. It doesn’t have to involve blood, piss, and scary images to make change happen (though some folks would argue that’s more fun. To each their own!)
I do find quite a bit of pleasure in creating the “Curse of the Week” memes for #WeAreAradia. They’re not designed to be some sort of group spell, nor do they hit a specific person, or require much skill or ANY specific path. They’re simply an expression that engages a sense of balance in our minds and the world around us. They’re not from a place of retaliation or vengeance, but rather the sentiment to steer change and balance for common good. They also have a sense of wry humor embedded in them – because some of the best magick and ritual I’ve seen has had a firm embrace of humor. The gods appreciate it, and I like to point that while we can all make waves, we’re still in the wake of the ocean itself from a divine standpoint.
So if you find yourself getting hung up on the word, then it’s probably a strong sign that the person who may need to do some work is the one you see in the mirror. If working for justice and change (especially without malice) makes “us” look bad, then sign me up – at least my photo is better than the media using fictional witches to represent “us.” Seriously, if we’re calling ourselves witches (to reclaim it or whatever you like to use to explain your use), are we going to get bent out of shape over another word that can yield power? Think about it. In the end, you’re not arguing ethics or morals, but rather semantics and supposed appearances. I’d rather spend the time getting stuff done and helping people.
I ask you: Are you following the actual intention behind the words and actions, or are you reacting with your own baggage? Because we need more of the former and less of the latter if we’re going to get work done.