Recently, many of us in the Pagan community have been invited to participate in a particular activity of witchcraft: casting a pre-designed spell to promote change in the current US administration. We were invited to participate in a worldwide effort to bind the person currently occupying the post of the highest public servant of the United States, President Donald Trump.
Throughout this campaign, several interesting issues have emerged which show me first and foremost: The Pagan community is one that takes its work seriously, and does not sheepishly follow someone’s lead without giving it some thought.
Mind you, this shall not be construed as an opinion on the spell itself, or the intent to cast it. It just means that everyone is not only encouraged to voice their thoughts about an idea, people actually also follow through with this encouragement. Let me therefore explore some of the issues that have surfaced.
Possible Undue Influence
Many reacted to the call with the concern that a spell like that may unduly change the trajectory of a person, or a group of persons. Many of us were taught, and have to come to understand, that changing another individual’s life trajectory without them requesting such interference is unethical. I have lived and worked under these guidelines for over three decades now, ever since I have started on the way of the Pagan naturopath. I have found it particularly difficult to adhere to that standard whenever I clearly have seen that a person could need help (and I mean in terms of spiritual healing, not helping an old person across the street).
So generally, casting a spell, for the benefit or the detriment of another person, if not specifically asked by that person, would – under this guideline – technically constitute unethical behavior.
However, this is not such a case. It’s a bit more complicated. Effectively, we have a large number of people desperately asking those knowing and practicing witchcraft to change their (the requestors’) trajectory. Some of those asking for help are, of course, member of this community practicing witchcraft themselves. Nobody has only one demographic marker. There are Witches and Druids that are affected by this administration because they are also immigrants, African American, Jewish, LBTQ, you name it. Their lives and their livelihood are at stake today as it was 50, 100 years ago. And I will say it out loud here: people will die due to the shenanigans of this incompetent administration. People know that they might die, and they absolutely have all the right in the world to ask for magic as a means to avoid death and misfortune.
What we as practitioners of magic have to do, therefore, is weigh whether the request is justified, a fair ask that saves people’s lives. If practitioners feel that the importance of the request outweighs the fact that the spell influences one person’s trajectory, their question whether such action is undue or not is effectively answered.
The Law of Harvest, The Wiccan Rede, Karma etc.
Should the practitioner decide that the request is fair and that it justifies influencing another person’s life, or free will as some have put it, they still have to consider that the spell could harm the person it targets. Independent of one’s opinion about the legitimacy of these laws of return, the spell may just simply be harmful. Obviously, for many of us the harm in this particular situation- Trump would be impeached and live the rest of his life as a “normal” billionaire – cannot really be viewed as hugely damaging. More a first world’s billionaire’s problem than harm. For the purpose of these laws, however, it’s not how we estimate the harmfulness, but how the person affected by the spell experiences it.
So, harm will be done. There are several possible approaches to that dilemma. But before I go into those details, I would like to like to discuss one theme that commonly pops up. That of “I don’t believe in the Law of Harvest, the Wiccan Rede, in Karma”, or whatever term one’s path has in store when it comes to direct consequences for harmful activity. It doesn’t really matter whether or not one believes in these mechanisms. They exist independently from one’s belief. Like gravity. Whether or not you believe in gravity, the apple will fall towards the ground. Why I am so sure about its existence? Explore the lore, the mythology pertaining to your path, or to the ethnicity in which your path is or has been embedded. You surely will find ample accounts for how harmful magical action strikes back at the one wielding such magic. Or take the widely known ancient fairytale, recorded by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White. Clearly, the harmful magic of the evil queen causes her ultimate demise, and her darkness is eventually replaced by the union of the Sun with the Land, represented by the Prince in shining armor kissing awake the slumbering Maiden. It’s a universal concept, and people with much more knowledge than we can claim having today were already aware of it. Pretty much world-wide. Doesn’t mean that they would always stick to it, and we will get to that momentarily.
One quick thought about the Rede and Gardner, though. It seems that the fact that Gardner formulated it gets confused with that being an indicator of the age of the concept. Yes, Gardner penned these words onto paper. But he didn’t come up with the idea. Again, the concept itself is as old as story and myth. The Rede is just a modern version of it.
But let’s explore how one could deal with these laws:
- Some people may disregard these old stories altogether, and just don’t believe in the laws of return (threefold or less). What I would ask, though, “Isn’t that isn’t much like fooling oneself into a convenient position of blissful ignorance?”
- Some people may just don’t care. Like warriors that don’t know fear, their endeavors become meaningless, though. If you don’t care, why even bother with casting a spell clearly designed to benefit the Greater Good?
- For some people, the buck stops here and they would not do any magic work that causes harm. But how much of that strict approach is that we are afraid of the return, of the consequences?
- Others feel that only spreading unconditional love will have any effect, while any attempt at harmful magic is doomed to be futile. I truly believe that this approach will bring one closer to any form of enlightenment. Yet I have my sincere doubts that drowning Trump, Bennon, Spicer & Co in love and light will affect any change. For the followers of this approach the big question (which they can only answer for themselves) is if the personal goal of getting closer to enlightenment warrants disregard of a situation that will, definitely and without doubt, harm many.
- And then there are those who are very much aware of the laws of return, believe in them, know of the consequences, and still take it upon themselves to cast a spell that is designed to cause harm to, or even only bind, another person. In a sense, they put themselves into harm’s way to promote change.
Drowning in Love and Light
I do have to go into that a little bit more. Because, while it seems so straight forward, this approach is a bit complex. Considering it from the angle of “undue interference” we have to stop for a moment and ask ourselves if there is truly a difference in the kind of interference when it is a binding spell or love and light. The technique of Magic as I understand it is a manipulation of energy that is beyond the laws ethics. Like nature, Magic itself does not know morals. This is the very reason why the laws of the return in their various forms are so important. Magic alone does not guide us to do the right thing, these laws do. That’s why it’s so difficult, and important, to truly understand this spell, indeed any spell, and what the intended and – almost more importantly – the unintended consequences are.
Therefore, drowning someone in love and light who does not want that, even despises it, creates this mindboggling dilemma that a perfectly “good” intention inflicts something that is viewed by the recipient of that love and light as harm. As I mentioned earlier, even seeing someone suffer and being so propelled to help is not a priori beneficial, as much as the wish to help burns under the fingernails.
The Role of the Druids
I have read, and been involved in, many a discussion about whether or not Druids always promote peace and only peace. I for one think that peace is, in the end game, the only goal worth fighting for. On the surface, contemplating a spell that may harm an individual cannot be considered peaceful? Yet, what if peace itself is in danger unless we act not peacefully (i.e. casting the spell)? This is the very dilemma we’re stuck in. Doing nothing seems almost reckless at this point, and spreading love and light may just not be enough to promote peace!
As so often (at least for the educated), history may give us a hint. When the Roman legionnaires approached the Druid island of Ynys Môn, today known as Anglesey in Wales, the Druids and Druidesses there stood at the shore and cast spells at the soldiers in their galleys. Initially, they were able to strike fear in the common legionnaires, but the officers, hardened by having committed, and commanded, genocide on the Gaulles previously, ordered the horrified soldiers to attack anyway. What this story tells us that the Druids of old, when pinned against the wall and having to choose between extinction or harming their attackers with spells, clearly chose the latter.
Obviously, we have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight today, which allows us to judge the situation as “murderous Roman soldiers slaughtered Druids and people left and right in Britain and Gaulle”. Thus, we can easily pass benevolent judgment on the action of the Druids. With Trump, we don’t know yet. But I do want to put out there that I, as an Austrian, was exposed to many a detail of the rise and fall of the Third Reich throughout my education. And as such I can’t but see almost too many parallels between the current administration and the manipulations of the Nazi leadership. Suffice it to say, the Third Reich ended in a World War, costing the lives of 80 million people. I would consider that – as a probable future for us – quite a bit of harm, especially when weighing it against the harm inflicted on the ego of the Billionaire in Chief.
Again, we are in a dilemma here. Keeping the peace with the situation, with the current US administration, may just lead to the end of peace itself. And at some point, we have to, as carefully as humanly possible, choose which kind of peace we need to support.
Counter-Spells and Prayer Against the Ritual
Yes, there are also many who take it upon themselves to counteract the activism of those casting the binding spell in question. It is their right to do. It is my right to question the motivation. As to the chaos magicians I am truly at a loss. Is it because they feel they, or their magic, is more powerful because of chaos and destruction around them? Do they thrive on chaos and therefore want this situation to continue, no matter the negative impact it could have on so many? I am not sure, but I wouldn’t be on that side of history.
That Christians and maybe other groups following revealed religions react against anything Pagan with counter-prayer is understandable. But to those who pray for Trump’s “success” let me just through out this: We don’t know what Trump and his friends, particularly Bennon, view as success. It could be a most horrible police state that caters only to the few rich buddies of him, while everybody else croaks in poverty and agony. Sounds far-fetched? Well, dismantling regulations that protect workers from harmful work environments and consumers from cheaply produced and therefore harmful products; selling out land to corporations for them to destroy forest (you know, the lung of the planet) and wildlife with impunity; reserving education for the rich (aka defunding public schools to promote charter schools); polluting air and water as a result of going back to 19th century coal energy and so on and so forth will not make our lives better. And what if the Trump administration sees war as “success”? With countries (including their own – don’t forget the might of China) destroyed and millions of lives lost. I know Christians who want to halt the spell with prayer for success mean well. But they do need to know that the “success” could be the biggest harm of all. And at some point, they have to defend to someone that they prayed for that.
I know I have the tendency to say a lot without delivering clear guidelines. Maybe you feel more confused now, have more questions than before. Good. My work is done. As I said in the beginning: Pagan practice is not one of blindly following a leader. It is about deep thought, contemplation, and a firm decision that is defendable in the future. Go ahead, do whatever you decide to do, all the while knowing that your integrity was kept intact.