A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal Pt 2

In the first part of this two-part series on hexing and healing, I wrote about my views on hexing. Now it’s time to look at the opposite end of that spectrum, and the ‘why’ behind the adage that a ‘witch that cannot hex cannot heal’.

One of the things that has always struck me about mainstream Pagan or Witch views is that while cursing is often disparaged, healing is not. Countless words have been written about the dangers of cursing from both spiritual and material perspectives, and yet little has been written about the dangers of healing.

If anything, we encourage people to participate in healing rites regardless of how well trained they are, and view them as being almost harmless. However, I would argue that healing can be a more dangerous activity to the healer – depending of course on how it’s done.

A Family Heritage Of Sorts

As I’ve mentioned about fifty billion times before, I come from a family of Spiritualists – mostly Spiritualist healers – and if there’s one thing I’ve seen from those who do a lot of healing, it’s that they often suffer from a lot of sickness themselves.  I can even name family members who I believe wound up in an early grave because of their involvement in healing practices.

My dad once explained that when it comes to healing, he takes on what they have. I’ve had more people than I can count approach me to tell me about how my dad was talking to them, began wincing, described something they hadn’t mentioned, and then healed them of that pain. These people were often people we didn’t really know too – one woman was a stall-holder at the local market who sold rugs!

Looking at my family’s Spiritualist background, it’s all too easy to turn around and say that that’s something that happens to Spiritualists, and that they’re obviously doing x, y, and z wrong. After all, what else could my father expect if he takes on what others have? And yet, I’ve never seen it be an intentional thing for my father – more like something that is triggered when he comes into contact with the sick.

I also have a friend who is a professional healer. Unlike my father, he’s trained in multiple healing traditions, has years of experience, and yet healing can make him sick if he’s not careful. Sometimes it’s the expenditure of energy, but sometimes, a healer cannot help but have to go and encounter that which is causing the sickness in the first place – especially when working within an animist paradigm.

The point of this though, is that both cursing and healing are potentially dangerous to those who do them. They’re also opposite ends of the same continuum.

Introducing ‘Hælu’

I think a lot of people have a sense of this continuum if not the words and historical evidence. However, there are words and there is evidence for both.

We find our first word in the Old English word ‘Hælu’. It’s a lovely word, the Old English word from which we get our modern word ‘hale’, as in ‘hale and hearty’. But unlike the modern version of the word, the meanings of hælu were much ‘wider’ in scope. To quote Stephen Pollington from p453 of Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plant Lore and Healing:

“The quality which keeps a person well is called in Old English, ‘hælu’, which can be translated as ‘health’ or ‘wholeness’, although this is slightly misleading. ‘hælu’ is a derivative of the adjective ‘hal’ which survives into modern times as the words ‘whole’ and ‘hale'; it implies good fortune, prosperity, good health, general benefit and well-being (and in Christian times, salvation). From it are derived also the verb ‘ hælan’ (make whole), our word ‘heal’ and another adjective ‘halig’ (holy) with the sense ‘blessed’, ‘fortunate’, ‘favoured by the gods’. The reverse of ‘ hælu’ is ‘unhælu’ which is a kind of ‘negative health'; to have ‘unhælu’ is both to lack the positive quality of health and to have the negative ‘unhealth’, disease, illness, misfortune.”[1]

As you can see from the above description, physical health was connected with what we would today consider completely unrelated matters, like ‘good fortune’, and ‘prosperity’. By extension it’s also connected with words that refer to a state of being ‘blessed’, or ‘favored by the gods’. The fact that those seemingly disparate concepts are all able to be expressed by one word suggests that at one point they were considered to be all part and parcel of the same thing – a quality inherent to a person.

To restore this quality (by whatever means) is to heal, to take this quality is to curse. This is why ill health often plagues those who are cursed and can even be one of the signs that a person has been cursed (if other signs are also observed concurrently). To manipulate this quality in any way without knowing what you’re doing is dangerous, and to manipulate this quality in any way while sick is eventually deadly.

Never So Simple A Story

But even then, the lines between healing and cursing were not so clear cut. Sometimes you had to curse an illness or growth in order to heal the person as in charm number 162 of the Lacnunga (a book of Old English magico-medical cures). In this charm, which is believed to cure cysts, we are given a story about the ‘nine sisters of noðþ’. Who this ‘noðþ’ is beyond an anthropomorphic representation of the medical complaint is not important (which is good, because we don’t know anyway). What is important is that the charm essentially counts them out of existence, in other words, this is a form of curse.

‘…then the nine became eight, and the eight to seven, and the seven to six, and the six to five, and the five to four, and the four to three, and the three to two and the two to one, and the one to none’

Bye Felicia.

Remember those pesky elves and their shot from the last post?

Well, we also see cures for all manner of ‘elf’ ailments in the Leechbooks too. Some of these can be traced to actual physical diseases, however others may refer to elfshot (curses) by witches, and other elf-related afflictions (which were, with the exception of some identifiable ailments, normally related to pains of the torso or mental ailments producing delusions). And elves weren’t just connected with cursing either – the right offering to the elves could hasten the healing of a loved one or friend as in Chapter 22 of The Saga of Cormac the Skald.

Again, my point here is that these things are not so clear cut, and that by viewing cursing and healing as some kind of ‘good vs evil’ dichotomy, we’re not only missing the point, but potentially endangering would-be healers by not acknowledging the danger inherent in being a healer, nor the necessity of training and aftercare. Because at the end of the day, healers work far more intimately and generally for far longer periods of time with their patients and the ailments they bring than most people ever do with curses.

So if anyone is going to get the metaphorical sticky turd on them, it’s the healers. It’s about time we respected that and stopped encouraging every one and their mother to have a go like it’s some harmless thing anyone can do without consequence.

[1]    Pollington, S. (2000). Appendix 3 Causes of Disease. In Leechcraft: Early English charms, plant lore, and healing (p. 453). Norfolk, England: Anglo-Saxon Books.

A Witch That Cannot Hex Cannot Heal Pt 1

The Perils of Hyperbole and Hex

It would seem that my last post confused a few people with regards to my position on hexing. Apparently satire is not so easy to spot in the age of fake news, regardless of how many hyperbolic statements are included, and I apologize for that. Judging by the comments, some people were so angry they didn’t even make it to the end of the post before exiting, and so didn’t see my final word on the matter.

But maybe that’s to be expected. This is one of those subjects that gets people’s backs up no matter what ‘side’ of the debate they fall on, and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

There are a lot of reasons for this depth of ire, and a lot of layers here to dissect. From what I’ve seen on the anti-hexing side of things, you have the influence of Wicca and the threefold law on the wider community, coupled with what I believe is a genuine desire to be ‘good’ in many people… and perhaps no small amount of identity politics. There are of course other reasons both philosophical and theological to take into account, but they all essentially boil down to this idea that if you hex, then you will have some kind of negative return on it as a kind of punishment.

As someone who is not so much pro-hexing as just views it as yet another tool in my magical toolbox, I have a disdain for others acting as though their ethics and their way of seeing things is the one true way™, and that anyone who doesn’t agree isn’t a ‘real witch’ ™.

Listen, if you are someone who believes it’s wrong to hex, then all power to you. That’s fine for you, but when you start trying to tell others ‘how things are’, well then you really have to ask yourself what the difference is between yourself and the Christians who are convinced that we all worship devils. Because if you’re really going to get into that one true way mindset, then eventually you’re also going to have to address the matter of who is ultimately right.

The Problem of Morality in Witchcraft

Witchcraft is a path of moral relativism, for there is no morality inherent in Witchcraft other than that of the Witch him/her/them self/selves. Even when people claim to take their morality from their interactions with the Other or the Earth, there is still relativism there because it’s one thing to have an interaction with the other, but we all perceive and process our interactions differently. Sure, we all usually get the basics down the same, such as “I was walking down the street and bumped into Gavin and Sue”, “we were stood outside the supermarket and chatted”, and “Gavin had to leave after a while”. But when we get into the finer details, that’s when we see the differences in interpretation. Sue may say that Gavin seemed like he was being a bit short with everyone but the narrator may think Gavin was just being his usual self.

These differences are further compounded when we move into the less tangible realms of trance and Otherworldly experience, and while a common ‘gist’ may come through to multiple people. Those multiple people may process and interpret that gist very differently.  And that’s even before we get into the matter of just what the Other you’re dealing with considers to be moral vs you as a human continuing to live lawfully in human society. It’s hyperbole, but taking morality tips from a bunch of redcaps (should you survive the experience) is likely to land you in jail for murder. See what I mean?

The Other Side of Hex

For me, it is in this consideration of the Other where the whole concept of a cosmic force that punishes baneful magics really falls down. After all, how often do you see stories of fae folk in which the ‘threefold law’ or karma, or whatever name you want to apply to that force fucks them up for cursing humans? I’m yet to find any.

And before anyone says “that’s different”, from a historical perspective it’s really not. In fact, the symptoms of a curse by human witch or fairy were so similar that in Irish culture the source had to be diagnosed by a kind of specialist (1). It is a theme in both Irish and Germanic cultures that witches derive their powers from the Other – including the power to curse (2). In the Germanic iteration of this theme, witches received the elfshot (curses) that they shoot or fire at other people from the elves (3).

So for me, I don’t see how a threefold law (or similar) can exist within any worldview that includes the Other Crowd in any kind of a meaningful way. Because if cosmic law be cosmic, then surely it applies to every being within the cosmos? This includes the Good Folk, and you can hardly separate the Gentry from the Witches.

Layers of Action, Layers of Magic

Another reason why this view of negative magics coming back to get you because of (insert term for force here), is because of how magic works within a Germanic context (which as my internet name suggests, is where I take most of my magical cues from). Because of the Germanic view of time, there are essentially two different kinds of magic within Germanic culture: temporary and permanent. To avoid getting into terminology, what we do in the now sets down layers in our past, and those layers accumulate over time into themes or patterns that keep repeating through our lives as we go along (4). What we put down now, affects what we’ll have to work with in the future. Makes sense, right?

This ‘mechanism’ is something you see at play in the descriptions of magic in the sources. Some forms of magic, like the spun magic that raises a storm or ensnares a mind, only last for as long as they’re being performed (5). As long as that action isn’t calling up a storm that sinks a ship and results in the deaths of people you hate, then these don’t have to be deadly. Sometimes, if you find the right place to ‘tweak’ with a single action, you can still cause some long-lasting woe for your enemy, but it’s usually not too difficult for them to fix should they discover that point of manipulation.

However, we also see the use implements such as the tablet weaving tablet (which I discuss more fully here) imbued with the intent of passing off the creator’s bad luck to a hated person. With every turn of that tablet, and every row woven, that would be a little layer being put down, a little more worked, a pattern created in the victim’s life (which would also potentially compound itself further as more and more bad things happen to the victim setting down their own layers). That would eventually grow and become something that lasts, and any attempts to change it would take a lot of effort and time. It may not even be possible for the victim to get out from under that.

The ‘Blowback’

With any of these magics though, you have to keep in mind that not only is the working of whatever you’re doing changing what is laid down for them, but also conceivably for you too – unless you find a way to set something up to work continuously in the background (also a popular option). But the woman with the tablet weaving tablet would have had as much time as she spent working that curse set down as layers for herself just as much as they were for her victim (albeit from the opposite side of things). What that could have meant for her is less clear than what it could have meant for her victim, but it didn’t have anything to do with a cosmic boogeyman.

It was the long-term accumulated consequences of her own actions, and in that way, baneful magics (or any other type of magics) are no different from anything else we do in life. No matter what we do, whatever action we take, we will always have to eventually face those long-term accumulated consequences. This can be as mundane as drinking too much alcohol or making bad financial decision after bad financial decision (especially if you’re not on the luckier end of the scale – but we’ll get to that another time).

Another theory that I see batted around about cursing is that in working with those more negative energies, you can’t help but get them on yourself like some kind of sticky turd. However, in my experience that isn’t nearly as much of an issue when you practice purification rites after doing your workings.

A Nuanced Tool

Ultimately though, this is just how I see things and the reasons for why I see them as I do. As I said earlier in this piece, cracking out the nasties is just one tool in my magical toolbox, and it’s a tool that is extremely nuanced in its use. Because of this nuance, you have to learn how to curse just as you have to learn how to heal – because if there is one thing that is truly dangerous about cursing to the practitioner, it’s screwing up your working. However healing is not without its risk either, but I’ll save that for the next blog.

Either way, none of us are ever going to change each other’s minds, but if there is one thing that we should all fight to preserve, it’s that there is no one true way in Witchcraft. Because even with the best of intentions, a person who believes they have the ultimate handle on the truth can do some truly evil things.

Sources
1. Morgan Daimler – The Witch, The Bean Feasa, And The Fairy Doctor In Irish Culture
2. Ibid
3. Alaric Hall – Elves in Anglo-Saxon England
4. Paul Bauschatz – The Well and the Tree
5. Eldar Heide – Spun Seidr

Why Witches Who Curse Aren’t Really Witches

So, the apocalypse has come and sundry magic workers are throwing more curses than an episode of American Dad throws shade. There was that one that was supposed to be written by some anonymous person in some super seekrit magical order that got passed around the internet faster than herpes at an orgy. It was problematic – for many reasons (see my rant on my FB page for details).

But worse than that, it was wrong.

Naughty, bad, wrong.

And I’m here to tell you that if you did that, if you *EVEN* think about cursing anyone, then you’re not a witch. So why are you all pretend witches if you curse then? Let me learn you a thing or two in my handy, serious as fuck, five point guide.

1. Rocks and Karma
So here is the thing, karma is going to fuck you up if you curse someone. It’s like a cosmic hit-man that goes round getting people who do ‘no-no’s. But don’t get fresh and start thinking you’ll score a huge lottery win if you earn enough karma points! Everyone *knows* that it doesn’t work like that, because karma is a bit shy about giving you really good shit for huge acts of good, but really amazing about giving you epic shit for a tiny bit of bad. It’s like a zero tolerance policy with a threefold return.

One way to explain it, is if you pick up a rock and let go of it, it falls to the earth. Now a lot of people might call that ‘gravity’, but that’s really a demonstration of how karma works, and you can always tell you’ve already fucked up because when you drop it, it falls on your toe. Does this analogy make sense to you? Because if it doesn’t, you should probably stay away from *all* magic because I just learned you the physics of witchcraft right there.

2. Cursing is an Addiction
Everyone knows that people who curse turn into power-hungry dickwads and that that

poppet - curse

This is just as addictive as crack. #NeverOnceTheHexCrack

power is addictive. Studies have shown that cursing is just as addictive and as harmful as either meth, or four marijuanas injected intravenously between your toes. It’s a slippery slope, and it doesn’t matter *why* you do it or how ‘noble’ you think your reason for cursing is. As soon as you get out those poppets and pins, you are on a fast track to fiending all the baneful magics, and that is something Real Witches ™ just don’t do.

3. The People in the Past were Amateurs

tablet weaving curse

Viking age hex addicts…morons.

Now some of you reading this will probably respond with a ‘witches in Britain cursed the nazis’, or that we have plenty of evidence for cursing going all the way back to the ancient world. Well, that’s great, but it doesn’t matter. Those people were obviously amateurs who didn’t understand the physics of witchcraft (see: point #1). It’s not their fault though that they didn’t know as much as we do now about the forms of magic they originated/were taught/existed within their culture with about the same level of commonality as hemorrhoids in the over 50s (or post childbirth) crowd. They just weren’t as enlightened as we are now, and we know that if Owd Demdike is giving it def at the other end of the village about you and using image magic on your hovel, the best answer is not necessarily to fiend the vil magics. What they didn’t understand about those situations is that in all likelihood, what Owd Demdike *really* needed was reiki, or some other form of healing, but sadly reiki hadn’t been invented by that point and so people suffered.

4. Famous Wiccan Authors Said Not To Do it
This should be a no-brainer but it just isn’t. A lot of people say that what those famous people say doesn’t apply to them because they’re not Wiccans and those Wiccans can only say who is in their in-group or not. But that is simply not true. These people got to where they are because they know, and because of that, they get to decide who is real and who isn’t. Also, they were really really brave for writing about their religion despite their oaths like they did so that we can all know what they really do in their covens and circles (this is important, I was working in an oblong shape before reading some of those books, and once there was that really ill-advised parallelogram). #NeverAgainTheParallelogramTimes.

5. Cursing Often Requires You Do Or Use Gross Things
This is one of the worst things about cursing, well, aside from the ethics, sometimes

Nidstang-curse

See, nasty. Here’s a dead horse on a stick pointed at the house of whoever they hate. Nasty.

people who curse use dead things. Ew, how nasty is that? That is NOT the witchcraft I know! I mean, they’re the kind of people to hide partially decomposed bits of animals in anthills to get them ‘cleaned’ so they can then put that shit in a jar or something. Or use things like animal hearts and blood. That’s just nasty, who does that?!

shoe - curse

More nastiness. A shoe filled with wax and a dead bird. This is what hex addiction does.

Addicts, that’s who. Like I said above, those baneful magics are as bad as meth, and just like meth, you can literally get your hands blown off cooking it up.

As you can see, none of these reasons are because of Wiccanism or Wiccanatism (except for maybe point #4), they’re about how things really work.

If you have someone you really hate or is threatening your family, you’d be far better off getting a teddy bear (or making a healing poppet if you’re not already a hex addict), and distance-reikying-it-up to give them the healing they so desperately need to advance and become enlightened.

You should also really ask yourself what you’ve done for karma to be giving you such trials and tribulations in putting that person on your path. Lastly, if you survive the experience, you need to ask yourself what you can learn from the experience.
/sarcasm

Final Word
Whatever you do though, it’s really none of my fucking business what another witch decides is an appropriate response to a situation, and unless you’re involved in the working or the one/s being worked against, it’s likely none of your business either. Also, let’s be real for a moment about all of this business of withdrawing other people’s ‘witch cards’ – on the most simple level, a ‘witch’ is someone who *does* witchcraft. It doesn’t matter if you like what another witch does, if they’re doing it, they are it. They’re just an example of that ‘it’ you disagree with, and that’s ok. Trying to attach an arbitrary set of ethics onto the craft that can then be used as a way to demarcate who is and who isn’t a ‘real witch’ is massively problematic. A religion may have a common set of ethics, but witches have traditionally held a myriad of religious views depending on their native cultures, and have often practiced the craft in opposition to those views. For example, the famous witches from my home county were Christians, we have recorded charms from them, and yet we all know what Christianity has to say about witchcraft. (Clue: it bad.) Wicca and other witchcraft traditions that blend religion with the craft are really the outliers in the grand scheme of things, and it’s cool that it works for them. But to then turn around and think the ethics of those paths are (or should be) common to all witches regardless of tradition, is just plain wrong. It’s also massively arrogant. The real ethics of witchcraft are the ethics of each individual witch alone, and that is that.

So let’s give the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy a break, and I’ll go prise my tongue from out of my cheek, aye?