let’s go there for a minute.
when people think about ethics related to witchery, we tend to think of the use of what some refer to as ‘dark’ witchcraft, such as curses, hexes, binding, or other types of magickal practice that affect or control another human being and/or their free will.
other ethical considerations of witchery, though, include, but are not limited to:
- using animal parts in practice
- using human parts in practice
- appropriation of another culture’s practices without respect for the culture of origin
- sexual misconduct of ‘mentors’ or other positions of power, taking advantage of others’ trust
- children or minors involved in various ways in the craft that may be inappropriate
so needless to say, there are a number of ways we can approach ethics, and each of us has to make our decisions about where we stand on most of these, but i think its safe to say that there are some lines that, ideally, all of us should be drawing, but are not consistently happening.
sexual or other forms of abuse need to stop.
okay, so there are a TON of gray areas in this, and i would like to think that we’re all consenting adults in whatever we choose to do. but, the reality is that, as those of us who have been in situations elsewhere in life involving sexual harassment and sexual assault know, consent flies out the window the second the abuser or harasser is in a position of power relative to the victim. always. full stop. there is never an exception or ‘but what if…’ to this one.
if you or anyone you know is using your relative power or status to coerce another person into ANYTHING they would not normally do otherwise, including but not limited to nudity, sexual acts, participation in events or rituals, castings, or else, you are an abuser. and anyone who witnesses and doesn’t do anything about it, is your enabler at best, and an accomplice, at worst.
i like being naked, its great and fun, and so is sex. and if magick and sex go together for you, that’s awesome, too. there should never be an unwilling participant. ever. every time i have asked my husband to participate in any sex magick i have always asked him. and when he initially replied ‘well, i’ve never done that but, sure, i’ll give it a shot,’ my reply was, ‘only if you feel comfortable.’
any kind of act within magickal practice should always occur under consent throughout from all participants, and the conditions under which it occurs need to be structured so that all participants feel comfortable voicing their discomfort, should it arise.
i won’t say that men are the problem, but i will say as a woman, women understand this much better than men do, in my experience.
women are typically much better at making sure everyone is comfortable throughout an experience and checking in with participants during than men, who assume that unless you speak up, you’re consenting, which we all 100% know is not always the case.
and this is probably because, statistically, 75% of women have been in situations where they absolutely didn’t feel comfortable, but also didn’t feel as if they could speak up and voice a concern.
taking or appropriating another culture’s religious, spiritual, or magickal practices without giving appropriate attribution and respect
is absolutely never okay, especially if you are profiting from it. there are many many cultures in which forms of witchcraft are practiced and they each come with their own inherited and cultural considerations for those practices. if you want to learn about them and learn from them, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
but if you want to profit off of them with products or services without giving proper due, that’s never okay. ask yourself if you would want someone taking your cultural history and practices and passing them off as something else without respecting you, your family, your ancestors, and your heritage?
and then we get to the really gray areas that i think we can all argue about all day long, but at the end of the day, we have to make some tough decisions about where this weighs on our conscience:
initiating children into practices when they are minors.
as a legal rule, minors cannot give consent for virtually anything. they’re minors and the government views them as property of their parents or legal guardians.
i have some personal reservations about viewing any human being as property of another, but as a parent, i also fully understand that minors do stupid shit and sometimes have stupid ideas (including my formerly minor self in that, as well).
so, sometimes parents need to make these decisions for them. religion and spirituality, however, feels icky if its a decision we make for someone else, though, at least to me.
if my son expressed interest in my beliefs, i would have no problem explaining to him and referring him to further reading so he could make informed decisions for himself, but i would never just say ‘hey, i think you should look into this.’ and then bring him along for full moon spells and rituals.
where i think this is okay is if a child expressed on their own an interest and there are some activities they can do that are age appropriate, then, yeah, absolutely. but it should never be a decision that’s made for them, however, that’s just my personal opinion formed from a personal autonomy point of view. this stems heavily from my embrace of The Satanic Temple tenets, the third of which states:
“one’s body is inviolable, and subject to one’s own will alone.”
the use of animal or human parts.
so this tends to be a topic that causes a chasm in some parts of the magickal and pagan community.
in an ideal situation, all human and animal parts should be ethically acquired, meaning you didn’t have to kill a person in order to get their teeth and there’s no live animal sacrifice happening, but we all know there are seriously divergent views on this that stem from cultural experience and practice.
hell, my own viking and northern european pagan ancestors sacrificed the fuck out of some animals and humans throughout history and before christianity took over their ancestral practices, so its not even like i can claim i’m clean on this one, and probably nobody else can, either.
i’m also personally an omnivore and eat meat from animals daily, and would never be so hypocritical to say that i won’t use animal parts in my practice, but i will do what i do when i acquire animal products to eat, which is to look into the supplier, their ethical history and practices and make the best judgment call i can with the information i have. if it doesn’t seem right, i don’t participate or buy.
human parts are a little more vague, because lots of people ‘donate their bodies to science’ or expire from ‘natural causes’ and apart from official morgue records, which we can only hope are true and verified, we really can’t know if they were ethically harvested unless you were there at the time, which begs the question: wtf were you really doing there?? lol
magick that controls the will of another person.
this includes hexes, curses, bindings, and so on. these are often referred to as ‘dark magick’ but in reality, magick itself is neutral, the intent of the user is what may be termed ‘dark’ or ‘light.’
its my opinion that all of these have a place. i also don’t at all believe in the ‘rule of 3.’ if you cast a curse or hex on someone and you regret it for even a second, then its absolutely going to backfire and come back on, you. that’s my experience. so just make sure its absolutely 100% what you really want.
i’m not going to hypocritically sit here and say i would never curse someone, either. i personally don’t know anyone right now that i would want to go through the energy expensive process of placing a curse on, but i can’t say that i never will know someone like that, present federal administration excluded. i can tell you i 1000% would curse someone that hurts my kid. no question. i hope they feel the pain of a 1000 deaths before feeling the pain of their actual death.
but i have friends who couldn’t even grasp the concept of that, even if it was their own kids.
my vast life experience has taught me that most people are their own curse. really. they’re miserable fucks that hate themselves and are hollow inside and you don’t actually need to take the time or energy to curse them, because their lives already suck, even if you think they don’t.
if you’re the kind of person that likes to curse others just because you’re the actual miserable fuck, well, then why are you even reading a post about ethics? or maybe you counter curse someone who curses you? does that balance the karmic scales? (btw, i don’t have the answer to that question just yet…)
this might also include love spells, and, honey, if he doesn’t love you without a spell, do you really want him? maybe that’s the universe screaming in your face that he’s just one giant walking red flag…
but what about spells that ‘encourage’ another person to do something that’s of benefit to them, like casting a spell to get your spouse to look for a better job because they’re miserable where they are but they feel stuck on their own, or a spell to get your neighbor to clean up their trashy-looking yard…
i can’t tell you how to approach those because i’m not you and i don’t know those people. but these things still fall under the category of you controlling someone else’s free will, so weigh the karmic outcome on these things carefully.
so that sort of sums up where there are some potential problems that are obvious, but then keep in mind, as with any supply chain and growth of consumer interest in a particular subject or industry, there will absolutely be impacts on human welfare, such as mining those beautiful crystals you like to buy, or growing and harvesting the herbs you buy in bulk, and so forth.
there is absolutely no way that any of us can live and operate in our modern world without impacting another life- human, animal, or plant. so, beyond that, i think barring the actual illegal acts that fall under sexual assault or harassment and the actual illegal harvesting of animal/human parts, we need to decide where we stand. there’s probably no completely right or wrong answer.