An interesting phenomena with baneful magick is people being uneasy with it while also claiming not to believe it “works.” Such a position raises the question: if you don’t believe it works, why do you care if people do it? I suspect there may be an issue here with not understanding what the baneful practitioner is actually even doing. I’d therefore like to try to clear up what I’m fairly sure are atheistic misconceptions.
Back in my LaVeyan days, I’d been under the impression that i) Satanism is OK with baneful magick in whatever circumstances the magician considers it appropriate and in accord with their own values, and ii) blanket opposition to baneful magick was typical of “white light” spiritual people, not Satanists.
I still think in broad terms, this is basically correct. Sure, the more “spiritual” the form of Satanism, the more likely some degree of karmic reasoning comes into the picture. Generally though, you don’t typically encounter Satanists talking like baneful magick is always inherently the wrong decision.
There is, however, an interesting exception to this that I stumbled across recently. The audience will likely be unsurprised that it’s associated with The Satanic Temple. (I say this because I notice a certain segment of my Twitter followers mocking them as “uWu Satanism”. Personally I think the uWu-ness has both its valid and lame sides, but that’s neither here nor there for the current entry…)
Shiva Honey’s take on baneful magick
I found this example in Shiva Honey’s The Devil’s Tome. I regard this book as a decent intro to “constructive ritual for people who don’t believe in the acausal.” By which I mean, I do not consider it a bad book! As a believer in the acausal, my own ritual praxis is unlike Honey’s. But when it comes to doing ritual purely for psychological benefit, I think she has many good ideas. Basically she takes what LaVey hints at re: empowering, this-worldly use of psychodrama and updates it for today’s generation. Although psychological benefit is only one reason why I perform ritual, I’m glad to see such a book in print.
In this book though, Honey writes:
I think ritual is most effective as a means of helping you work on and with yourself. I don’t believe in “casting spells” or “cursing” other people. If you have that desire, I’d suggest you do a cleansing/banishing/liberation ritual to free yourself of the need to control another person rather than wasting any more energy on the subject in question. Master yourself and you’ll no longer feel the need to master others.
Now, one way of reading this is consistent with the sort of reasoning in my previous baneful magick ethics entry. i.e. sometimes the problem is you, and if so, it’s better to admit and address that than cast curses. But that said, there are two implications in this statement that, as someone who practices baneful magick, I disagree with:
- Casting baneful magick amounts to committing yourself to “waste energy on the subject” on an ongoing basis
- Baneful magick inherently constitutes an attempt to dominate others, and that’s always bad
I’ll address each of these in turn below.
On “wasting energy” via baneful magick
This is a topic on which I have long clashed with “normal” people re: the topic of spiteful feelings generally. Are there people who make things worse for themselves by indulging their spiteful feelings? Sure. But there also exist those of us whose experience is that fighting off spiteful feelings is astronomically more energy-wasting than just letting the feeling have its day, after which we can move on. It’s unhelpful for people wired thus to have others accusing us of “wasting energy” the instant we express any spite. Because if you do that, you trap us in a cycle of hating ourselves for having the feeling at all. Vs. what we actually need is to acknowledge and affirm our feelings in order to move on. These are issues I’ve struggled plenty with in my own life.
What I then dislike about Honey’s sentiments is it sounding like “don’t dwell” in this kind of sense. The goal certainly is laudable: to cease feeling haunted by a negative experience. You know what, though? That is the self-same goal the baneful magick practitioner is also seeking – and to fail to see this is to fail to understand how magick actually works.
What I mean by this is, any system of magick you consult will say basically the same thing: during the height of ritual, 100% focused investment on your intent is what gets things done, and then once it’s done, you should not keep thinking about it lest you drain energy from the working. Follow these directions with baneful magick and guess what: you concentrated all your negative emotions and expelled them so that you are no longer haunted by them.
It follows that you are only “wasting energy” via baneful magick if you are an incompetent magician!
Clarifying the issue re: “wasting energy”
One can thus say I have two distinguishable issues with what Honey is saying re: one shouldn’t “waste energy.”
First, not every person nor every situation is such that “just cleanse yourself instead of being spiteful” is an appropriate response. Yes, there are circumstances where I’ve done banishings for such things, and it can help. But I personally hate the idea that when the slightest trace of spite arises, the only correct response is to stifle it immediately. Some people need to dwell in spite for a time in order to move on; some circumstances likewise demand this. Talking as if this dynamic is never in play is tantamount to rejecting psychological realities because other peoples’ mean thoughts make us uncomfortable – i.e. right-hand-path religious behavior unbecoming of a Satanist.
Second, the statement evinces a lack of understanding of what esoteric Satanists actually do when they cast baneful magick. Now I don’t claim that every magician is competent, and I don’t doubt some do mire themselves worse in negativity via inept baneful workings. But when you do such workings properly, the result should be liberation from your spiteful feelings. And what then would the problem be? From an atheistic Satanist perspective, isn’t it just a psychological outburst that makes you feel better with no harm done? So long as baneful magick is practiced that way, what do you have to complain about?
The unifying point here is that I disagree with Honey re: baneful magick can’t be psychologically beneficial at least some of the time. Point 1’s take on this is that indulgence in negative feelings is not always a “waste” of energy – sometimes it is part of the process. Point 2’s take meanwhile is that the very mechanism of baneful magick doesn’t actually encourage “wasting energy” – it encourages the opposite.
On “mastering others” via baneful magick
Honey’s language around “mastering” in this quote to me suggests a somewhat narrow conception both of circumstances in which baneful magick might be used and of what baneful magick may actually be aimed at accomplishing in those circumstances. Implicit in this, I think, is an assumption that most times when people use baneful magick, they are just being malicious without there being an actual good reason for it.
This is not consistent with what I’ve encountered re: actual resort to baneful magick. One example: to get back at an abusive narcissistic ex. Another example: to punish a repeat-offender rapist piece of shit who otherwise seems to be getting away with it. In both instances, constructive intent was mingled with the destructive. Causally, such magick lets the victim blow off steam. Acausally, the target is plagued with misfortune and rendered thereby less able to fuck with others in the future. If you’re the kind of Satanist who disbelieves the latter, fine, but what’s then wrong with the former? If the magick was replacing practical action against these people, I could see that being a problem. But insofar as the magick augments rather than replacing practical action, and makes the victim feel better, what’s an atheistic Satanist got to complain about?
My general complaint here then is that “mastering” doesn’t strike me as a framing that even makes sense re: most “curses”. Nor does it seem appropriate to imply that the person acting thus is somehow lacking in self-mastery. If she’s picturing a specific case of insecure people attempting mind control magick, then I see what she’s getting at. But as part of a general “I don’t like baneful magick” sentiment, it just seems kind of “do you even know what people do with baneful magick?” to me.
This kind of post always runs a risk of pissing off people who like the work of the individual they perceive as “attacked.” So I stress again: generally I like Shiva Honey and I’ve recommended “The Devil’s Tome” to more than one friend. I also acknowledge that a lot of what I’m talking about here probably goes beyond her scope and intentions. I am not then trying to “call her out” or be harshly critical toward her. Rather, the quote I gave above just struck me as a good jumping off point for talking about some things I wanted to talk about as part of this baneful magick series anyway.
Namely, I suspect there are “uWu Satanists” out there who are not well-educated on what baneful magick actually entails. Vs. once you know how people actually use it, you may be able to appreciate how:
- It can help process emotions – it does not inherently hinder this or “waste energy” just because it is “negative”
- It’s like all other magick in promoting emotional detachment if practiced correctly – i.e. pretty much all authorities on magick assert that the spell won’t work if you keep dwelling afterward
- Framing it as inherently an abuse of power is unhelpful to marginalized people using it to cope with difficult circumstances
As always, I’m curious what others think about the topic in question. Do you see the typical baneful magician as less competent or principled than I do, in which case Honey’s concerns may be more applicable? Have you done baneful magick yourself and found it helped or hindered you moving forward? Any thoughts on these or similar topics, please share in the comments!