To Bane, or Not to Bane; That is the Question

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

Opinion Piece

Disclaimer: I myself have never experienced the level of oppression and hatred that is directed at BIPOC, nor will I. I am also not an expert in these experiences, and so if anyone reading this feels misrepresented, or if I have gotten any information wrong, please do not hesitate to contact me via my email which is linked at the bottom of this article.

Baneful magic has existed historically in every culture, system, and tradition. Does that mean every practitioner has performed these spells and rituals? No. It is now, as it was then, a personal choice, and just like any other personal decision, it isn't one we should be trying to make for others.

Witchcraft is political, this is an unavoidable truth, especially when it comes to baneful workings. A great example of this is the reason why I'm using the term "baneful magic"

instead of "black magic," as it was commonly referred to until more recent times. In America, the term "black magic" was commonly used to refer to the spirituality, and religious practices of ethnic minorities, specifically, black Americans. This was just another way for white Christians to demonize black people and their religions; an additional symptom of a system that was engineered to oppress these communities, and so henceforth, I shall be using the term 'baneful magic' and I encourage you to do the same.

A common opinion held is that baneful magic is inherently "evil," this is because it usually involved causing harm to another person; I do not share this point of view. I think it's incredibly unnuanced and could only come from the mind of someone who has been privileged enough to have other tools at their disposal, both historically as a community, and in modern times, as an individual. To take a 'morally superior' stance in this situation is to completely ignore the history of baneful magic. In Irish, we would call a curse a 'mallaigh,' (or a 'mallacht,' there are also probably 5-10 other words that could be used too) and they were considered a form of justice magic that only worked on evildoers. Now that is not to say that we did not have other forms of baneful magic that DID cause harm to anyone who was unlucky enough to be on the other end of it, such as piseóga, but curses would never work on an innocent party. I find this cultural belief to be an interesting commentary on the way in which Irish people cursed, I believe it to be the product of an oppressed society, one who was consistently victimised, and persecuted by an enemy we didn't really stand a chance against.

Throughout history, baneful magic has been the tool of the oppressed. These rituals and spells were usually performed by the lower class, those whose voices were drowned out and ignored, and while this was not always people of colour, quite often it was. In Irish society, we continue to face the consequences of oppression to this day. This is not to say that we are still oppressed in any way, shape, or form, just that our society is still recovering from the economic, cultural, and emotional damage that we were subjected to.

Personally, I am "pro-hex". I do not believe that baneful magic has moral implications; I grew up in a society that believes in a "you started it, and I'm going to finish it" mindset. Forgiveness was encouraged, but not to the point of self-compromise, I was raised to respect and defend myself, as well as others if the need arises, and this extended to magical workings. This mindset is a direct result of having so much of our history, and culture stolen from us and destroyed by a colonial force. A general bitterness has become socially acceptable and even encouraged, especially when it comes to arguments, or being slighted by someone.

As I see it, the effects that magic can have, including hexes, exist within a binary. They can be purely psychological, purely environmental, or a combination of the two. I believe that the most effective hex will affect someone in both of these ways. As with most spellwork, the magical works best when it goes alongside the mundane; threatening someone with a hex, can often be as effective as doing an actual magical working. This would cause a purely psychological effect, this person would become anxious, and paranoid, possibly to the point of unintentionally hexing themselves. The concept of hexing oneself, or creating a negative entity based solely on recurring fearful, or negative thoughts is a controversial one, and one I have not educated myself on enough to decide whether or not I believe in it, however, I've decided to include it anyway to allow you to do your own research on it and make this decision for yourself.

Regardless of whether or not you believe that negative entities can be created by recurring thoughts, the psychological effect those thoughts would have on a person could be quite damaging, and as effective as any magical working. Baneful workings have a rich, rich history that exists all over the world, and I personally do not believe that we should be condemning it when it is so vital to the narrative of so many communities.

At the end of the day, it truly is up to you. What you do in the privacy of your own personal practice is no one's business but your own, but I do believe that we should each be respecting each other's decisions on this matter, To bane, or not to bane; that is the question, and only you can answer it. Slán go fóill mo chairde,

Eóin An Chailleach

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