Thoughts on Black Magick
by Sylvana SilverWitch
Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?
Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2
Black magick, the black arts, the left hand path_ the words conjure a reaction, a chill, raise the hair on the nape of your neck. I invariably imagine zombies, the voodoo walking undead or secret virgin sacrifices. I think, too, of dolls with needles stuck in them for malicious revenge spells, of death, injury and illness.
First, let’s examine magick; what is it precisely? There are numerous interpretations, and each person you ask will have their own. My favorite definition of magick is that of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the founding members of the Golden Dawn. He characterizes magick as: “The Science of the Control of the Secret Forces of Nature.” I do like to commune with those secret forces, and to fancy I might have some influence, however small, over them. Ha, ha, ha!
Another explication is from the famous old grimoire, The Lemegeton, or The Lessor Key of Solomon. It states: “Magick is the Highest, most Absolute, and Most Divine Knowledge of Natural Philosophy, advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult virtue of things; so that true Agents being applied to proper Patients, strange and admirable effects will therefore be produced. Whence magicians are profound and diligent searchers into Nature; they, because of their skill, know how to anticipate an effect, the which to the vulgar shall seem to be a miracle.”
Old Uncle Al (Aleister Crowley, pronounced Cro-lee) had another one of the finest: “The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” This leaves a lot of room for doing what you please, but Uncle Al was especially big on free will anyway. I believe he would, even now, approve of black magick.
Another one of my favorites is that of a fellow, described by Doreen Valiente, who said in her book An ABC of Witchcraft: “Black magick can be defined as what the other fellow does!” Isn’t that the truth!? I have listened to this from a lot of people, who really can’t tell you what black magick would be – except a spell to kill someone – and I asked lots of people this question! They can’t describe it themselves, but it’s what “So and so” does! They know it when they see it!
When I sat down to compose this article I speculated, what would people want to apprehend about black magick? I would want to understand – what is it specifically? This is not always simple to define, the edges are blurred in some cases.
So, what actually is black magick? Is it all of these, or any of them? According to the Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft: “Magic is variously described as white, black and gray, but actually it has no color. Magic is neutral and amoral. It can be bent to good, evil or ambiguous purposes, depending on the intent of the practitioner.” “The distinction between white and black magic is fairly modern,” according to occultist A.E. Waite, “and depends upon sharp contrast between good and evil spirits.”
According to certain people, there is apparently no such thing as “black” magick. Other people have differing opinions, like The Modern Witch’s Spellbookby Sarah Lyddon Morrison has a whole section, along with the charms and talismans, love spells and potions, that describes black magick and its applications. It is complete with specific spells: “to torment, but not permanently injure,” or like “punishing a faithless lover,” or “to cause a lot of agony,” and “how to make a marriage unhappy.”
Wait, there’s more: “To maim and kill,” and detailed instructions on “how to dig up a coffin” to get your hands on some coffin nails (presumably for other weird spells). To Sarah’s credit, the chapter on black magick includes a segment about ethics and contains plenty of admonitions about what not to do, and how you should never render black magick in haste. It goes on to caution you about what happens if you’re not positively certain about your victim or whether they actually did what you think they did, or deserve the results your efforts.
So, I guess it’s okay with her, as long as you heed the instructions – this seems to be the theory of quite a few people outside the Northwest. Speaking of the Northwest, I have discovered that people here are inclined to be a bit more conservative (or politically correct), than they are ordinarily.
When I began in the Craft, it was much more permissible to use your art for advantage or protection or even for retribution: the sort of things that are, today, considered by many to be black magick. This whole thing about the politically correct manner in which to do magick, or whether it’s okay to work magick at all – positively annoys me! I say, “What variety of witch doesn’t practice magick?” I have known a number of them here in the Seattle area. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe that’s one of the distinctions between “Wiccans” and “Witches” – I am a Witch, with a capital “W.” I am not, however, a Wiccan, and that’s okay.
I remember when the domain of the witches was just that, the dark side. We were outside the edges of society anyway, and we knew we had power and we weren’t afraid to use it. People came frequently to implore me to work a spell for them: to bring back an errant lover, to get a particular job, to get back at a person who had harmed them. I usually sent them away with instructions on how to resolve the situation themselves, though in certain circumstances it was acceptable to do the spell for them. What happened? Why is it not okay anymore to exercise your power? Why has the Craft become so boringly P.C.?
“The driving force behind black magic is hunger for power.” So says Richard Cavendish in The Black Arts,one of the first books about magick that I bought when I was about sixteen, thinking that “this must be what it is.” Cavendish also says, “The magician sets out to conquer the universe. To succeed he must make himself master of everything in it – evil as well as good, cruelty as well as mercy, pain as well as pleasure.” This makes sense, right? According to almost everyone that I have talked to, those who have been in the Craft for over 10 years, they all started out in search of power. Or at least that’s what they thought at the time. Many began by practicing black magick and proceeded logically, after getting their butts kicked (proverbially or not), to the Craft as we now know it and what they ended up finding is their own power.
When I was younger, and did not know any better – I, too, believed any magick that would work was great. If you could get someone to do what you wanted or to fall in love with you, or whatever, you were a clever witch. It is much easier to do what is now referred to as black magick when you’re young; you frequently have a lot of emotion invested in it, so there’s no wonder a neophyte might be successful with it.
My personal definition of black magick, if there is such a thing, about which I am still ambiguous, is: working magick that is meant to hurt, harm or to cause the loss of free will or to hinder someone else or a situation. Further, it can be just pulling on someone’s energy without his or her permission, and knowledge. Sometimes this is not done maliciously or mean-spiritedly, for instance working love magick to get a specific person, or healing a person who maybe needs the rest that illness provides. So in my opinion, you should be very careful. It works – it works well so you better be very sure! There is so much negativity floating around in the atmosphere that it’s easy to gather that up and direct it without much effort or skill. Should you do it? I can’t tell you that, but I don’t recommend doing anything questionable unless you really know what you’re doing and are absolutely willing to suffer the consequences of the threefold law of return. Because the problem is, it will come back to you, and you should be ready to have your butt kicked by it.
In my class, I teach that there’s no color to magick, that it all just is and it’s a matter of the intent that creates the Karma. I do my best now to avoid situations that might get me into a position where I’d be inclined to have to use my magick in such a way. I also teach my students personal responsibility, and I practice it myself. I would hope that all grown-up witches would do the same. That is the secret, in my opinion. There are not many people willing to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. I have heard many people complain about this and that, and how they wish it would be different to accommodate them. I say stop complaining and do something for yourself! Use magick if you will and remember to be mindful of your intent!