Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Think Before You Hex

“So, what are you guys doing for New Moon?”

I'm talking long-distance with a friend.

“We're having a discussion about cursing,” I tell her.

These days, we generally do at Full, and discuss at New. Mostly, it makes for a good balance; you need to get things done, but you also need to think about things.

“Touchy subject,” she replies. “Should be an interesting discussion.”

She pauses, then laughs, adding: “Assuming it doesn't break up the coven first.”


Well, the group has already made it through 35 years together, and we made it through this discussion too. Although definitive answers in these matters are rare, I do feel as if I'm closer now to understanding some things that I've wondered about for a while.

What is a curse?

Is it possible for a curse to kill?

If so, and assuming that killing is criminal, is killing by curse criminal?


What is a curse?

A curse is the use of magic to

  • do harm

  • cause illness, injury, or unhappiness

  • kill.

Is it possible for a curse to kill?

Short answer: yes.

That said, though, magic by nature tends to work indirectly. We sometimes think: you cast the spell and X happens. But there's causality and causality. What really happens is that you cast the spell and Y has a fight with his partner and the gun goes off accidentally. Or there's an icy patch on the road that night. There are causes and causes, and, insofar as magic causes, that causality is indirect. Magic is, in itself, only rarely (if ever) a thread in the fabric of Wyrd. Rather, magic tugs at the threads of Wyrd, and things happen.

If it's possible for a curse to kill, and assuming that killing is criminal, is killing by curse criminal?

Theoretically, yes. But since magic, as cause, is virtually always indirect cause, a tugging at a thread in the fabric of Wyrd, it would be bloody difficult to prove responsibility in a court of law.

That's why magic tends to operate extrajudicially.

That's why magic has laws of its own.


Evan John Jones, who was one of Robert Cochrane's people, always used to say that every curse has a cost.

If you're going to curse—in protection of self or others, say, or to right an injustice that would otherwise go unrighted—you'd damn well better be willing to pay that price.

And part of that cost is that a curse must of necessity create a bond between hexer and hexee.

So drastic an action as a curse must inevitably link sender and recipient. To hex someone—chances are, someone that you don't like—will inescapably forge a bond between you and that person for the foreseeable future.

Sometimes, of course, these things need to be done. The world is full of terrible decisions that no one should ever have to make, but which in fact someone has to make. Part of the witch's job is to take on the burden of making those terrible decisions, in part to spare others the need of having to do so. Someone needs to say: I'm sorry, the baby was born dead. Often it's in everyone's best interest for that someone to be a disinterested party. Or as disinterested as it's ever possible to be in such matters.

But remember: the one that you curse today is the same one that you'll be carrying around with you for the next 30 or 40 years.

So, for gods' sakes, always, always, always

Think before you hex.








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Tagged in: curse dark magic hex
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Megan Gypsy Minx
    Megan Gypsy Minx Tuesday, 06 September 2016

    Thank you, a good reminder of why hexes and curses are usually never worth it.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Tuesday, 06 September 2016

    I agree completely, Megan. There are nearly always better ways to get the job done.

  • Michele
    Michele Tuesday, 06 September 2016

    I always think before I hex. I have in fact, only hexed once, and I thought a great deal about it.

    But I think I disagree with you about hexing creating a particular bond between the hexer and the target. As inhabitants of the earth, we are all connected already. A hex or spell of any kind does not increase that connection unless that is the intent of the caster. A hex done well actually disconnects the target, making them more susceptible to the mischief directed at them. If there is a risk involved in doing such a hex, it's in forcefully disconnecting someone from the web of life and connection with the earth... and I feel that a witch worth her name knows how to deal with that.

    Just like activists who emply civil disobedience, sometimes a witch needs to employ tools that require a little more commitment and willingness to do the unpopular work. Sometimes that might be me, and if so, I'll give it all the consideration that it's due.

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