Black Magic

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Some people refer to any negative magical workings as "black magic.". Image by Erekle Sologashvili/Moment Open/Getty Images

A reader says, "There's a local group that I've been considering joining - I like all the members on a personal level, they're intelligent and have thoughtful discussions, and I feel like I could fit in with this group. However, someone else in the Pagan community warned me about them, and said they follow "a dark path," whatever that means, and mumbled something about "black magic" before changing the subject. Should I be concerned about what I'm getting into, or should I go with my instinct and explore this group further?

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Sometimes you’ll hear people in the Pagan community - and outside of it - use the term “black magic.” Others will tell you that magic has no color at all. So what does “black magic” really mean?

Traditionally, black magic is how people often describe magic that is done in what's perceived as a negative manner. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Magical workings that impact the free will of others
  • Magic performed to bring about destruction or harm, such as cursing or hexing
  • Magic invoking the spirit realm for a negative purpose
  • Magical workings that are baneful; i.e., that restrict or eliminate the actions of other people

In some traditions, workings done with negative intent are referred to as “dark magic.” However, bear in mind that not all Pagan traditions divide magic into such simplistic categories as “black” or “white.” Also, most magic does have some impact on the free will of others, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Doing magic is about changing things. Unless you're only working magic on yourself - and that's okay, if that's what you choose to do - there's no way to perform magic without influencing something or someone, somehow, somewhere.

When it comes to spirit work, sure, there's always a possibility that someone's going to conjure up something they didn't mean to.

But the fact is, if you're going to put the energy into working with spirits, then failing to put an equal about of energy into protective measures is foolish, to say nothing of lazy.

It's important to recognize that one person's "negative intent" is another person's "getting things done." There seems to be a trend in the Pagan community, particularly among Neowiccan groups, to frown upon anyone who doesn't follow a white-light-and-rainbows magical tradition. Sometimes you may also hear the phrase "left hand path" thrown out - and you'll often find that people who self-identify with Left Hand Path traditions don't especially care what other people think of them.

In other words, the person warning you off may have been doing so simply because this group has a set of standards that doesn't meet his or her approval.

More often than not, you’ll hear the term “black magic” used by non-Pagans to describe any sort of magical working at all. For more discussion on black magic, please be sure to read about Magical Ethics.

The bottom line is that if you already feel like you're comfortable with this group, and you like what you've seen of them so far, there's no reason you can't continue discussions.

If, at any point, you feel like they're going in a direction you don't like, you can always change your mind - but it sounds as though you're thinking practically, and that means this group may well be a very good fit for you.