We are reenacting a boring suburban version of the scene in The Great Gatsby where it is too hot and tiresome to be in the house so they go to The Plaza instead for a huge chunk of ice, booze and boujie white person drama. We are at Panera, eating cupcakes and drinking iced teas and using Wi-Fi.
Scenes from a Pagan Household (Road Show)
Jow: Do I want a sandwich?
Deb: What did you eat today?
Jow: (lists his “Hobbit-Lite” meals for the day)
Deb: No. We’re going to Skylark tonight with John and Sarah.
Jow: Okay. Hey, I would really like to do some curse work on X because of Y.
Deb: Okay. What did you have in mind?
Jow: (enthusiastically details a honey badger level plan)
Jow: Why not?
Deb: Did X kill all your family? Did X cheat on you and get knocked up with someone else’s baby, claimed it was yours and had you support said baby for several years and gave you an STD to boot?
Jow: . . .No.
Deb: Right. (DEB suggests a much more reasonable course of action which JOW grudgingly accepts)
Jow: So . . .that vortex of suck-energy that’s been living in our house.
Deb: Right. I can think of a few places it came from. (Names said places) We’ve been inattentive to taking care of it and let it multiply like mold spores in our house until it got big enough to be problematic in the house. We need to do more than our usual cleansing and offerings, though we’ve been lax about that too. What do you think we should do?
Jow: (enthusiastically details a plan that involves a wood chipper level of destruction)
Deb: . . .You escort spiders out of our house. Spiders bite and do bad things. This thing is about the equivalent of a big spider like we’d find in our house, not like Harry Potter, or a family of ticks maybe. I don’t know that we need that level of Work here. (Suggests Lesser Banishing Rites along with a few other things)
Jow (glumly): I know. Use a fly swatter for a fly, not a nuclear weapon.
Deb: I feel like I keep addressing this in person and in the blogosphere and still no one hears the words coming out of my mouth.
Deb Castellano’s Dark Arts List Five (Once More With Feeling)
1. Scale. I know it’s super exciting to get to flex your magical muscles. Let’s be real; we live lives that more closely resemble a less fun, less witty version of The Gilmore Girls rather than an episode of Charmed. If you are living your life correctly, you likely rarely need to banish anything. You rarely should want/need to Work on someone. I say living life correctly because if you need to do this stuff all the time in your own life, you’ve made some wrong decisions about the people you have in your life and some poor life decisions that need to be evaluated on a non-magical level, possibly with a therapist.
If you’re living your life correctly, you’re probably giving offerings to your gods/spirits, doing some healing work, working on enlightenment if that’s your bag, working on getting a stronger sense of the spiritual world, a little glamour, a little money work, a little protection work. All that’s fun when you’re new, but when you’ve been doing Work for a while, it starts to be less exciting because it’s part of your regular practice.
You know what’s not part of your magical practice? The Dark Arts. Awwwwwwwwwwwwww, yeah! Let’s fucking do this! PEWPEWPEWPEW! LET’S FUCKING SHOW THIS PERSON WHO IS THEIR MAGICAL DADDY! WE’RE MAD! THEY SUCK! WE’RE HURT! LET’S BECOME THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS! WHAT’S THE POINT OF MAGIC IF I CAN’T END SOMEONE?
Taking your parking space is not that serious, bro. Okay, let’s say it’s actually someone you loved and/or trusted and they really hurt you. Because let’s be real, that’s what this is about. They hurt you, you want to hurt them worse. Quid quo pro, Clarice. That’s legit. Not everyone has New Testament leanings about turning the other cheek. How badly did they hurt you really? Like, is it a story that when you tell another person that their jaw drops and they say, holy shit, that’s terrible? Or is it a story that someone says, Wow, that sucks? Did this person try to physically harm you? Did this person try to take away your livelihood? Did this person betray your trust and love in a way that is intentionally harmful?
For example, a “frienenemy” who is nice to your face but talks a massive amount of shit about you behind your back and does general “girl world” level schemes against you is someone who can potentially be dealt with. But part of dealing with this person is acknowledging you’re feeding into the toxic situation because part of you likes the drama. So, you need to stop feeding into it as much as possible and distance yourself from them. Would a “Stop Gossiping” spell be appropriate? Yes. Would a “Freezing” spell be appropriate? Yes. Would a mirror box spell where whenever the frienenemy talks shit about you it gets reflected back? Possibly, if you want to get a bit deeper into the woods. Should you be siccing an intranquil spirit on this person or a DUME spell? I highly doubt it.
Correctly evaluating scale is vital to curse work. If you over-react magically every time someone wrongs you, you’re going to wind up with a huge mess on your hands. FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, CURSE WORK IS CALLED A MESS FOR A REASON.
2. Feels. You thought it was like this, but it’s like that. You thought I liked you, trusted you, loved you, you thought we were on a team together forever, you thought I enjoyed your company, you thought nothing would come between us… The most painful thing about a breakup, or a momentary shame, or the embarrassment of getting played, or finding out the game behind the game, is feeling like an asshole. You were going along like everything was fine, and they knew it wasn’t fine. They lived in the real world, and you didn’t.
When people scream and yell about getting played, or cheated on, it’s not pride. Nothing like that. It’s pain, and it’s fear: the world wrenching itself around you, from one position to another, like finding out the floor is the ceiling and always has been; that sickening coyote drop in your stomach just before you go into free-fall. The world changes around you, its angles and symmetry force themselves into new and unfamiliar shapes, and it’s terrifying and sickening; deception is betrayal less on the emotional level than an ontological one. – Jacob Clifton, GossipGirl Recap on Television Without Pity
If you are considering the Dark Arts, you are likely feeling something similar to the above description. It’s because of the world reshaping itself around you that it makes it impossible for you to make sound decisions. (A magic in and of itself that is perhaps the most neutral magic of them all – it doesn’t care if it makes you happy or miserable, it’s happening. Until you find solid ground, it’s changing too fast for you to affect it. Wheel of Fortune, every time.) So don’t. Don’t decide anything. Let the world re-form enough around you that you can own the solid ground you stand on again before you do anything. When you start to feel like you’re standing on solid ground, wait another week before you even divine if it’s right to do.
Think about it this way: You really want to hurt this person, right? And you want it to count, correct? That’s the purpose of the Dark Arts, no? Do you want to be sobbing and impotently flailing at them trying to slap fight them into submission or do you want a pound of flesh? Do you really think if you can’t even feel the ground under you that you will be able to be cunning enough to take that pound of flesh? Will you have enough control over your Will and your magical ability in a state of shock? NO. YOU WILL NOT. IF YOU REALLY WANT THIS TO STICK AND TO COUNT, YOU WILL NEED MANAGE ENOUGH SELF CONTROL TO WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER YOUR WILL AND BE ABLE TO COMPETENTLY CAST.
3. L7 Here’s the thing about being betrayed, hurt or otherwise damaged. It will never be enough. If someone has managed to really hurt you, and I mean really hurt you, there will never be a time where it feels like whatever vengeance you’ve exacted is enough. I had Your Standard Psycho ExBoyfriend ™ at about 2o. It was your Standard Bad Scene where he would stalk me and threaten to show up at my college, at my work place, at my home where I was alone – the usual psycho sturm und drang. However, I was still very young and it was my first go ’round with this level of romantic bullshit so I was really damaged by this. It was really bad. I wanted him to suffer for all the nights I couldn’t sleep, the sting of humiliation I felt for needing to be walked out to my car at night by co-workers, all the fear I felt constantly looking over my shoulder, unsure if he was there waiting to stab me nineteen times because that would sure show me how much he loved me.
It was terrible. It was awful. In the end, my mommy had to call his mommy to tell her to check her son if she didn’t want her kid served with a restraining order. His mommy reigned him in because I was not the first girlfriend this had happened with. He’s in the mental health field now, do with that what you will.
But, as my friend E. told me at the time, YSPEB could be eaten alive by a pack of flaming dingoes and it wouldn’t be enough for you. It would never be enough. Which is why you have to leave it alone.
Vengeance is tricky. It’s sticky and it’s not a straight line. It wants to pull you in, it wants you to be the cat playing with a slowly dying mouse. It wants to be your lover, your life, your reason for getting up in the morning, your perfect drug. Every time you work the Dark Arts against someone, you are creating a stronger bond between you and that person. No hyssop powder or perfumes of Arabia will sweeten this little hand. It’s okay to be willing to have that strong bond, it’s okay to accept that as the cost of doing business here. But you need to check yourself before you get consumed by it. Being consumed by vengeance isn’t even a magical problem. It’s been a literary/cinema trope for more than five hundred years (see: Kill Bill, Hamlet, The Princess Bride, Gangs of New York, etc, etc., etc). Tropes are tropes for a reason.
The best and easiest way to keep from being consumed with it is to ask for what’s fair. Asking for what’s fair shows that you can be reasonable, even in this state. Be organized and sensible. Asking for raining frogs shows that you are a crazy person. You will either get what you asked for ( . . .yikes in most cases) or be ignored. You don’t want to be ignored and you don’t want your crazy shit come to life. Keep your wits about you.
Another aspect to keep you from getting completely consumed by this is to limit yourself to one working, ideally one that doesn’t have to be fed for too long. Super ideally something that you leave in the woods somewhere. Think about villains from James Bond movies. Were they effective? No. They had ridiculously complicated plans. Complicated is what fucks up situations. Keep it neat, clean and quick. You will be unlikely to tell many people about what you did so no one will admire your handiwork anyway. This is a magical hit. You are intent on fucking up someone else’s situation. Get in and get out.
I promise you, your gods and spirits will be far more creative than you on your best day. Ask for fairness in your vengeance, keep your spell work neat and simple and ask for Them to enact it on your behalf. You don’t need to lay out a complicated blue print. Explain what was done, explain what you want to happen in broad terms and why. Then leave it alone. Leaving it alone for your gods/spirits to work on this for you is critical. Probably the most critical. Let the Fates spin the web. Be patient, give it time.
Leave. It. Alone.