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     'Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true
     happiness.' -- Bertrand Russell    
                CHARMED, I'M SURE    
            The Ethics of Love Spells    
                 by Mike Nichols    
         *    *    *    *    *    *   *    *    *    *    *    *    *   *    *  

     To gain the love of someone:  On a night of the full moon, walk to a spot 
     beneath your beloved's bedroom window, and whisper his/her name three times
     to the nightwind.   
                       --Ozark love spell   

         *    *    *    *    *    *   *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   *  


               It seems tobe an immutable law ofnature.  You are interviewedby a
     local radio or  TV station, or in  some local newspaper.  The  topic of the
     interview is  Witchcraft or Paganism, and  you spend the better  part of an
     hour brilliantly  articulating your beliefs,  your devotion to  Goddess and
     nature,  the  difference between  Witchcraft  and  Satanism, and  generally
     enlightening  the public  at large.   The  next day,  you are  flooded with
     calls.  Is it  people complimenting you on such a splendid  interview?  No.
     People  wanting to  find out  more about  the religion  of Wicca?   Huh-uh.
     People who are  even vaguely interested  in what you  had to say???   Nope.
     Who is it?  It's people asking you to do a love spell for them!   This used
     to  drive me nuts.  I'd  take a deep breath and  patiently explain (for the
     thousandth  time) why  I won't even  do love  spells for  myself, let alone
     anyone else.  This generally resulted in my caller becoming either angry or
     defensive, but seldom more  enlightened.  'But don't  you DO magic?',  they
     ask.  'Only occasionally,' I answer.  'And aren't most magic spells love
     spells?', they persist.   That was the line I really  hated, because I knew
     they were right!   At least, if you look  at the table of contents  of most
     books on  magic, you'll find more  love spells than  any other kind.   This
     seems  as  true for  the  medieval  grimoire as  for  the modern  drugstore

           Why?  Why so many books containing so many love spells?  Why such an
     emphasis on a kind of magic that I, personally, have always considered very
     negative?  And to make matters even more  confusing, the books that do take
     the trouble  of dividing  spells between  'positive'  and 'negative'  magic
     invariably list love spells under the first heading.  After all, they would
     argue,  love  is  a  good thing.    There  can  never be  too  much  of it.
     Therefore, any  spell that brings about  love must be a GOOD  spell.  Never
     mind that  the spell puts a straightjacket on another's free will, and then
     drops it in cement for good measure.  


                 And thatis whyI hadalways assumedlove magicto benegative magic.
     Years ago,  one  of the  first  things I  learned  as a  novice  Witch  was
     something called the  Witch's Rede, a kind of  'golden rule' in traditional
     Witchcraft.   It states, 'An  it harm none, do  what thou will.'   One uses
     this rede as  a kind  of ethical litmus  test for  a spell.   If the  spell
     brings harm to someone -- anyone (including yourself!) -- then don't do it!
     Unfortunately,  this rule contains  a loophole  big enough  to fly  a broom
     through.   It's commonly expressed, 'Oh, this  won't HARM them; it's really
     for their own good.'   When you hear someone say that,  take cover, because
     something especially nasty is about to happen.  

           That's why I had to develop my own version of the Witch's Rede.  Mine
     says that  if a spell harms  anyone, OR LIMITS THEIR FREEDOM  OF THOUGHT OR
     ACTION IN  ANY WAY,  then consider it  negative, and don't  do it.   Pretty
     strict, you  say?  Perhaps.   But there's another law  in Witchcraft called
     the  Law of Threefold Return.  This  says that whatever power you send out,
     eventually  comes back to  you three  times more  powerful.   So I  take no
     chances.    And  love  spells,  of  the  typical  make-Bobby-love-me  type,
     definitely have an impact on another's free will.  

                 Sowhy are they so common? It's taken me yearsto make peace with
     this, but I think I finally understand.  The plain truth is that most of us
     NEED love.  Without it, our lives are empty and miserable.  After our basic
     survival needs have been met, we must have affection  and companionship for
     a full life.   And if it will not come of its own accord, some of us may be
     tempted to  FORCE it  to come.   And nothing  can be  as painful  as loving
     someone  who doesn't  love  you  back.    Consequently,  the  most  common,
     garden-variety spell in the world is the love spell.  

                 Is there ever a way to do a love  spell and yet stay within the
     parameters of the Witch's Rede?   Possibly.  Some teachers have argued that
     if a spell doesn't attempt to attract a SPECIFIC person into your life, but
     rather attempts to attract the RIGHT person, whomever that may  be, then it
     is not negative magic.  Even so, one should make sure  that the spell finds
     people who are  'right' for each  other -- so that  neither is harmed,  and
     both are made happy.  

           Is there ever an excuse for the make-Bobby-love-me type of spell? 
     Without  endorsing  this  viewpoint, I  must  admit  that  the most  cogent
     argument in  its favor  is the  following: Whenever you  fall in  love with
     someone, you do everything in your power to impress them.  You dress nicer,
     are  more  attentive, witty,  and  charming.   And  at the  same  time, you
     unconsciously set in motion some very  powerful psychic forces.  If  you've
     ever walked into a room where someone has  a crush on you, you know what  I
     mean.  You can  FEEL it.  Proponents of  this school say that a  love spell
     only takes the  forces that are ALREADY there -- MUST be there if you're in
     love -- and  channels them more efficiently.  But the energy would be there
     just the same, whether or not you use a spell to focus it.  

                 Iwon't attempt to decidethis one for you. People must arrive at
     their own set of ethics through their own considerations.  However, I would
     call to  your attention all the  cautionary tales in folk  magic about love
     spells  gone awry.   Also, if  a love spell  has been employed  to join two
     people who are  not naturally compatible, then one must keep pumping energy
     into the spell.  And when one finally tires of this  (and one will, because
     it  is hard  work!) then  the spell  will unravel  amidst an  emotional and
     psychic  hurricane that  will  make the  stormiest  divorces seem  calm  by
     comparison.  Not a pretty picture.  
           It should be noted that many spells that pass themselves off as love
     spells  are, in reality, sex spells.   Not that there's anything surprising


     in  that, since our most  basic needs usually include sex.   But I think we
     should be  clear from the outset  what kind of spell  it is.   And the same
     ethical standards used for love spells can often be applied  to sex spells.
     Last year, the very quotable Isaac Bonewits, author of 'Real Magic', taught
     a sex  magic  class here  at the  Magick  Lantern, and  he tossed  out  the
     following rule of  thumb: Decide what the mundane equivalent  of your spell
     would be, and ask yourself  if you could be arrested for it.   For example,
     some spells are  like sending a letter to your beloved in the mail, whereas
     other  spells are tantamount to  abduction.  The  former is perfectly legal
     and normal, whereas the latter is felonious.  

                 One mitigating  factor in your decisions may  be the particular
     of magic you follow.  For example, I've often noticed that practitioners of
     Voudoun (Voodoo) and Santeria seem much more focused on the wants and needs
     of day-to-day living than on the abstruse ethical considerations we've been
     examining here.  That's not a value judgement -- just an observation.  For
     example,  most followers  of Wicca  STILL don't  know how  to react  when a
     Santerian priest  spills the blood  of a chicken  during a ritual  -- other
     than to  feel pretty queasy.  The  ethics of one culture  is not always the
     same as another.  

           And speaking of cultural traditions, another consideration is how a
     culture views love and sex.  It has often been pointed out that in our
     predominant culture, love and sex are seen in very possessive terms,  where
     the beloved is regarded as one's personal property.  If the spell uses this
     approach,  treating a person as an object,  jealously attempting to cut off
     all other relationships, then the ethics  are seriously in doubt.  However,
     if the spell takes a  more open approach to love and sex, not attempting to
     limit a  person's other relationships in  any way, then perhaps  it is more
     defensible.  Perhaps.  Still, it might be wise to ask, Is this the  kind of
     spell I'd want someone to cast on me?  

                 Love spells. Whether to dothem or not. If you area practitioner
     of magic,  I dare say you  will one day be  faced with the choice.   If you
     haven't yet, it is  only a matter of time.  And if  the answer is yes, then
     which  spells are ethical and  which aren't?  Then  you, and only you, will
     have to decide whether 'All's fair in  love and war', or whether there  are
     other, higher, metaphysical considerations.  


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