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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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