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A Midsummer Night's Dream love spells
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Is it ever ethical to cast a love spell? Witches weigh in

From hexes to love spells, witches discuss what the rules are when it comes to casting on people without their consent

Isabella Greenwood is a priestess, sorceress and spellcaster.

Since the beginning of time, society has been fearful of witches’ powers, burning them at the stake, chasing them with pitchforks out of the village, and depicting them in myth as wicked temptresses. Despite the fear-mongering, both witchcraft and spellcasting have always existed with the intention to bring about good fortune, whether it be through a prosperous harvest, healing a wounded lamb or locating a lost lover at sea. The anti-witch laws and the lynching of witches of the past might be behind us, but there still exists plenty of prejudice and misinformation surrounding witches and their work. People still worry we will turn our enemies into frogs and curse our exes for eternity – and though we could if we wanted to, most modern-day witches do not cast spells without serious ethical consideration.

Different lines of witchcraft follow different laws pertaining to ethics and karma, but Wiccan witches subscribe to the Wiccan Rede, essentially the 10 commandments for witches and neopagans. The Wiccan Rede states, “Mind the Threefold Law you should, three times bad and three times good”. This is the equivalent of the witch’s wording of Karma: anything you do, whether good or bad, will return to you threefold. Witches understand fate can be manipulated if absolutely necessary, but generally trust that everyone gets what they give eventually. “I think we need to ask ourselves, ‘Why do I want to hex this person? Does this person deserve a more severe punishment than what karma will ultimately bring their way anyway?’” says Jennifer Lane, author of The Witch's Survival Guide: Spells For Healing From Stress and Burnout, as a remedy for acting negatively out of impulse.

As a witch, but also just as a human, my personal ethics focus strongly on consent. Consent shouldn’t only be considered in the context of sex or everyday relations, but also in the context of magick. This means I require written consent from clients before casting a spell, and require the consent of the third party if a client is requesting a spell on behalf of someone else. Consent also means I will not cast spells on specific people. For example, instead of casting a love spell directed at one person, I will cast a spell that focuses more generally on love and romance. This will attract a more sincere love rather than a person who may not be right for the client in the first place.

When Semra Haksever, creator of Mama Moon spell candles, is asked to cast a spell on a specific person, she first asks the client how they would feel if the same was done to them: “How would you react if you found out you were bound to a partner, outside of your own free will?” These spells are usually requests for an ex to return, she says, which leads to the question: “Why cast a spell on someone who has disrespected you instead of redirecting the love back to yourself?” 

The same goes for money spells. Rather than bewitching your boss to give you a raise, it is better to cast a spell welcoming financial abundance and career success, as this also allows for the option of a new career to open up if this is better aligned with the intention of genuine and long-term success. Spellcasting is never about controlling people, but rather about welcoming good fortune into your life in accordance with the laws of the universe.

Intention, as well as consent, is also incredibly important. For example, if your unconscious intention for a love spell is male validation, you will receive a more shallow love that satiates this need but does not go deeper. Diana Rajchel, author of Hex Twisting, always does divination before casting a spell, allowing her to properly understand a spell’s intentions and avoid any magickal miscommunication. In my own practice, I shell-throw and roll my divination dice before casting spells. The constellations they create when they fall allow me to decipher the root intentions of a spell. If I find the intentions are coming from the wrong place, I will redirect the energy in a more positive direction that focuses on the subjects’ inherent powers, exclusive of outside forces and people.  

Though the casting of good-intentioned love, money, career and fertility spells make up a huge part of a witch’s practice, there are exceptions in instances of self-preservation. Witchcraft is not only a craft of love and healing, but also a craft of power, and this is why witches have been feared and prosecuted since the beginning of time, as not everyone likes to see a woman owning her own power. Self-defence is an important part of magick and how our ancestors protected themselves.

“Some people in the world use it as a tool of abuse, but like a lot of weapons, cursing can be a legitimate tool of defence in ethical hands,” says Rajchel. Though I do not believe in unjust violence and hatred, I also believe in ethical self-defence as a last resort. In the same way, physical self-defence is recognised under law as different to premeditated violence, so too is magickal self-defence different from an ill-intended hex.  

Thorn Mooney, author of The Witch’s Path, emphasizes the importance of not being judgemental to others that are protecting themselves: “Everyone wants to think they’re above physical violence, but that’s because they’ve never been in scenarios where it’s been forced upon you,” she says. “I’m not going to judge someone else for being in positions where the magical equivalent is necessary.” Hexing, which can be a form of self-defence, is always a last resort. Mooney notes: “When hexes are effective, it’s because they’re driven by real need, fear and anger, and their casters are often in a corner where other options aren’t available”. The art of spellwork is to know the difference between pettiness and protection, and to exercise magickal acts accordingly. I am grateful to have had this weapon in the past to defend friends, clients and myself from toxic people and dangerous situations. 

Reclaiming the power of spellwork is inherently a feminist and queer act when done ethically: with consent and the consideration of consequences. It has historically enabled marginalized groups of people with the ability to protect and empower themselves, when other options were not available. Spellcasting enables people to access their own personal power, and to refuse a world which has ever made them feel unworthy or criminal for exercising it.

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