Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The ethics of enchantment, part 1

Working a ritual on behalf of someone can be a little tricky. Apparently there are several conflicting schools of thought, two of which caught my eye. One: if someone needs to have ritual done on them, you do it. Even if they don't ask. Two: Assuming that you know what they need is wrong, so don't do a ritual for them. Even if they do ask, you can't help, because their current suffering might be karma, or Threefold Rule coming down on them, or suchlike..

Both these positions are wrong. (Or rather, the straw-man exaggerated versions I've constructed here are wrong.) As usual, the answer lies in hacking out a middle path and using every new action to reevaluate standards.

For example: Doing a ritual or casting a spell on someone without their permission runs the risk of being akin to bullying. Haven't you had friends or family who tried to "fix" your life? Even if it was broken at the time, sometimes what they did was exactly the wrong thing--introducing you to a new potential lover right when you've broken up, tried to snap you out of it when you needed hugging, or hugged when you needed a good kick in the ass. This can be another form of superiority complex, a kind of "Pagan Knows Best" hubris.

On the other hand, refusing someone in need? No good. You get asked to help, you should help. You are being called on by someone who is in pain, and refusing that call is sinning by omission (nb: I couldn't come up with a better word than "sin", even though I don't believe in the conventional idea of sinning). Especially if your counter-argument involves "perhaps they need to suffer." The point of karma, as far as I understand it, isn't some kind of payback system, it's education. And there are other ways to learn without going through horrific pain.

But, on the third hand, there are times when doing something for someone else without them knowing it is important--maybe they'd never agree to help, or they're too far away, or they're too stubborn. And on the fourth hand, there are times when struggling through difficulties may serve to strengthen someone rather than destroy them.

The problem is, we don't know which is which. We can't; we're finite and stuck in time, and even those moments when we come close to transcending it get filtered through our brains and senses--and we're masters of hearing only what we want to hear.

So I tend to put a "safety catch" on my rituals for others, both those done with and without the other's knowledge. I state my intent, cast, form power, and then ask for the aid of those wiser than me. Help this go where it is needed, I ask. You are wiser than I, you are not bound by my limits. You know my wish for this spell; but let this be what (she/he) needs, more than what I want or what (she/he) wants. It keeps me from thinking I know exactly what needs to happen, and it frees the ritual somewhat.

Next time, thoughts about casting rituals for sex, money, love, power for oneself.


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