I’m still catching up on my PBP posts (out of order, I know) while my brain rests up for night 4 of 9 of dates with Odin.
A few weeks ago, my son wandered out of his bedroom and asked me why in the world Jesus would curse a fig tree? He and I discussed the story in Mark 11 (also in Matthew 21) at length and then the conversation turned to curses.
In a back-in-the-day post, I talked to Maman Lee about justified Hoodoo enemyWork, .
There’s always a lot of talk about cursing—well, about not cursing—in our community. Threefold and
attraction and like meets like and Harm None. Well, I’ve never been of that mind. Just never was. And Kenaz Filan, one of my favorite Voodoo scholars, says, “the historical record suggests that ‘real Witches’ had no problem with casting curses.” He also asks:
Does our ‘forgiveness’ and ‘turning the other cheek’ come from our higher evolution or our cowardice? What is more frightening, being powerless or powerful? All these questions must be addressed by those who will work curse magic – and by those who will not. Cursing is not something to do for boasting or petty reasons. This is the magic we work in darkness and silence, the spells which we do to right the world. This is the responsibility that comes with wisdom.
Not that it’s directly connected, but—his statement makes me remember the first time I realized that power may reside in restraint. I was a reckless Witch in my late-20s; I cast for anything and everything. Like Rufus Opus (one of the first bloggers I ever followed–and the way I found Filan’s post), “my biggest problem with cursing is that once I feel justified, I’d start cursing everyone who pissed me off. . . . In the moment of my rage, I would feel perfectly justified calling up every spirit I know and sending them against whoever rubbed me the wrong way.” (Read the particularly useful comments section too.)
I’ve grown out of it, of course.
There was a particular incident where someone was in my way—I knew I could eliminate her as an obstacle. But for some reason—I honestly don’t remember the circumlocutions of my logic, though I remember it as being a profound moment for me, silly young girl—it occurred to me that having power over someone could be exercised by abstaining from action. Up to that point, I felt a little out of control of my magic; this new deliberation made me think, “What good is being able to do it if you can’t decide not to do it?”
So, yeah. She stayed an obstacle, I didn’t get what I wanted (well, not exactly the way I wanted it), but I learned about restraint. (Keep in mind that she hadn’t done anything to me ‘cept get in my way. I was a kid. Cut me some slack.)
Another layer of restraint that I have learned is how to “curse” with my thinking-cap on. Last year I wrote about my own version of sweet revenge. Kill them with kindness. Curse them with enlightenment.
But revenge is not really the same as cursing, is it? A “curse” is a pronouncement of judgment. Revenge is about retribution. Cursing seems to be the act of judging—vengeance seems to be the result of that judgment. Vengeance follows from the curse. Whatcha think?
So, because I am not God and because I cannot judge the weight of a wo/man’s soul, I started thinking about it this way: I leave psychostasia to the gods.
Not too long ago I had to permanently sever ways with someone who was trying to whip me into a frenzy. He’d say, “Help me!” But just as I reached out my hand he yelled, “Psych!” and slipped me a slimy eel instead of the formerly proffered hand. (And then had the nerve to tell me I was being “paranoid”—the time-honored male-chauvinist dismissive reaction to female censure.) Without even thinking about it I told him “farewell” and “may the gods weigh between us.”
Later I read a nearly identical statement in RO’s post: “‘May the spirits judge between us.’. . . By saying that, you’re basically putting your own ass on the line. . . . If I can go through with that in good conscience with no fear, it’s a go. . . . I’m never scared to ask the Spirits to judge between me and the other guy and enlighten whoever has their head up their ass.” It was a groovy validation.
In my mind I saw The Morrighan deciding which of us would go home on his/her shield. I saw the Valkyrie (wæl + cyrie = “slaughter + chooser”) picking one of us for Vallhalla, leaving the other for Niflheim. The classic Egyptian image is that of Anubis with the feather of Ma’at—I knew I wouldn’t become a tidy snack for Ammit.
I said it and I meant it. And it felt good to not have to carry the weight of judgment. If I have any sort of faith, I know the gods will weigh what I’ve asked them to weigh. And if I have confidence that I am in the right, they will weigh in my favor. If it turns out that I am in the wrong, no harm will be done to an innocent party.
I didn’t mean it as a “curse,” of course, and I had no designs on vengeance because I didn’t feel like I’d “lost” anything. But the feeling of utter release that came from not having to think about BS anymore was so great that I’ve started thinking of a method for “cursing” when it comes right down to it. Dark “shamanism” is not new, of course. And baleful seiðr is not unheard of (consider the Skern Runestone). There is a rich history of “spirit-walkers” engaging the assistance of malevolent influences in many cultures. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m developing an idea for a journeyer’s curse which, after a good deal of divination and soul-searching, the path-walker brings an issue to Hel to be weighed.
Let me finish putting it together and, as ever, I’ll let you know.
Wæs þu hæl,
This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .”