Disclaimer: This post is not an endorsement nor a rejection of the practice. It is an attempt to have an open and intelligent discussion about the subject of Black Magic: a highly controversial and misunderstood concept.
Let me start off by saying that this is an incredibly difficult subject to research. In searching for “Black Magic” on google, I was bombarded by a horde of terrible “spell” sales schemes, “professionals” who practiced the dark arts – which were handed down by family members for “centuries” and could perform a powerful get rich spell for only “$9.99.” It’s this kind of “used car salesman” approach to magic polluting the internet that drives people away from witchcraft altogether.
But here is the most accurate summary I can offer:
Much of what we think of as “black” or “white” magic is a product of New Age invention mixed with Christian influence. Much of what we think of as “black magic” is often a result of demonizing that which we don’t understand. After all, the polarization of “good” and “evil” itself is a Christian concept that has seeped into Pagan Practice.
Not to say that Pagans don’t have any distinction between just and unjust, moral or immoral behavior. That would really depend on the Pagan and the practice. But, I’m saying that this distinction is more polarized in the Christian World – to the extent that much spirituality outside of the Christian Veil gets demonized as Black Magic.
If something is considered “Black Magic,” it isn’t necessarily evil, but perhaps something to broach with caution.
So here are the definitions I scraped together:
Drains Life Force: A type of magical energy that drains the life force from others in order to make the practitioner stronger. In some countries, it is still common to drink the blood of an animal in order to gain their life force. For example, drinking a goat’s blood in some countries. Many Christian Europeans who witnessed this practice demonized it as “Black Magic” or “Satanism.” However, the idea of drawing strength and power by drinking the “blood of Christ” may not be that different (although drinking wine is certainly a difference from drinking goat’s blood).
There is a more nefarious use for Life Draining magic though, where the practitioner will drain human victims of their life energy in order to make themselves stronger. Magic works in principle by drawing energy from different sources – whether that source be the sun, the moon, the stars, plants or just positive energy in general. Life draining magic centers around its ability to draw energy from either a living or sacrificed life form. Hence an explanation for the existence of animal and human sacrifice in ancient times.
The Control of Spirits: This refers to Black Magic as being a powerful energy where you summon and control spirits to do your bidding. The most notorious example in popular culture of someone doing this kind of work is when Aleister Crowley summoned spirits into the House of Boleskine. Or at least…he was in the middle of a spirit summoning ritual when he was interrupted. As a result, some people believe that the Boleskine House is haunted today.
Controlling Someone’s Free Will: By this definition, even a seemingly harmless love spell could be a form of black magic – since it bends someone’s will against their natural inclinations. Some modern witches try to ask someone’s permission before they cast a spell for them.
A Rebellion Against the Christian, i.e. Satanism: Sometimes Satan magic is considered a form of Black Magic. Some Satanists agree with this definition while others vehemently refute the notion. This comes from the age-old Christian Practice of denouncing anything non-christian as “Black Magic.” Some Satanists have embraced this definition and try to make their rituals as anti-christian as possible: wear upside crosses, tattoo crosses on the feet, read prayers backwards, etc.
Of course this is not a representation of all Satanism. Just a commentary on those Satanists who do embrace Black Magic as a rebellion – even a mockery – against Christian Ritual.
The Mislabeling of Another Culture’s Practice: Aside from many Satanists and witches alike, another group that largely gets accused of practicing “Black Magic” are practitioners of the Haitian/West African tradition of “Voodoo.” For example, when the slaves in Haiti rebelled against their slave owners, many performed Voodoo rituals in the tradition of their ancient African beliefs in order to gain strength. This could involve appealing to ancestors or other spirits for power. Since the Haitians won, there are many Christian leaders who claimed that the Haitians made a contract with the devil. This is still a completely ridiculous misconception that some Americans and Political Leaders believe today.
Voodoo in itself is too complex to convey in this post alone. However, I will say that there are many varieties of Voodoo – so the practice really shouldn’t be generalized as “good” or “bad.” Some Voodoo practitioners are healers – like the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans – Marie LaVeau. She was so famous, that Catholic priests even let her practice in the church.
There are other Voodoo sorcerers called “bokor” who practice a dark punitive magic. They act as a type of religious policemen and curse bad people.
Santeria is another African Religious tradition that gets mislabeled as “Black Magic” for its tendency to conjure spirits called Orishas who control human destiny. Some summon these spirits by committing an animal sacrifice.
Animal Sacrifice may offend modern sensibilities , but if we examine history we will find that all peoples from all corners of the Earth practiced animal sacrifice at one point. It is even documented among Hebrews in the bible.
(To be honest, I’m glad we don’t do animal sacrifice anymore. But that is just my personal opinion).
In Summary: The reason why it is so hard to research and understand what ACTUALLY constitutes black magic, is because the definition is either misunderstood, derogatory, ironic, rebellious, mysterious or powerful. It’s up to you to form your own definition. Magic is ultimately the control of life energy. It is a struggle for power – as are all things in nature. It doesn’t necessarily fit into a nice neat label like color coordinated postage stamps. But be weary of what type of energy you are sending out. If you want to sew the wind, be prepared to reap the whirlwind.