Cursing 101: How To Know If A Curse Is Right For You

I’m generally an easy-going, “live and let live” kind of woman. I understand people well enough to know that we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Now and then, however, something pushes me a little too far or someone does something unnecessarily spiteful and I get the urge to throw a little baneful magic at them. 

Yep, today I’m talking about cursing.

Now I know cursing is a controversial topic. Many people don’t like it and if you’re in that boat that’s just fine, you do you. Here at The Traveling Witch we don’t abide by any rede and we understand that karma is specific to Hinduism and Buddhism and does NOT apply to our more pagan leanings. Cursing has long been a traditional part of the witch’s toolkit and as much as many modern movements have tried to stamp it out, there are many of us who keep to a more traditional path and respect the power and responsibility that comes with it.

So What Is A Curse?

A curse is a spell done specifically to cause harm to another. In some cases, the curse can achieve other ends as well, but the intent to harm has to be there for it to be a curse.

Curses can be immensely useful, but more than any other spell, I feel that curses are often turned to in situations where the curse won’t actually solve the problem. Since I’m pretty heavily against wasting my energy on non-solutions to my problems, I always take the following considerations into account before deciding if a curse is the appropriate path.

1. Do you want to keep this person in your life? 

If the answer is yes, then you should avoid cursing them. In my experience, regardless of spiritual ability, a person who has been cursed will sense the negative energy coming from you. This frequently makes them increasingly hostile. In most cases, the relationship ends due to the stress between the two, but not before a lot of unnecessary emotional damage on your part.

2. Do you want this person to “learn their lesson”?

Nobody learns anything from being cursed. Honestly, who thinks stuff like “Look at all of this bad stuff happening to me, maybe I should stop picking on that kid/maybe I shouldn’t cheat on my girlfriend/maybe I should be less racist/etc.” The answer is no one. No one thinks like that. There’s no logic to support such thoughts unless you intend to straight up tell them “Hey, I’m cursing you because you did X”, which is a bad idea and can land you in hot water. If you just want them to change their behavior, try something different. Maybe talk to them or try a different sort of spell.

3. Are you willing to be responsible for any energetic or physical harm that will come to them as a result of your curse?

This isn’t a “Woo, bad karma~” point. I’m just saying, are you going to want to take the curse back when someone gets hurt? What if the curse is stronger than you intended and someone dies? Can you handle knowing that you had a hand in it? I’m all for cursing, but these are things that CAN happen and they need to be considered before attempting curses.

4. Are you willing to accept that this person IS going to change, probably in unpleasant ways as a result of your curse?

Nobody gets away from a successful curse unscathed. The possibility for permanent physical damage, mental trauma, and major (and likely negative) personality changes is very real. Are you going to be ok if that ex that you curse for dumping you goes on to seriously abuse his future partners? What if that “little curse” goes on to cripple your target? Will you feel guilty?

5. Do you know how to protect yourself if they decide to retaliate with their own magic?

If you’re not comfortable with things like banishing, warding, cleansing, grounding, and reflecting spells, you might want to think twice about casting that curse right now. All of these protective magics are a part of the craft known as Magical Defense. This set of skills is absolutely paramount for anyone who uses baneful magic, or who is worried about someone using baneful magic against them. Without a firm grasp on these spells, you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of magical retaliation.

My Defensive Magic class gives you a quick and easy to understand look at the most important magical tools and techniques for magical defense so that you can start protecting yourself. If you’re ready to stop feeling overwhelmed or scared of messing up and ending up in a sticky situation, this is for you. In this class, I’ll go over the most important parts of defending yourself magically so that you can have more space and ease in your craft. Click here to start learning how to defend yourself magically today!

If you’ve gone through these questions and still want to throw that curse, then, by all means, do.

Remember: You’re the witch, you make the rules!

The important thing to recognize here is that these guidelines are largely about YOU. I want you to be every bit the badass witch that you want to be, but in order to do that you need to understand the gravity and potential consequences of your magic. Curse regret isn’t any fun, and I’d much rather you choose your actions confidently and with the full knowledge that you’re ready to handle the outcomes.

In any discussion about baneful magic, there will be talk of the moral implications behind throwing this kind of magic around. Some people prefer to approach it with a “magic shouldn’t be used for harm” mindset and others view magic as a means for reaching your own ends and taking control of your life, thus justifying the use of curses, hexes, and so on.

I’m going to be breaking down some of these arguments, but let me be clear: my thoughts and feelings on the matter are by no means the only valid way to approach this subject. As always, in your personal craft, your thoughts and feelings are what take precedent. I make no judgments on whether a witch should or should not curse. I’m simply here to give you a more rounded view of the issue so that you can begin your own exploration of this subject.

Isn’t It Wrong To Hurt Someone?

The obvious place to start with this subject is the idea that hurting someone else is bad. Often those who are against cursing call upon the rule of “harm none” as the guiding moral code in this situation. On the surface, this code seems fairly straightforward, but things get a bit more complicated when you try to actually apply it to the real world. 

The first stumbling block with this is that the world simply isn’t that black and white. “Good” and “bad” are perspective-based judgments. What is good for one person may be very bad for another. Take a job spell, for example. What may seem like an entirely harmless little spell to get you that job you wanted could be far more insidious than you intend. If you get that job, that means that many other applicants will not and for some of them this could be a devastating and very harmful blow. 

Is the spell good or bad? Is it permissible because you didn’t intend the harm? Is it permissible because you never witness the harm that comes from it? The simple fact is, there’s no way to anticipate the ripple effect that your spells might cause. Every spell you ever cast has the potential to cause a very negative reaction somewhere in the world. Likewise, a curse has the potential to create very positive effects in the world. 

These actions are not cosmically “good” or “bad” because such a thing doesn’t exist! There’s a bit of both in every action and in every spell.

What About The Threefold Law & Karma?

The next argument I generally see for not cursing is usually something about the Threefold Law and/or karma. In order to cover this subject properly, we’re going to have to start by clearing up some common misconceptions.

Karma is not what you think it is. Most westerners view karma as some sort of grand cosmic scale weighing their good deeds against their bad and this is not an accurate view of the concept. Karma is simply cause and effect. Unlike many western religions, this concept places the nexus of judgment not in the hands of a deity but into the circumstances of life itself [1]. Instead of your bad deeds being punished by a grand judge, your deeds are the cause of either your happiness or your unhappiness through the reactions that they cause in the world [2]

Misconceptions aside, karma probably does not apply to you. If you are not Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or belonging to another religion that incorporates these concepts, then it simply is not a spiritual view that applies to you. I know many people will balk at this idea. It is true that these ARE open religions and you can convert to them no matter your heritage or ethnicity [3][4][5] but that does not mean that you can cherry-pick beliefs from them, remove them from the intended context, change the meaning entirely and pretend you’re still respecting the original culture in any way. The prevalence of this particular form of appropriation does not make it any less insidious than other, more obviously harmful kinds of appropriation. 

Not ready to give up on the idea of karma? Then go research it! Learn about Hinduism or Buddhism as a whole and how karma fits into those belief systems. If these concepts truly resonate with you, then perhaps even consider converting! But please, treat these cultures with respect and do not steal and mangle their spiritual teachings.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on to the Threefold Rule. This is a moral guideline that states that whatever you put out into the world will come back to you threefold. If you put out good things, then three times as much good will come into your life and vice versa. Obviously, considering our earlier look at how NOT black and white the world is, this rule gets a little fuzzy right at the start. How are you supposed to know what you’re putting out into the world if you can’t predict or control the effects of your actions? Even before we get back to that line of reasoning, though, there’s a small problem with the concept of the Threefold Rule. 

There’s no real world support for it! 

Good things happen to terrible people and bad things happen to wonderful people all the time. Just because you’re nice doesn’t mean the world stops being what it is. Good and bad things just happen, and except for things that happen as a direct result of your actions, they’re largely unrelated to your moral approach to life. 

If you find that the Threefold Rule DOES hold true in your life, then I can’t argue with you for following it. From my perspective, with my life experiences, this rule does not hold true, but that does not invalidate your own experiences! What I’m trying to convey here is not that you should drop these moral codes, but rather that you shouldn’t accept these moral codes without careful consideration. If, after careful research and consideration, you find that it resonates with you, then that’s wonderful! If you reach that point, you should absolutely continue using it in your life and practice. The important thing is that it has to be right for you.

Ok, But Should I Curse Or Not?

We’ve gone through the moral ambiguity of the universe, why karma probably doesn’t apply to you and what the threefold rule is. At this point, you may have had a lot of your previously held beliefs shaken up and you might be thinking, “So what’s right? Is cursing ok or not?”. 

As frustrating as you will all find this answer, I truly cannot tell you whether cursing is right or wrong. Morality simply isn’t universal! What’s right for me may not be right for you. My worldview will not be the same as my neighbor’s worldview. Your experiences may lead you to entirely different conclusions than my experiences would. This subject has many facets and I cannot cover them all with a blanket yes or no answer.

Is it right or wrong to curse someone who has killed or hurt many people? Is it right or wrong to curse an abuser in order to protect yourself? Is it right or wrong to curse someone to prevent them from going on to hurt others?

These are big questions and not easily answered for many of us! If you don’t love the idea of doing the deep thinking necessary to determine your own thoughts and feelings on the matter, you can simply avoid cursing for the sake of simplicity. There’s nothing wrong with that. If, on the other hand, you find that you’re up for the task of drawing your own lines and grasping your moral code by the horns, then I suggest you pursue this subject deeper.

How do you feel about cursing in all of these scenarios? Talk to others about how they might view these situations, consider alternative viewpoints, and research as much as you can!

Read the rest of the Cursing 101 series!

Part 1: How To Know If A Curse Is Right For You  << You Are Here

Part 2: The Best Way To Break A Curse For Absolute Beginners

Part 3: How To Identify, Use, & Avoid The Most Common Magic Curses

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[1] Olivelle, Patrick. “Karma.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 21 Feb. 2014, Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.

[2] Brodd, Jeffrey, and Gregory Sobolewski. World religions: a voyage of discovery. Winona, MN, Saint Marys Press, 2009.

[3] Coward, Harold G. Modern Indian Responses to Religious Pluralism. State University of New York Press, 1987.

[4] Shah, Pravin K. “Five Great Vows (Maha-Vratas) of Jainism.” Jainism Literature Center – Jain Education, Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.

[5] Shults, Brett. “On the Buddha’s Use of Some Brahmanical Motifs in Pali Texts.” Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.

Updated on August 19, 2023 by Avery Hart