Cursing is one of the most ancient forms of magic — and one of the most controversial. Whereas most magic is constructive (used to manifest or attract things), cursing is destructive (used to cause misfortune or harm).
Technically speaking, curses and hexes are similar but different types of spells. A curse consists of written or spoken words, sometimes combined with gestures. A hex is a ritual involving material items. However, most modern witches use the terms interchangeably, as I do in this post.
The fastest way to start a debate in any witchy community is to bring up the topic of cursing. It seems like everyone has strong opinions on the subject, either for or against. For your practice, all that matters is what you believe.
So, When Is It Okay to Curse Someone?
This is a tricky question, and the answer depends on the witch.
There are some witches who believe that intentionally causing harm or misfortune to another person is always wrong, and will never cast curses for this reason. This is an entirely valid position! If you fall into this camp, know that you’re in good company.
Other witches believe that cursing is acceptable when it’s truly warranted by the situation, such as when your life or livelihood is in danger. Others believe that cursing is simply a means to an end, and can be done with good intention (cursing your friend’s unfaithful partner to get them to stop cheating, for example).
The one thing that most witches seem to agree on is that curses are serious stuff, and should not be taken lightly. Unlike other types of magic, curses are fueled by negative emotions like hate, anger, and heartbreak. This makes them very powerful, but also very draining for the witch casting them. Cursing someone means reliving any trauma you suffered at their hands in order to use those memories as fuel for the fire. Some people aren’t willing to put themselves through such an ordeal, which again, is entirely fair.
Because curses are fueled by such strong emotions, they’re powerful and volatile. They’re like the nitro fuel of witchcraft — if you don’t know what you’re doing and aren’t careful, someone could get seriously hurt. That someone could be you.
My personal view on cursing is essentially the same as my view on physical violence. It’s not the answer to all, or even most, problems, and it sometimes makes the situation worse instead of better. It should never be your first option, but it might very well be your last resort. If someone is holding you at gunpoint, you’re entitled to use violence to protect yourself. Likewise, if someone is putting you or a loved-one in life-threatening danger, you’re entitled to use whatever magical means necessary for protection.
Before You Curse
If you think there’s someone in your life who deserves to be cursed, go through the following criteria to decide if cursing is really the most appropriate action.
Sleep on it. When we’re in the heat of the moment, we sometimes say or do things we don’t mean. If you think you’re angry enough with someone to curse them, give it a couple of days before you reach for the vinegar and chili peppers. Give yourself time to cool off and clear your head. If, after a week, you still feel like a curse is warranted, move on to the next step.
Think about your own motives. Why do you want to curse this person? What did they do to make you angry enough that you’re willing to use magic to harm them in some way? If it’s a minor annoyance, like cutting you off in traffic, a curse probably isn’t appropriate. Likewise, if your motivations are petty or catty in nature — like cursing someone because they beat you out for a promotion — I highly encourage you to stop and do some self-reflection. For one thing, you may not be able to conjure enough genuine hatred and anger for an effective curse. For another, in these situations you may find it more helpful to do some work on yourself (working on anger issues, learning to gracefully accept failure, etc.) rather than lashing out at someone else.
Ask yourself if this situation matters in the long run. It may feel incredibly important now, but try to take a step back and look at the big picture. Will this person matter in a year? Five years? Ten? Are they important enough to warrant allowing yourself to channel enough negative energy for a curse? (If this person is putting your life, livelihood, or safety at risk, the answer to all of these questions is YES!)
Make sure your anger is directed at the right person. Who is really responsible for the pain you’re feeling? For example, if your significant other cheats on you, your first reaction may be to curse the person who “stole” them from you. But you aren’t really upset with this person — you’re hurt because your partner betrayed your trust. I’m not convinced that a cheating partner is a serious enough reason to cast a curse (again, will it really matter in ten years?) but if you decide to do so, at least make sure it’s directed at the person who is truly responsible for your pain.
Consider doing a banishing instead. In situations where a person is a danger to you or your loved ones, sometimes the best option is to give them a magical push out of your life. A banishing does what the name implies — it banishes a person or thing from your life. Unlike a curse, a banishing does not cause harm or misfortune to the person being targeted. It simply removes them from your life.
You can perform a simple yet effective banishing with a piece of paper, a pen, cayenne pepper, and dried lavender. Write the name of the person or thing you want to banish on the paper. Look down at the name and say, out loud, “[Name], you are no longer welcome in my life.” Sprinkle a bit of cayenne on the paper and instruct it to burn this person out of your life. Sprinkle a bit of lavender on the paper and instruct it to bring you peace and healing. Fold the paper up to create a little packet around the herbs, then take it outside and burn it to ash. (Be careful — cayenne smoke burns!) As the paper burns say, “I banish [name] from my life, never to return.” Scatter the leftover ashes on a busy road.
Consider doing a binding instead. Maybe you don’t necessarily need someone out of your life, but you do need to take away their power to cause harm. In this case, a binding is your best bet. A binding is a spell that “binds up” someone’s power, preventing them from taking certain actions. This can be useful for dealing with people who are toxic or abusive. Like a banishing, binding does not cause harm or misfortune to the target.
You can perform a simple binding charm with a photograph of your target, a pen, and red or black thread. Write your target’s full name (or as much of it as you know) across the bottom of the photo. Look down at the photo. Say, out loud, “[Name], I bind you. I bind up your power, so that you can no longer ______.” Fold the paper up as small as possible. Then, begin to wrap the thread around the folded paper. As you do, say, “[Name], I bind you.” Continue wrapping until the thread completely covers the paper — there should be no paper visible.
For whatever reason, some people seem to have a natural resistance to banishing and binding. You may find that your spell works for a while, but the person you tried to banish/bind eventually returns to their old ways. There’s some debate about why this happens — some say it’s because these people are narcissists or energy vampires, while others think it has something to do with their force of will. Personally, I think it’s because some people are so nasty and hateful that it takes nasty, hateful magic to get rid of them for good. If you find yourself dealing with one of these people, and your banishings and bindings aren’t sticking, you may want to move on to a full-fledged curse.
Creating an Effective Curse
Okay, you’ve done your self-reflection, you’ve considered or attempted a banishing and/or binding, and you still feel like cursing is your best/only option. In that case, here are some general guidelines for making sure that your curse is appropriate, effective, and ethical.
Be VERY specific. Don’t just lob a ball of negative energy at someone and expect it to do what you want. Be very, very clear about your intent for this curse. Use precise and specific language. Make it painfully obvious what you want to happen and how you want it to unfold.
For example, when writing a petition or incantation, don’t just say, “[Name] is cursed.” Instead use something like, “Should [Name] ever contact or harass me again, he/she/they is cursed. Let him/her/them feel what I have felt and suffer as I have suffered.” You could get even more specific and detailed if you wanted to, but the important thing is to establish some basic parameters for the powerful dark energy you’re unleashing.
Make sure the punishment fits the crime. A curse to cause sexual impotence probably isn’t appropriate for an abusive boss… unless that boss is sexually harassing their employees. In that case, sticking a few pins in a rotting cucumber may be just what the situation calls for. (Yes, that’s a real curse. Yes, the cucumber represents what you think it represents.)
Making sure the punishment fits the crime also means being honest about how serious of a curse is deserved. Do you really need to ruin this person’s life to get them out of your hair, or will a mild inconvenience do? As strange as the idea of a curse being fair sounds, avoiding overkill will not only maintain balance but will keep you from expending more energy than you have to.
Make sure your curse is only affecting your target and not anyone around them. When it comes to curses, family, friends, and coworkers can sometimes get caught in the crossfire. To avoid this, make sure your spell is targeted to a specific person by personalizing it as much as possible. Include photos of your target, their full legal name (or as much of their full name as you know), and a taglock if you can get it. You may even want to include a line in your petition or incantation specifying that this curse will only affect the desired target and not their friends and associates.
Set clear conditions/parameters. The most effective curses are situational. Think of it as laying an energetic trap in or around a certain situation — this is more efficient and uses up less of your energy than if you were to just cast a blanket curse that affects every area of the target’s life. Curse parameters take the form of, “If [name] does x, they will be met with y.”
Setting parameters also makes sure your curse is truly deserved. For example, maybe your friend has an abusive ex-spouse, and you want to use a curse to keep your friend safe. If the ex-spouse is already leaving your friend alone, there’s no reason for a curse. But if they aren’t leaving your friend alone, they deserve to be met with vicious, magical resistance. For this situation, you may want to use an incantation like, “Should [ex-spouse] ever approach or contact [your friend], they are cursed with discomfort, unrest, and legal trouble. Let them be hunted and put down like a rabid dog.” This ensures that if, at any point in the future, the ex-spouse starts harassing your friend again, the curse will immediately go into action.
Don’t attach yourself to the curse. Perhaps the most important part of cursing is making sure you keep the energy of the curse separate from your own energy. Revenge is a double-edged sword, so you need to take precautions to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
Any time you cast a curse, you want to limit its connection to you as much as possible. Don’t include any of your own personal effects in the spell. You may also want to avoid using tools that hold a special place in your practice. For example, you may not want to use your altar as a place to craft curses. You may want to use materials that can be disposed of easily. Make sure to dispose of curse remains somewhere outside your home, such as at a busy road.
After casting a curse, it’s important to set aside some time for self-care. Start with a thorough cleansing. This can be as simple as taking a bath in salt water (or dumping a bucket of salt water over your head in the shower, if you don’t have a tub), but if you would rather do a full-fledged cleansing ritual, even better! It’s important to do something to remove any lingering negativity from your energy field, and to make sure the curse doesn’t attach to you in any way.
Cursing is intense, emotional, draining work. After casting a curse, take at least a few hours to rest and be kind to yourself. Eat your favorite foods. Take a nap. Read a book or watch a movie. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel good.
You may want to do some inner work after cursing to help process the intense emotions involved in this kind of magic. This can be journaling, meditation, energy work, or some other healing modality. If you’ve experienced serious trauma, you may want to consider speaking to a therapist or counselor in addition to doing work on your own.
- Utterly Wicked by Dorothy Morrison
- Of Blood and Bones by Kate Freuler
- New World Witchery podcast, “Episode 102 — Evil”
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