One of my tweeps Lee posted a rather fun post on an interesting phenomena infesting the pagan community of Tumblr. Something called “curse shaming.”
Okay let’s rewind for people who aren’t on Tumblr and don’t know what the hell curse shaming is. There is a community of witches who are 6 months DIY in the sense that they have read the introduction to maybe 3 books on witchcraft (if you’re lucky) and the rest of their edumacation comes from the #pagan tag on Tumblr. A lot of them are Lokeans, funnily enough dating from around the time The Avengers came out in cinemas, and a lot of them write themselves ‘Asks’ as anonymous users to make themselves look like gurus who can answer any question about ‘the astral’. (Oh, and? Good one, Loki… good one). It baffles me that someone would claim to be an expert in the deep dark arte of witchcraft, hedge crossing and god spousal or whatever but doesn’t know what a spiral dance is and hasn’t READ The Spiral Dance. Their bandwagon of choice is curse jars. If something bothers them, they curse someone. If someone calls them out on it, they pounce on the attack… and curse that person. That person is a CURSE SHAMER, because they have ‘shamed’ the witch who has decided to curse, and YOU DON’T GET TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO THAT IS NOT OK EVER and I’M NOT WICCAN so don’t you spout your rule of 3 crap etc etc. I’m yet to meet a single actual Wiccan on Tumblr, by the way. Wicca is definitely a dirty word. The fluffy bunny wars of the early 2000s are over. Imagine you put a fluffy bunny in a blender with some lava. These are the new fluffy bunnies- just as misinformed, just as silly, but they are evil, they are proud of it, and they won’t stop until they have cursed and hexed the entire hemisphere so that the pagan tag on Tumblr is cleansed of anyone who dares wrong them!
A few comments here before I go on. I don’t visit Tumblr. Part of the reason I avoid it is because of the perception I have as an outsider that many Tmblrs(?) seem to be, well, batshit crazy. There are a lot of “political activists” and people who retweet (sorry, reblog, ’cause it’s different somehow) other people who retweet other people who post snarky if not nonsensical comments about “privilege” and “*insert-your-cause-here*-shaming. If you like Tumblr, fine — I’m glad you have a better experience. But I have encountered enough rabidness from it that I do not wish to immerse myself into it in an effort to navigate the community and make a presence. Again, I’m sure there are great people (I know there are, because I know and like some of them) who say great things (see previous) on Tumblr. But as an outsider, I have no desire to navigate the smug quasi-political bullshit that drips from its edges in order to find the fruity, juicy center.
I’m also going to tread close to making political commentary, which is something I actively avoid on this blog. But here it is: this is the sort of nonsense you get from political movements that celebrate victimhood and use cries of “privilege,” “bashing,” or “-shaming” to silence all dissent and criticism. You get entitled people who feel that anyone questioning what they are doing in any way is attacking them, hence making them a victim, and hence deserves to be silenced. And if you’re of the pagan variety of that mindset, cursing is perfect, because you can lash out anonymously and an anonymous person and ignore any of the consequences, secure and smug in your righteousness.
The thing about cursing is, it’s generally an ineffective magical practice. And that’s why it makes you look stupid. The vitriol in this cursing practice that I’ve witnessed is unbelievable (I realise the irony as there’s some vitriol in this post too, I guess it’s just rubbed off. Do I need to go into curse jar rehab? HAVE I BEEN CURSED??!!!11). And from my experience the main person who this cursing is going to effect, is the person who spends all their time cursing. It simply makes you look like someone who doesn’t actually know anything about magic.
I’ll disagree with this, but conditionally. Cursing is generally ineffective, but usually because most people don’t know how to do it right. And curses often do backfire on the caster, but again, usually because they don’t know how to do it right.
I’ve thrown a few curses when I was younger. They didn’t work. I did a binding once, and it did work, but with awful unforeseen side effects. I’ve a few curses when I was older, and they worked fairly well, but were far more subtle and didn’t have the “boom factor” that nooblets hope for. I’ve also had some curses levied at me. Most were ineffective and beneath my notice. Some where much more noticeable and required attention.
My own philosophy on cursing is simple: if you wouldn’t do it physically, don’t do it magically. Think of an average hex as like a punch, and a really bad one as an ass-kicking, or even a stabbing or shooting. And this is why I think most of them don’t work to well – those actions are skills that you have to practice and train for. A half-assed jab isn’t going to do much and really isn’t much of a threat to anyone who pays attention. And if your technique is poor enough, you might miss altogether, or not hit with significant force, and invite at worse a harsher retaliation, or perhaps a thorough laughing-at by the more sober people at the bar, complete with ridicule from your friends who tease you about it weeks later. And the gun analogy is more elaborate: you’re not just grabbing a gun and shooting, you have to manufacture the parts, fabricate the ammo, assemble it, and then aim properly. That is a lot of room for amateurs to blow their faces off.
As for the backlash, the real issue most people experience it is due to maintaining a magical link to the target, not from “karma” or “3-fold-return” or some crap. If you’re really pissed and curse out of anger, you leave an open connection to the object of your anger. Some of that energy comes back along that connection, and some doesn’t get all the way through. So it impacts you more than them. Idiot.
And yes, they are teens. Or people in their early twenties. Now I know age shouldn’t be a factor and I’m sure there are powerful witches out their in their teens. By Tumblr standards, at 29 I am well and truly an old maid but I remain to be young blood in the real life pagan community that I’m part of. But this shit is just so unbelievably immature so I feel age, or at least lack of wisdom, is relevant. Many of these people don’t have jobs, still live at home, and love to talk about how marginalised they are because someone decided to call them out on their ethically dubious cursing practice- to me this is illustrative of a distinct lack of maturity and general life experience. Perpetuating this immaturity is that the main reaction to anyone who questions cursing… gets cursed. LOL!
I do think that throwing curses does show a bit of immaturity. In some cases it can be legitimate, such as if a person punches you and you have to punch them back in self-defense. But for the most part, petty acts of magical aggression are the mark of the cocky young teen who gets in people’s faces at parties for looking at him or some other imagined slight. And I think that adds to the ineffectiveness of curses: most people who throw them are inexperienced and undisciplined, and those two traits lead to poor and ineffective magic. By the time most magic users are experiences and disciplined enough to manage effective curses, they are mature enough to avoid such behavior.
So don’t fight kids. Cursing is bad, m’kay? Because you’re doing it wrong, and because someone disagreeing with you is a stupid reason to try it, and because eventually you might catch the attention of someone with the skill and amorality to magically bitch-slap you in a way you are not capable of handling. Mua-ha-ha.
One thing I don’t get, though, is the use of jars. Curse jar? who came up with that? I’ve made witches’ bottled before, as defense measures. Because they’re sealed jars. Which hold things in. And seal them. So they don’t get out. Because they’re sealed. In a jar. So how does putting the curse in a jar let it get to the person it’s getting to? I guess I can see it as an elaborate base from which to launch the attack, but it seems to defeat its own symbolism. If anything these kids are showing a lack of creativity.