In case you're one of the blog readers that is not also a listener of the podcast, I have decided to post my essay on love spells and free will. I think the whole notion of free will, magic, and what we can and cannot affect with our magic is a topic given far too much taboo. This is something that should be discussed openly and matter-of-factly, rather than shut down immediately. All too often when a novice asks the question about love spells, or spells of nearly any type having to do with other people or the natural world, older witches - or pagans that want to seem 'Paganer-than-thou' - shut down the question with, "You can't do that kind of spell, because you can't affect free will."
Yeah... Because we're all gods and we can toy with people's minds as though they were silly putty. So, below, I take a look at love spells, specifically, and include a discussion on free will and what magic can and cannot do. Even if you've listened to the podcast, I recommend re-reading the piece below for content, as you may catch something you missed before.
Love and Lyte,
Love spells. Is there any kind of spell more representative of a witch’s magic? The steaming cauldron filled with flowers, herbs, and more unmentionable materials. The words and actions summoning up great power. The pictures or poppets or images of the desired beloved. The ensnared lover who suddenly has fallen utterly and hopelessly in love with one whom he or she previously had found repulsive.
Love magic is as old as magic itself, and in modern day witchcraft, it is some of the most feared spellcraft, because many claim that it directly interferes with someone’s free will. I’m not really sure where the idea got started that magic can turn people in to love zombies, but I have a hard time believing the notion. As I’ve said before, if you’re clear about your purpose and desire, then your magic should do exactly what you want it to.
However, you can be completely clear about your intention to enslave a lover’s heart and mind, but will that result in a person who develops actual love feelings for you? If you gather all the right herbs, say all the right words, have a clear image in your head of the one you desire, and otherwise do everything by the book, can you actually turn someone who had no interest in you into your lover?
This is what Dorothy Tennov talks about in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. Limerence is the state of being infatuated or obsessed with someone, usually not of one’s own free will. Limerence is the state of being we see the young man in during the events of the 90s film The Craft. The witch wants the popular guy to fall in love with her, but instead he becomes dangerously obsessed.
In a sense, women controlling men is one of the historic intentions of love magic, argues Maria Ortega in her book Cultural Encounters. Ortega writes from the perspective of the Spanish Inquisition, and the era of the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries. In that era, women had no true place in society, and were treated like commodities. Ortega cites the temperament of men in Spain as being ‘hot’ or ‘rough.’ Women felt they had to gain some sort of control over them in order not only to survive, but also to find some sort of happiness in their situation.
In these times women claimed they used love magic in order to maintain their freedom, tame an otherwise abusive or bad husband, and in some cases to kill. Women tried many different methods and dreamed up all sorts of mystical solutions for how to subvert a man’s will to their own. A Stanford University study done by Robert Shirley and Kimball Romney continue this idea of handling environmental situations by magical means.
Shirley and Romney claim that magic in general comes about as a symbolic means of handling important environmental influences that are not subject to empirical control. That is, people historically have come up with magical solutions to situations when no other means of fixing the situation seem plausible. However, the two researchers go on to discuss love magic specifically, and define it as ‘magical activity designed to win a desired sex object.’
This is where my view of love magic and the more academic view differ. As we saw in the example from Spanish magical practice, love magic is not necessarily intended to take someone to bed. It deals mainly with the emotional aspects of love, rather than the physical. However, this is a perfect opportunity to look at the two different types of love magic: love and lust.
Yes, lust magic. Lust magic does not deal with the emotional aspects of desire and affection so much as it deals with getting laid. Yeah, let’s go ahead and say it. People want to have sex, and when they want a magical boost, they perform lust magic. Lust magic can be anything from a glamour that makes you seem more attractive to a full-blown ritual that involves summoning spirits and compelling someone to come sprinting to your bed.
These two different types of magic have two very different motivations and two very different end results. Though, one might involve elements of the other. Let’s look at these two different kinds of magic and, hopefully, dispel some of the taboo surrounding each.
In order to even begin to have a discussion about either kinds of magic, however, we have to talk about the notion of free will, and whether we can affect it.
Free will is defined as the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate or the ability to act at one’s own discretion. Basically, free will is being able to do what I want, when I want, how I want to do it. In the specific case of love magic, free will is being able to decide whether I love someone and further decide if I want to express that love to him or her. I might love someone, but I might be afraid to tell him or her how I truly feel. In this case it is my right to keep my feelings from being expressed.
This can be a very smart thing to do. If you’re gay, and your feelings happen to be strongest for the captain of the football team, it might not be the safest thing to express those emotions to him. If you’re married, but you pine for your secretary, those emotions should probably stay buried.
Through research, hearing first-hand accounts, and my own personal experience, magic cannot alter a person’s free will if the propensity for that action was not already there. This is the same reason why the use of the legendary flying ointment could not truly occur, because the propensity for defying gravity does not exist. It is a fundamental law of nature and of physics, and magic does not go against the natural order of things.
Nope, sorry, but magic is not supernatural or extra-natural or para-natural. It is not above, below, around, or beside nature. It is nature. It is one of the most natural things in the world to do. As such, magic does not alter the forces of nature, but works with the possibilities already existing in the world to achieve a desired result. We can summon rain, because rain exists and it can rain in all parts of the world. We can increase our prosperity, because money exists and we can always earn more. We cannot turn an apple into an orange or lead into gold by magic, because the propensity for this action to occur in nature does not exist. Get it?
So, to bring this discussion back to love and lust magic. If person A loves person B but cannot drum up the courage to express it, person B can perform a love spell to allow person A’s true feelings to come through. However, if person A loves person C and has no romantic feelings towards person B, then no amount of magic performed by person B could instill an otherwise nonexistent emotion into person A.
Magic is an action, and there are only 3 kinds of actions humans can take: compelling actions, impelling actions, and repelling actions. If someone screams ‘FIRE!’ you can either be compelled to assist in putting out the fire, impelled to remain where you are (perhaps calling for help), or repelled to run away from the fire. Some magic falls in to only one or two categories, but love magic falls into all three.
Love magic can compel someone to return loving feelings. Love magic can impel, or bind, a lover to you. Or, love magic can repel an unwanted lover – this last kind of love magic also seems to be the purpose of the aforementioned magic performed by Spanish witches in order to control their home lives. But neither of these kinds of magic could come to fruition if the propensity, the possibility, of that action does not exist. You cannot bind someone to you that does not already have amorous feelings in kind. (Though, on a side note, you might want to make sure that you truly want to be with someone forever before you bind them to you, as I have personally seen a binding turn into a truly sickening codependent relationship.)
Given this, love magic really should not have the taboo surrounding it that it does, which seems to be trumped up by fables and Hollywood. You are not affecting free will by performing a love spell, because you cannot affect something that is not there.
The best example I can give about how to perform a good love spell is this: make a list – a really detailed list – of the qualities you would like to find in someone. Run it by your friends and allow them editing privileges, because sometimes they know you better than you know yourself. Don’t be unrealistic with your desires, but don’t sell yourself short either. Put this out into the universe as a petition. Keep these qualities in mind when you’re performing a love spell. This is what I did, and my partner of 4 years can attest to its effectiveness.
Lust spells are a beast unto themselves. They aren’t meant to last very long. They’re not meant to ensnare a specific person, necessarily – though they can be used for that purpose. They’re all about meeting your carnal desires for a short period of time. These, too, do not go against free will. The propensity for a one night stand exists in every bar, every club, every public place where the mood is right and people are looking. Lust spells just give you that extra oomph in attractiveness. Lust spells are part glamour, part compelling magic (the first two kinds of magic) that make you look more appealing to a potential hook-up and lower the inhibitions of both you and potential partners. Or, if you’re targeting a certain someone, they lower the inhibitions of the two of you so that your true desires can take place.
Love magic is shunned because people like to believe they have the power of absolute control over another person’s very being. How audacious to think that we are gods, altering the natural world as we see fit. No amount of magic, no matter how well crafted, is going to turn a frog into a prince, allow witches to fly on brooms, or turn two people who truly hate each other into lovers. However, if – like all magic – you have a clear intention, a clear understanding of the rules of nature, and the possibility exists that your desire could come true, then by all means break out the pink and red candles and get to work on finding yourself a love. Happy Valentine’s Day, pagans!