Or, more specifically, is it OK to cast a love spell?
Rather than just give you an answer, I thought I’d put together a few ideas for you to think about. As a Pagan, your values will mean more if you put intent into them.
Do they even work?
If you’re an atheist or skeptical Pagan, you might question whether a love spell (or any kind of spell) actually works. In that case, you’ve probably already given it some thought, and you’re probably ahead of me on this. I’ll leave you to it.
For the rest of us, it’s my experience that love spells really work. Love magic is one of the most effective and potent types of magic. Maybe humans are just sexual, social creatures, and it doesn’t take much to “get us going.” Maybe love really makes the world go around, and tapping into it makes your magic more potent.
Either way – love magic works.
Is love magic coercion?
I have two conflicting opinions about this.
First, I am a big proponent of enthusiastic consent. I think it’s wrong to coerce people into having a relationship or sex. That includes drugging and raping someone, taking advantage of someone who’s drunk, threatening someone to make them have sex with you, or trading favors for sex.
See, to me, these things take away the humanity and connectedness that happens during love and sex. When someone drugs or intoxicates someone, it’s not so that they can interact with them as a human being. It’s so that they can use another person’s body the way they want to. And that’s pretty repulsive. It reminds me of how sociopaths don’t actually feel an emotional connection with people, they just pretend to. And how they use and manipulate the people around them like objects. People become things, like a computer. Or a toaster.
On the other hand, trading sex for something – money, a promotion at work, “Pagan mysteries” – becomes morally gray. It can be argued that both sides are benefiting. But something about the transactional nature seems to cheapen it for me. I guess if you’re a consenting adult, you do you. But if you’re in a committed relationship and you’re bargaining sex to get your partner to do more chores, you might be in an unhealthy relationship.
So if we look at a love spell (or love potion) as like a date-rape drug, then it’s pretty clear it’s a repulsive thing to do.
Is magic a vending machine, or an influence?
In my experience, magic doesn’t work like a vending machine. I can’t just burn some herbs, light a candle, raise energy, and out pops a result.
My magic tends to work as an influence. It increases the likelihood that something is going to happen the way I want it to.
So if we think of love magic as an influence, does that change our perspective?
It certainly changes mine.
For example, let’s take rhetoric. I’m not talking about the popular definition (like a politician’s ’empty rhetoric’), but rather the careful choice of words and phrases to influence another human being. It’s been said that all human behavior is rhetorical. That is: everything we say or do is influencing other people all the time. We can’t not influence people.
So if we take this one step forward, let’s imagine there’s a gal at the bar and she sees a guy she’s attracted to. She walks up to the guy, and says “Hey, I like that haircut on you. Can I buy you a drink?” Her words are directly intended to influence the guy’s actions, and for him to reciprocate an interaction with her.
And this is totally cool so far, right? I mean, in this case the woman is using words to influence a man at a bar, and he has the choice to engage or not.
Let’s take it one step further. A man is in a committed relationship with a woman, and during the day he’s feeling extra aroused. He makes an offering to Venus during the correct planetary hour, and says a little invocation asking Venus to get his partner in the mood for sex.
Is that still OK? I think it is. It’s getting a little gray, but the spell isn’t designed to override the woman’s free will. In this situation, the spell is probably the equivalent of the man sending his partner a sexy text, telling her he’s thinking about her and wants to have sex with her later. (In fact, it’s possible that the sexy text would be more effective than the spell.)
If we think of magic as an influence rather than a vending machine, it makes love magic less date-rapey, and more influence-y. So far, I think we’re OK with using magic for love and sex.
Magic to attract a partner
I’ve seen this kind of spell pop up two different ways. First: a person is in love with another person, and wants a spell to make the feeling mutual. Second: a person is in the market for a relationship, and uses a spell to attract a person with a specific set of qualities.
Just for the sake of discussion, let’s say an example of the first is like The Craft – Sarah wants to make the football star fall in love with her. An example of the second is like Practical Magic – Gillian casts a spell to attract a man with different colored eyes.
Right off the bat, I think we can all pretty much agree that Sarah from The Craft represents a coercive, mind-control sort of magic. After the spell is cast, the football star doesn’t seem like himself, and his reactions are inappropriate. This story acts as a warning, then, that love spells should be avoided because they control minds. And because they can backfire.
To be honest, I’ve never cast one of these spells before. But I know other witches who get a lot of emails from people asking for a spell to bring an ex-lover back. This is a powerful urge we humans have (and part of why I led with the importance of Love). But folks, if the spark isn’t there, trying to force it isn’t gonna work. Your relationship will be like some dead, reanimated zombie that’s trying to eat your brains. (The reason for this is that relationships often fail because of unfulfilled – or uncommunicated – expectations. Or because of a breach of trust. You can’t expect the other person to change to meet your needs. And once trust is broken, it’s exceedingly hard – sometimes impossible – to repair.)
Now, Gillian from Practical Magic has a different situation. She generates a set of characteristics that she wants her true love to have, and casts a spell to create love with that kind of person. And it works in a weird and unexpected way. I have cast a spell like this. My Guides invited me to come up with a list of “super-important” and “less-important” criteria I wanted in a partner, and very soon that person came into my life.
I think this magic feels less distasteful because it’s not overriding another person’s agency. These spells are powerful, and they work, and you damn well better know what you want when you ask for it because you’re going to get it. This is where it’s helpful to “know thyself,” and maybe do some meditation and divination before casting a spell like this. For example, you may think you want to date a stripper, but have you thought of the baggage that comes with that? You may think you want to date a 6-figure C-level business executive, but are you prepared for the 80-hour workweeks that go with it?
Magic to get laid
I see no problem with magic just to get a hookup, as long as both parties are consenting adults. There are plenty of people out there who are just looking for a one-night-stand. Giving things a little magical nudge seems to me to be pretty benign, and part of the “game.”
If you’re targeting one particular individual with magic to have sex, that’s getting a little stalker-ey. Have you talked to them? Are they interested? If not, then using magic is not respecting enthusiastic consent and you should knock it off.
If you’re targeting someone on the other side of the age of consent, that’s totally inappropriate and you should stop. If you’re an older person targeting a younger person, that’s creepy because kids aren’t emotionally or intellectually developed enough to understand the consequences. If you’re younger and targeting someone older than the age of consent, your actions could land them in prison and on the sex offender registry for life.
Incidentally, the sex offender registry is not someplace you want to be. It can prevent you from getting trusted clearances in the military and government, which can limit your career paths. It will limit your relationships. It can limit which social and religious groups you can be part of. There are very few people who are willing to hang out with a sex offender. Even fewer willing to trust their families around one. Even fewer who want a relationship with one.
Just a brief note on soul mates.
I mean, I’ve felt that connection before, where you feel like you’re connecting with another person on a deeper level or a higher plane. It’s pretty powerful, and I don’t mean to judge or invalidate your feelings.
But I don’t think our romantic potential is limited to just one person. In fact, I think that if you get most of your shared interests and attractions right, there are a lot of people out there you’re compatible with. You may need to adjust your habits a little, but you have to do that anyway to be a functioning member of society.
If someone tells you they’re your soul mate, please take a moment to think about it. Sure, it’s flattering. But it might also just be a pickup line.
Are you a witch or not?
Ultimately, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, or how you decide to date or have sex. Not my job. I’m just here to shine a light on some of the things that happen in sexual and romantic relationships when you bring magic into the mix.
Ultimately, you are accountable for your actions.
So if you use magic to coerce a young woman into having sex, and she felt like it was rape, you own that. If you use magic to get a man into a relationship with you, and he ends up resenting it, you own that. It’s yours. Karmically, and legally.
On the other hand, if you cast a spell to attract someone who can appreciate your weird sense of humor, and who can cook a mean fried pork chop, you own that too.
All I’m saying, is that you should be prepared to accept the consequences of the spells you cast. Don’t go crying to the gods (or more experienced witches) because you got in over your head. Magic is bending the world to your will. Own that and be mindful, and you’ll be OK.
As I finish this up, it occurs to me that I haven’t really touched on what happens if you’re the victim (or recipient) of a love spell. That feels like a big one, so I’ll save that for another post.
In the meantime, like I said – be mindful of your intent, stay legal, practice enthusiastic consent, and own your actions and their consequences.
Got any input? Did I miss anything? Do you disagree with anything I’ve said? Have at it in the comments, good readers!