The term "Black magick" fascinates as no other, and yet the term itself is so mysterious and vague that it's not always easy to find two magicians or occultists who can agree precisely on its meaning. Is black magick that of revenge, theft, cruelty, or other malicious acts? A common definition of black magick is magick performed for any sort of selfish goal whatsoever. Therefore, any magick that isn't aimed at attaining a better connection to God (True Self, HGA, etc.) would be considered black. In that case, any magick for physical results, such as love or money, is black magick. Then again, some people consider any magick to be evil; from that perspective, the only magick that then exists is black magick. In many Hollywood movies and in popular fiction, there is a clear polarity between black and white magick, usually falling along the lines of evil vs. good.
So that raises the point of just what we mean by "black." Does black mean evil? There is certainly that connotation. And here, I feel is where we get a better sense of what draws human nature to black magick: connotation. There's the general sense that black magick implies something naughty, mysterious, dangerous, and perhaps, yes, even a tad bit evil. Who doesn’t want to dabble in evil now and then...at least in our imagination? Pop culture fascination with everything from Charles Manson to Hannibal Lecter proves people are fascinated with evil, both real and fictional. It's natural to be intrigued with the darker aspects of the human psyche.
Magick Is Magick—Or Is It?
If intent ultimately defines if a spell is for good or ill, any spells in which you are deliberately choosing to inflict harm on another person would be black magick, even if one was using angelic forces to do so. So in this sense, it isn't the means and techniques that define black magick, but rather the intent.
I'll continue to illustrate the shifty nature of the term black magick. Sometimes "black" refers not to evil magick, but simply to any magick of the earth, such as anything for material gain or practical results. Therefore working with the Goetia, the quintessential phonebook of magickal demons, is often considered black magick. White magick might be then considered anything to connect us to the divine. However, in practice a magician may do workings of either type in accordance with their True Will. In fact, a magician usually connects him or herself to the divine first and then invokes the demons, who are better are dealing with the material plane than angelic spirits, who are "above" such things in all ways that that implies.
This is why demons are used in the first place; =they fill in a gap in making changes on the material plane. They are a handy tool between our desires and getting them to manifest in a physical, earthly reality. Any computer, automated task, or macro is something of a demon, a word that originally meant "helpful spirit" to the Greeks, i.e. a dæmon. Humans love daemons and automated tools that make our work easier and more productive. Therefore, as with any tool, like fire, a gun, or a computer program, Goetic magick be used for good or ill but has no inherent ethical mandate. In other words, there is no reason not to use a Goetic demon in the service of the highest, loftiest goals of the supernal heavens. To do so is the epitome of "white" magic, since it reclaims the energy of the demon, guiding it into the service of the divine, thus turning what was black into white.
Certainly a man or woman is a complex creature with vast ambitions and appetites from the lowliest to the loftiest. Who is it among us to say how every piece fits to the whole? Therefore, to impose ethical limitations into magick, plain old simple magick, by terms such as white, black, and gray really serves no useful purpose. Or does it?
Some practices that fall under the umbrella of black magick are genuinely sinister. Curses, revenge spells, and other acts of control and domination can severely backfire. By labeling them black, perhaps it gives something of a warning. Then again, so too can love spells backfire, so perhaps love spells should be labeled black as well (or at least gray). "Gray" is yet another term tossed around as a type of magick, which at least conveys the murkiness of clearly defining any spell as white or black. While I'm not in love with any of these terms, I do acknowledge their superficial helpfulness to beginners.
As mentioned, it's perhaps more convenient to define magick based on the intent of the spell rather than the means or style of magick. Therefore, choosing to perform a ritual to help people might be considered white, while a spell to hurt someone would be black. But what if the goal is to destroy someone who is a murderer or rapist to keep them from doing it again? Is that goal then not a "white" goal, even if the spell itself is black? Oh, things are so very gray after all! One can never truly foresee all the results of any spell; the butterfly effect of changes are too vast and yet infinitesimal to be calculated. So indeed a spell intended for good may inadvertently do some harm to someone—and yet even that outcome may be temporary and illusory, and only lead that person to a better outcome somewhere down the line.
As you can see it is difficult to define the exact parameters of black magick. Can one definition really claim to be definitive? Black magick is mysterious, it is alluring, and yes, it can be powerful in all its dark majesty.
The Joy of Black Magick
For some, having a black magick ritual might simply mean a sex magick ritual with a new lover. For others, "black magick night" might be for occasional works of anger, cursing, and banishment. For still others black magick might be any magick that includes things mysterious, Gothic, ornate, and using a lot of candles. Black magick need not be any more wicked than a childhood Halloween fantasy, but you may choose to make it as frightening as an H.P. Lovecraft story—if you wanted to do something like invoke Cthulthu.
Why would you even want to make your rituals "scarier?" Anything that increases your excitement and heart rate can be harnessed in your magickal workings to make them more atmospheric and intense. And indeed that is of utmost importance in any magick ritual: the intensity of the climax. Therefore, black magick might be more powerful than a beautiful "white" magick ritual that ends up boring you more than a Sunday service. Magick is much an art as a science, so you should learn to work with what makes your rituals more exciting and powerful.
Being titillated by black magick, or even the idea of black magick, doesn't make one evil or a "black brother," a practitioner of the Left Hand Path, or anything of the sort. Instead it's human nature—the same way it's fascinating to watch horror movies, or indeed any movie with a villain at all. Does rooting for the Evil Queen over Snow White make one a bad person?
"Black magick" may have resonance in your brain as something naughty, dangerous, and forbidden; if so, you are tapping into a current in your subconscious mind that is ripe for magickal exploitation, which can be used for a variety goals—naughty or nice.
Everything Is Magick
In my book, Everything You Want To Know About Magick (But Were Afraid To Ask), I don't use distinctions such as black, white, or gray. The powerful symbols, tools, rituals, and skills that constitute "magick" are as much beyond moral considerations as is electricity. Electricity is neither white nor black, neither good nor evil in itself. It simply exists as a law of the universe, to be utilized or not as the case may be.
In the same vein, magick is also a functioning of the laws of the universe. Concepts such as black or white magick simply color our perceptions of magick, but do not change its essential nature. Therefore, use such terms wisely and sparingly, but don't be afraid to spice your occult endeavors with a dash of "black magick" if the mood arises.
(To learn step-by-step how to perform your own magick rituals, consult my book, Everything You Want To Know About Magick (But Were Afraid To Ask) or visit my website at whatismagick.com.)
Shawn Martin Scanlon (Los Angeles, CA) has studied, practiced, and taught magick for more than twenty-two years. He has worked with Enochian magickal groups, Thelemic and Golden Dawn orders, and private sex magick groups, ...