Taking Money for Death Curses and Other Horrible Mistakes

Many people reading this are too young to have experienced the demented conversation around the film, Indecent Proposal, when it came out in 1993.  The basic premise of the movie is this: two idiots, husband (Woody Harrelson) and wife (Demi Moore) go broke in Vegas.  Suave billionaire (Robert Redford) offers them $1 million if Demi will sleep with him.  After a lot of bad noise, they go through with it and it messes up Demi and Woody’s marriage.  In the end, Redford reveals that he’s a swell guy after all and, using his smile and his holy billionaire bodhisattva powers, helps the husband and wife reconcile (just so the audience doesn’t weep themselves to death by the time the credits roll).  

That’s it.  It was one of those mediocre OMG. What would you do? movies Hollywood likes to put out when there are no big action films getting all the attention.  The movie sucked but it also sucked people in, especially those who get excited by saying cynical things like, “Everybody has their price,” and “You’d do it.  You know you’d do it.  It’s all about the money, baby.”  Right.  Back to Vegas with you and please close your mouth while boarding the plane.

Everyone wanted to say what they would do in the same circumstances.  It gave people an opportunity to either award themselves with a virginal Good Guy Badge or try to bring others down to their level of money-worshipping crudeness by saying that enough of it can ultimately control anyone. 

Even though the plot was very predictable and Demi / Woody / Robert Redford were like walking sock puppets stuffed with tinsel, the movie seemed to encourage a certain egotistical projection and a lot of hot air.  There were magazine articles about it.  The actors went on late night to talk about relationships and morality.  The daytime soaps that had been setting up situations like this for 40 years suddenly enjoyed a surge in popularity.

To us, in 2018, this seems adorable.  We have to deal with Donald Trump and inbred neo-Nazis burning crosses in our streets while our data gets harvested and our ability to freely exchange information gets taken away by corporations killing the planet.  But back in ‘93, Indecent Proposal seemed highly indecent and therefore highly compelling to people aroused by the fantasy of becoming a high-priced sex worker for all the right reasons.  It was stupid.  But that’s how people are sometimes.

Interestingly enough, this was also around the time I started requiring a small tarot reading before I would take magical work for a client.  I had my own “indecent proposal,” which was neither as sensational nor as tame the movie.  

Essentially, a client requested a death curse on her ex-boyfriend.  I’d never done a death curse for pay before.  But she offered me a lot of money.  I mean, it was enough to pay two years of my rent and then some.  I was young, in college, and always had some ongoing form of money magic in play to draw funds.  I got by, but those were lean years.  So getting such a proposal might have been just the thing I needed to keep me fed and keep the lights on.  In retrospect, I’m not sure that my money magic didn’t draw this potential client to me, as sometimes happens with prosperity work.  Like all magic, it takes the path of least resistance.

I said no just on principle, but she kept at me because I’d previously done some road opening work for her that had been very effective and she believed in my skill.  She was South African, very beautiful and charming, very rich, very persuasive.  Lots of “verys” applied to her.  But she was also insanely, murderously angry at her ex.  And even though I kept saying no, I was also powerfully attracted to her and sympathetic to her story.  It was long and convoluted but came down to: he was a bad mean man. I believed it and her.  So it was very tempting, all things considered.  But you can’t just walk around killing people.  Even if it’s at the behest of an exotic beauty with a suitcase full of money.

As a way to clear my head, I did a tarot reading and learned that such a working wouldn’t only be an immoral crime against the target.  It would also mushroom out into the lives of the people around this guy, causing tragedy and harm in people who were totally innocent.  I told the client this, thinking that it would dissuade her, but I should have known better.  She simply doubled the money and implied that she wouldn’t mind flying with me somewhere for a week.  

Quite a proposal, that.  But by then I was also having bad dreams.  My guides and spirits were already telling me not to do it.  I went down to a crossroads by my house at midnight and petitioned the Queen of the Witches for guidance.  She said only a fool would say yes.  And mama didn’t raise no fool.

I gave my client my absolute, definitive “no” answer and I’ve never seen someone go ballistic the way she did.  In the end (because after months of working with her on other matters, I’d taught her enough magic to be a problem all on her own), I had to do things to take her power away and separate myself from her.  It broke my heart, too, because even though she finally revealed herself as a murderous crazy woman, I did consider her a friend.

The moral of this story is not me telling you what kind of magic to do or what is or isn’t ethical.  It’s saying, do a reading, inquire of your oracles, of your gods, spirits, helpers, and protectors.  Ask a mentor when you’re not sure about a certain magical project.  Because the last thing you want to do is misuse this miraculous divine gift for something as stupid as a bucket of money.  

Make your own money in honest and kind ways.  And if that includes honest magic, then all the better.  It’s not all about the money, as much as people like to believe when they’re daydreaming about being Demi or Robert Redford.  Sometimes, maybe most times, it’s about being the only grownup in the room.


Being a True Believer

I like Sadhguru. He’s a very low-BS yogi. If you can’t bear to sit still for the 10 minute video (included below), I’ll give you his main idea in two sentences: we’re told to believe in certain things that have no connection to our lived experience. We should start with what we have experienced (even subjectively, in our UPG) and work from there. That’s a typical yoga perspective (work with the body first, then use that work to free the mind). But I think it’s good.

I find that even magicians, sometimes especially magicians, get rigid in their beliefs: I know the truth and the rest of you are doing it wrong. Sometimes, this comes from a profit motive (like saying, “My magic is the real shit and the rest of you are just playing—so pay me.”). Other times, this just comes from the sincere belief that there is One True Way (as I talk about here in “Everything is Worthless Except for my Own Occult System”).

We all believe things. We all have a subjective field of personal gnosis. But I think there is one reasonable belief we should all entertain: there is no one true way. Instead, we might benefit from realizing that on some level everyone takes Bruce Lee’s approach: absorb what is useful.

So I remind myself not to be rigid, to be open, to be flexible, and that just because I have tools that work doesn’t mean it can’t be done just as well without them or with different tools. 

Love Magic


I have a theory about love magic: most people don’t know how to work it because they don’t know what love is.  In the occult world, you generally hear two things about it: “it’s hideously dangerous—avoid it at all costs” or “this is how to do it.”  Some public magicians won’t do that kind of work no matter how much money they’re offered.  Others specialize in it.  Why do such extremes exist?  The answer may be that people go to extremes in love and magic because they’re not making informed decisions about how to feel and what to want.

In my opinion, unconditional romantic love is very rare—the kind that wants a partner to be happy with no strings attached at all.  Most romance has strings: I want X to be happy as long as X makes me happy; I want to make X happy as long as X signs a paper that legally commits X to serving my physical and emotional needs for the rest of his/her natural life; I want X to be happy as long as X wants what I want; I want X to be happy as long as my friends approve of X; I want X to be happy as long as X is making a certain amount and we’re living in a certain place, etc.

Is it love when a client comes to me and says, “I need to get my ex back”?  And I say, “Okay, we can look into that.  How long has it been since your ex left?”  And s/he responds, “15 months.”

15 months?!

You’ve been sitting at home, stewing, sweating, fuming, calling, analyzing, suffering, worrying, and regretting for 15 months?  And now that you’re desperate enough, you come to me and ask for magical help?  Why didn’t you come to me after 3 weeks?  Ah, it must be because you had to get desperate enough that you were willing to hope that magic wasn’t all fakery and BS.  Should I—someone who does this as a professional—feel insulted?  Probably.

Instead, I ask the inevitable follow-up question: “Have you spoken with your ex at all in these 15 months?”

“No.  But I know s/he still loves me and can’t live without me.  S/he just has to realize it.”

Uh-huh.  Righto.  S/he just has to realize it.  

There is a simple diagnosis for your situation: you are deluding yourself.  I know it sounds harsh.  It sounds like I am heartless, but that is not true.  My heart goes out to all those people so confused that they don’t know why they’re feeling what they’re feeling or how to fix things.

The real answer, the difficult yet honest truth, is that someone wasting away for an ex has many strings attached to their concept of happiness and love.  They are operating on an “only then will I be happy” model: only when s/he comes back to me will I be happy.  Only when I get my way will I be happy.  They rarely consider the other person’s happiness.  Unconditional love never enters into it.

But I’m not passing moral judgment on anybody.  Sometimes, bringing an ex back is the best thing to do because the ex doesn’t know what s/he is doing, either!  This is why I do a tarot reading every time.  You’ll tell me that your baby daddy vanished after you got pregnant and even though he’s now living with Lana and Donna in the Bahamas, you know he really secretly wants to move back into your broke-down basement apartment in Queens and support you in your time of need.  And you might be correct, as improbable as that may seem on the surface.  Maybe he just needs some time and space to figure things out.  I make no assumptions.  And the cards will tell me the truth every time.

So when the cards indicate that it would be a good thing to do love magic, reconciliation magic, or lust magic, I have no problem with that.  And I cannot say categorically that it’s good or it’s bad without looking at the particular situation.  I’ve brought all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances together and back together.  And it always makes me happy when I can help them work out their differences (and satisfy those “only then” requirements).

When witches (usually inexperienced Wiccans, but I hesitate to generalize) conclude that love magic is 100% harmful and interferes with the will of those involved, I gently point out that it doesn’t always have to be that way.  Love magic is like any other kind of magic—neutral in its morality.  Like a gun, a scalpel, or a law, it’s a tool.  In the hands of a hurtful or stupid person, it’s an evil tool.  In the hands of someone skilled, it can save lives.

Paying the Price for a Magical Life

After college, when I started my mundane career, I entered a field where there’s no health insurance and no pension.  The money you make is the money you have and you eat what you kill, so to speak.  If you want to go to the dentist, you better have some cash saved for that eventuality.  Take a vacation?  Sure.  Anytime you want, but know that while you’re resting, someone else is taking your clients.

I’m not going to talk about my non-magical work directly because I like to maintain a certain degree of privacy, but I will say that it’s a field where things move pretty fast; you live on your wits; and not everyone can survive there, much less do well.  But I have been doing well at it, sometimes very well, for a long time.  I’m not a genius or some kind of savant.  I was just lucky enough to stumble into a field where I had a large degree of aptitude.  My point in saying this isn’t to brag but rather to make a point about practical magic.  So please bear with me.

When I hit my first big “target” in my job, I thought I was a badass.  Other people were missing it, and I hit it right away.  An older guy, kind of a teacher and mentor, congratulated me but added a warning I never forgot: “You have an obsessive one-track mind and a hard-nosed attitude, which will take you far in this business.  But don’t get cocky.  It’s easy to get to the top once.  It’s not so easy to stay there.”  I soon learned how wise and insightful this advice was when I missed my next goal.  Then I had to find humility in myself in order to keep going.  I had to learn from the failures and let them go.  It’s easy to win, but you only learn a little that way.  You learn a lot more from your enormous fuck-ups.

Last night, I learned that I’ve hit my 100th target in this business.  There’s no doubt I’m at the top of my field, even though what I do isn’t a status- or fame-oriented industry and discretion is a lot more valuable than being able to shoot your mouth off about all your success—like I’m kind of doing here and I apologize for that.  I don’t know any other way to make the same point about practical magic: it’s easy to hit your target one time.  But can you do it ten, fifty, one-hundred times?  If you do enough magical workings and record them, you’ll eventually know enough and be proficient enough that you’ll be seeing a 80-90% success rate.  But that is an enormous commitment.

At that point, magic will be like breathing.  You’ll still get bad cards for workings you think you might want to do, and you’ll sometimes have the odd failure even when the cards are good, but you’ll usually know why it failed and how to approach the situation again from a different angle to get results.  You might even hang your shingle out as a sorcerer-for-hire at that point.

In my opinion, the only way to get to this level is to have constant obsessive focus on actually doing the work day in, day out.  This means magic will have to be more than a hobby or a fun way to seem spooky and cool (actually, most pros in any field look very normal and boring on the outside because they’re too busy putting everything they have into their work).  It will have to be a way of life, which is hard.  It’s hard to integrate something like that into your life and keep it there over the long term.  But that’s the price.  In magic, as in everything else, there’s always a price you have to pay.

So how much do you want magic?  How much are you willing to sacrifice?  How much are you committed to doing it, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly?  Constant study?  Constant practice and experimentation?  Meticulous records and journaling?  All while maintaining a mundane life, having a job, family, and friends who don’t know (and wouldn’t respect) a thing about it?  You can do successful magic once, twice, maybe now and then.  But if you want serious chops, you need to work at it and let nothing stand in your way.


This is brilliant.  I love it.


Let it be said from the beginning: If you like alternative histories, then this is the book you want to read right now: The Game of Saturn, by Peter Mark Adams.

First off, you want to get this book because Scarlet Imprint produced it. I could say they’ve produced it handsomely, but that would come across as flat. ‘A handsome Devil’ would be more appropriate, but that’s still not it.

What I really want to say is that Scarlet Imprint produced this book with dedication, fearlessness, hard work, and a precise sense of elegant style that, indeed, only Saturn, the planet of ‘take your goddamn time,’ would understand. We are grateful.

Second, alternative history is fascinating.

Why ‘alternative history’?

Simply because what we’re dealing with here is not history that has its basis in documents, textual proof, and taxation of an artefact that describes the precise purpose of a…

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Simple Incenses

You can find a lot of interesting tables and lists for which incenses to use according to purpose.  Apart from the hoodoo approach to incense, which is a lot more complex than what I’m giving here, I recommend the following extremely simple but effective types for any sort of beginning witch:

– Conjure higher energies / spirits: frankincense

– Conjure lower energies / spirits: myrrh.

– Powerful evoking: “Church incense” (google it)

– Banish meddlesome spirits: dragon’s blood (notice I didn’t say “evil”)

– Banish everything: dogwood (the nuclear bomb of banishing incenses)

– Sage / camphor: incenses that will temporarily raise the vibration of a space

– Wormwood / Star Anise: psychic vision and astral projection

– Rose: love and lust

– Patchouli: earth energy

– Cinnamon: fire energy

– Lemongrass: air energy and slight banishing of lower energies

– Sandalwood / Lemon (balm, verbena): air energy

– Lotus / Licorice / Jasmine: water energy

– Benzoin / Bay Leaf: work with Aether or the element of “Spirit”

– All purpose: (when you just can’t find any of the above): Champa raises the vibration of a space; 50-50 blend of frankincense and myrrh does the same with a slight bias toward positive workings; any harming or cursing work uses sulphur in my tradition (but be extremely careful with this) blended with various types of hot pepper (you need to do your own research for that, which will make your curse work more personal).

Good luck.