An argument with Carla O'Harris (2)

(As written by Carla O'Harris)
Originally Posted by cydira
On the matter of the benandanti, however, you are sorely mistaken. Not all witches subscribe to the organization of the tradition of Strega or related traditions of Greco/Etruscan descent. For that matter, the subsect that is promoted by these traditions makes up a relatively minor portion of the population of practicing witches. The vast majority of witchcraft practiced is the fruit of Anglo-Celtic origin, predominantly of English revisionist witchcraft, as seen in Gardener's work. The point of this rambling, is that the majority of the witches you encounter are not operating under the auspices of the benandanti or some other group of sacred elders.

Ginzburg found parallel structures to the Benandanti all over Europe. And all over Europe were found structures for prosecuting maleficia.

As far as Gardner's work, let us quote :

So it is Ardane that none shall use the Art in any way to do ill [45] to any, howevermuch they have injured us. And for long we have obeyed this law, "Harm none" and nowtimes many believe we exist not. So it be Ardane that this law shall still continue to help us in our plight. No one, however great an injury or injustice they receive, may use the Art in any to do ill or harm any. [50] But they may, after great consultations with all, use the Art to prevent or restrain Christians from harming us and others, but only to let or constrain them and never to punish, to this end.

In England 'tis now many a year since a witch hath died the death, but any misuse of the power might raise the Persecution again; so never break this law, [65] however much you are tempted, and never consent to its being broken. If you know it is being broken in the least, you must work strongly against it, and any High Priestess or High Priest who consents to it must be immediately deposed, for 'tis the blood of the Brethren they endanger.

Let me emphasize :

If you know it is being broken in the least, you must work strongly against it

But ever let the Coven debate the matter at length. Only if all are satisfied that none may be harmed [80] may the Art be used. If it is not possible to achieve your ends one way without harming any, perchance the aim may be achieved by acting in a different way, so as to harm none. May the Curse of the Goddess be on any who breach this law.


I think that's pretty self-explanatory. Not only is the Coven to debate situations that may involve harm, but every witch is enjoined to strongly work against any ill-workings.

I highly advise that you recall this, as I know it may be rather foregin to the tradition/sect of witchcraft that you practice. Assuming that all other witches are beholden to some group of sacred elders is on par with declaring that a tradition with such elders is a matter of orthodoxy and an integral part of the structure of the religion of witchcraft. Witchcraft, however, is not constrained by such orthodoxy, as I am sure you are aware. It appears, however, that you are stating this.

I am advising community self-policing and against an "anything goes" mentality that allows the worst and lowest of human impulses to wield dangerous technologies.

Ms. O'Harris, are you familiar with the legal distinction between self-defense and assault? Would you please present it to us or perhaps kindly clarify this point, as I do not see how this directly relates to the discussion. Are you arguing that intent to harm is an essential component to assault or that intent to harm can be classed in two different categories: self-defense and assault?

While I have no intention of legally educating you, here is a beginning :


In the United States, it is illegal to harm another person intentionally ... You can, however, make the case that you were legally justified in your actions, and if you can prove that, then you’re clear. But while establishing that you did the eye-poking is the prosecution’s problem, establishing justification is yours—your burden of proof.

See also


In most jurisdictions, when the defense succeeds, it operates as a complete justification when the degree of violence used is comparable or proportionate to the threat faced, so deadly force should only be used in situations of "extreme" danger. The defense would fail if a defendant deliberately killed a petty thief who did not appear to be a physical threat. A somewhat less obvious application of this rule is that admitting the use of deadly force in an attempt to disable rather than kill the assailant can be construed as evidence that the defendant wasn't yet in enough danger to justify lethal force in the first place. Sometimes there is a duty to retreat which makes the defense problematic when applied to abusive relationships (see battered woman syndrome and abuse defense), and in burglary situations given the so-called castle exception (see: Edward Coke) which argues that one cannot be expected to retreat from one's own home, namely, “a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium" i.e. Latin for "and each man’s home his safest refuge”).

Please note that the burden of proof is upon the person having committed the force to prove that it was justified on grounds of self-defense.

The only thing that I see here is begging questions: What is the role of the community in relation to the individual? What is the role of the individual in relation to the community? What is the role of individuals, within this community, with relation to eachother? In short, Ms. O'Harris, what is the social contract in place here?

These are good questions for the community to explore.

This returns back to the question of what is the social contract within the community. It's ironic that you state the question of "how a community would feel about completely unregulated mercenaries and assassins for hire?" in the light of the fact that such things are in play in our "mundane" society. You don't usually think about such unplesant things, do you, Ms. O'Harris? Or, am I incorrect in my estimation and you are deeply troubled by this matter as well? The matter of such ... unsavory professions and individuals aside, there is another statement you made that I find most interesting as well.

Well, in our society, the hiring of mercenaries and assassins is regulated and illegal. Such things happen, but they are not legal. And they can be prosecuted. If there were a situation of completely unregulated mercenaries and assassins, the level of mayhem would be far greater than it is.

Your assumptions about what I usually think about or do not think about are inaccurate and irrelevant.

"I don't see why the application of force however arcane the methodology should be subject to no regulation simply because the mechanisms are less well understood."

The application of force must be regulated, is this what you are arguing? I presume this theoretical regulation would include a listing of scenarious where force is viewed as acceptable and unacceptable. Who would compile such a listing, Ms. O'Harris? Can you personally assure me that this listing would be ehxaustive and touch upon each and every circumstance where force is contemplated as an option? Thus, if I were in a position where I had to choose between lethal and non-lethal action in the defense of myself, my family, my interests, my property or the life and well being of others, I could make an informed decision?

What libertarian sarcasm! But the fact of the matter is that courts do form such rules of thumb to regulate such matters. If you'd like to learn those distinctions, I suggest you study case law. As far as the idea that the application of force must be regulated, most people feel that not everyone should have access to rocket launchers, tanks, surface-to-air missiles, etc. And a society that lives by the rule of law in general agrees to the regulation of force.

I highly doubt that you, a well meaning and upstanding member of society at large and a respected individual within the Pagan community, can grant me such assurances. I also highly doubt that such an exhaustive list can be compliled. We can not expect others to view a given situation through the same lense as we do, Ms. O'Harris, and as such can not expect them to view every situation as we would. For this reason, we must work to secure our liberties rather then place more constraints upon the tresspasses.

More sarcasm. Nice. Exhaustive lists are not as important as understanding principles. The courts do expect people to be able to apply these principles, and in fact will prosecute failure to do so. Laws were in place to prosecute maleficia for millenia in Europe, and it is only recently that such laws have been taken off the books. So long as the consensus is that there is no such thing as psychic-harm, it makes no sense to prosecute maleficia as such. However, if the consensus were to shift that there is validity to psi activities, such laws might be looked at in a new light and updated. In other words, there is a long history in law to regarding maleficia as prosecutable.

And while we may not be able to expect others to view things through the same lens as we do, the law demands that when it comes to certain things, that we have the proper lens installed. Failure to do so can result in prosecution.

It is far easier to lose freedom then to gain it.

One does not have the "freedom" to harm. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, "...The right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins."

Ms. O'Harris, I am ... appauled by your blanket statement. You, of all people, should realize that "dark" magic is not all based upon the socially defined traits of evil (resentment, envy, projection, greed, anger, sloth, etc.). "Dark" magic is a thereputic tool in resolving the rifts within ourselves that such emotions can create. It has means by which we can expunge the excess of said emotions and come to terms with them.

This has been an extremely long thread, so I will try to summarize some context which will help here. I made it clear that psychodramas are not troubling to me, only actions with clear intent to harm. If people want to blow off some steam, that is their own business.

This is but one of many, many possibilities of "dark" magic, Ms. O'Harris. A banishment is a form of "dark" magic. It involves the sending away of something. Thus, a person who is ill with a severe cold can aid the healing from said illness by performing a banishment. Is this something motivated by the traits commonly associated with "dark" magic by society at large? [/quote]

It is not maleficia. I have been addressing maleficia.

The communication with the dead is classically considered a "dark" art. I see no evidence of malice prompting this, for in most cases it is an innate talent.

This depends on when and where. Odin practiced it, so in the context of a culture where Odin was the chief god, it obviously didn't have the same negative connotations as in a Christian context.

Communication with the dead is in many contexts all over the world a very positive thing.

I agree that it has no trace in and of itself of maleficia.

Madam, unless you provide evidence to clarify your sentiments, I am forced to say that you are as blind on the topic of "dark" magic as the people who are inclined to persecute us. My reasoning for this is because your statements all indicate that you feel that we are at dire risk of playing with forces of evil that will consume us, no matter what form of "dark" magic we work. I do hope that a teacher of the Craft, such as yourself, is more enlightened then this and that my estimation of this point is based on misinterpreting your words.

Please observe that I am concerned with maleficia. I like the night and I like darkness. Those things have nothing to do with the deliberate intention to cause harm to another. One can be quite peaceful and loving in the dark. Additionally, healthy, appropriate, consensual psychodrama engaging shadow portions of the human psyche, so long as within boundaries that do not harm, does not in any way encroach upon maleficia.

I have not invoked "dire risk of playing with forces of evil that will consume us". I have prudently cautioned against bringing more harm into a world already replete with suffering.

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