The occult, by definition, boils down to an involvement in the supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, phenomena. In the sixteenth century, the term occult sciences was used to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. In the nineteenth century, occultism emerged in France and began to be associated with various esoteric groups therein connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, then in 1875, it was introduced into the English language by esotericist, Helena Blavatsky. During the twentieth century, the term was used to describe a wide range of different authors and their particular eccentricities—finally, during the twenty-first century, it is commonly used to describe a certain esotericism and the several different categories that it encompasses, including but not limited to spiritualism, theosophy, anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age practices. Then again, to be fair, the occult has been used since the twentieth century to also reference a more broad category of supernatural, including the beliefs in vampires, fairies, UFOs, and parapsychology.
When it comes down to it though, what is most often thought of when the occult is considered? The occult is this unknowable magical thing that is mostly considered to have a nasty nature about it—but that’s not always the case, while the occult in the broadest sense it can be more than just witchcraft and esoteric cults; far be it for this witch to say what every other practitioner of the esoteric arts does in their own craft, I can only speak from my own experience.
What is Dark Magic?
There is a misconception about dark magic–even those that practice magic may believe that dark magic, some people refer to it as “black” magic, is always a malevolent thing–this isn’t even remotely true, although there are two sides to that coin. There are many practitioners of dark magic who don’t even appreciate the connotation that what they practice is inherently negative or malevolent at all. Here we refer to it as dark magic because it is the most recognizable way to refer to this type of magical practice, so what we really mean when we are discussing dark magic is any type of magic that is not regarding the free will, emotional, mental, or physical state of the recipient. Now you might be thinking that those parameters automatically make this magic negative or malevolent, but love spells, legal justice spells, and so much more fall under this umbrella, as it benefits the caster, but not necessarily the target. Curses, hexes, jinxes, and other negative forms of magic may also be–as an example, cursing an addict to no longer be able to stand the thought of drug use–that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, now is it? In this writer’s opinion, dark magic can be anything that the practitioner casts that they use an excess of emotion–something that mentally, emotionally, and physically drains them of any existing energy that they may possess.
This is especially true of curses, hexes, and other unsavory forms of magic … It has … to do with the emotion that fuels them: that raw, untamed emotion goes way beyond peel-me-off-the-ceiling anger and can only be termed as livid pissed. And livid pissed is exactly what we are by the time we get around to even consider such things. The old adage of adding fat to the fire doesn’t even begin to cover it when fueling magic with this sort of emotion. In fact, it’s more like adding a hefty dose of jet fuel to a hearth fire. There’s going to be more than a minor flare-up. There’s going to be an explosion to end all explosions. And anyone who thinks that a simple [magical] shield is going to deflect that sort of energy definitely has another thing coming.Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions
Fallacies of Dark Magic
Dark Magic, or as it is more often (and inappropriately) referred to as “black magic,” is not at all what it seems to be. There is an argument that there is no “color” in magic, but even within the practice, there are references to different colors of magic–black, grey, white, green, etc. ad nauseam. To be honest, if you’ve been a part of the witchcraft community for almost two decades, you’d find the use of color within magic as a tad bit pretentious. Those who practice the darker aspects of magic tend to refer to it as baneful magic–it’s honest and unpretentious and it says exactly what it means.
Whatever you’ve experienced, be cautious before you utter: someone cursed me! I cannot honestly tell you how many times I have heard this uttered from someone who was down on their luck–to be completely honest it is the most unlikely reason for someone having bad luck, sometimes bad things just happen. While it may be possible that a witch is pissed off enough to have cursed you, more often than not the best curse is someone’s conscience–that’s not a curse, it’s just your own ethical code telling you to take a look at what you’re doing to other people or, more likely, yourself.
Recount the related problems you’ve experienced to the present, and try to pinpoint the time they began … Then look for any semblance of reason for their occurrence … give some serious thought to what led you to … the conclusion that a hex had been tossed your way … look for reasonable explanations … Because if you can find plausible reasons for any of the … trials and tribulations connected to the time period, it could be that a curse may not be the culprit at all … It’s quite possible that you, yourself, are at fault.Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions
Are you sure that I haven’t been cursed? Yes, we’re pretty sure, and mostly because this author has personally cursed someone before–cursing, crossing, or hexing someone is definitely not as easy as it seems. It takes energy that is derived from our personal emotional, mental, and physical reserves. Most of the time, even if we’re really angry at someone, we realize that the nasty person that we’re angry at isn’t worth the time and energy it takes to do any dark work. If you’re an awful person though, we might take the time and sacrifice the energy, but that’s a personal choice.
… Cursing someone takes an inordinate amount of energy. Your energy. Energy that you’ve stored for other things, like the simple business of everyday living. And cursing someone effectively is going to wipe out all your reserves. But even if that weren’t the case, it’s important to remember that you’re going to be transferring that energy to the person on the other end of your magic. So, there’s a good chance that you’re inadvertently going to pick up some of that person’s energy along the way too. Do you really want that nasty stuff on you? Probably not.Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions
Another thing I have heard in my time of practicing witchcraft is that blood magic is evil magic. That is absolutely not true–blood magic is just more powerful and potent magic. If a witch is practicing blood magic that usually means they know what they’re doing. If we’re using our own blood it means it is going to affect us personally, if we’re using someone else’s blood it means that they are going to be personally affected.
You Can’t Get Cursed if You Don’t Believe is probably the most laughable thing I have ever heard in my life–because if it were true there wouldn’t be any instances of curses at all. If you found out that someone was cursing you and you decided that you just didn’t believe, it would be quite ineffective, right? Truly, if you don’t believe it curses, it actually is more effective to let the person know in some way that they have been cursed. There is nothing more effective than using someone’s imagination against them.
Dark Magic Among the Different Practices
There are so many different religions and secular occult practices that have darker leanings–while not all of the practitioners utilize the darker aspects of these religions or occult practices, they are still there and they are still very legitimate practices.
Voodoo, Hoodoo, Rootwork, Conjure, Appalachian Folk Magic, & Santeria
These are four different titles for some very similar practices–Voodoo, is perhaps the exception among the bunch, as it is based within a religious practice and the occult practices that are utilized are done so within the context of that religion. Hoodoo, rootwork, and folk magic are unique in the fact that they are not necessarily tied into a religion but can be practiced by anyone and everyone–so long as they have the proper knowledge to utilize the techniques that are a learned aspect of these decades-old traditions that are typically passed down through familial lines. While many of these occult practices exist solely in the southern United States, such as Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, etc.–there are also the folk magic practices that are known as Appalachian folk magic which occur throughout the Appalachian Mountains.
Voodoo, Vodou, and Vodun are the variations upon the spelling of the same practice–it really just depends upon where the religion is practiced. It’s a religion that practices a sort of folk magic, but differing from other types of folk magic, it is entirely tied into the Christian or Catholic faiths. Voodoo also ties in African folk magic, however, by adding in the veneration of spirits or loa. If you’re looking for a movie that most accurately depicts voodoo, even if it is a bit campy and over-the-top, take a moment to watch The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). You’ll get the feel of voodoo without having to delve too deeply into it. If you’re looking to get revenge on someone, while we certainly don’t recommend jumping into something as complex as Voodoo and getting in over your head, crossing is what you’re after when it comes to the Voodoo religion. It usually utilizes personal objects or bodily fluids–that’s an entirely different topic on its own.
If you’re looking to make someone bend completely to your will, you’re probably thinking of Haitian zombification. Zombies are some of the darker aspects of the Voodoo religion–as a whole, the religion doesn’t typically approve of zombification, you can learn more about the practice in one of our older articles.
Voodoo Dolls and Doll Babies are always portrayed in a negative light in Voodoo, but that’s not entirely undeserved, it’s definitely not as alluring to think about making a voodoo doll out of love for someone. When we think of voodoo dolls we immediately think of that idealization of acting out your anger and frustrations out on your target. We definitely believe that they are worth investigating more thoroughly before anyone might utilize such a technique for revenge.
Within Hoodoo, Conjure, Rootwork, & Appalachian Folk Magic you’ll find a lot of diversity, but a surprising amount of similarities considering the different terms to refer to this type of practice. This practice is generally considered separate from any religious practice, but isn’t exempt from including it either. Hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork are primarily practiced in the Southern United States, as well as the Caribbean and some other regions. Appalachian Folk Magic is quite similar to the hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork practices, but this particular folk magic practice only naturally occurs in the Appalachian Mountains.
The religion of Santeria is quite complex–the beliefs are more difficult to follow because a lot of the details of the practice are hidden to those who are not inducted into the religion. It has a poor reputation due to the newspaper articles that deteriorate the image of Santeria as a whole.
Satanism and Daemonolatry
Satanism is one of the most misunderstood occult practices, but it is also an umbrella term that encompasses quite a few different practices and religions. The witchcraft that follows along with the different practices of Satanism are not at all like what they show in the movies, in fact, the practices are generally a surprisingly vanilla expression of magical practice.
Daemonolatry is more of a practice that is considered separate from satanic practices–it is a less religious practice and can be compared to hoodoo the same way that satanism can be compared to voodoo.
You don’t have to be any of the above mentioned practitioners in order to practice baneful magic–you can be of pretty much any magical background (except for, possibly, Wicca) and practice magic that is aimed to harm another person.
If you’re looking for more information on stuff like this, leave us a comment and let us know!
North Carolina-based author and artist, Mary has been a horror aficionado since the mid-2000s. Originally a hobby artist and writer, she found her niche in the horror industry in late 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. Mary’s evolution into a horror expert allowed her to express herself truly for the first time in her life. Now, she prides herself on indulging in the stuff of nightmares.
Mary also moonlights as a content creator across multiple social media platforms—breaking down horror tropes on YouTube, as well as playing horror games and broadcasting live digital art sessions on Twitch.