Curses, Hexes, and Crossing: A Magician’s Guide to Execration Magick by S. Connolly.
Just from reading the introduction, I had very high hopes for this book. And while it may not have stayed as high as I’d hoped, it still stayed pretty damn high.
As a side note, since I don’t post many book reviews and you guys probably aren’t familiar with my critiques, I am a very critical reader. From fiction to non fiction, I give credit where credit is due, but no more than that. I have reviewed several Witchcraft books and been sorely disappointed by all of them. So for me to say this book was a joy to read is a huge deal.
The introduction basically lists all the uses of execration magic, as well as debunking a few common misconceptions about cursing. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"Cursing can help a magician heal after a particularly bad relationship/friendship, or after a traumatic event." (pg. 1) I want to shove this quote in the face of everyone who claims cursing only has negative side effects.
"First let me say that you should never underestimate the psychological aspects of magick to manifest change around you." (pg. 4)
"Just so you know - saying "as long as it harms none" is merely a clause a lot of people throw into magick to clear their conscience. For example, if you do working for prosperity and find one-hundred dollars on the sidewalk the next day, someone else lost one-hundred dollars and they were harmed even if you added, "As long as it harms none". So let’s drop that sanctimonious crap right now. We do a lot in our day to day lives that hurt other people even when it’s unintentional. That’s life and life isn’t fair." (pg. 5)
Chapter One discusses the meanings of the words Curse, Hex, and Crossing. Not only does the author provide her own definition of each word, but she also provides dictionary definitions (which I’ve never actually seen any other author do). She goes on to mention the various kinds of curses, the simple and the complex, as well as the power of words.
This is my biggest complaint about this book. The author very clearly prefers spells and curses with spoken phrases and puts a lot of stock in the power of the spoken word, and while she does include written curses in her section about curses from the ancient world, in the actually cursing section (I’ll get to later) just about every curse is spoken.
Granted, I understand the author is writing from her own tradition, experience, and many of the spells included were written specifically for her, but it would have been nice of her to include a section of non-verbal curses for people who can’t speak.
My favorite quote from this section:
"There was no such thing as vegetarian-peace-loving-harm-none-Goddess-only-worshiping pagans in the ancient world. Perhaps there were pagans who were those things separately or individually, but not that entire combination.
There, I said it. It had to be said. Commence throwing daggers.” (pg. 9)
(Basically this lady gives no fucks and I respect that).
Chapter Two focuses on ethics and execration magick. Now most cursing folk cringe when they read that chapter title in a book, but this wasn’t so bad at all. My biggest issue with this chapter was an issue of differing paradigms. For example, the author believes that all magic has its consequences. While I believe similarly, I also believe everything has consequences, be they good or bad. So for me, saying “all magic has its consequences” is like…no shit. Everything does. But the author means it as magic having consequences higher than normal actions, which I don’t agree with. Again, differing paradigms.
There are plenty of witches who hold a similar paradigm as the author and will have no issue at all with this section, so I won’t hold it against her. I recognize that my paradigm is not in the majority on this one.
The author goes on to mention the Wiccan Rede, and provides the correct Rede - as opposed to the one with a few lines removed (y’know, the one most “harm none” authors push on their readers?). She then explains why even those who believe in the Threefold law may be put in a situation where the consequences of cursing are worth the backlash they may receive.
One of my favorite sections from this section:
"My personal view of why some curses come home to roost on the person who threw them is because once the person realized their curse was unjust, their own guilt brought that negativity on themselves. It then became a self-fulfilled prophesy." (pg. 14) The author goes on the advocate having no guilt or remorse for curses after you’ve decided the person deserved it.
I will say, however, that the latter part of this section gets a little too close to victim blaming for my taste. While the author never claims that ALL negativity in a person’s life is brought on by their own negative energy (in fact, she makes a point to say throughout the book that sometimes bad shit just happens to good people), I think it’s very easy for someone to internalize it and blame themselves for their misfortune. So while this isn’t outright victim blaming, I just want the readers to not think too much in to this section, because it can lead to victim blaming fast.
Chapter Three talks about the anatomy and psychology of curses. I think a lot of authors who write about spells and curses ignore the psychological effects and results because you can’t physically see them, but these are so important to talk about and I’m grateful that Connolly keeps going back to them. She mentions again how beneficial execration magic can be to those who have been through traumatizing experiences and bad relationships (to which I can vouch for, having experience in this area of execration magic).
The chapter goes on to mention how effective drama can be during rituals:
"So by all means - wear black robes, inverse pentagrams, and allow yourself to be and feel like the powerful being you are. In your temple you are the most powerful magus in the world." (pg. 16)
I see a lot of “experienced” authors shooting down the drama in rituals as a way for them to seem like they are higher than others, and I will say this author pretty much takes the “ass” out of assumption. She does not assume her readers practice magic the way she does and often offers various ways of doing something.
Chapter Four includes a brief history of cursing, wherein the author mentions specific curses from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Middle-Ages, African and Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Indian, Central Asian, and Celtic traditions. There is a small section (less than half a page) about Native American cursing, but the author does not go in to details, merely mentioning that some NA Shamans worked curses, and citing a friend of hers who is a Native American Shaman. She does not go in to detail or reveal things her friend did not give her permission to reveal (thank fuck, let other authors learn from this - looking at you, Penczak).
Chapter Five teaches a few basic methods of cleansing and purifying, and the author states that some traditions require people to cleanse themselves before curses while others do not (in fact, the author usually does not cleanse before cursing). I seldom see it mentioned as an option, which goes back to my “taking the ass out of assumption” comment.
In this section, Connolly starts talking about cursing in rituals. This chapter is very “deity or spirit’s assistance” heavy, though the author does provide alternatives at times. The author herself works with demons so a lot of the rituals or curses found in this book are geared toward her personal practice. This may annoy some secular witches, though I’ll say that there were enough secular curses to keep me, a fellow secular witch, happy for the most part.
The latter half of this chapter is all about the curses! As I said, many of these come from Connolly’s own practice, many of them were written by her, so you’ll find a lot of demon sigils and a bit of calling on demons. Sources are provided for spells that are not hers, and she mentions that she did not include any spells that she did not receive permission to print. Yay for common decency!
Some of these curses are actually kinda cute (y’know, for curses…)
My favorite part of this section, however, is the inclusion of Christian Witchcraft toward the last couple of curses.
Chapter Six is all about cursed herbal mixtures and stones - pretty straight forward, and very useful information!
Chapter Seven is about recognizing and breaking curses, hexes, and crossings. Again, very straight forward, lots of options offered, and the author gives a lot of common sense info to help people (while managing to not talk down to the readers - imagine that, New Age authors!) She then offers a decent amount of preventative measures and warding tips.
All sources are cited properly.
All in all, I give this book 8/10. I’m tempted to give it a 9, but the potential victim blaming and lack of non-verbal spells pushes it down a bit for me. Still, it is the single best witchcraft book I have encountered so far, and I recommend anyone interested in cursing in the slightest bit - even if it’s just to protect yourself against curses - read this book.
Secular witches, don’t worry, there are plenty of curses in here for you!
I picked this book up after reading this review and….
IT IS EVERYTHING I HOPED IT WOULD BE.
I WANT TO HUG THIS AUTHOR.
S. CONNOLLY GIVES NO FUCKS AND PULLS NO PUNCHES.
THIS BOOK IS A THING OF BEAUTY.
Haven’t read this myself, but it might be worth a read…
The “they’re their own separate entities” just doesn’t make sense to me. It has the same frantic forced ignorance feeling as “of course Mary was a virgin”
yeah okay no.
Which is almost as ignorant as believing every entity is a Roman deity, including those from religions which existed before them.
Do you know how many nights I’ve spent twisting your English off my tongue? I do not take pride in your English. I want to stumble on my words. I want to speak with an accent so thick that it requires silence. I want you to struggle to understand me. Realize your English is not superior. Your English does not equate intelligence. Do not compliment me on how well I have accepted colonization. I do not want your pat on the back. I was forced to learn this language. I didn’t choose to. Your English disconnects me from my people. I am deaf to my own sacred language because of your English.
Your English has done nothing for me.
"Too many books?" I believe the phrase you’re looking for is "not enough bookshelves".