In the previous part of this article, we covered how motivation needs to always be a factor in both ritual and in daily life and practice, and that’s important because sometimes, our motivations can be coming from a darker place. Let’s look at darker emotions and how they can have a dangerous effect on our health as well as our practice.
Revenge Is Not That Sweet
Seeking vengeance on someone for a real or perceived slight is an unfortunate part of being human. Someone wrongs us, we seek retribution. Look at conflicts all over the world. A religious or ethnic group commits an atrocity or transgression and it is remembered and passed on for generations. On a more personal level, look at our daily lives.
Someone cuts us off in traffic. So we lay on the horn. Maybe get into some road rage, and yell something about their parentage and learning how to drive. And why? Because they cut us off of course.
However, getting angry and seeking revenge have a toxic effect on our emotional well being as well as physical health. According to Vanessa Van Edwards on her site The Science of People:
“A group of Swiss researchers wanted to know what happens in the brain when someone reaps revenge.
They scanned the brains of people who had just been wronged during a game in the lab.
The researchers then gave the wronged participant a chance to punish the other person, and for a full minute as the victim’s contemplated revenge, the activity in their brain was recorded.
Immediately, researchers noticed a rush of neural activity in the caudate nucleus. This is the part of the brain known to process rewards.
Big Idea: This study found that revenge, in the moment, is quite rewarding.
However, they wanted to know one more thing: Does revenge keep rewarding?
The Long-Term Effects of Revenge:
We often believe that exacting revenge is a form of emotional release and that getting retribution will help us feel better. Movies often portray the act of revenge as a way of gaining closure after a wrong. But in fact, revenge has the opposite effect.
Even though the first few moments feel rewarding in the brain, psychological scientists have found that instead of quenching hostility, revenge prolongs the unpleasantness of the original offense.
Instead of delivering justice, revenge often creates only a cycle of retaliation.
“A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal.” –Francis Bacon” [VIEW SOURCE]
But what does that have to do with magick and ritual?
Revenge is a Dangerous Thing to Bring Into Ritual
There are many different entry rituals that say that you should enter into a circle with perfect love and perfect trust. Nowhere is revenge mentioned.
What’s your motivation for doing a love spell? Are you trying to get that person to be with you, or are you trying to avenge yourself because they turned you down? A friend of my late partner Mike, we’ll call him Idjit for convenience, was seeing a guy who abruptly broke it off. Idjit wasn’t very good at magick, so he asked Mike for a spell to help him win back the heart of his estranged boyfriend. Mike helped out of concern for his friend, so he cast a spell to draw them back together. What he didn’t know is that Idjit had ulterior motives.
The guy he was interested in couldn’t figure out why he kept coming back. Idjit treated this guy horribly, keeping him around to constantly remind him of how he had hurt him. Reconciliation was never part of the agenda it was all about revenge. Both Mike and I had to intervene. We undid the spell together, and the estranged boyfriend went his way and found someone better. As for Idjit, Mike and him parted ways.
Someone breaks your heart. After you go through the ice cream and talk ad nauseum about it to your friends, family, and anyone who listen, the best thing you can do is rebuild your life and go on. However, a lot of us don’t do that. Some people want to make their former love suffer as they have. Look at some popular music for inspiration.
I Wanna Be Around
“I want to be around to pick up the pieces
When somebody breaks your heart
Some somebody twice as smart as I
A somebody who will swear to be true
As you used to do with me
Who’ll leave you to learn
That misery loves company, wait and see”
Cry Me A River
Diana Krall, Julie London, others
“Now you say you’re lonely
You cry the whole night through
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you
Now you say you’re sorry
For being so untrue
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you.”
Revenge and retaliation aren’t just confined to romantic endeavors. They’re part of office politics, international affairs, and even among groups of people who you think would be above such things, revenge often rears it’s ugly head. Should you seek revenge? Absolutely, but here is how you do it.
You get up every day, and get out of your rut as soon and as often as you can.
You assess your life and consider ways to make it happier, healthier, and at the same time, you strive to improve yourself.
You give yourself the best life you can. Don’t give your detractor or attacker any more power. Soon a miraculous thing will happen. Not only will retaliation be the furthest thing from your mind, and they will be irrelevant. That’s the best revenge you can take. Try to be happy. That’s the best revenge to take.
But what about justice? What if you need to sue someone for damages to your home or property? You have a right to seek damages when justified. But this is the trick with justice. You have to know when to stop. Because somewhere in the middle of your quest for justice you could find yourself on a path to revenge.
So as we said before, look at your situation with the perspective of the ultimate observer. Ask why you’re doing something. That way you will know what it is that motivates you: seeking justice or invoking your right to vengeance. What’s your motivation?
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”