What makes magic “black”?

Baphomet, someone's confused idea of a dark god

This is part 2 of my discussion of the emotional dynamics of black magic.

It answers: what does “black” mean? (Setting aside for now what “magic” means, and whether there is any.)

“Black” could be magic that:

  • is dangerous
  • has destructive effects
  • is used with bad intent
  • is only used by evil people
  • is inherently evil if used
  • is forbidden by authority

Usually these concepts are muddled together, losing distinctions. In fact:

“Black” magic is whatever social consensus, or authority, considers Not OK, and declares creepy and taboo.

But the taboos of authority and social consensus may be ethically wrong.

  • Setting aside “magic,” dangerous procedures are often justified, if the risk/benefit balance is right.
  • Destructive methods are also often ethical. (Dynamite is used to build roads.)
  • Apart from fundamentalist religious beliefs, it’s not clear how any method could be inherently evil, or why it would only be used by evil people. Evil depends on intentions and consequences.

In fact, much of the actual danger of black magic comes from society deliberately confusing danger, evil, and taboos. That makes it too easy to slip from rejecting a pointless taboo into causing harm. What we ought to condemn is using magic malevolently or carelessly.