In the witchcraft community, it’s all-too-common to hear people throw out warnings about “karma” and the Wiccan threefold law. In fact, you really can’t go a full day without someone touting it as a reason to cast judgment on various questions or statements about the craft. If you’ve been a longtime reader of this blog, you probably already know that — generally — atheist witches do not recognize any so-called “threefold laws,” nor do we generally believe in the concept of the Wiccan Rede or anything of that nature. So you should probably be aware, by now, that the question in the title is a bit of a joke. There is no such thing as a “good witch” or a “bad witch.”

What is ‘good’ vs ‘bad?’

On the surface, that is an incredibly simple question — too simple, maybe. After all, we’re all brought up with our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. We’re brought up by our parents (biological or otherwise), who instill their values in us, and then we either uphold those values or we gradually break away from them and form our own based on where our own morals, or even our peers, guide us. For the most part, humanity as a collective seems to agree on what’s “right or wrong” based on systems of laws, and various religions. We mostly agree that it’s wrong to kill, wrong to steal, etc. We mostly agree that you shouldn’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you. So, if you ask any random person if they know the difference between “good” and “bad,” they’ll certainly have an answer — or believe they do, at least.

When it comes to witchcraft and various spiritual practices, it doesn’t really seem like there are enough philosophical conversations about what “good” and “bad” really are. With Wicca — and Wicca-centric belief — being front-and-center in the witchcraft community, what little conversation exists on the topic is superficial to say the least. After all, the spiritual community at large still uses problematic terms and outdated ways of thinking — such as the concept of black magic being “bad” and white magic being “good,” which is pretty racist, to be honest. Furthermore, when it comes to discussing spells — even seemingly benign ones — the floodgates to debate on “good” and “bad” open up rather quickly in the witchcraft community.

Example: Are love spells okay? Or are they wrong?

Ask that question in any pagan or witchcraft related group on social media, and most people will tell you that even love spells are “black magic” (again with that horrible, outdated term), and some will encourage you to do spells to “attract love to you” instead. What seldom gets discussed in this scenario, is the context of the love spell or whether or not it’s even possible for someone to fall in love against their will, making the idea of imposing on free will a moot point.

When it comes to talking about revenge spells, binding spells or anything that even remotely resembles “doing harm,” the answers seem to be the same as when someone discusses love magic. The “do no harm” point-of-view tends to take center stage, and even victims of abuse or sexual assault are told that they should simply do “healing spells” to “get over” what happened to them. I’ve personally seen women treated like they are “evil” or “bad witches” for seeking guidance on spells to get justice for various atrocities. But who’s truly the evildoer in the scenario? The wronged woman who is resorting to witchcraft to seek justice; Or the rapist, abuser, thief or liar? Or better yet, maybe it’s the other so-called witches in the community, disguising victim blaming as spiritual guidance.

Witches don’t have to be ethical

The thing about witchcraft is that it doesn’t need to be ethical. It just needs to work. The person who utilizes witchcraft will have their own reasons for casting whatever type of spell they’re casting, and those reasons aren’t the business of anyone else. The materials used, the culture(s) involved, whether or not spirits or deities are called-upon — None of this really matters in the end. What matters is whether or not it works. I’m not recommending that you callously misappropriate cultures that have closed practices, nor am I saying you should explore types of magic that are seemingly dangerous, but at the end of the day it’s not up to me or anyone else to tell any other witch how to practice the craft. Witches don’t have to be ethical. Hell, they don’t even have to be conventionally good people without witchcraft. They don’t have to be strictly love-and-light, and they certainly don’t have to abide by any manmade boundaries or concepts pertaining to morality or “punishment.”

So are you a good witch, or are you a bad witch? If you’re a witch, you’re a witch. You can choose to do good as a person, and hold onto moral philosophies as an individual. That, indeed, makes you a good person. However, even good people defend themselves, seek justice and have complex feelings that lead to a multitude of different behaviors. As witches, these things don’t change. We just become human beings who know how to utilize a useful tool.