Casting Spells on Your Boss Could Get You Fired

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 6, 2011 — 51 Comments

For those faith traditions that incorporate magic and spellwork into their practices, Wicca, Santeria, Vodou, and any number of modern Pagan faiths, the urge to invoke supernatural help to solve a problem is sometimes overwhelming. This is especially true when an individual feels limited in what they can do in their day-to-day lives to remove an obstacle or improve their situation. That said, if you’re careless, casting spells on your boss could get you fired.

“Officer Elizabeth Torres, a 24-year department veteran, was terminated by City Manager Lyndon Bonner for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to a city news release. […] Torres and office manager Yvonne Rodriguez had been accused of targeting Bonner with birdseed, which they believed to be part of a Santeria practice. The two had allegedly planned to scatter the seeds in and around Bonner’s city hall office in August. The alleged plan was concocted after Bonner had planned to cut the police budget, but was discovered after Torres and Rodriguez asked a janitor to help sprinkle the seeds, and the janitor turned them in.”

Both parties involved in the spell plot claim nothing malicious was intended, but it wasn’t enough to save their jobs. So, I guess there’s something of an object lesson here. At the very least, it reinforces the need to not incriminate yourself through accomplices or risky physical manifestations of your work. If it can’t be accomplished at home, or at a private temple, it might not be worth it.

However, underneath this cautionary tale is the larger issue of how businesses, law enforcement, and government should approach spells and spellwork. What’s protected expression, and what’s harassment, or improper conduct? As religions and traditions that engage in magic increasingly enter the mainstream, a larger ethos as to what’s acceptable and what crosses the line will increasingly be needed. What if there wasn’t birdseed, what if they were merely caught after hours chanting, praying, or reading from a book? What if, as Tim Elfrink at the Miami New Times posits, they were Christians caught praying? Would that still be improper conduct? I think we’ll continue to see cases like this in the news, and working their way through the court systems. Until then, I would keep the curses at home.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • After reading this it made me wonder how I would feel. Honestly they are lucky to just be losing their job. If the manager was spiritual, pagan or christian, he probably could go to court and argue for assault since it could be argued that by casting a spell against him, they meant him harm which might be considered assault.

    Just my spur of the moment thinking. Might not be relevant at all, but it’s worth thinking about when considering casting a spell against someone.. The courts of this country are rather fickle.

  • What about Christians who pray for a raise? They are, in essence, casting a spell on their employers.

    Also, according to the linked to article, the ritual was never actually conducted, and was only discussed while both employees were off-duty, “and did not involve any ill will threat, or harm,” according to one of their attorneys.

    • Boris

      When a Christian prays for a rise, God is responsible for any effect. God is supposed to be the source of all morality, so the effect must, by definition, be “good”. A witch working a ritual for a rise is using his/her own power, so the responsibility for any effect is the witch’s own.

      • Khalila RedBird

        Not quite so, Boris. Some Witches may be so foolish as to use only their own power, but I hope most of us are asking the Gods to direct Their power, so long as it harms none.

        • That’s one heck of a judgment on people, especially those who take their power into their own hands and use it.

          By contrast I would say it could well be foolish to ask a God/dess to intervene in a situation where, magically, you could handle it yourself.

          I’m also not sure why there needs to be the caveat of ‘harms none’ if you’re putting the result in the hands of a God/dess.

        • Anonymous

          I hope most of us know that not all witches and magicians are followers of Wiccan-based traditions, and therefore are not bound by the “Wiccan rede” or similar constraints.

          • @temperatelogic: anyone who causes or seeks to cause harm through magic should be viewed as a violent criminal, just the same as someone who commits physical assault. The only exceptions would be legitimate cases of self-defense and the like. This is not some peculiar notion found only in Wicca. It is universally recognized in all societies that accept the reality of Magic.

          • Anonymous

            The specific wording of the original post, making reference to the “harm none” edict, *is* a notion peculiar to Wicca, and the blanket assumption of its universality is as common as it is erroneous. (That said, I don’t argue that ethical proscriptions are extant in most magical systems and magic-working societies.)

          • “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.”

            Saying that anyone who seeks to “cause harm” with magic should be viewed as a violent criminal strikes me as an increasingly close minded point of view. Harm is something that happens. We “harm” people when we speak words they don’t like, we “harm” the environment when we harvest food or when we walk across the earth. When we get a job and someone else doesn’t, we have “harmed” those who did not get the job.

            So when we use magic to cast spells to gain money, or to make ourselves more attractive to people, some would argue that we are “harming” others, because we are taking money that might go to someone else, or we are “influencing” their minds to gain success in jobs, or relationships.

            According to some philosophies, we do “harm” just by existing. (as an interesting side not, those that preach that have rarely removed themselves from existence, make of that what you will)

            So I’m going to have to disagree. I say use your magic like you would any other talent. And if it is “violent” or “harmful” so be it. Life is “violent” and “harmful” by it’s very nature. This is not evil, nor criminal. It is nature.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Apuleius, I’ll agree to hold anyone who tries to harm through spells as a violent criminal if you’ll agree that s/he may only be punished in the same manner.

            Alchemist wrote: “I say use your magic like you would any other talent.” Exactly; you use your other talents under limits drawn from law, ethics and morality. Or you don’t.

            What bothers me is the attitude that magick is the land of do-as-you-please with none of the self-imposed limits that make us human. This is the dark side of fluffy-bunny Paganism.

          • @Baruch Dreamstalker: I am not advocating any particular punishment for any particular crime. I am just saying this is the way things are viewed in societies that accept magic as “real”. Since we do not live in such a society, going into details about how practitioners of malefic magic should be punished is extremely hypothetical.

          • Charles Cosimano

            They may be viewed as violent criminals, but if they are really good at it they are violent criminals with the equivalent of a nuclear deterrent. In other words, how do you propose to punish superior firepower in the hands of those willing to use it?
            Consider the legend of Milarepa. His response to the villagers who wanted to retaliate against him for cursing his Uncle was to level the barely crop and starve them all to death. Or to put it simply, how large a death wish do those who would seek to punish such a magician have? It would come down to Apuleius Defense when he was accused of trying to kill someone with magic. “If they really believed I could do they never would have brought the charges because they would not be alive to see them get to court.”

      • @Boris: If the prayers of an individual Christian have any efficacy whatsoever, then that act of prayer has involved that Christian in culpability for the end result. Your approach to prayer, Boris, only strictly applies in cases where one sticks to the Lord’s Prayer, which doesn’t say anything about getting a raise.

        Personally I view the Christian God as an extremely malevolent entity, and all those who call upon that Thing lend it more power, and for that they are certainly responsible.

      • Holdcrofts07

        Hmm, you have a point, but Wicca is about asking the earth for power. We invoke gods and goddesses and elements, we believe everyone has their own power to use, but we can’t tap into that without help from the earth or something else 🙂

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          AFAIK this is an open theological question, whether the source of magick is within us or we draw it from other entities.

          BTW I hope this entire malicious office magick subthread is being followed by the people who bring us “Dilbert.”

  • Kilmrnock

    First off the spell was not done , the charge was conspiracy to committ. But i have another Question , does Voudon have any concept of return in it’s teachings , practices…….or karma ? I was just wondering if negative spells, curses carry any consequences as it does in other beliefs. Kilm

    • anonda

      there is no karma, law of return or threefold law in many other magical religions…

      there are many magical religions out there where if a curse is justified, then there will not be any consequences
      there are other magical religions where, you can do cleansings and other works to prevent any consequences regardless of whether the curse was or was not justified….
      the morality of a curse is not based on a rule but on personal responsibility..

      “I was just wondering if negative spells, curses carry any consequences as it does in other beliefs”

      magical religions or magical systems that teach that curses carry consequences are very few worldwide
      i think the only magical belief systems who see curses as carrying negative consequences are those influenced by Wicca, New Age and Eastern philosophy, usually wiccanesque paganism, new age paganism and neowicca

      neither hoodoo nor traditional witchcraft have anything such as karma, law of return…etc.

      also, why are you asking about vodou? are you aware that vodou is not the same as santeria and the article is about santeria?

      anyways, in vodou, morality as a concept is very different than that of the west. taken from another web site, “In Vodou, a moral person is defined as someone who “does what they can, at the appropriate time, to the degree with which they are able, & in accordance to their position in the community within which they live & work” (period). This is a simple concept, which DEMANDS of the individual full accountability for his or her own actions, guaranteeing that one cannot dodge responsibility for the same. There is no “devil made me do it” in our culture.”

      i hope this helps

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    If one does not attempt via spells anything that would be illegal, immoral or unethical if tried by physical means, one is probably safe.

    • I suppose that would depend on people’s definitions of “immoral and/or unethical” Baruch. And considering the use of magic or the following of Paganism is considered both by a great many people…

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I could have been more specific: Anything that YOU would consider immoral, etc. Illegal is defined by law and unethical is often defined by some code of professional conduct.

  • To Kilmrock and Aric Wilisch: The ‘threefold law’, the ‘golden rule’ and the concept of karma is not in every pagan religious practice. Curses, negative and harmful spells have been in cultures long before these concepts have been in paganism.

    Is it hard for you to imagine that a witch, a druid, etc would not cast a harmful spell against their perceived enemies 100, 200, 500 years ago or more? Do you not think that those who were dragged to the US unwillingly as slaves would cast spells to harm their slave masters, to harm those who stole them from their homes? Would they not cast spells to harm their rapist owners?

    Secondly, how can you be sure that such acts are not karma for the intended object of the spell? Who is to say when and how the laws of karma are fulfilled? The concept of karma expands to include past lives, how do you know that the object of said spell was not receiving karma from a past life?

    After saying all this – I think it is absurd that they were able to fire them, what about their religious rights? If they can be fired, can I get every Christian I know fired because they said to my face I will go to hell be cause I won’t convert, or that they will say a prayer to promote my conversion, or the phrase “may god strike you dead for your blasphemy”, or “I pray to god you lose your job”?

    Let’s be less religious, what if I am an atheist and I say “I wish you would just go off and die”, or “I hope you get cancer”.
    Wish and hope are common components of spells and prayers.

    • Anonymous

      Yes they can be fired because that insensitivity causes a hostile work environment that is detrimental to the business purpose of the company. Both the offending Christians and Pagans alike.

    • In all human societies that recognize the reality of magic, the performance of malefic magic is treated as a very serious violent crime, just as serious, if not worse than physical assault, poisoning, etc. Of course there are always exceptions, especially when it comes to self-defense or warfare.

    • If I made a little doll effigy of one of their co-workers with pins and shit in it, I think I’d get in trouble no matter what religion I claimed to follow.

  • Anonymous

    I know how I felt when I found a Christian tract in my mailbox at work. I took it straight to HR. I felt targeted, hurt and angry because I’m Pagan. I don’t hide and for the most part my company doesn’t care. There are other Pagans working here as well so this incident was a shock. Now if I were a Christian, finding out that someone had used me a the target of a spell, I would be angry. It’s not respecting the religion of another. If we want to be respected, the workplace is religion neutral for overt and directed actions. I make private callings to my deities, but noone hears them (they’re silent). I wear my small simple pentacle no more or less than a cross or Star of David on our Jewish employees.

    • I agree with much of what you say. Christian tracts found their way into the mailboxes of my place of work, as well. Someone was hitting everyone at work. It caused something of an investigation, as such actions are clearly against policy. I don’t know all the details, but it eventually stopped.

  • Something of the Thought Police in this, isn’t there? I mean, it’s like calling those signs the kids post on each other’s backs, “kick me” or something were actual orders to fellow students.
    What the hell is a bunch of bird seed? I chant a hymn to a Goddess Lakshmi. Does it make people fear I will become rich? These people are a disgrace to intelligent people all over the world. So, the police woman believed in spells or curses and also wanted a more liberal budget. That’s all that happened here. I mean how did bird see hurt anyone. If it had been tasering a suspect, boy, no one would get fired for that.

  • Kilmrnock

    Lise , i know such princibles aren’t in all belief systems , i’m not that niave . i was just wondering if Voudon contains such a concept. My intitial question hasn’t been answered.Kilm

    • anonda

      there are good books on vodou
      and you can do a google search too for web sites
      dont expect to get great answers here, especially when most of us are not vodousaints and are not going to talk out of our arses about practices we dont engage in
      but, for the most part, there is no such concept in vodou. it is more about personal responsibility but that depends on other factors, individual beliefs, the individual house and so on..

      if you really want to know more, you will find a way to get to your answers…

  • BIRD SEED? How frelling lame! Why not go for broke with a flaming Hand-Of-Glory in the guy’s office? Now that would have make headlines. 🙂

    • Crystal Kendrick

      Lol! Oh, the mental image…

  • Lilith Lamia

    You are kidding me, right? It’s freaking *birdseed!* Do you wanna know what she was probably doing? Using the seeds as a symbol for the “problem” and the birds were to take them away. How is that malicious?

    Secondly, as others have said, why is it that Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc don’t get fired from their jobs when they pray but us Pagans do? Even if, say, a devout Christian goes to work and starts shaking some holy water around the place and chanting out loud, the only thing that would possibly happen would be that upper management would tell the Christian to knock it off. I hope the officers sue.

    • Lily

      This is a little random, but at least were I live, Native Americans are allowed to do blessings of public school buildings following the death of students (some of the tribes around here have very strict beliefs about death). Also, people of the Navajo tribe are not allowed in the same room as snakes, so there have been biology classes that have had to make accommodations, such as canceling lectures involving live snakes or holding them outside the school building.

      I think often times a belief or custom is respected based on the number of practitioners in an area. We happen to have a large native population, so native religions are respected. The pagan population of many cities is fairly small, so they may have less flout (is that the right word?) than religions with larger populations. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing, but it seems to be the reason for this type of policy.

      • I believe the word you are looking for was ‘clout’.

    • Oh, that’s simple, the Christian is “normal” and part of the majority, the Jew is a minority who has almost been wiped off the face of the earth (and have great legal representation for defamation cases), and the Muslim is known for screaming “racism/discrimination” and everyone always worries that the Muslim might blow themselves up or start shooting.

      Pagans on the other hand are not part of the majority, have no great law-fare ability, and aren’t known for “killing the infidel.”

  • Charles Cosimano

    Technically it could be considered conspiracy, but of course if it actually worked I don’t think there are many prosecutors damned fool enough to try to bring a case. And if they did, the Judge, having seen the effects of remote influence on the central nervous system of the prosecutor when he attempted to make his opening statement, would find good cause to dismiss the case.

  • Anonymous

    The reason they should have been fired was for conspiring to gain unlawful entry. The spell is offensive, but so is prayer, but they tried to recruit someone to get them into a place they had no legal right to enter to spread the bird seed for the spell.

  • kenneth

    It sounds a lot more like poor spell craft and indiscretion than religious discrimination to me. I don’t know much about Santeria, but in my experience you can get pretty much anything you need to get done spell wise without intruding on someone’s physical space. Most often you don’t really even need a physical vessel for the spell, in my estimation. Even if I did, I can’t imagine involving some hapless third party in the working. Think of how this must have sounded to the janitor. If he was a Christian or average secular person with no experience of magick, he probably thought these people were either off their meds or up to something truly evil. Even more fundamental than that, you’re asking a janitor to help make a mess that he’s going to get blamed for, or made to clean up. Bird seed is also an excellent invitation to mice, which would create a whole new level of mess to clean.

  • the fact they did it on work property.. no no. its the same as putting a sign up at your boss’ office saying “you are wrong”. that is very unprofessional. Now if they kept the ritual at home in private, they are protected. Sorry, as a witch, and a corporate manager – they are in the wrong.

  • Can’t support this one. We do have a constitutional right to religious expression, but it seems to me they crossed a line here. Yes, there’s an altar in my office, but it’s a home office. Seems to me the advice about if it can’t be done at home or a temple… is right on. I always disliked having to share or use an office where there was a Bible publicly displayed on a stand and gilded crucifixes. I wouldn’t want to be the same way towards others. And I know that I would, for example, not burn a candle or herbs or anything that could be a safety hazard or possibly stimulate an allergic reaction in someone else. I do believe respecting space that isn’t totally yours is important even as I acknowledge that all of us have a constitutional right to religious belief and practice.

    I have always believed and acted on, “I’m here, I’m Pagan, get used to it.” I wouldn’t hesitate to post art work that featured a spiral, the sacred symbol that means the most to me, and I have never hid my books on Paganism. Yet an aggressive act like scattering curse materials around someone else’s workspace is not something I would do. I just think they crossed a line here. They were invading someone else’s workspace, indulging in behavior that was likely to alarm others, and making what sounds like quite a mess. If I found Christian-themed accoutrements scattered around my office or my courtroom/deposition suite desk, there would certainly be hell to pay. Nope, they were wrong and the dismissal was appropriate.

  • Guest

    I cast a spell on a supervisor before, who was causing every day at work to be absolutely miserable for me. Worked great too. I specified that I didn’t want any harm to come to her, just that I wanted her to leave me alone. Couple of weeks later she was transferred to another store. She actually BENEFITTED from it too. She got a better position, and I never saw her again. (Though I feel a little sorry for the people at the other store.) Of course I wasn’t stupid enough to let anybody at my store know what I did.

    But I really don’t like the idea of making it illegal to cast spells on people. Haven’t we learned anything from the Witch Trials? If you do a spell, and later the things you wanted to happen happens, there’s absolutely no way to prove in a court that it wasn’t just a coincedence. The legal system needs to stick to things that can be scientifically proven. The best one can do is treat spell-casting the same as harrassment, or causing a hostile work environment, or something like that. Same as if I had a coworker prosthelyzing to me or something.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Just thought of something… we have the word of the mainstream press that it was a curse, hex, negative spell, whatever. How do we know bird seed wasn’t for increase, or as someone mentioned below, removing troubles?

    In any case, bet it was heck to get outa the carpet, LOL.

    • Well, at least they used bird seed and not sugar.

      I hear that’s a mistake you only make once.

  • Kilmrnock

    thank you , that pretty much aswered my question ……….there is such a thing as personal responsibility tho . that is also the Celtic way , we have a strong moral/ behavior code and concept of personal responcibility. there is not real code like the golden rule .

  • Madrona999

    This is why you keep it under the radar. Isn’t that one of the first things you learn?

  • Well, hopefully this chick learned to keep her mouth shut. “To be silent” isn’t a part of the pyramid for no reason. While it is worrisome that this young lady lost her job behind such foolishness it was her own foolishness that led her into that mess in the first place.

    Asking the janitor to help you spread the seeds? Seriously?

    And honestly, I’m not going to go the Arab Trader route and ask “Well what if it was a Christian?” because that doesn’t matter. How far are some willing to go to defend obvious stupidity?

  • Marion Wilhelm

    A lot of, food for thought.

  • Marion Wilhelm

    Seriously, though- going into or asking the janitor to go into another’s office after hours sounds like an offense to me. Scattering birdseed is messy and an annoyance. The spell casting aspect is moot, as any religious or moral intent.
    I too, think they are lucky to have just lost their jobs.
    I am a witch but I am not stupid enough to break and enter to cast a spell. I would try talking, explaining budgetary needs, etc.

  • witch troy

    Everyone here seems to be talking witchcraft/wicca when these women were clearly reported as santeras (women that practice Santeria) and Santeria is a mix of Catholicism and West African animism. Wicca has no use of birdseed that I know of, unless a particular circle or coven has added that to their personal repertoire. Notwithstanding, attempted trespassing and conspiracy to commit trespassing is a crime and fireable offense. If they planned on leaving the birdseed in a manner that was not a safety hazard the next time they had a bone fide reason to be in the office I say don’t fire them. It’s like leaving a Christmas card, gift, or lucky charm there to be discovered later. I also take offense to the comment about why is there a threefold law (harming none) if these women are acting this way. First of all that is a law in Wicca and these broads are not Wiccans. Second of all the law came before they or any witch has ever done anything and wont change for everyone else or disappear from scripture because one person acts a certain way. This is not an organized act. Consider saying this. Why do they have a commandment thou shalt not kill if some Christian people murder people and are in jail for it? Make sense?

    • witch troy

      Also free spells and advice on my blog