Smiting for charity with sympathetic magic: A Valentine story

Valentine’s Day, whether people love it, hate it, or simple try to ignore it, is one of the biggest commercial holidays in the U.S. And while some people will instead celebrate SAD, Single Awareness Day on the 15th of February, Americans spent close to $20 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Compared to Yuletide/Christmas spending which was over $700 billion in 2018, it may seem like small potatoes comparatively. Still, it’s only one day during the week we collectively consume 58 million pounds of chocolate. On average, the couples who do choose to celebrate are estimated to spend some on average $160.

It’s nothing new for retailers and other businesses to try to cash in on the holiday and get a little of the take. Charities too want to get your attention.  And that brings us to one donation strategy that seems to be more prevalent this year:  revenge, as in campaigns for getting revenge on your ex- by donating to charity.

The Hemsley Conservation Centre in Kent, England for a small donation will name a cockroach after your ex- and then feed that bug to one of their meerkats. A zoo in El Paso is having an event titled “Quit Bugging Me!” in the same vein that they plan to live-stream.

Then there is the “Catch and Release” event sponsored by Wildlife Images Education and Rehabilitation Center in Grants Pass. For a $20 donation they will name a salmon after your ex- and feed it to a really big bear.  Not to be out done, in Australia, the winner of the Wild Life Sydney’s Valentine’s Day contest will get to name the organization’s brown snake, one of the most poisonous reptiles in the world, after their ex.

While none of these organizations are involved in Paganism or magical practice (as far we know), these are crazy, real-life examples of baneful, sympathetic magic.

Merriam-Webster definition of sympathetic magic:

magic based on the assumption that a person or thing can be supernaturally affected through its name or an object representing it

These types of events are part of a growing wave.  They contain subject matter that is adjacent to magic and even witchcraft-related for those who know the practice.  They are increasingly trendy, and the purveyors have little knowledge of what it might look like to other communities.

Practices of simple magic have been slowly going mainstream. Whether it is big events, like Witches doing public hexing garnering national and even international attention or teens using emojis to practice some sort of witchcraft, it seems that magic and Witches are pervasive.

There is a proliferation of magic within popular culture that is reflected in movies, television, literature, and games in the past few years. Society’s fascination with magic over the past century seems to only be expanding. Some would say that magic and Witchcraft have always been the craft of the poor and the oppressed, a way to survive or even triumph in the face of a deck stacked against them.

One thing that most modern Witches will tell you is that magical practices are empowering, and a way for practitioners to take action in situations that under ordinary conditions might seem outside of their grasp. At a time when people seem to feel increasingly divided and even helpless, that could be the gateway for more and more of them searching for anything that will provide them with agency. So indeed, why not magic?

If practicing some form of magic allows people to reclaim some sense of self that has been previously sheared off  in the daily grind of life, and helps them to feel more complete, it’s hard to view that as a negative. People who feel they have a purpose and agency are much more likely to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Maybe the beginning chords of the empowerment symphony starts with naming a salmon after an ex- that was abusive and was not confronted out of fear, and then watching as a great big bear devours that same salmon. Or maybe it doesn’t. Either way, to those aware of magick, the growing expression of magic in our culture is fascinating and will likely continue.  It certainly adds a little more Lupercalia in the air.

So, whether you love the holiday or hate the holiday, a little magic never hurts. Unless, of course, it involves mean exes.