One of the fun things about working in witchcraft is that I get a lot of interesting questions from people looking for guidance or advice. Every now and then, the same question or situation will present itself through multiple people. Right now, the theme is slander: specifically, what do we do when someone is spreading lies about us?
I suspect part of why I’m getting this question is that I’ve weathered a fair few tempests in teapots over the years, and people who’ve known me for a minute are aware of that history. The sad truth is that it’s almost impossible to work in community without a couple interpersonal conflicts popping up.
I have a lot of thoughts about this subject – lessons I learned from a nasty divorce, from having my reputation trashed on Pagan listservs, from having a handful of people try to “take me down” over the years, and from observing conflict and its impact on others. There are quite a few useful responses – some magical, some mundane. Let’s start with perspective and practicality.
Most trash talk ultimately means nothing. Just as we are the protagonist in our own story, and our own story is at the tenderest center of our concern, everyone else’s story is at the center of their concern. Most people simply don’t remember gossip beyond its immediate telling. Their interpretation of it is also varied: hearing someone trash talk a mutual acquaintance most frequently results in the listener deciding that the gossiper has a problem with the subject of their tale. It rarely changes the listener’s overall opinion of the person being discussed – the listener decided how they felt about the person being discussed based on that individual’s actions long before the gossip rolled in. The listener may be more cautious with the subject of the gossip going forward, but unless the accusation includes sexual assault or abuse, the listener generally won’t completely change their opinion based on gossip. People form their own opinions and most people are too caught up in their own story to care too much about hearsay.
Relatedly, time really does solve almost everything. Along with the subjective take listeners have to gossip, the passage of time has a few different effects. Almost everyone forgets the details – I’m pretty sure I’m the only person to remember being accused of running a basement sex dungeon (I have never been that cool) back in the early 2000’s. The very most someone might remember at this point is that they heard my name once. That’s it. I might sound familiar to them, but the specifics are long gone along with any context. Also, time really does cool emotions surrounding conflict. As we move forward and pour our energy and interest into new outlets, we care less and less about that previous relationship/activity. Most of the time, we come to realize that we’re better off without our antagonist and the situation they were wrecking. And, even if we do still have some feelings about the whole thing, we’ve moved on.
Evaluate the conflict for value. Do some deep breathing for a few minutes and try to look at the conflict with a clear head. What do you actually want here? Think about goals rather than the wrongness of your antagonist’s words and actions. Yes, I know it’s hard. I’ve had someone accuse me of abusing my abuser. Believe me, I get it. And also, when a poisoned tongue is that far gone, what is the outcome you desire that is also possible? What do you really want? Most of the time, there’s a way to reach that goal without interacting with your antagonist. In the situation where I was accused of abusing my abuser, I put up a public post that detailed the abuse in my marriage, my connection with the antagonist, and opened the floor for people to be character references for me in case someone wanted to talk to a third party about any concerns they had. Then I blocked my antagonist on all media platforms. My goal was to preserve my own standing and in retrospect, I didn’t even need to do as much as I did. So, what do you actually want? Know your goals and make them realistic ones.
Assess your antagonist for relevance. I largely ignore criticism and unsolicited guidance from people whose lives do not match my priorities and values. This is a little like ignoring relationship advice from your uncle who’s on marriage number 6 and consistently dates problem people. If you wouldn’t be able to stand having your antagonist’s life, then their opinion isn’t really relevant to you. If you know they’re a trainwreck in some way (a long history of interpersonal conflicts with friends, a perennial sh*t-stirrer, a drama queen, etc), so do other people. Listeners will bear that in mind with any communication that comes from your antagonist.
Know where your line is. If you do decide to engage with your antagonist directly, go in with an understanding of what “done” is for you. I’m willing to talk through interpersonal conflict, including with a mediator, if I think there’s room for true communication. However, if my antagonist has demonstrated that their perception of reality is not consistent with consensus reality (i.e. flat-out lied to other people about me), I know there’s no possibility of repair. Don’t throw good energy after bad – know where your line is for walking away and letting the dumpster fire burn unobserved. You are under no obligation to force someone who is just flat-out wrong to see the light.
Use spite as an engine. I am a firm believer in the phrase “the best revenge is living well.” My usual response to a new round of accusations, gossip, or interpersonal conflict is to root even deeper into my various projects. I use my frustration as fuel for a new workshop/workshop series/event/activity/long-term project. This approach solves two problems: one, it gives you something to do with all those feelings; two, it immediately invests in reputation repair if needed. When you walk your talk, people notice. If you throw the best party in the tristate, people attend. Use the energy of your frustration to further your own goals and enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of success in the face of opposition. Making an antagonist irrelevant is delightful.
Now let’s talk about magic. There are three basic types of spells for gossip: “shut the eff up,” “repair the relationship,” and “go away.” Choosing the right one depends on understanding a little bit about your target. For example, if your antagonist is a happy homeowner with deep roots in your area, they’re most likely not going to go anywhere. So, your choice is now between “sweeten the relationship” and “shut the eff up.” If you don’t want to have a relationship with your antagonist going forward, then your best option is to stop their tongue from wagging. Begin planning your magical response by evaluating which of these three rough categories your situation falls into.
Here are a couple examples of each type of spell, but there are many options available to you.
Shut the Eff Up Spells
The candle in the cauldron. I can’t remember where I first learned this one anymore, but it’s been around for a while. Dedicate a candle to your antagonist: choose a color that reminds you of them, inscribe the candle with a sigil that represents them (or carve their initials into it), and channel your memories of that person into the candle. If you have any pieces of your antagonist (hair, fingernails, etc), you can melt them into the candle. Finish that part of the spell by Naming the candle your antagonist’s name.
Get a fireproof bowl or cauldron and melt the bottom of the candle to the bowl so that it’s firmly upright.
Then, get a few cups of water (wild water and holy water both work well here) and charge the water with the power to quench: to still flames, to cover ruins, to smooth and to transform.
Set up your usual magical working space (cast a circle, invoke your spirit companions, etc). Pour enough water in the bowl to be about a half inch (or more depending on how much time you have) or so below the wick of the candle. Light the candle in the bowl and visualize it becoming the heat of the anger towards you and the fierce burning of the words directed at you. See the flame raging, and then watch it sputter out as the water quenches it. Visualize the anger dissipated, the gossip ended, and the smooth cool water covering the ruins of that relationship.
I like to leave the bowl, water, and drowned candle in place for a few days to firmly set the spell.
Decaying the slander. This one is great if you have a written record of the words used against you: an email, online conversation, text thread, etc. It also requires the use of a marsh or swamp. Other rapid-decay spaces might work as well – I know desert heat desiccates things quickly too.
Print or copy out the record onto a piece of plain, unbleached paper. Fold or roll the paper up. Connect to the energy of the conversation/record – all things exist in more than one plane of reality. Link up to the specific energy of that collection of words. Channel the record into your piece of paper – you are making the paper its home: this is where that information lives now, where its roots to the fabric of reality connect. You can speak this transfer aloud or simply visualize and channel it.
Using a natural undyed fiber (jute, cotton, silk, etc), firmly tie the paper, leaving room for the paper to be exposed to the decay location you’ve chosen. This action fixes the transfer in place. As you tie, firmly set the spell. Phrases like “as I will it, so it is/so it is, so it shall be” can be useful here.
Take an offering for the spirits of the marsh or swamp you are visiting. I love adding some of my personal energy to clear, clean water for this.
At the marsh, begin by connecting with the spirit of the marsh and making an offering to them. You are tapping into their ability to decay fibers rapidly – express gratitude for their unique abilities.
Find a nice bit of squishy marsh, even better if it’s a bit stinky – that means that the polyculture of decay there is going strong. Using gloves (or a stick you found nearby), bury the paper in the marsh and cover it over. Set the spell into motion. I tend to use phrasing like “By the powers of decay and entropy, the sacred process of deconstruction and rot that fuels new growth, these words now come apart, their energy transformed. What was is no more. So it is, so it shall be.” Then walk away and don’t look back.
Repair the Relationship Spells
The honey pot. One of the most accessible spells for repairing relationships is a honey pot or honey jar spell. This technique comes to us primarily from hoodoo although similar mechanics do exist in other magical cultures. Select a small, sealable jar with a tight-fitting lid. Canning jars for jams and preserves work well here. On a square piece of paper, write your target’s full name an odd number of times (more than 3, no more than 9 is the general rule). Then, turn the paper 90 degrees and write your full name the same number of times across your target’s name.
Fold up the piece of paper and place it in the bottom of the jar. Sometimes a little dab of hot wax can be helpful here to keep the paper from floating to the surface.
Get out a container of honey and wake it up: remind it of its power to sweeten and smooth, to bring brightness and joy to all it touches.
Pour honey over the paper in the jar, either filling the jar halfway or all the way up (more on this below).
Visualize your relationship with the target becoming peaceful and sweet. Get that visualization as clear as you can, then raise energy (dance, chant, do breathing exercises, etc) and transfer both energy and the visualization to the jar.
Now, choices: you can either add a candle here (pink or white work well) charged to seal the spell in place. OR, you can leave the sealing part off and elect instead to add more honey at particular times to keep feeding the spell (each full moon is a frequent choice). Place the jar somewhere it won’t be disturbed. Some practices include keeping it on your altar for a set number of days. As with most spells, there are a lot of options for variation.
Blending the colors. This spell uses several candles connected together and then melted at the same time. By blending the wax together as it melts, the properties of the healing candles infuse the candles representing the people involved,
For each person involved in the conflict, including you, select a candle in an appropriate color. I like to use small chime candles for this spell since they come in a ton of different colors. Inscribe each person’s name or initials (or a sigil representing them) on the candle dedicated to them. Imbue each candle with the energy of the person it’s for.
Next, charge three additional candles: one for purification (white is a good choice for this), one for good communication (pale yellow can be a good choice), and one for healing (blue can be a good choice). For each candle, infuse the energy of the goal into the candle.
Carefully mount all candles together in a non-flammable bowl of some sort. I like to put the candles representing the people involved in the center and then connect the action candles to them.
To the bowl, you can add other correspondences once the candles are set: cloves, small pieces of rose quartz, lavender, small chocolates, etc.
Visualize the relationship as you would like it to be. Raise energy, transfer it and the visualization into the entire bowl. Then, light the candles. Hold the visualization as they burn down. You can carefully turn the bowl as the candles burn low to encourage further blending of the wax.
After the candles have burned out and the wax has cooled, look for shapes and patterns that indicate how well it worked. Heart shapes, sections where the wax has completely blended into a new color, etc, are all good signs.
Go Away Spells
One note about this kind of spell: know your fighting weight. The magical firepower needed to get someone to physically relocate is not small.
Hot Foot Powder. This is another good spell that comes to us out of hoodoo. Hot foot powder can be purchased through most local witch stores or created. It is a combination of salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper plus a few other ingredients that are more variable. Some hotfoot powders also include sandalwood, charcoal, other hot peppers, vinegar, graveyard dirt, nettles, oil, etc.
Carefully create (wear gloves!) your own hot foot powder. Wake up and charge each ingredient as you work. If you’re making a batch with the plan to have some as a resource for future situations, focus on the action of the ingredients rather than the specific situation you’re dealing with.
Once you’ve created or purchased the powder, carefully (again, wear gloves. I’m serious. This stuff can burn your skin) transfer the amount you’re going to use into a nonporous container.
Visualize your goal: the person leaving. Raise energy and then transfer that energy and visualization to the container. I like to seal the jar carefully and shake it while raising energy – it acts as a soft rattle and the motion helps really work the visualization into the powder.
Then, sprinkle some of the powder either into your target’s shoes (ones where they’ll wear socks) or onto a surface where they will walk. The goal is to connect the powder to the soles of their shoes/their feet.
The Carrying Current. This spell requires the use of a flowing river or large stream as well as access to your target’s home. (No, we’re not throwing them bodily into the river. No, not even if you really really want to.)
Obtain a small amount of soil from your target’s home. Wrap it in a porous natural fabric like cotton or linen along with a few pieces of cork/used wine corks (make sure to use real cork and not some of the synthetic wine stoppers). Name the bundle as your target’s home. Language like “This earth is where ______’s roots grow deep, their home and castle, their hall and keep.” Visualize your target’s connection to their home and channel it into the bundle.
Take an offering and the bundle to a spot on the river where there’s a strong, relatively clear flow for many miles.
Connect to the spirit of the river first and make an offering to it. Then, connect to the energy of your target and release the bundle into the water. Feel the target drifting further and further away from you as the river carries the bundle away.
So, those are my suggestions for managing people when they’re speaking poorly about you. Perspective, reinvestment, then magic if needed. What are your thoughts? How do you handle it when someone talks sh*t about you? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your ideas are exactly what another witch needs.
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