There are several ways to view black magic as a term that has been used in many different contexts. We will attempt to begin with the most widely accepted views.
Black Magic and White Magic as Complementary Forces
In this view, Black Magic is associated with dark deities, death, secrets, nighttime, yin, and the ending of things. If magic can be viewed as a circle, then there is Black, White, and Grey magic that the initiate practitioner must study to become whole and enlightened.
Black Magic and White Magic Opposing Styles
Alternatively, black magic is viewed here as the opposite of white magic when white magic is considered High Magic, that is, serving a higher purpose, a path toward enlightenment while black magic is more like low magic, serving practical, material purposes.
Black Magic as Evil Magic
In this view, Black Magic is associated with things that according to "civilized" people should not exist at all. It is an abomination rather than a part of the cycle of life and death. For some, merely to consider using Black Magic is to risk one's future happy existence. Evil is something that pollutes the mind, soul, and body to even learn about. This sort of magic moves the soul(s) away from enlightenment, even as knowledge is gained.
In some modern traditions, evil or black magic is defined as any magic that does harm or that influences or overrides the will of another regardless of methods, intention, or the end result.
In some cases, particularly in tribal situations evil is in the eye of the beholder. Magic to defeat one's enemies would be seen as evil or black magic by the enemies or but good by the community of the caster.
Black Magic as Defined by Spell Ingredients
In some cultures and traditions, particularly those tribal in nature, black magic is defined according to the ingredients used in a spell. These items tend to be those viewed as unsavory by the community at large and may include human body parts. Other ingredient items that may constitute a black magic spell may include excreta, animal parts and/or poisonous plants, depending on the sensibilities of the community. These items may be used for spells that would otherwise be considered beneficial, such as healing and fertility spells and yet would still be viewed as abomination. However, magic that does not use these items is usually viewed as benign.
It may be interesting to note that many (but not all) of these cultures do perform animal sacrifices (or have historically alongside the above beliefs) and would not view the sacrifice of an animal as an act of black magic. After all, what's the difference between killing an animal to feed your human guests or killing an animal to feed a helpful spirit?
Black Magic as Primitive Magic
The view of black magic as primitive magic is generally a racist or elitist one. A practitioner might consider any magic Black that uses animal sacrifice, not because it involved the death of the animal but because the in this view, animal sacrifice is "primitive" and "uncivilized".
In this view, the words Black Magic might also be used to describe the magic historically performed by people of color as opposed to that with European roots. In this context, White Magic is might refer to alchemy, Wicca or Ceremonial magic while the black magic label might be given to Hoodoo, rootwork and even Shamanism.
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