*trigger warning* – mentions of rape
Hello, I am attempting to write my first book about a family of witches who are primarily healers and practice white magic. There will be two evil characters who affect the family and need to be stopped. Out of respect for pagans, wiccans, and the like, I want to ensure my means of stopping the evil characters do not offend anyone in these communities. I have been researching quite a bit though I feel I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg. My question is, can the evil characters own dark energy be used to prevent them from doing harm, rather than using dark magic to call upon spirits? For instance, one character is a rapist, and I want him to develop a skin rash so severe his, um, organ is rendered useless. Couldn’t his own darkness be turned onto himself, with the assist of the witches and a potent potion, rather than calling on dark magic? My second evil character is cruel to animals, couldn’t the animal world be called upon to handle this character with a little push from the witches using a few strands of his hair ? My book is a work of fiction, but I still would like it to feel somewhat authentic. Thank you for your time and any feedback you may have.
While I appreciate that you are trying to be respectful of real life Pagans and Witches, and of course absolutely applaud doing research when writing things that one isn’t well-versed in, my advice here is to not worry about it too much. You are writing fiction and, particularly when it comes to the topic of witchcraft and paganism, the ways of doing something are so varied that no matter how hard you try, you’ll probably end up offending someone. I mean, I often read fictional witchy books and spent plenty of time mentally yelling at the author for their choices, but I recognize that it’s simply an “I don’t do it that way” thing, rather than the fact that there aren’t some that totally do. So, at least on that front, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. If anything, I would try really hard not to use a lot of buzzwords or make it too overly cutesy/magical (where they look to solve everything through magic). Within fiction (or even IRL) magic can be useful, but if there are mundane ways of doing things that make more sense, going out of the way to do something magically can be frustrating to readers. But again – it’s your book, so you need to write it how you see it. And honestly, that’s what editing is for, if something really doesn’t work, you can always change it later.
As to your scenarios, they sound fine, really (at least in terms of the witchcraft aspect). I would suggesting reading the following two posts: Magical Energy and Cursing/Hexing and Do Spells Work? just for some extra food for thought. The only other suggestion that I have (as a writer myself), is that you research skin rashes to see if there is something relevant that would actually cause the symptoms you describe. Obviously a rashy organ isn’t going to look (or feel) appealing, but if it’s just a surface rash, then it may not have any sort of effect on the actual functioning. Additionally, someone who is going to coerce another person, might not care about a rash, unless it’s super painful (or in some other way debilitating). Even then, it’s important to keep in mind that rape isn’t about getting off, it’s about dominance and control, so even if they were impotent, there are still other ways they could commit the crime. So something that only affects their dangly bits may not be enough to stop them.
But anyway, as I mentioned, this is your book. Especially in the first draft, write it how you see it. Get everything down, as much as you can, without worrying too much about being super-detailed. You will edit this thing any number of times before you send it out for public consumption, and in those edits (especially if you can find some beta-readers who are knowledgeable that can offer detailed feedback) you can work on changing the things that don’t work or that you want to make more authentic.
Have you considered writing in a character, maybe a neighbor of the main two witches, who is versed in conjure, hoodoo, or another related form of folk magic? These types of magic are all about the disenfranchised (like slaves and their descendants in the US, poor people, women generally) taking back power. While there are impotence spells in conjure (taking away the culprit’s “nature” i.e. potency), there is a whole genre of foot-track magic, where your good guys would be advised to gather the dirt from the culprit’s footprint. From that point, his foot-track dirt can be used to do him all sorts of harm. I highly recommend the book The Secret Keys of Conjure by Chas Bogan, or anything by cat yronwode (lowercase is her choice), whose website, Lucky Mojo, does sell stuff but also has all sorts of good free folklore and information.
Thanks for taking the time to consider the feelings of Pagan and witchy readers! Honestly, though, if I read depictions of the supernatural that don’t go with my views on it — like the novels that feature a character named Anita Blake who beds her way through a city of vampires and shapeshifters — I’m less offended than just uninterested.
Best of luck! xx