Lessons from Maleficent: The Best Reason Not to Curse Someone
“So are you gonna put a curse on them?” my friend asks casually over lunch.
I can’t tell if she’s serious. It’s a question I’ve heard many times in my life, usually by Christian friends who want to know if I’m going to hex someone who’s done me wrong as if there’s no other possibility or…or maybe they’re a little jealous of the idea that I might be able to do that when they can’t.
Before I can answer, my friend and I dive into into the new MALEFICENT movie, and how it differs from the original SLEEPING BEAUTY in its disturbingly creative curses. Maleficent, in the newer version, is a good person/fairy who is used and abused by her “true love” and retaliates with a curse that she herself gets caught in. That sentiment is very much in line with Wiccan teachings that if you curse someone, it comes back on you.
I have to say, that’s not exactly how it works. Promise.
If you’re going to curse someone, simply turn the energy they put out back on them. Yep, deflect it back. If they put out bad, they get bad. If you’re wrong and they put out good, then that’s what they get back. See? Done. A simple, ethical curse…in my opinion, at least.
In the original SLEEPING BEAUTY, bad girl Maleficient is a mastermind when it comes to curses. She doesn’t simply strike out at the King and his Kingdom by waltzing in and killing poor baby Aurora and being done with it. That would be a fast answer to her pain or pleasure. No. Instead, she allows the baby to grow to the age of 16, to let the whole Kingdom fall in love with her and know the promise of what she might become as an adult, knowing that it’s hopeless, that tragedy awaits a prick of her finger. It’s a long, slow, cruel kind of curse, like living with a terminal disease and fighting the odds, knowing how the battle will end.
Later in SLEEPING BEAUTY, Maleficent allows that Aurora’s Prince will be able to come to her and wake her with true love’s kiss…after he’s a very, very old man and she has slept unchanged. Again, creative and cruel. Got to hand it to Maleficient: she doesn’t need to strike anyone down quickly–the awesomeness of her curses is that they are slow and cruel and eat away at the heart in a most painful sort of way. Well, awesomeness as far as curses go.
“So?” my friend asks me again, discreetly pointing out a couple of people who’ve been unkind. “Are you going to put a curse on them?”
I shake my head, as much at her question as how I might choose to answer.
It’s not that curses come back on us and we suffer the same fate of those we curse, if we’re the cursing type, that is. The curses I’ve seen returned have been
- from people who truly believed they’d get smacked by the same mojo and did it anyway, or
- People who felt bad about the definitive results of their curse or changed their mind too late, as happens in MALEFICENT.
Far more often than cursing others or being cursed, we curse our own selves. We carry in our hearts someone who doesn’t deserve to be there and let that person take up space that might be home to someone who’ll share our journey joyfully. Or we let reside in our hearts someone who doesn’t pay the rent on that space, someone who’s long since moved on without us, and there’s no vacancy for anyone new. Or we slowly let guilt over the past consume us, knowing that one day we’ll pay for the way we hurt others, because we know the truth will out. We curse our own selves so that we do not live fully, so that we cannot accept the possibilty of new joy, so that we still bear crosses for our past sins. We hang on to the past, building walls around us to keep it in, living as prisoners denied a heart at peace.
In MALEFICENT, the King is the most cursed of all, haunted by old decisions and obsessed with retaliation to the point of not even taking the time to revel in the presence of his soon-to-be-damned child. This dark life he lives is more a product of his own choices than of anything Maleficient might offer through an eloquently uttered curse.
“No,” I tell my friend. “I’m not going to curse anyone.”
“Why not?” she demands. “They deserve it.”
“For the best reason not to curse anyone. I don’t need to. Whatever comes to them, they’ve already done it to themselves.”