The Bad Witch’s Kill Count – Squabbling With “Harm None”

Looks like this photo was taken when I was barely the size of a holiday ham.

We all know the idea of the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, so mote it be.”

I was watching this documentary (of course, it conflated Wicca and Witchcraft and all of Pagandom in that way which makes The Bad Witch’s eyes bleed) and an Anglican priest was saying that “Harm None” was problematic in that, with the far reaching implications of magick, one can never know whom one might be harming.

Then again, said priest also indicated that he didn’t believe in magick. Immediately followed by the statement that all energy can be manipulated so we should be careful with magick. So – take it with a grain of salt, right?

I sat up and argued with the TV/DVD player like I do when there is a sudden illogical leap in problem solving on Criminal Minds or House. “It’s a very misunderstood statement. Much like The Christ said, ‘Not my will but Thine be done,’ this statement, ‘An it harm none’ is an acquiescence to divine cosmic order – a recognition that there is wisdom beyond our understanding.” Then I called the TV a “dufus.”

While I understand the concept of “harm none,” I can’t quite understand how we are supposed to live it out.

I see the value in practices like those found in Jain Buddhism – not eating a root vegetable as that “kills” the plant. I understand the Wiccan stance against abortion since it ends a life and creation should be venerated. I admire my fellows who catch spiders and place them outside rather than squashing them with a flip-flop. I understand anti-gun passivism. I value organic gardening, veganism, and ecological sustainability. Heck, I practice most of these things. But here’s my problem: I am not an island. I have to live among others. I find that I cannot live my ideal given that I must also be a citizen among citizens.

A) Abortion. The Bad Witch is openly pro-choice. While I think the necessity for abortive practices is a sad state, I still think they are a necessary option. Remember the late-90s when anti-choice arsehats were taking photos of women as they went into women’s clinics and then posting those women’s photos on the web as “murderers”? Well, back in the day, TBW gathered a few black umbrellas and a few pals, drove to Birmingham’s PP clinic, and escorted women from car to door. Their decisions were hard enough without feckheads.

While I would love to welcome every baby into the world, I know that this is illogical under our current political structure. A system that denigrates single mothers, that fails to support healthcare and preschool across the board, and that vilifies the poor is not one in which we can support Utopian ideals like “abort-none.”

B) Guns and war. The Bad Witch was born during the Vietnam Era. I was very impressionable when I saw those men come home. Some of them were even alive. Some, like a favorite cousin of mine, remain somewhere in between life and death. I hate war. I don’t even like war movies. I finished A Farewell to Arms and threw it across the room, shattering the spine. (I have only done that to a few other books: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Color Purple, and Jacob the Liar.)

However, I come from a gun-toting family and I adore my family. My brother’s house looks a little like the Branch Davidian compound must have. Same goes for my in-laws. I live in a gun-toting community. I have students come to class straight from a morning of hunting. Still in their camo with GSR which spreads to their daily reading quizzes, they have gun racks on their trucks – that still have loaded guns on them. (At a university, this is not terrifying at all. Time for a policy update, I say.) But I have no guns.


The Bad Daddy is taking me out to buy a rifle and a handgun in a few weeks (The Bad Background Check and all). It seems The Bad Momma has a bad feeling. (Please don’t preach to me about guns amplifying violence. I’m singing in that same choir. But these are my parents. Old as I am, I still obey them.)

This has me thinking. Guns + Self Defense = Harm, right? So imagine: My momma’s bad feeling comes to fruition. The Bad Witch stands between tragedy and her teenagers – or her chickens – or her gonna-be-here-any-day-grand-baby. Does she choose to “harm one” in order to save t’others? Hells to the yea. Thank the gods m’daddy made me learn to use that pistol I’ve been cussing about for three days.

“Oh, well,” you say, “self-defense is a different story.”

Is it? Really?

Then how do you feel about a jinx? I have an acquaintance who owns a store; he places a jinx on any goods removed from his store without payment. This is psychic self-preservation resulting in loss-control, right? But it’s still a jinx. Same as self-defense with a gun is still harm.

C) Caterpillars – Technically Corn Worms. This one’s driving me nuts. Over the past few years, my garden and I have been fighting an uphill battle with corn earworms. Now, I don’t grow corn, but I grow most of my own produce. This is more than a hobby, it’s how I feed my family from late-May to December (February if you count the occasional winter squash). These little boogers will eat a plan to a nub in 24 hours like the nematodes on Spongebob if I don’t catch them in time. Typically, they show up in late-June or July – about the time you’d expect corn to ripen. But this year, they hatched early and are chewing up my garden early. Typically, I have time to wrap up the Spring semester, get into the groove of Summer School, and make my organic gardening “potions” to thwart everything from black-spot to snails and from corn-worms to aphids (I heart Jerry Baker.) But this year, everything’s early. My plants are huge and producing. This is good. Pest larva are hatching and eating. This is bad. Especially since my bug-patrol chicken corps is not ready for the outdoors just yet. (Bugs: nom, nom, nom.)

So, everyday, two and three times a day, I go out to my collards and broccoli (they haven’t quite hit my peppers and maters yet – but

The day I discovered that the worms had hatched, I had already lost almost a full plant.

they will if I let them) and hand squish each corn worm I find. I turn over each leaf and *pop* the newly hatched and still itty-bitty worms. On Saturday, my kill-count was 120. Sunday, it was 54. So far this morning, it’s been 27. I feel like I should put notches on my garden gloves like the helmets in a Kubrick film. I’d love to put them in a bird feeder and let the birdies have at them. Truth of the matter is, I don’t want to run the risk of escape! I’d even prefer to pick them off, bring them in, and give my hens a snackaroo. But I cannot pick them off. If you know about corn worms, you know that they attach themselves to the stalk. In trying to remove them, I inevitably tear them in two.

So what’s a witch to do?

Harm one to save one.

My goal is to have a healthy garden and there’s only so much “companion planting” that will do the trick. In the end, I have to pull (and therefore kill) a few weeds, squish a few bugs and/or eggs, deter a few predators (thereby denying them a meal), encourage yet another set of predators (ever see an Euglandina Rosea at work?), and bait a few traps (fire ants, y’all – seriously).

And since when is forcing nature to yield at our convenience not harmful?

Farming and agriculture, while a wonderful technology that I appreciate and try to use to the least detriment and most benefit, is *not* natural, ladies and gentleman. Farming and gardening, practices and lifestyles most dear to my Bad Witch heart, even when it’s not Monsanto-rific, is not good for the planet.

We like to tell ourselves that it’s “natural.” But we lie.

So when and where and for whom does “harm none” apply?

Unless we intend to go back to the wilderness, live entirely off the land – as it is, not as we cultivate it, and become entirely acetic, we are full of crap if we say it applies to us.

All we can do is our best in the moment.

*Love & Light.* (For my best frenemy, SKW.)

Blessings, Quarks, & 93

The Bad Witch