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What is a Left-Hand Path?

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What do we mean by "left hand path"?

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One question that gets asked a lot here at About Pagan/Wiccan is about the concept of a “left-hand path.” While this is a term you may hear occasionally used in the Pagan community - and not always in a positive way - it’s one whose definition isn’t always agreed upon.

In general, in modern Neopagan religious systems, the phrase “left-hand path” is used to apply to someone who regularly practices magic that is negative, baneful or excessively manipulative. It’s sometimes referred to as black magic, although whether or not that’s an accurate description is an entirely separate discussion. Conversely, “right-hand path” isn’t a term that’s used very often, but when it is, it’s typically used in comparison to left-hand path.

Typically, someone who identifies themselves as being on a left-hand path is usually someone with an interest in magic that falls far outside the “love and light” workings of much of the Pagan community. Often, they are individuals who are a bit outside the mainstream, and who don’t shy away from controversy. This doesn't mean that they're bad people or "evil" - it just means that their definition of what's acceptable magical practice isn't the same as that of the majority.

Some members of the modern occult world view the above distinction as an inaccurate one. This school of thought is that it’s not the path itself that is negative or positive, but each magical working and the intent behind it. By this definition, an individual practitioner could perform magical workings that are both left-hand and right-hand at any given time.

Still other people in the Pagan community think the entire idea of defining someone based upon magical workings is a bit far-fetched. After all, if a practitioner has the ability to hex, they have the ability to heal. Look at it this way – you have a right hand and a left hand on your body. But they’re both still part of you, and you can use them to hold someone you love, or to punch an enemy in the nose. It all has to do with your own personal code of ethics, and what you determine to be right or wrong.

To put it simply, the definition of left-hand path will vary depending on who’s using the term and what exactly they are describing.

 

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