"If the Torah is so Adamant, Then That Must Mean Something Huge" Series: Why Does the Torah Relate to Kishuf with Such Severity?
Many proponents of modern witchcraft insist they only use "white" magic and that "white" magic is just great.
They offer innocent-sounding examples, like chanting a spell (which merely comprises a request phrased in Greek) that helps them find a parking spot.
Furthermore, modern children's fantasy novels & movies incorporate characters who use magic to help others & save the day.
So first of all, murmuring silly spells to help you with things like finding a parking spot is total kefirah (heresy).
And guess what, wacky Wiccans? HASHEM creates parking spots. You can murmur your parking pleas to HIM.
Replacing Hashem with kishuf destroys emunah & ultimately warps the soul.
Even seemingly helpful acts of "white" kishuf, like healing others, denies Hashem’s Power & creates the impression of the machshefah’s machinations as the source of the healing power.
(And because kishuf utilizes kochot hatumah, which utilizes harmful entities, you end up paying a nasty price for any seeming good you do with the kishuf.)
Note: If you’re wondering what the difference is between that and the blessing of a tzaddik or the use of a segulah, the answer—on one foot—is that these claim only to work with the help of Hashem. A lot of them facilitate inner growth in YOU yourself. (White magic does not make the receiver a better person or facilitate inner growth.) Likewise, prayer turns to Hashem for the healing. Greek-language gibberish & goddess incantations & occult-based methods totally deny Hashem’s Mastery & Influence in the world—which is the prime severity of kishuf.
Hashem is so Good & Compassionate—and kishuf spits all over this.
A holy person connects to Hashem’s Holiness, to His All-Encompassing Presence & Oneness—and this increases emunah & holiness within the person. A great many Jews have become much better people after an encounter with a holy Jew.
However, an unexpected discovery demonstrated to me why even dabbling in “white” kishuf not only distorts emunah, but reaps lethal consequences.
A Kosher Writing Blog! Too Good to be True?
This blog covered so many different aspects of writing because of the blogger’s vast experience with all types of writing in a variety of genres: non-fiction, fiction, cookbooks...
She knew tons of stuff about writing, publishing, graphic design, marketing, ghost writing, outsourcing, research, and much more. She gleaned resources from all over.
Even if the topic didn't address my specific needs or plans, it was still intriguing to read about it.
I subscribed to the blog feed to never miss a post (I rarely subscribe to anything—and if I do, I usually unsubscribe as soon as possible.)
As time went on, I discovered that, being considered an expert in a couple of areas, she also spoke at national conferences and even appeared on TV (everything under an alias name). Though it didn't apply to me, I still enjoyed reading about her tips for appearing in (or partly narrating) documentaries & the behind-the-scenes glimpse into that industry.
(Just in case you're wondering how she stayed anonymous...she utilized photo software to morph photos of her & people who looked like her. So then her photos kind of look like her, but not exactly. She gave advice on this too. And documentaries either featured only her voice or her in shadows.)
Also, her website was so shockingly CLEAN:
No foul language, no naughty references, and no problematic images.
In fact, the website initially displayed no images at all.
Even more astoundingly in these times, if she linked to foul-mouthed content, she included warning before offering the link.
Finding her very approachable, I once emailed her with a brief polite question—to which she responded quickly with generous amounts of information.
As you probably already know, popular bloggers usually offer as brief an answer as possible (while hopefully still being pleasant—though not always even that).
It’s easy to understand how busy they are and, seeing as I’m a total stranger, I very much appreciated how much time (and typing!) she invested in offering all the information she thought I needed—and doing it so pleasantly too.
Sugar 'n' Spice...But Ultimately Not So Nice...
A few tracked her down to her home, leaving stuff in her mailbox.
One even tried to run her over with his car—or seemed to. She was never sure whether it was overenthusiasm or a sadistic prank or a real attempt to hurt her.
She also alluded to receiving lots of particularly hostile reviews or reactions from critics.
I've been reading interviews & the personal blogs of successful writers for decades, and I never heard such extremes—especially the attempt to run her over.
Yeah, critics can be harsh. But she alluded to lots of angry readers with particularly hostile reactions.
What material was this very nice, approachable person writing that incited people so severely?
At that point, I realized she wrote different types of paranormal fiction (in addition to several other genres), so I figured she probably attracted weirdoes from that.
But still. The above indicates extreme reader response, even for paranormal writers.
Side point: Another popular author cautioned writers against writing to trend because if, for example, the current trend was vampire stuff, then the trend-writing author could find herself at a writers convention in an elevator full of people wearing fangs, yellow contact lenses, and other vampire-goth paraphernalia—all following her around wanting to talk to her & get her autograph. Yes, the creepy world of writing today…so writing in weird genres can definitely attract weirdos.
Fairies Aren't What You Think They Are
A lot of it looked charming, folksy, and whimsical.
Yet some of the dolls seemed…odd.
I can no longer remember exactly, but some of the dolls struck me as voodoo-y or witchy. Not necessarily meant to harm others, but meant for uses beyond standard doll use.
Then I came across instructions for making a fairy house. She offered parts for those too.
And by fairy house, I don’t mean a fantasy-themed doll house.
A fairy house is meant to attract fairies.
Yes. That's right. Actual mythological fairies.
According to the website, you can bring fairies to your yard or your home with some fairy-bait (trinkets or food they like) in these houses meant to appeal to fairies.
She clearly believed in fairies and thought it fine—even fun—to attract them.
That rang a serious warning bell in my mind.
While the Anglo cultures provide a variety of names for a wide range of entities (fairies, goblins, gnomes, pixies, leprechauns, imps, elves, etc.), traditional Jewish sources lump them under the general category of mazikin or nezikin — damagers, destroyers.
They’re also known as shedim…demons.
Or chitzonim — externals or outsiders.
Or ruchin bishin — evil spirits.
In other words, these are not entities you want to attract.
The Hebrew & Aramaic terms make that clear.
She light-heartedly spoke of living with unseen fairies in her home who sometimes took small objects. She said she always responded by making an amused statement of need, after which she later found her missing object.
Despite their annoying behavior, she enjoyed the idea of hosting them in her home.
She made it sound innocent & simple, but in reality, humans cannot control these things.
These entities respond to their own rules—which means they only give you the desired response either if it suits them or if they're compelled to.
(Whether out of desire or compulsion, they only grant your desire if they benefit in some way.)
Judaism offers certain types of protection (prayers, mezuzot, etc.), but Jewish remedies focus on protection—not attraction—and Judaism focuses even less on appeasement (though appeasement plays a huge part in non-Jewish fairy lore & the customs of those who believe).
The Jewish way primarily focuses on keeping these things OUT.
The non-Jewish methods of self-protection often utilize useless gestures at best or kochot hatumah (including kishuf) at worst.
(The only techniques they find commonality with Jewish sources are avoidance, such as not being out after dark in certain areas or avoiding certain areas altogether.)
Also, non-Jewish traditions portray these entities as liable to steal babies & young children. People used to fear these things and in some areas, they still fear them.
Yet she claimed to host these things even though she has grandchildren visiting at times.
She seemed very content to live with these mazikin (damagers), which made me wonder what she did to protect herself that she wasn’t saying.
She also recommended watching out for fairy rings in the yard, not to step in them (that harms you) or damage them (that harms the fairies), but also to be careful when grandchildren come to visit because if the children step into the rings, they could disappear.
Now. Whether you believe this stuff or not, SHE believes it.
Yet she creates objects to attract these entities into her yard and home, even though she believes it holds danger for young children (including her own grandchildren).
It all struck me as both weird & irresponsible, and not in line with the caring, down-to-earth, appealing persona that came through her writing.
Things Get Weird. (Yes! Even Weirder!)
This was the alias she alluded to several times that earned her appearances at niche conventions & on TV shows (in which she either appears in voice only or in a way that shadows her real appearance).
This alias revealed she made a whole career out as a “paranormal consultant.”
In the self-photo for this site, she looked spooky & sinister, wearing the facial expression of someone about to put a hex the viewer.
How different than the friendly & approachable persona she displayed in writing on all her sites and morphed photographs or vertex portraits!
She also spoke openly about having descended from fairies centuries ago, making her a mostly-human-with-some-fairy hybrid. (Remember: When goyim say fairies, Jews say mezikin or demons. If she’s really a hybrid, that’s not something to be proud of.)
Now you see why she attracted weirdos.
Yet even here, she discussed wacky stuff in a sensible manner.
For example, she cautioned against assuming that every seemingly haunted house was actually haunted; she recommended practical rationalist steps, like checking the plumbing & electricity before jumping to conclusions.
She enjoyed engaging with ghosts, helping them “pass” to other side (though she noted that just like with live people, they didn’t always want to let go of their issues).
Nonetheless, she enjoyed taking others to haunted areas (ghost tours, etc.). She stressed responsible behavior, safety precautions, and the importance of listening to "your gut feeling" in such areas.
She repeatedly stressed that if you even think you might be dealing with demons, to leave the area immediately and seek expert demon help (like a priest or demonologist or shaman, etc.).
This really disturbed me because the non-Jewish world gets mixed up about a lot of this supernatural stuff.
For example, what churches call “demonic possession” is often actually dybbuk possession—meaning a dead soul being punished in kaf hakela (Slingshot Hell) that chooses to enter a living body for respite from its angelic punishers. (Kaf hakela a way of cleansing the soul—very painful, but cleansing.)
And these souls often refuse to behave nicely because that’s why they’re being punished so badly in the first place: They were very bad people.
Furthermore, if you read how Jewish tradition describes different kinds of entities, then you discover that what the churches consider ghosts are usually demons.
(And that’s only if it’s real, and not a hoax or psychotic episode or something.)
Also, as I read the Me’am Lo’ez on Parshat Beresheit, he mentioned that while demons can take on any appearance they desire, their actual bodies consist of fire & air because Hashem refused to complete their bodies Erev Shabbat.
So when people take pictures of balls of light, which they label as ghosts, they are probably actually photographing demons.
Indeed, some people even call these mysterious orbs “fairy lights,” which is a lot more accurate than calling them ghosts. (This all refers to lights with no apparent source, and not lights created by a reflection or chemical response in a bog gasses or something.)
Further reading revealed that even what she called ghosts weren't necessarily what she believed were ghosts (i.e. dead people who once lived & hadn't "passed over" for some reason).
"Spirits" she called these non-dead ghosts.
In other words, yet another class of what Judaism calls mezikin or demons.
Anyway, knowing these entities are most likely demons (no matter what her “gut” says), I felt increasing discomfort as I read on.
(Especially since demons or mezikin cover such a vast variety of entities, you can't just use your gut feeling. After all, one demon pretending to be Eliyahu Hanavi proved a hard nut to crack for Rav Yehudah Petiyah, and even succeeded in fooling major Torah Sages like Rav Aharon Agassi & Rav Yaakov the son of the Ben Ish Chai...until Rav Petiyah saved the day [Minchat Yehudah, Parshat Miketz]. In other words, you cannot just rely on your "gut.")
How's "Goin' with Your Gut" Workin' Out For Ya? Oy, Not So Good...
How did she arrive at that conclusion?
One night, she decided to take a friend to this same cemetery in order to experience ghostly activity. While ghosts don’t usually perform on demand, the regular activity in this cemetery seemed a good opportunity for those who wished to see action.
However, while there, she and her friend ran into short, furry entities she’d never seen before—entities who clearly weren’t ghosts and who also gave her really bad vibes.
Only that...by the time her bad vibes vibed her, she and her friends were already well into the cemetery.
The bad vibes of strangeness & uneasiness increased until she ran into what she termed “a wall of evil.” (Nothing physical, just a sensation.)
She perceived it as sheer evil, and she felt sure that both it and the entities were entities of their own, and not entities that had once lived then died (like her darling ghosts).
At this point, she realized she was in way over her head and sought to flee with her friend from the distressing area and back to their car.
Yet disturbingly, her friend continued to suffer “issues” for weeks after the event.
Entities visited her friend in the night, she struggled to sleep peacefully, and she felt generally stalked & harassed by these entities—even in the day time.
Apparently, this was not an unusual consequence of visiting this cemetery.
The paranormal consultant received phone calls from others who, in search of paranormal experiences, visited this cemetery, and later called her in desperation to plead, “Does it ever end? Does it ever go away?”
The paranormal consultant felt awful about the whole thing and advised the woman to contact a demon-expert or an experienced priest.
(Yet Jewish sources show that neither experts nor priests truly help. Yes, occultists developed occult methods to deal with demons, but they don't work at the foundation of the problem. Demons are notoriously deceptive and can simply lull you into thinking you’ve banished them so that you’ll leave them alone. Or you need to be a truly holy person, like our tzaddikim, and utilize things of kedushah, like a mezuzah—to effectively banish or protect against these mazikin.)
Not surprisingly (to us), consultation with a priest didn’t help the friend.
Advice from this paranormal consultant didn’t help either.
(And yeah, it's thought-provoking to realize how the paranormal consultant encountered these things without suffering ill consequences from the encounter, even though she experienced a more intense encounter at the cemetery than her friend. Why?)
Mere weeks after the frightening encounter in the cemetery, this same woman (the friend haunted by entities after the cemetery fiasco) was found dead in her car in a parking lot outside a supermarket in the middle of the day.
The woman was only in her late thirties with no medical issues.
Puzzled medical experts declared her death a heart attack, but her family & friends felt she was killed by these entities who continued to stalk her. Or something. No one knew exactly what, but felt certain her death resulted directly from whatever she encountered at the cemetery.
Throughout, the paranormal consultant confessed how awful she felt about the whole thing.
She struggled with feelings of guilt because, after all, she was the one who took her friend there in the first place—and kept her there throughout the initial bad vibes & weird entities, all the way until running smack into the wall of evil.
To my mind, there is no doubt that the friend died as a direct result from her encounter in the mezikin-ridden cemetery.
In fact, the Kav HaYashar (Chapter 69) similarly recalls a cellar infested with demons, which killed a young man who managed to enter. Only 15 minutes after he entered, the residents of the home found the young man lying on the threshold with no sign of any injury (other than the fact he was dead).
That happened in the Polish city of Posen during the years 1681-1682.
Anyway, the paranormal consultant detailed all this as a warning to even the most foolhardy thrill-seekers to NOT go anywhere near that cemetery.
When asked about the police patrolling the area, she said the police only patrol in pairs and do their best to stay in their police car. If they see people partying with alcohol or drugs in the cemetery, they try to break things up without leaving the car (i.e., calling out to the errant youth via the police bullhorn).
If forced to enter the cemetery, the police make sure to go in together and not to go in any further than absolutely necessary.
Apparently, she made the police feel comfortable speaking with her about their true feelings, but they refuse to embarrass themselves by speaking about their experiences publicly.
The Show Must Go On?
Mind-boggling as it sounds, she still kept going ahead with it (albeit currently hampered by corona restrictions) and working out a way to get a TV deal.
She simply emphasizes in no uncertain terms to avoid this particular area of paranormal activity, and is equally emphatic about listening to your gut feeling when seeking out the paranormal.
In her opinion, ghosts are fine, but other entities are problematic.
The problem is that by the time her own gut told her that the paranormal activity at the cemetery was not Casper the Friendly Ghost, but Dudley the Deadly Demon, it was too late for her friend.
Furthermore, she continues to sell “fairy houses” and kits to ATTRACT fairies to one's home!
Remember: Fairies are mezikin.
You DON’T want them in your home.
In fact, you don’t want them anywhere near you.
Regarding the fairy homes, she laughingly quotes another paranormal consultant who laughingly advises people not to bait their fairies with meat because “then you’ll attract things that eat meat. And you’re, well, meat. So you don't want to do that.”
It’s all potentially evil & very dangerous—chuckle-chuckle!
She—and other people into fairy stuff—laugh about hosting fairies in their homes. Fairies tend to do things like misplace their belongings (i.e., earrings and other miniatures) and generally act like little narcissists who engage in passive-aggressive behavior.
And fairy enthusiasts find this cute.
As mentioned above, the other problem is that both in goyish fairy tradition & Jewish traditions regarding demons, some of these entities are known to harm, abduct, or even kill babies & small children.
Why have them in your house, especially if you have small children (or grandchildren) around?
This paranormal enthusiast also expressed pride in the “fairy ring” she hosts in her yard.
And oh-so responsibly, she warns against allowing small children near fairy rings because they might “fall in” and never be seen again.
(Yes, this woman has grandchildren who visit her. Just watch out for that charming ring of mushrooms, kids!)
So this seemingly very nice, personable, helpful person engages in & continues to engage in activities that are most definitely not nice and even harmful.
The Conclusion against Dabbling in the Not-So-Innocent "White" Kishuf
You attribute the demonic stalking mentioned above to hysterical or paranoid reactions—produced by the brain and nothing more.
You see the paranormal consultant as a quack who accepts the money & clientele of gullible people, and that’s that.
That’s fine & I’m not going to argue with the rationalist point of view.
After all, it is certainly the Rambam’s point of view.
In that case, the prohibition against kishuf remains a prohibition against deceiving people into thinking such powers exist, and weakening their emunah—a very serious harm indeed.
A rationalist might also feel angry about the death of the above woman because they view her as influenced by her mere belief in something evil stalking her, resulting in a kind of psychosomatic-imposed death—in other words, frightening her literally to death.
And a rationalist might feel angry over that, seeing the women as being brainwashed into believing something both untrue & harmful to her well-being.
However, other strong Torah traditions follow the numerous Sages who do believe in different dimensions beyond the standard 3, which includes an assortment of entities (mentioned also by the Me’am Lo’ez in Parshat Beresheit & Rashi in Parshat Noach, for example).
And it bothers me that not only have these people been harmed by looking for paranormal experiences (encouraged or even actively guided by paranormal consultants), but at least one person died in this case.
And despite the responsible-sounding warnings to avoid that particular cemetery and to listen to one’s gut, this same paranormal consultant also encourages fairy houses to attract fairies (i.e., demons) and continues to both encourage & guide others toward paranormal activity, under the impression that fairies are cute, ghosts are mostly harmless, and demons should be avoided (using your “gut” to determine the difference—at which point there is clearly an encounter occurring and is already too late to avoid…but no worries!
Just go to a priest or demon expert, and all will be well, right? Don’t think so….
Just to go back to the original topic: This paranormal consultant considers herself completely legit, responsible, and helpful.
I don't know if she labels her methods with the specific term "white magic," but she definitely fits into the same category (regardless of specific label) that deals with kochot hatumah in a way considered harmless or even beneficial.
Likewise, a lot of New Age material & methods utilize kochot hatumah.
It doesn't matter what they call it, whether they use the term "kishuf" (or it's non-Hebrew equivalent).
Ultimately, it all focuses on getting in touch with unhealthy spirituality that distances a person from Hashem & thus from true morality.
So this is the danger of “white” magic & helpful intentions of people involved in kishuf.
In addition to weakening emunah & drawing people away from Hashem & from Torah-true morality, I see them (based on sources in Chazal) as causing very real harm—regardless of their intentions.
Furthermore, you see that they just won't stop, regardless of the harm they cause.
And regardless of whether you go according to the rationalist POV or the more comprehensive POV, you can see why the Torah viewed a practitioner of kishuf with such condemnation & severity.
To Sum Up Why the Torah Views a Machshefah/Mechashef with Such Severity...
With the very "successful" ones, they make it look like they have special powers—like they're undefeatable.
But their power is an illusion, whether they're using sleight-of-hand or the power of suggestion, or whether they're tapping into literal kochot hatumah.
Hashem is controlling EVERYTHING.
Machshefim cannot operate against Hashem's Will. No one can.
But they make it LOOK like they can. And that proves the main problem with a machshefah or mechashef:
Whether privately or publicly, their machinations pull people away from doing teshuvah or praying or connecting to Hashem.
They decrease emunah in the world.
Again, even for a minor private incident, like trying to find a parking spot, the machshefah encourages you to chant a spell rather than turning to Hashem.
So whether the machshefah is operating on a high public level or a low private level, they decrease emunah in the world by influencing people to turn to spells rather than tefillah or teshuvah.
(That's just one example.)
And in addition to the practical harm machshefim can cause, their puzzling lack of repentance and the very real impossibility of the surveillance necessary to ensure they aren't dabbling in kishuf again...
All this adds up to why the Torah views them with such severity.
- Part 1: What's So Bad about Kishuf? A Look at Halacha, the Rational vs the Supernatural, the 80 Witches of Ashkelon, and the Machshefah Midwife of the Me'am Lo'ez