Mental illness and demonic/magical attack

Lately I’ve been dealing with some customers who in my opinion are clearly mentally ill and not the subject of magical or demonic attack, as they claim. Over the years, when someone has told me they are under demonic or magical attack, probably at least half the time I feel that they in fact are. But recently it seems that many people are not apparently under any external attack but instead are experiencing mental illness of some kind. I’ve been ruminating over the differences between magical attack and mental illness in terms of how they are presented to the magical practitioner quite a bit and would like some help from those of you out there who have any experience along these lines. I would like to come up with a more systematic way of defining the differences between actual magical attack and mental illness, something more in the field of reason than intuition. Because it seems that many of the people I speak to who are in fact mentally ill IMO have things in common with each other, as if aspects of a culture produce a particular sort of craziness. Even the way they speak seems to have something in common rather than differing a good deal by individual, as is usually the case with any random person. This got me thinking. So here are some questions.

From the perspective of cursing:

If you or anyone you know has practiced attack magic, what typically were the results intended and did they include insanity? Or was it more along the lines of physical injury, loss of job or status, breakup of relationship, and other stuff? IME, little attack magic if any involves driving another person crazy, but maybe that’s just what I’ve run into. Maybe just the torment involved of sending a spirit after someone is enough to drive the target mad, whether that was the intention or not? Because every one of the people whom I have deemed mentally ill claim that they are under attack from human individuals (witches, warlocks, covens, Voodoo priests, etc.) rather than simply being glommed onto by passing evil spirits, as a Christian might believe. Yet I have not run across many magic practitioners who tell me “I am trying to send a demon after someone to drive them nuts or to harass them mightily.”

When someone is in fact cursed:

When you have encountered people who you are certain are under magical attack, especially through spirits that some person has sent to harass the person, what have been the effects you notice immediately, if any? I have noticed for instance that when talking to the person, I feel an unpleasant buzzing sensation in my head and get a headache. Sometimes I have felt extremely tired after talking on the phone to someone who is strongly targeted. I am interested in any kinds of sensations or reactions that practitioners out there have had when dealing with someone who they are pretty certain is under some kind of magical attack. Do you get any physical sensations? Or is your determination of the actuality of the attack based on the individual’s description of what they are experiencing (nightmares, weird physical effects that have no medical cause, a series of physical injuries or monetary disasters that seems more than coincidental, etc.).

When someone is mentally ill rather than cursed:

When you encounter someone you believe is mentally ill although they claim demonic or magical attack, what is it that says to you that it’s mental illness they are dealing with and not magical attack? Someone mentioned to me one of the differences is that mentally ill people seem to demand immediate and repeated action and attention. From my own experience, I thought this was true. People under demonic attack seem not to call repeatedly on a daily basis, demanding I do something about their situation. Instead, they call, hesitantly describe their situation (hesitantly because sane people are aware that in our society, demons are not generally considered to be real), and ask for ways to combat the attack. In every case that I recall, the individual was under attack because of some ordinary thing–someone was mad at them for having an affair with someone else they wanted for themselves, or someone was trying to keep the individual from winning a court case against them–pretty mundane concerns, in other words. In contrast, in my experience the people I have considered to be mentally ill generally could not give any reason for the attack or claimed that their attackers just wanted their soul, fitting in with Christian ideas and/or with the concepts of the Satanic panic of the eighties. Likewise, sex seems to be involved much more with the mentally ill people. For instance, people have told me that demonic forces sent to harass them by witches were making them have sexual thoughts, or that people around them were actually demonic and causing their sexual organs to be stimulated from afar. And of course there are the people who are certain they are being attacked because they are very extraordinary (descended from great priests, etc.). Those are easy to spot, IME.

I would like to hear if others have noticed any commonalities with the folks they have run into in terms of who is targeting them and why. It would be helpful to all of us, I think, if we could come up with any commonalities that might help us recognize the difference. Also, I have wondered just how often it is the case that someone who is mentally ill becomes a sort of magnet for random spirits screwing around. Along the lines of the concept that the mentally ill are touched by the divine (which I am not putting forward as a helpful idea), are mentally ill people more able to perceive the spirit world? Finally, if you have determined that someone is mentally ill rather than under magical attack, do you ever consider giving them magical means to deal with it?

18 comments to Mental illness and demonic/magical attack

  • Just a few thoughts from my experiences…

    Firstly, Id like to say that many folks who experience mental health issues are ‘sensitives’ who are potentially vulnerable to many environmental energies. They may pick up on memories in the land, places where dodgey stuff has happened and very possibly some entities would spot them a mile off. Especially if they havent learnt any ways to protect themselves or clear their auras. For me such a parasitic type being was picked up on and removed by a healer, i hadnt even been aware of its individual presence, but i certainly felt it leave. I was ‘well’ at the time.

    In my own experience, as a woman with a ‘diagnosis’, when i have been unwell, there is indeed an urgency to my actions and beliefs, because you cant turn it off. Its 24/7 and it may go on for weeks or indeed months, especially if you cant afford to access treatments. Folks might not be sleeping or eating, which can be signs that all is not well.

    If someone is ‘mentally ill’ then it generally flows into all areas of life, so I imagine whereas the person being magically attacked in a specific area could talk about other parts of their life with continuity, without it being loaded, if youre suffering mental health issues the whole story of ones life becomes distorted and pained. So maybe some general questioning about other aspects of the persons life could reveal which situation is going on. Are they able to function in some roles? Can they talk calmly about family and friends, neighbours?

    Id also just like to say that it can be really hellish and confusing to be unwell and if someone comes to you in such a state they may genuinely be trying to navigate their way to the help they believe is needed, so have a little compassion. See how they react to the suggestion that they contact a community health worker, gp or psychiatrist goes down, have they already had such contact, which could suggest previous episodes?

    Just a few thoughts….

    • Alchemist in Charge

      “So maybe some general questioning about other aspects of the persons life could reveal which situation is going on. Are they able to function in some roles? Can they talk calmly about family and friends, neighbours?”

      This is a good approach. What I have noticed is that with people who are mentally ill rather than under magical attack, every single thing they talk about leads almost immediately back to their ideas about the attack. In a way, it reminds me of grief, when it is new and omnipresent.

      I understand how hellish it can be. My sister was mentally ill for most of her life. At certain points she believed that witches had hexed her, and some of my relatives, who were not practitioners of magic but very superstitious, encouraged her in this belief, which I felt was really wrong. However, they also did things to try to protect her from these hexes which she took some comfort in. She had a very hard life and ended up committing suicide. She was not the only seriously mentally ill person in my family, so I have been around it, but this particular preoccupation about being under magical attack is something that comes up frequently in my business.

  • tolderoll

    I’ve intentionally cursed a single time, and the person had several health issues and major depression arise. None of the paranoid distress or mental dissipation that the mentally ill individuals I’ve spent time with have encountered.

    The depression may have been a specific quality of the spirit involved, as originally it had been sent to attack me, and I bound it and sent it back to the attacker. I did not experience any of the health issues but was subject to extreme depression and suicidal thoughts, which, due to the out of character nature for me, is what suggested to me that I was under attack in the first place.

    I have also bound an imbalanced roommate, who was causing huge amounts of problems with everyone who lived in the house. They actually calmed down and got significant portions of their life under control.

    The times I’ve been around others who are experiencing attack, I have felt very anxious, with the feeling I need to get away.

    I agree with chloe, that when talking about mental illness which grasps onto the spiritual attack label, it tends to be incredibly dissipative with a manic energy to it.

  • A very tricky issue, this. We all live and work within and between competing cultural paradigms.

    My feeling is that I would need to spend a great deal of time with the troubled person, understand a great deal about their background before feeling confident to say which is which. Cultures drive many of us crazy and in the West there is a vast and increasing psychiatric population pathologised and medicated for so-called mood disorders. Out here people suffer with other kinds of social trauma and older paradigms often need to be challenged.

    A friend of mine who practises as a Xhosa sangoma works with refugees suffering from war psychosis as well as the wrath of the ancestors or possession. She refers clients to counselling for the former and sees the conditions as deeply linked. She can only help with the latter.

    • Alchemist in Charge

      Sounds like a fascinating, if difficult practice.

      In terms of time, one of the things I have noticed about people who contact me for help with magical attack and who I believe are mentally ill instead is that they will hound me. Also, they don’t tend to talk about a few things that are going wrong. They have a gigantic array of things that are creepy.

  • Here’s how I do it: If my heartfelt intuition tells me the person is out of their mind I can be of no help to them. It’s not that NO one can help them – I cannot. I am clearly the wrong person.

    • Alchemist in Charge

      I’m not sure that magic can’t help someone who is mentally ill. I just am not sure if it might turn out to be fuel for the fire. I usually will tell folks that feel they are under attack and who I don’t think are that they should try smudging or some other simple protective actions.

      The problem with running a site is that there are few ways to keep away someone who is persistent. One fellow after repeated email exchanges, many of which were insulting, and me telling him repeatedly that much of what he was experiencing was not a part of magic, I had to filter the emails to be deleted off the server before I even looked at them. That’s the most drastic thing I have done, and I think I was able to do that because he would get drunk and get mean.

      • Jewels

        I’ve been thinking about this post all week–there are so many aspects to mental illness that it’s hard to wirte a simple post to address it. I agree that the cultural paradigm must be considered when we look at mental illness since behaviors need to be seen in context. But here are a few things to consider…

        Most folks that come through my door (I am a therapist at a community mental health agency) will struggle with some combination of depression, anxiety, trauma, poverty, mood disorder or grief. To me, trauma is so pervasive in the stories of the poor, it is the underpinning of most everything. Trauma can be mental, physical, emotional or spiritual and while I work with people to heal themselves through therapy, they get the benefit of my magical and spiritual energy. It should be the mission of the practioner to always strive to do their own work and to have a strong spiritual practice. That way, the client will get the best helper they can.

        Folks with substance abuse and folks with personality disorders can be the most draining. Folks with active substance abuse problems feel “sticky” to me–they sometimes feel surrounded with yuck that attaches to them, perhaps from being compromised by negative spirits, bad juju, or maybe the negative energy of the drugging lifestyle (dark spirits in dark places?) Those with substance abuse problems are usually living a lie and they can sometimes do just about anything to get their drug of choice. They really need to do the work to get free from the drugs first or attached spirits or negative energies will just come back when they revisit their usual haunts (appropriately named.)

        Individuals with personality disorders also can be demanding and exhausting (and I don’t catagorize folks with this lightly, it is stigmatizing but when appropriate can be a relief for an individual who knows they’ve suffered with something awful their whole life and that people avoid them.) When I feel energy being pulled from my solar plexis or a headache (which I rarely get otherwise) or I’m just plain drained and exhausted, it is usually from someone with a personality disorder. If I am going to work with them I need to use the skills I have learned to protect myself and then absolutely i must consistantly maintain exceptionally clear and solid boundaries and expectations. With these folks that have poor boundaries, I do a huge disservice to them and me if I waffle or wobble at all about fees, appointments, expectations, staying on track with treatment goals or any number of expectations that will make the therapy a beneficial experience. Harold, I’m guessing that when you have put up limits or boundaries with some folks that have pushed back hard in an unreasonable manner, they have fallen into one of these catagories–PD or SA. There are so many appropriate, kind, gentle and compassionate folks with mental health struggles–they are distressed but not bullies. Folks with PD and SA don’t consider how their behavior is impacting you–either they lack empathy or don’t really care. Interestingly, borderline personality disorder is coming out of the PD/Axis 2 diagnoses of the new DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health) and moving into another category. Good news, I think since BPD folks can improve with years of therapy. The other PDs, in my opinion, are not helped by therapy.

        I’m not sure discussing magic is helpful with people with delusions like with schizophrenia or a paranoid depression or manic depression or mania. They are already really fearful and worried if they are losing a grip on “reality” and discussion of the spirit world generally is just too overwhelming. However, I’d bet that they are quite invaded by the spirit world.

        Folks that have dabbled with magic or something/someone else that brought them some kind of disaray, cursing, or crossing make me feel physically edgy and fidgety and I feel annoyed in their presence. I kind of feel like there is something just out of my field of vision, like if i could just move my eyes quick enough, I could see what’s there from the corner of my eye. I notice that at the end of the day I am really drained and I will do a burning meditation to burn out any lingering yuck. I also feel this way with folks with personality disorders and those with some kind of spiritual attack if I don’t take of myself FIRST. I do my own spiritual practice (daily!) and it’s interesting that I rarely attract folks with PD now and when I do, they tend to not stick around because I’m very clear with my expectations and don’t screw around with clients being manipulative. I ‘ve learned to close out destructive people, tell them no when they beg to come back and also “send them on their way” energetically as well.

        I hope this isn’t too much off topic of what you were blogging…

  • Doc_Voodoo

    Someone who has been effectively crossed will be feeling sleepy and often nauseous and their luck is going to turn very very bad and fairly immediately. Bad things are going to be happening in their life ie. car wrecks, car problems, legal troubles, money troubles, thefts of their property and cash, physical health issues, physical accidents, relationship problems, all of that. Its like their bad luck came in fours and fives.

    Someone who has been cursed via spirits may feel that they are being pursued and that someone is watching them. They will be anxious, but not illogical and there probably wont be a fantastical component where they see demons or dragons etc. They may see things in the shadows and may well be having nightmares.

    I’ve done some curses and bindings. I have not yet done battle with another practitioner and hope that never happens. I did once break up with someone who was very involved with Santeria, but, we never took things between us to those extremes. We werent in Love, so, there wasnt anything to motivate mutual curses. My bindings were directed towards people that were intentionally attacking me legally or emotionally or gossiping nastily. I was once involved in a probate issue and had two neighbors that had been asked to watch me and my property and what I was doing there…bound their eyes and mouths. Its stuff you do to survive and protect yourself. Some guy online became obsessed with my girlfriend at one point and began harassing her, spreading nasty rumors about her, began insulting me online, tried to mess with my career, tried to hack my girlfriend, all this evil-minded stuff and it was just getting worse and I put serious negative grisgris on him. Dont know what specifically happened there, but, he was gone after three weeks and never came back. Another time, I had some drug traffickers move in next door and I felt that it wasnt such a good thing for the neighborhood, so, I did some workings on them and they moved out.
    Those Banish Neighbor spells can be very effective.

  • Just as an afterthought — sometimes troubled people are struggling with substance abuse and dependency and this contributes to the manic persistence and paranoid or delusional thinking. Harald, I liked what you said about suggesting something gentle like smudging — when people are in early stages of getting clean or sober, they may be vulnerable and sleepless, not eating properly and agitated. I give them mild sleep-inducing herbs to place under the pillow or help them relax in the bath.

  • HK

    To begin with, if one looks at such a situation from the standpoint of someone intending a curse, then perhaps a curse intended to induce insanity would be one of the most effective. As you’ve shown above in your post, the belief that they are mentally ill rather than cursed can delay or prevent the target from receiving the help they need. To isolate someone from sources of help would certainly induce abandonment and possibly depression, intensifying the effects of a curse.

    My way of determining the source of such things is really very much based on intuition. Rather than the “buzzing” you spoke of, I will feel “foggy.” My thoughts will slow but be hard to grasp, and I’ll feel very sluggish until about half an hour after I’ve left the person’s presence.

    This is definitely something I’ve noticed. People under attack seem to focus the frenetic energy they are feeling more on themselves, rather than pushing it out towards others. In my experience, this tends to manifest as fidgeting where they previously wouldn’t (picking at clothes, hair, nails, etc), or behaviors that appear similar to obsessive-compulsive ritualizing (counted-out tapping, arranging things into sets of certain numbers, etc).

    • HK

      Oh dear, I’ve messed my html. The section that appears in the blockquote was in response to your statement that “mentally ill people seem to demand immediate and repeated action and attention. From my own experience, I thought this was true. People under demonic attack seem not to call repeatedly on a daily basis, demanding I do something about their situation.”

  • Faustianbargain

    Stranger and outsider croaking here: in the realm of magic, you have to discount mental illness, IMO. After all, it seems to me that a vast number of magical practioners will be dubbed mentally ill by the bible of DSM. Mental illness is a modern construct and as a construct shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the traditional well of magical wisdom. After all, most of the magical practioners who kill and torture animals for traditional rituals will be seen as psychopaths without remorse or empathy because their dabbling in tradition can be viewed as animal abuse, often accepted as a precursor to darker expressions of mental illness. Are all witches dispatching live toads going to be serial killers? No. Of course, not. On a more relevant note… In traditional shamanism, all mental illnesses(including the autism spectrum) are disturbances in the spirit world. In that vein, all mental illnesses can be resolved by the intervention of the shaman. So I guess there is no such thing as mental illness..just illness that the spirit can resolve.

    • I believe there is a bit of overlap with spirituality when it comes to mental unwellness, but it causes problems when one forgets and writes off the physical and mental aspects as well (not saying you are, but people, in general, do). Spirituality can actually hinder healing if it is sought out as an avoidance tactic. Speaking as someone with PTSD, no amount of salt baths and sage will get rid of skeletons in the closet.

  • spiggycat

    If someone comes to me with a request for help with a “malign entity” or a “curse”, I will help them, as long as they are respectful and show genuine need.

    I think it really doesn’t matter if a person is really cursed or if the curse is self generated (“in their head”)… for them, the effects are the same. (yeah, I have read a bit too much Starhawk and Christopher Hyatt in my youth.) The key is that they believe that their effects can be remedied magickally. As long as one believes strongly enough, the remedy will work– either the anti hexing energy will cancel out the curse or the energy work will heal whatever chemical issues are impacting the person’s brain. (Mind/ Body medicine helps a lot– not just in cancer and immune system issues, but in mood and anxiety disorders as well.)

    Personally, I do have an issue with untreated Borderlines, and the if the person asking for help seems narssisitic and hystrionic and uses their “curse” as a attention gathering ploy, I will not work with them.

  • Aquari

    Summarizing common threads I’m seeing, which agree with my own experience:

    *Hex or haunting: cautious/self-conscious manner, affects several aspects of life but not all, depression/anxiety, specific known enemy with current dispute.

    *Mental illness: obsessed/driven manner, colours every aspect of life, feeling of being mind-controlled (often with sexual aspect), nonspecific enemy with no clear motive.

    More personal observations:

    * A hex feels clear-cut and sudden, and the person can rationally articulate what is happening. You lose your job and need a root canal and your cat dies suddenly, all within a fortnight – the sort of thing that makes casual acquaintances say, “Wow, did you break a mirror or something?” – and/or you have sudden suicidal thoughts (or panic attacks, or nightmares) with no history thereof, nor any obvious prompting event. You recognize that something unreasonable is happening.

    Mental illness feels fuzzy-edged and pervasive, and the person has a hard time stepping outside the experience or recognizing how they come across. There’s an overall malaise and dysfunction – you feel sickly but with nothing specific, no-one seems to want to talk to you for very long, your day is a litany of small problems you can’t seem to solve, your service gets cut off because your check bounced because you lost your job because … etc., and you can’t quite remember when it started, or if it was always like this.

    * It’s true that mental illness often brings spiritual vulnerability, and that spiritual suffering can weaken your mental resilience. I think the common element is ‘weakened boundaries.’ Unfortunately, ‘occulture’ tends to both attract people with naturally loose boundaries, and to encourage loosening them further – ‘be open and sensitive; embrace your imagination and subconscious promptings; be spontaneous and resist structure.’ Those are well and good in themselves, but they can be too much of a good thing for someone who has a weak sense of identity, diminished ability to process their emotions, or difficulty drawing the line.

    For cases where this kind of mixed diagnosis comes in, I would suggest focusing treatment on centering and strengthening the person, physically and spiritually. Cleansing rituals are generally not a bad idea – poor ‘energy hygiene’ is a consideration in mental illness, and it can help person’s self-concept if they can see themselves as ‘pure’. But I’ve seen a lot of sound advice, from Dion Fortune among others, that focuses on getting outside, physical exertion, and being around other people – things that tend to interrupt obsessive thoughts – as well as eating properly and putting aside consciousness-altering practices for a while. ‘Shoring up your psychic immune system’, it could be pitched as, and it ought to do just that.

    For several good articles on possible distinctions between pathology and cultural/spiritual beliefs, and proposed treatment recommendations for ‘spiritual emergencies,’ see here:

  • Kelly Collins

    So the Question,
    How do we deal with these nightmare situations that the the person strugglingly with either mental illness or sprit or regular attack is perhaps weaked from the ill effects of either. Honestly on a spiritual level if the energy is this negative isn’t the question it is their soul . And maybe metal illness isn’t like cancer or something that is just an ill stte of affairs but a fighting human trying to heal thier spirit

    .In other words. How do we help them help themselves, not drain and cause such disturbance for us. Maybe the strong need to stay in their hell long enough to honestly address such dibilitating negativity. Did anybody se want dreams may come Robin Williams wife was so mentally ill all she could see was her own hell. By lasting it out staying with her when being told in would Definiately lead to his own insanity. He stayed in hell with her and eventually his love became the temporary eyes she could see beyond her own hell until she eventually started seeing out of her hell to the realness of his presence and what that meant. Maybe here are the dangerous areas of the psyche that could easily become both an attack generalized perhapsbut that we all know in our heart we have a hell we can get stuck in
    I think by definition mental illness is spiritual compromise and where one may only be able to save oneself by reaching out their overwhelmed hand and hoping for trulry brave help . They used to put people like this in circle so through each other the coven members were much more safe. I welcome all replies.

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