Black magic is the belief of practices of magic that draws on assumed malevolent powers. This type of magic is invoked when wishing to kill, steal, injure, cause misfortune or destruction, or for personal gain without regard to harmful consequences to others. As a term, "black magic" is normally used by those that do not approve of its uses, commonly in a ritualistic setting; the argument of "magic having no colour, and it is merely the application and use by its user," backs the claim that not everything termed as "black magic" has malevolent intentions behind it, and some would consider it to have beneficial and benevolent uses. These uses could include killing diseases or pests.
Practitioners who use magic in this way argue that the effect itself is malevolent by causing death to insects (as in the above example), but as an indirect consequence of black magic, good can be a result, such as in the form of less pests around. In this school of thought, there is no separation between benevolent and malevolent magic as there is no universal morality against which magic can be measured. A rather different view on Black Magic is used in the system of Chaos Magick. In this branch of occult practice, spells sometimes correspond to colours, depending on the supposed effect (i.e, red-magick, which is magic concerned with combat, such as low-level curses). Black Magic, according to Chaos Magick, corresponds to magic that is performed around the themes of death, separation, severance and entropy. This can refer to powerful curses meant to bring the strongest effect, spells to sever emotional ties to objects or people, and so on.
In fiction, black magic will quite frequently be synonymous with evil, such is the case in Rosemary's Baby, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (referred to as the dark arts in the novels), and Shakespeare's Macbeth, with many other examples existing. In many popular video games, such as Final Fantasy, white and black magic is simply used to distinguish between healing/defensive spells (such as a "cure") and offensive/elemental spells (such as "fire") respectively, and does not carry an inherent good or evil connotation.
The differences between what is considered black magic and white magic are debatable, though generally can fall within the following broad categories:
• The All as One theory states that all forms of magic are evil, irrespective of colour (white or black). This view is generally associated with Satanism. People that maintain this opinion include those belonging to most branches of Christianity
• The Dark Doctrine theory states that black magic is the powers of darkness, usually seen from a Left-Hand Path point of view. This may or may not contrast with white magic, depending on the user's acceptance of dualism.
• The Formal Differences theory states that the forms and components of black magic are not the same due to the different aims or interests of those casting harmful spells than those of white. Harmful spell-casting tends to include symbolism that seems hazardous or harmful to human beings, such as sharp, pointed, prickly, caustic, and hot element(s) combined with very personal objects from the spell's target (their hair, blood, mementos, etc.). This distinction can primarily be observed in folk magic, but pertains to other types of magic also.
• The No Connection theory states that both black and white magic are completely different from the base up and are accomplished uniquely, even if they achieve similar effects. This stance is often presented in fiction, and as a result, the two classes of magic-users are portrayed as being both ideologically and diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings, the Elves find it strange that Humans and Hobbits can even use a single word, "magic", which refers to both forms, as the Elvish tongues regard them also linguistically as completely separate and unrelated.
• The Separate but Equal theory states that black and white magic are exactly the same thing, differentiated only by their end goals and intent. According to this theory, the same spell could be either white or black (see gray magic); its nature is determined by the end result of the spell. The majority of religions follow this belief, as does the remainder of fiction that does not follow the No Connection theory. By this interpretation, even such spells commonly seen as good can be misused, so healing could be used to regenerate the body to the point of cancer, for instance.
Within common mainstream religion, such as Christianity and modern Paganism to an extent, there are certain taboos surrounding forms of magic. Although culture may place certain forms of magic in one side or another of this spectrum, there are in fact some cultural universals about free will,
• True name spells - the theory that knowing a person's true name allows control over that person, making this wrong for the same reason. This can also be used as a connection to the other person, or to free them from another's compulsion, so it is in the grey area,
• Immortality - from a Taoist perspective, life is finite, and wishing to live beyond one's natural span is not with the flow of nature. Beyond this, there is a major issue with immortality. Because of the need to test the results, the subjects must be killed. Even a spell to extend life may not be entirely good, especially if it draws life energy from another to sustain the spell,
• Necromancy - for purposes of usage, this is defined not as general black magic, but as any magic having to do with death itself, either through divination of entrails, or the act of raising the dead bodily, as opposed to resurrection or CPR,
• Curses/Hexes - a curse can be as simple as wishing something bad would happen to another, to a complex ritual.
Many rituals performed by black magic practitioners mentioned on television are mentioned as having aspects similar to Christianity though in a perverted form, and it appears to be universally based upon a religion, but using perverted rituals to suit the needs of the user. For example, black magic users might invert a pentacle just as Satanists invert a cross. Likewise, corrupted rites or sacrifice may substitute blood or faeces for the water or wine. Seen from this perspective, the distinction between black and white magic would be simple,
• White magic would be the original rituals, which embody the tenets of the religion in question. For Buddhism or Hinduism, this might be long and complex prayer sutras. Taoist and Shinto magic would largely be based upon fertility and nature rituals, and
• Black magic would be a corruption or misuse of such above rituals, using them to self-serving or destructive ends without regard for the cultural morals of the religion. This could be something such as making poppets to cause harm.