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A few weeks ago I was sitting in my lazy chair, reading Tumblr while eating ‘Ranch dipped Hot Wing’ flavored Doritos out of a bowl. (The epitome of sorcerous darkness, I know.) I got a ping from Facebook, so I clicked over to see what it was. It was a message from a woman I hadn’t seen since we went to high school. ‘Hey are you still into magic?’ She inquired.

I hadn’t been aware that she (or anyone else I knew from high school) knew I was “into magic” in the first place. I guess my ‘Mysteries of the Universe’ reading during study hall and Austin Osmand Spare-influenced drawing in art class had not gone entirely unnoticed. I strongly suspected that she was about to try to ‘save my soul,’ but I replied anyway. I said sure, I guess you could say I’m still into magic, why do you ask?

She wanted to find someone who knew magic, she said, because she wanted to learn.

Oh cool! Maybe she woke up one day and saw for the first time the alive-ness of the world; felt the birth pangs of her True Will as it wriggled up from subconscious slumber to waking thought. Maybe she realized she had some previously unexplored gift. Maybe she had gotten a Message from some spirit-guide or dream that she should seek the Occult?

But, no. How naive of me.

She didn’t really want to ‘learn magic.’ She needed help, and she needed it yesterday. She was in a situation, a desperate one. Family couldn’t help, the law couldn’t help. Maybe magic could. Did I have a spell she could use to fix the situation? To protect a loved one from falling into criminal activity? To keep those friends of his who were dangerous from bringing him to harm? To strike them or bind them so that they couldn’t hurt her loved one, or her?

Oh man. I should have known.

What do I even tell this person? I thought. I mean, the short answer is Yes. Yes, one could certainly accomplish those goals with magic. You could set wards on your house and person, and make a charm of protection for your loved one to wear. You could obtain a personal item from the bad-influence friend, and make a binding poppet to keep him in line. You could send them nightmares, or make a thought-form to hound your enemies (or to watch over loved ones). You could do a lot of things.

But none of those are really things that I can explain to a person who has no folk-magical or occult knowledge at all.  I’m not a witch for hire, nor do I have any desire to get anywhere near this situation. I don’t want any of this situation’s energy rubbing off on me (which would inevitably happen if I got energetically involved with it). I don’t know the querent well enough to walk her through ‘folk protection and binding 101’ from scratch. And, I certainly don’t want to give her a Cliff’s notes version of any more involved workings – because throwing someone a few scraps of magical knowledge and turning them loose seems like poor form. UGH.

I felt like I had become That Person. You know the one. The one who says, when asked a Serious Magical Question by someone who is seeking: ‘Oh, I can’t tell you anything about that. You wouldn’t understand. Besides, it’s dangerous!’ I don’t want to be That Person. But I also in no way feel comfortable with helping you out with the cursing you want to lay, old acquaintance from high school.

I ended up recommending some books for her – Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection, and a few others, some sites I like that have good basic advice, plus Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft just in case ‘learning magic’ was on the radar at a non-crisis time in the future).

I told her I’d burn her  a candle for protection, which I did that very night. I felt I should help in some small way, even if I couldn’t really give her the answers she wanted, or teach her any magic on an instant. It felt a little like a cop out, though – as if I was blowing her a line about ‘love and light’ instead of doing anything ‘real.’ Still, I put my Will into the small burning flame I kindled, and whispered for her safety and protection from ill influences. So perhaps I didn’t no nothing after all.