Thursday, November 15, 2012


Love Potions Numbers 4-10 are Also Illegal

It is far from the most interesting aspect of Michelle Dean's look at our changing cultural perception of witchcraft, but did you know it's still in the Criminal Code of Canada?

Pretending to practise witchcraft, etc.

365. Every one who fraudulently
(a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
(b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
(c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

LAWYERS, does this mean that legit using sorcery is okay, and only pretending to is a problem? Or are they both illegal?

37 Comments / Post A Comment


Well, it all depends if it falls under misuse of magic. Did you configure a Ford Anglia to have flying capabilities? Did you blow your aunt up like a balloon? Did you levitate a cake? And most importantly, do you really want to risk it if it means having your wand taken away and being put on trial with UMBRIDGE???


you are doing a great job with it@n

maybe partying will help

The Wild Hunt has some interesting posts on fraud and fortune telling or other magical services as free speech/related issues: http://wildhunt.org/?s=fraud.


That is certainly how I read it (and yes, I'm a lawyer) - sounds like it is more aimed at preventing faux-sorcerers from bilking people out of their money. But if you were going to actually practice real sorcery I'd make very sure that you could prove you were genuine...


@causedbycomma yeah, like you'd want to create an Alliance of Magicians or something.

Judith Slutler

@causedbycomma But, if someone genuinely believes that they are doing real magic, then they are also not violating this law, right?


@causedbycomma Doesn't it mean that every Psychic I've seen here is technically illegal?

Don't Panic

@Emmanuelle Cunt: That would be my reading of it. In the States at least, fraud requires scienter so you couldn't be held liable unless you did one of the listed things knowing that you could not actually do them.


@Megano! I think psychics, tarot card readers, even astrologers, usually have a disclaimer to the effect that 'the information provided is for entertainment purposes only...' to make it clear that they are not trying to maliciously trick people.


@planforamiracle Correct. And rightfully so, in my opinion.


Is there some kind of exception for the Catholic Church?


My 5 year old niece thinks she can tell if I like butter by holding a flower under my chin. I should report her.


@teaandcakeordeath wait, there are people that DON'T like butter?!


@planforamiracle lactose intolerants, maybe?


The people who really could not believe it wasn't butter? Naah they dont exist. Everyone likes butter.


@planforamiracle I like for there to be butter in things, but I don't particularly like the raw taste of butter. I don't put it on bread, for example.


I kinda want to put a buttercup under your chin now to see what happens.


@teaandcakeordeath It would probably stick in my beard.


@teaandcakeordeath can you prove damages?


Myth busted.
Could look pretty?

Erm she said I liked it, so on her recommendation I ate some but turns out Im lactose intolerant and so I need to recover the cost of an antacid and a glass of water? And all the terrible emotional distress.


@teaandcakeordeath Okay we're taking this to Judge Marilyn Milian on the People's Court.


Thank you for helping me find justice.

fondue with cheddar

@teaandcakeordeath I'm really late on this thread, but I grew up on margarine. The only time I ever had butter was at my grandparents' house, which was a special treat. One time I was at a catered barbecue where they had those little foil-wrapped pats of butter and I grabbed a handful. And I ate them all, letting each one melt on my tongue in all their glorious butteriness.


If you "fraudulently pretend" to do something...does that mean you're actually doing it?


@Ophelia pretendception?


Mmm, so when the bread and wine get turned into body and blood of Christ, is that magic? Is praying for someone to get well magic? What about meditation? How about a drum circle?


I bind you Nancy. From doing harm. Harm against others, and harm against yourself.


Interestingly-written (read: badly-written) statute. You are right that it does not proscribe genuine witchcraft. However, if you charge for fortune-telling (section 365(b)), it doesn't matter if you are making it up or actually seeing the future: both are equally illegal.

Charlsie Kate

I would lawyerly opine that the key word here is "fraudualently" and that the statute's purpose (the drafter's intent) would be to prevent scams. Black's law defines fraud as - "a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment."

So, to break it down, you need to intent to deceive, and from my understanding of fraud, you also need actual injury. Injury could be taking someone's money, or causing them to take a risk they wouldn't have otherwise taken that resulted in a loss, or depriving them of something. Casting spells against your neighbor in your basement would therefore not apply, unless you sent a video of it with threats.

If you really and truly believed you were doing magic, and lacked the intent to deceive another for the purpose of causing injury or loss, you would not meet the first requirement of fraud and the rest of the statute would therefore not apply.


"Crafty sciences"!!


@meetapossum I know! I thought Nicole had just (wonderfully) made the whole thing up when I saw "crafty science"! but it's real! "crafty science" is ACTUALLY a phrase used in the criminal code of canada! amazing.


@meetapossum That's the best part.


Law student here:

Agree with Charlsie, genuine belief in prediction is probably okay for a number of reasons. I also would bet that if this did in fact prohibit the various cultural/religious practices which are categorized as witchcraft, it would almost certainly violate either the religion or equality provisions of the Charter.

So in other words, if this punishes a genuine belief in witchcraft, then that will be of no force or effect.

Time Platypus

There is a book that actually addresses this, among other things:


As a lawyer, that was honestly the very first thing I thought. It's as though they are really just trying to crack down on all those sham witches who are stealing the profits from the legit hard working ones.


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