Did eBay Just Ban Witchcraft?

The Pagan blogosphere has been in an uproar over recent changes eBay has made to its policies governing what some folks may call witchcraft. In short, the initial reaction has been to declare that eBay is banning witchcraft. But as it is with all things, if you look a little closer that’s not the case at all, although it is, admittedly, a matter of perspective.

Yes, eBay is banning some witchcraft related sales categories. In its 2012 Fall Seller Update, eBay lists fourteen product categories that are being discontinued, including three which have caused the uproar in the Pagan community:

Everything Else: Metaphysical: Psychic, Paranormal > Readings
Everything Else: Metaphysical: Psychic, Paranormal > Spells, Potions
Everything Else: Metaphysical: Tarot Readings

The items that will be prohibited include:

advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic services; prayers; blessings; Psychic, Tarot, Reiki, and other metaphysical readings & services; magic potions; healing sessions; work from home businesses & information; wholesale lists, and drop ship lists.

eBay ’s reason for dropping these categories and items is that:

Transactions in these categories often result in issues between the buyer and seller that are difficult to resolve. To help build confidence in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers, eBay is discontinuing these categories and including the items on the list of prohibited items.

Our call? It’s hard to fault eBay on this one. While their application of this will most likely be heavy-handed (we are talking about eBay), when it comes to things like spells, curses, prayers and healing sessions, you’re not talking about quantifiable goods. The end result is all personal perception. So if, for example, someone purchases a spell from someone on eBay that’s supposed to make another person fall in love with them, are they allowed to demand their money back if the spell doesn’t work? How can they prove the spell didn’t work? It’s not a physical object that was shipped through the postal service with a tracking code. So it’s hard to fault eBay for wanting to absolve themselves of the inevitable headaches that come from such transactions.

More worrisome is eBay’s ban on potions. While it’s debatable whether some potions work or not, the fact remains that physical goods are being sold and shipped. It seems to us that if eBay is going to ban potions, they should also ban many vitamin and health supplements, since their effectiveness is open for debate. Perhaps where tangible goods are concerned eBay’s policy should be, simply, “buyer beware”.

So… take a deep breath, read back over those lists, and think just how easy it is to run a scam on people who are desperate, hopeless, in pain, lazy, gullible or just plain foolish. What eBay is banning are those services most vulnerable to scam artists. The non-metaphysical categories and items on the banned list are also scam-ridden. Buyers just don’t approach buying “services” with the skepticism they should. eBay has had to deal with the aftermath of both outright scams and unrealistic expectations.

There’s no way any of us at PaganCentric would purchase any of what’s in the eBay list from strangers. If you need healing work, go to legitimate energy workers that you can meet face-to-face. If you want a tarot reading, find reputable readers in your area. True magic is not something you should ever “buy” without knowing something about the person you’re buying from. If the witch/caster doesn’t know you, there’s not much chance that whatever you’re buying is going to work.

This is what eBay is trying to protect itself and its buyers from. It isn’t a blanket ban on witchcraft, whatever you may have heard. Are there worrisome parts in their ban list? Of course there is. And one has to wonder if the sale of Christians prayers (much fewer than Pagan spell-work, but there all the same) will face the same kind of scrutiny.

In the end, if you really want a spell or hex or potion, you would be better off if you learn how to do it for yourself. It is the very nature of spell-work that it is intensely personal. That’s what gives it power. If you want a look at the possible futures you have to choose from, learn how to read the tarot or the runes for yourself, and make your own connections. If you want to have a prayer heard, speak it in your own heart in your own words with your own passion, and, again, make your own connections.

We’ll be watching this issue closely. One of our interns posed an interesting question, which to us sums up the difficulty of this issue, and reflects our general view of the subject at the moment – sympathetic but wary.

She pondered, “Does this mean they’ll be banning the sale of holy water, too?”

Holy water could be considered a potion, since it’s been blessed by a priest and is intended to ward off evil spirits of some sort. If eBay is not targeting Pagans, then holy water will be on its ban list, as well. If they don’t ban the sale of holy water, then perhaps Pagans should get more invested in this issue. Something to keep in mind.

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10 years ago

Thank you for this post. I am a sell of Pagan items on eBay and I have had to field so many questions about what is happening that I am getting tired of it. I have posted something similar on my blog which is the URL in the website box.
As a seller of physical items I have the other perspective and applaud eBay for trying to weed out the charlatans and snake oil salesmen.


PS. I am adding your blog to my reader.

10 years ago

The problem with this, and I have many with ebay, is that they are making it like we are working for them, not the other way around. Each person is an independent contractor.

It is really none of their business what people sell.
I don’t sell the things they are banning, but it is still none of there business. They control what you are allowed to seel, they control what you are allowed to charge for shipping, they make unreasonable demands in areas none of their business.

They are a platform, not our employer

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