There’s a convention that “negative” is bad and “positive” is good, eg, “Banish the negative energy,” or “Think positive thoughts!” There’s another convention with negative and positive, that “negative” refers to “feminine,” lunar correspondances while “positive” refers to masculine, solar correspondances. Most “Witchcraft 101” books will include both concepts without a hint of apology or embarrassment. It shows up in unrelated places, too; the publisher I work for sees fit to include this note in the style guide for our medical journals:

“negative/normal. Observations, results, or findings are normal or abnormal, not negative or positive. Cultures, tests, and reactions may be positive or negative. EEG, ECG, and radiographs are normal or abnormal.”

In other words, people need to be reminded that “positive” and “negative” are neutral concepts, not moral judgements. A negative test result can be a very good thing, or it may be meaningless, or it may be horrible, depending on the test. Yet we use these terms all the time as a form of judgement.

I try to avoid using these words unless I’m really referring to polarity. The popular moral definitions is too vague and misleading for me. I don’t “banish negative energy” because I believe that words have meanings, and even if I think what I really mean is “banish the forces that would harm me” my subconcious might not figure that out. I would rather say what I mean, rather than what I think I mean. If I want to banish the baddies, I do so explicitly. So, I usually subsitute “harmful” for “negative” if I come across the word, if that is in fact what is meant.

I also don’t like the “positive/negative” construction because it is so strictly binary. This is fine when talking about polarities, but when talking about morality it implies that things can only be one or the other. I don’t believe this, so I try not to talk about these things in a binary way.

“Purify” is another word I try to avoid. It’s been used in such awful ways in the past, as an excuse for mass murder, as a motive for self-mutilation and self-starvation, as an excuse to exclude – it simply has too many unpleasant connotations for me. I use “bless” instead as a term that is neutral and pleasant, calling down the beneficial attention of the gods, rather than the “rejecting the unclean” ideas that lurk behind “purify.”

In a similar vein, when I do the opening of the solitary AODA ritual, I change “. . . Without peace, our work may not proceed” to “. . . Only with peace, can our work proceed.” I don’t like starting any working with “our work may not proceed,” whatever the context. I try to keep that sort of thing in mind whenever I compose a ritual.