my coworker put a magical curse on her boss

I am very happy to be starting 2021 with a letter about witchcraft.

A reader writes:

I am an employee at a gas station. We have been hiring new people to fill a few positions, and I have been asked to train our new members of the team. When I was training one of my new coworkers earlier this week, she said some things that I found very concerning. She is openly very spiritual and told me that at her last job, her manager was “jealous of her spirit” and that she decided to perform a spell on her, and after the spell was “cast” her manager came in limping a few days later. She then said, “She’s lucky I stopped because she might have ended up with a broken foot” and “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people but sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”

From my perspective, this is openly admitting that she has tried to threaten someone, maybe not at this establishment but at another job. She also spent most of the shift describing disturbing sacrifice rituals that she believes the “elite” practice and while also suggesting there are spirits or parasites among the customers.

Some of the stories about her previous work history don’t entirely add up, and she let me know that she’s been in and out of jobs for the last few months. Something is very off about her behavior. She comes off as very articulate, but I feel I’m seeing signs that she’s emotionally unstable.

I have yet to bring the situation up with my manager. I am only 21 and in college, just trying to work and go to school. I have never come across a situation where I physically feel uncomfortable and not safe at work. If you have any advice, that would be much appreciated.

It’s been seven years since I last addressed magical curses on this site, so I am glad to be able to do it again.

You’re right that it’s not cool to threaten to harm other people, even if said harm is through curses or spells. It doesn’t matter if listeners take the idea of witchcraft seriously or not; the crux of the issue is that your coworker says that she tried to inflict harm on someone she worked with.

I mean, I couldn’t beat up Mike Tyson, but it wouldn’t be okay for me to hang around outside his house making threats to punch him in the face anyway. The threat itself might be laughable, but the hostile intention behind it — the desire to harm — is not.

In your shoes, I’d talk to your boss. Managers generally want to know if there are problems with new hires that they aren’t seeing — especially in a situation where you’re working closely with the new person and they aren’t. In fact, good managers are generally relying on staff members to speak up when they see problems with new employees — whether it’s “Jane needs more training” or “Gavin is rude to customers” or “Craig keeps telling off-color jokes” or “I don’t feel safe around Clarissa.”

When you talk to your boss, you could say it this way: “I’ve been training Clarissa, and I’ve been really unsettled by some of the things she’s said. She told me she tried to harm a previous boss and thinks there are evil spirits among our customers, and she spends our shifts talking about ritual sacrifice. On top of that, what she’s told me about her previous work history doesn’t add up. I don’t feel safe working with her at this point so wanted to come to you.”

A good manager will take that seriously. If I were your boss and you told me this about a coworker in an office, I’d do a few things: I’d watch Clarissa much more closely, I’d talk with others who had been working with her to see if they similar concerns, and I’d speak with Clarissa directly. Because she’s making someone feel unsafe, I’d treat it with urgency — this isn’t “casually watch her for the next few weeks,” this is “within the next one to two days, figure out what’s going on and whether we need to part ways.” And if I knew you to be reliable and to have good judgment, I’d put a ton of weight on what you were telling me.

If I somehow concluded Clarissa could stay, I’d have a serious conversation with her about what is and isn’t okay at work, and I’d make it clear there couldn’t be any backlash against you for talking to me (and then I’d watch closely to make sure of that). But really, when you have to do that with a brand new hire, it’s generally better to just cut ties.

Some of that might look different in the context of a gas station, but a good boss should still be able to do something similar. If your boss doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, you can also try asking not to be scheduled on shifts with Clarissa, repeating that you don’t feel safe around her — which might help reinforce that this isn’t about hexes, but about behavior that’s genuinely frightening.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 316 comments… read them below }

  1. Mel_05*

    Yes, your boss totally wants to know about this. My husband manages a restaurant and people often assume he already knows about problems with other employees, but he doesn’t work every shift and often he has no idea for quite a while.

    When he finally does find out and asks other employees if they’d had a problem, he discovers that yes, everyone on that shift did and figured he just didn’t care because he’d never said anything about it. Talk to your boss.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yes. One of the delights of management is your employees thinking you’re omniscient while also thinking you’re incompetent sometimes.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        So much this. “You know, I can’t fix things if I don’t know about them…” “Oh, I figured everybody knew.” “Nope! Remember I’m not working with this tool the same way you are, so I’m not encountering the same issues. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll [take reasonable action]”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Brilliant sentence… has full meaning whether you hear it as the dictionary definition of “tool” or the slang meaning.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        He doesn’t have a crystal ball or some sort of scrying glass? WTF.

        That’s management 101 to keep on top of thing – scrying. Uggh, it hate me when people are promoted to management and not given the tools they need!!!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – once had to use “unfortunately my request for the ability to read minds has not yet been granted” with a coworker because I didn’t know what the issue was. It was an entirely solvable problem, once it was put into words that is.

          1. anonymouser for this*

            If I had a psychic network hotline, I would be using it for personal gain instead of work problems.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This made me laugh out loud! YES. All the time. (Plus, the inverse – people are also surprised when I know about something and have taken care of it already.)

    2. Joan Rivers*

      Luckily, just quoting her comments — and her sketchy work history — ought to be enough for your mgr. to get the point. If s/he doesn’t, you have bigger problems.

      And, who hired her? If it’s your mgr., you don’t want to insult their choices, be tactful.

      But “working at a gas station” could mean running the register so there’s cash involved, and she’s the face of the company, too. Interacting w/customers. It could get weird. Weirder.

      1. Threeve*

        It could also mean working solo shifts a lot, and this definitely isn’t someone you want interacting with customers or cash without oversight when she’s past the training period. Because I agree–this will only escalate. (I immediately thought: if the gas station sells food, would you want to leave her unsupervised with the apples?)

          1. Lizzo*

            …but it might not be so bad to sleep through the rest of this pandemic, and be woken up by a prince when it’s all over?

            1. Jinkys*

              If you already have a prince waiting in the wings to smooch you, you’re likely having a better pandemic than most. ;)

              But yeah, her questionable behavior (exactly how did she cause that boss to injure their foot?) means she likely can be trusted in store unsupervised. What if she wants to rid an innocent customer of their “parasite”? What if she decides you’re “jealous” of her spirit? Unless you have a bunch of fairy godmothers or a coven of your own to offer a protection spell, and even if you do, please tell your manager.

    3. irene adler*

      Yes! Let the manager know. Nothing worse -as a manager- than finding out my reports are putting up with behavior/comments they should never have to tolerate.

      I’ve noticed that new employees (who turn out to be trouble) are careful to keep the talk around the manager very innocuous, saving any suspect comments for the co-workers. I guess there’s an expectation that the co-workers won’t give them away.

    4. KRM*

      Hard agree. We had an employee fired in my old job, and the HR dude said to me later “I wish people had told me that the unacceptable behaviors were still happening after we spoke to her the first time, because we would have fired her a lot sooner”. They don’t know what you don’t tell them! Speak up!

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        I blame bad managers/hr, and inaction from TPTB in schools for not acting on bullies.
        People are easily conditioned to the idea that the people above them don’t care about them or their issues with regards to work. Realizing they are there to help is hard to adjust to

    5. Drago Cucina*

      Yes! I don’t know how many times in library land I practically had to beg to be told about problems. I cannot fix it if I don’t know. Oh, that patron that called you a communist and a Nazi in the same conversation (actually happened). I can deal with it if you tell me at the time, not a month later.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Although my manager nearly died laughing when I told her about the patron with the tarantula.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      OMG yes, people often wait until the boss isn’t around before they do what they do. TELL THE BOSS.

    1. Ryn*

      Yeah the second they started talking about ritual sacrifice I knew it was alt-right conspiracy theory time. The scariest part is that all that talk about elites sacrificing people is a rehashing of blood libel, which is a deeply anti-semitic conspiracy that goes back centuries. In case there needed to another reason to report this.

      1. SallyJ*

        Ohhh yes. Dig deep enough and it always goes back to just that.

        But I am not sure that this Qanon. This sounds more Aleister Crowley to me to be honest. And no one wants to work with Aleister Crowley …

        1. Quill*

          Given that QAnon is built off of existing conspiracy theories, I don’t think it’s too long a walk from Mr. Crowley…

          1. Jam Today*

            QAnon has a lot of its roots in David Icke, unfortunately. Crowley was a pretty big weirdo in his own right, but Q has Icke written all over it.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I never heard of David Icke, so I googled, and omg, the stuff I found! All of which is just to say that I see exactly what you mean!

              Lizard people, illuminati, and antisemitism, oh my! O_O

            2. Mongrel*

              I think it’s much more the case that QAnon is just a dumping ground for whatever shiny conspiracy theory attracts their attention today that can be repurposed by them and discarded
              If you regard them as ‘just’ an Alt-Right noise\attention generating machine it makes a lot more sense.

        2. Nic*

          Or new and somewhat overly-enthusiastic over-romanticising recruit. I knew a Wiccan in university who was happy to quote “Do as thou wilt an it harm none” as proof that her religion was far more enlightened than all the mainstream ones, and yet when she was feeling snarky she’d often have a faux-innocent giggle about being not entirely a good witch and using revenge spells to get back at people. I couldn’t help but feel that in her “tee-hee I’m so bad!” moods, she seemed to be looking for a dramatic reaction more than actually believing she had power to do those bad things.

          1. GothicBee*

            I definitely feel like there’s room for this to just be intended to get a rise out of people or play into that stereotype, especially if she’s fairly young. That said, I think it’s still a really good idea to take it seriously and bring it to the boss because she needs to understand that threatening harm on others is serious even if you don’t really mean it.

            1. JSPA*

              Deeply plausible, but unless she’s 14 and employed under a fake ID, she’s too old to be playing that crap at her workplace. The firing offense isn’t sorcery, or being coy with her religious identity.

              Each of these is individually problematic:

              Even vague implied threats; insistently talking about the details of religion at work with people who don’t want to hear it; repeatedly talking about death and gore; expressing glee in the harm of others; failing to make linear sense on a regular basis; possibly falsified work history.

              The problem isn’t Wicca. She could be anything from A(mish) to Z(oroastrian), and this would be equally problematic.

              1. Caradom*

                Exactly, a threat is a threat. Just because someone thinks they are a witch doesn’t stop them from harming you in traditional ways!

          2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            This is the kind of behavior that gives all of us pagans a bad name – as if we didn’t already have enough problems with people conflating Wicca/paganism with Satanism!

            But yes, do please let your manager know what’s been happening with Clarissa. Even if your manager doesn’t believe in evil spells (any more than I do), they’ll surely want toas know about her threats and ESPECIALLY about her sketchy, doesn’t-add-up work history. Your instincts are right on target: she sounds unstable and possibly delusional.

            One more point: Please document what she says about making threats right after she says it, and document all evidence of her having lied about her work history. Get in the habit of documenting all such interactions and make that as detailed as possible; dates, times of day and her EXACT phrasing. (Verbatim quotes are key!) Document these odd statements as soon as you can while they’re still fresh in your mind. Your manager will find this very helpful indeed, and it will greatly add to your credibility.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Ah, Satanism is just another religion. The Satanic Temple’s tenets are better than most other religions.

              1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                Satan appears in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Just as members of any of those three faiths don’t believe in Set, Loki or Balor, pagans don’t believe in (much less worship) Satan.

                But it really doesn’t matter which religion (if any) Clarissa believes in. She sounds deeply, possibly dangerously, disturbed and the young LW is very wise to be taking her behavior seriously instead of laughing it off and ignoring it.

        3. Nope!*

          Respectfully, SallyJ
          I’ve been involved with the OTO and Thelema for over 20 years and can say definitively that this is nothing at all like Aleister Crowley. The Q-Anon elite/sacrifice is its own brand of crazy, completely unrelated.

        4. Sylvan*

          This sounds like some weirdo trying to imitate santeria, maybe? The comment about using ~elite~ practices sounded like someone butting into a closed practice to me.

          1. PolarVortex*

            I don’t practice santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball…

            But all singing aside, I think you may be onto something with that thought.

      2. Sylvan*

        Don’t QAnon people accuse others of witchcraft, not practice it themselves? They’re the ones who spread blood libel and try to revive Satanic panic, after all. I don’t think they’re into witchcraft at all, never mind left hand path stuff.

        1. Littorally*

          Do you think QAnon is universally Christian? They aren’t. Plenty of Pagans get sucked into conspiracism and white supremacy.

          1. Sylvan*

            Huh, you’re probably right. The QAnon theories’ supporters are mostly Christian where I live, but I suppose anyone could get into it.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              Norse paganism has been co-opted by white supremacists of late, apparently. They’re now using the gods and rune symbols as signals that you’re down with white power, it’s disgusting. White supremacists are going to devour European cultural practices and give them all a nasty taint if more white people don’t start speaking up and pushing back on them.

              1. Jam Today*

                Co-option of Norse mythology by white supremacists goes back to Nazism and probably earlier. The white supremacists are getting a foothold in Ireland now as well, and are starting in on that mythology too. Its pretty distressing.

                1. allathian*

                  There’s an extreme right/white supremacist organization in the Nordics called Soldiers of Odin, so yup.

                2. Zweisatz*

                  Speaking as a German yes, Nazis/people on the right coopting Norse mythology is nothing new and those symbols have been dogwhistles for them for a good long while. Though I agree/can imagine that stuff has just been getting worse of late.

              2. Good Vibes Steve*

                I live in a Scandinavian country, and there is a worry that some people come here to visit Viking sites for all the wrong reasons. It’s a fringe group right now, but one thing we all learned in the 2010s was to not underestimate how quickly a fringe group can become somewhat mainstream and cause problems…

        2. boo bot*

          It doesn’t seem totally implausible to me. One of the increasingly common pathways to QAnon radicalization is through New Age and alternative health communities, even though the blood libel and Satanic panic elements would seem on the surface to be at odds with that. It also promotes an us vs. them mentality to the point that I can see someone coming to feel justified in using magic against “enemies” even if their previous belief system would have prohibited that.

          Additionally, it’s spread out to touch on or incorporate a lot of “traditional” conspiracy theories, meaning that someone who spends time reading about aliens or the JFK assassination will probably come across QAnon material whether they’re looking for it or not.

          1. Sylvan*

            That’s pretty alarming. I can see how that all works, though, and thanks for explaining it.

        1. JSPA*

          It’s an amorphous concatenation. More nearly a conspiracy community than any actual theory. Gnomic pronouncements and riddles that people can hook onto.

          Analogous to a man-o-war jellyfish, the visible part is strange and striking and commands attention, but it’s only a tiny bit of the whole. The near-invisible stinging strands stretch in all directions, and infiltrate all sorts of different areas.

          If they didn’t wear identifying slogans or gear, dollars to donuts, the different edges of the so-called movement would be tearing each other to bits.

      3. Liz*

        I’m not getting QAnon vibes from this myself. Aren’t most alt-righters super Christian? I’m getting more of an unstable woman who is into either straight up witchcraft or pretending to be into witchcraft to freak people out.

    2. Jam Today*

      This sounds more like this current generation of Tumblr kids, who are an order of magnitude weirder than the last one, which is saying quite a lot.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah, sounds like Tumblr or TikTok (WitchTok) to me. TikTok is the same app where some kids ~hexed the moon~ this summer.

      2. aebhel*

        Eh, I’m well out of that age range and I saw this kind of stuff all the time in HS and college – although most people wouldn’t have been clueless enough to say it at *work*.

        1. Jam Today*

          Oh I did too, they were legion in my hometown. I was just making a smart remark at the expense of the kids on Tumblr who seem to have gone off the deep end lately, on many fronts.

      3. Zweisatz*

        The colleague doesn’t sound ironic so if you don’t mean specific white supremacist parts of Tumblr, I disagree. Lizard people, parasites, rituals those are all far right dogwhistles and don’t fall under Tumblr mainstream “weird”.

    3. HoHumDrum*

      Yeah, like I love me some nice Wiccan/pagen witchcraft vibes and was hoping that’s what this was, but I had the same reaction as you: qanon vibes instead! I would honestly not feel safe working with folks who are openly qanon, I don’t trust them to make rational and safe decisions.

    4. Womanaroundtown*

      The worst part is this is going on the left and right conspiracy channels. Someone I love dearly has recently become very entrenched in “spirituality,” but it’s really how aliens are all around us and higher beings we should be excited to meet, and energy and vibes. This person is very liberal. It’s breaking my heart to be sent these articles and videos that are all deeply illogical and dark, because I know it’s a sign this person is in a manic episode, but the internet just keeps providing him with “back up” and “evidence” of these theories. He didn’t come up with them himself, but having them so readily available (and especially via TikTok) means he’s gone deep down the rabbit hole. It really hurts to be on the outside watching this happen to loved ones.

      1. But There is a Me in Team*

        Right? My friend teaches media literacy in high school. Most of her students are immigrants and/or DACA kids, so not who she’d think would be attracted to white supremacist Qanon stuff. She’s getting all these papers on human trafficking and child sex abuse, started pondering why that’s a hot topic for, you know, 10th graders so she did some digging and said “it all leads back to Hillary Clinton.” They are finding a legit study on trafficking and very quickly getting led to the icky stuff. She’s at wit’s end.

      2. Caradom*

        I spend my life in manic cycles. But I’m also an academic so I think that aspect of my life helps a lot (whilst the meds control the worst of it).

  2. Littorally*

    “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people but sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.” <- big triple yikes. At that point, I don't care what form the attempted harm takes, that's something I don't want to be anywhere close to.

    1. Naomi*

      Yeah, that line is so disingenuous! “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people, except for the times I intentionally try to hurt people.”

    2. Liane*

      Yes. Regardless of whether magic is involved, this is coming from someone who knows they’re lacking in self-control and Doesn’t Care enough to get in control. Heck, Clarissa might be one of those people who thinks “I can’t control my temper/tongue/magic/fist” is a great excuse.
      I don’t bring it up much, but I am an Empath who can hurt with that talent. (Nope it’s not just picking up emotions.) I learned control because I didn’t want to do that, deliberately or accidentally.

      1. Heather*

        Could you explain exactly what you mean by hurting with your Empath talent? I’ve seen the term here before and I thought I understood it but I’m not following you.

        1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          Some people believe that not only can they detect what emotions people are feeling, in a mystical and not scientific or mundane way, but they can also project emotions onto other people (e.g. their being sad makes everyone around them sad). Think Jasper in Twilight, if you’ve read those books. I assume that’s what Liane is referring to.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That;s what generally concerned me. She thinks customers have parasites. What steps is she going to take to “protect” herself or try to “remove” the parasites? Delusional beliefs (not saying witchcraft is a delusional belief, i am saying THIS person could very well be delusional) have led to the believer harming or even killing other people.

        She’s already told you she thinks she CAN harm others. Let’s not let her actuall do it. At least not at your place of employment.

        1. Self Employed*

          I know some pagans and I am 99.9% sure they don’t believe in people having “parasites” that they can see riding them. (Pretty sure that Clarissa doesn’t mean ringworm…)

          1. TardyTardis*

            Nargles? Heliopaths? Some people read about Luna in the HP books and decided she was right. (sigh)

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, that’s kind of where my mind went. If someone who wasn’t good with cars said, “I’m going to get back at him and cut his brake lines!”, I wouldn’t just laugh it off because I’m pretty sure they would not be able do it successfully. If they think hurting people is just fine, to the point that they’re chatting about it to casual work acquaintances, what will they do when the brake line thing doesn’t work? Maybe do something that will work.

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, if it doesn’t work she’ll escalate to sticking something “herbal” in someone’s drink or something – and she’s definitely not filing her paperwork and timesheets on time.

    3. pope suburban*

      That genuinely unsettled me, and I’m all the way on the other side of the internet from Clarissa. It indicates such a terrible attitude toward others, and about what’s acceptable behavior. I couldn’t trust someone like this about anything.

      1. SallyJ*

        Yeah dealing with someone who reacts violently based on their perceptions and emotions can be scary. And when I say “based on their perceptions and emotions” I mean they see a pretty run of the mill slight as something much more and then take that and plan revenge as opposed to exploding in the moment. Planning is always so much more sinister – assuming she plans her spells …

    4. AKchic*

      Yeah… all of that makes me look at her very suspiciously.

      If you are doing something to hurt someone, that is intentional, regardless of how “bad” the hurt is. If the intention is negative, it’s a hurt. The balance has been tipped. If you can’t or won’t control yourself, cannot or will not control the outcomes, and have no regard for the ripple effect of your actions, then you’re, at best, a petty dabbler who is playing to benefit yourself. When the scales tip back in order to balance themselves, I have no sympathy when the universe comes collecting what’s owed.

    5. LGC*

      Yeah, it’s not about the witchcraft, it’s about the openly threatening behavior. (Okay, it’s about the threatening behavior in general because hexing people is bad, but if she was just going home and casting hexes you wouldn’t know about it.)

      Plus, saying, “you know, I’m a witch, my former manager was a rhymes with witch, and I hexed her foot,” is kind of a threat against LW. She’s implying she can do the same harm against LW and their boss.

      1. AKchic*

        To me, it’s no different that hinting that you have friends/family with gang/mafia connections or “know a guy”. It’s religious/spiritual intimidation.

        1. Caradom*

          It’s not even necessarily religious/spiritual intimidation. Someone this far gone would have no problem hurting people (e.g., poisoning, hitting, touching etc) whilst believing they have ‘powers’. Look at religion and wars. No one relies on GOD, countries spend billions in defence. If you’re so religious or a believer why not let GOD/ whatever power take care of it?

  3. Liane*

    Alison isn’t the only one who was wanting another spellcaster threat post.
    But I know enough to be worried about the OP. Please update soon. Not for the entertainment value but so we know you stay safe.

    1. Observer*

      Please update soon. Not for the entertainment value but so we know you stay safe.

      Very much this.

      OP, you feel unsafe for a very good reason. And you should NOT feel unsafe at work.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes, it’s been too long since we had witchcraft thread. I came to Ask a Manager for good workplace advice, but I stay for stories like this one.

  4. Melissa Joan Hart*

    Clarissa indeed explained it all, courtesy of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

      1. I'm just here for the cats.*

        I was comming to say this and you beat me too it.
        Don’t know if it was intentional on Alisons part or not but I love Clarrisa/Sabrina reference.
        For those who don’t know Melissa Joan Hart played Clarissa in a kids tv show called Clarrisa explained it all, before she played Sabrina the teenage witch.

    1. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

      I instantly got the reference and it’s one of the few times I actually do on this site!

    2. PolarVortex*

      Welp now I’m wondering if there’s crossover fanfiction somewhere that combines those two universes, I know what I’m doing after work.

      1. Melissa Joan Hart*

        I see a weekend post in your future featuring the opening paragraphs of your new fanfic, The Teenage Witch Explains It All

        1. PolarVortex*

          I’d probably have to binge watch both series, to ensure I’ve got my source material down. (I do wonder if Clarissa Explains It All held up or if I’d cringe watching it now) But if there was ever a reason to go back to writing fanfiction after a decade out of it, this would be it!

    3. PollyQ*

      Speaking of pop culture, y’all youngun’s do yourselves a favor and google “fresh prince mike tyson.” One of the great all-time novelty songs!

  5. animaniactoo*

    “I don’t know how much you care about this. But Clarissa appears to believe rather strongly in witchcraft, and not in the benign sense. In the “puts curses on people and then they show up with a limp and she thinks she caused it” kind of way. On a level of “people are kooky” to “freaking me out”, she’s at about an 11.9.”

    I wouldn’t mention the job history portion, ONLY because it’s more common to lie about work history in that level of basic job and is probably not a bar for concern. Unless you happen to know that at THIS particular job it is. Either way, likely to scare the customers off, however, definitely is.

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      Actually I would say the job history should be told, because that’s something concrete. You can’t say someone is kooky just because they believe in something you don’t. If Clarrisa is Wican or Pagan or of a Magic practicing religion you can’t discriminate.
      And how would be putting a curse on someone be that much different than praying for someone to get sick? Is it wrong, yes. Creepy Heck Yes. But it would be no different than if someone said that they prayed and lit a candle at church that something bad would happen to their boss, and then God answered their prayers because he was limping.

      OP bring all of your concerns to your boss, such as the curse, the job history, what she’seen saying about customers, etc.

      1. Threeve*

        I think it would be closer to someone who lights candles to pray to God for people to be harmed on the regular, thinks it’s working, and doesn’t intend to stop.

        Which might be even more unsettling, because most people don’t really have a baseline for anything pagan but have a basic sense of what’s “normal” to compare to when it comes to monotheistic prayer.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        But…if someone prayed and lit a candle asking for something bad to happen to a co-worker and then – this is important – openly bragged about it, that person is also kind of scary and needs to know that talking about such things is Not a Good Idea. Look, you can pray or curse as much as you want in your own head; but what you can’t do is tell your coworkers about it because then it moves from private belief to making threats.

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        If someone said they were praying for someone to get sick or hurt, and then made similar comments about wishing harm & taking matters into their own hands, I’d also be concerned. The source of the supernatural element isn’t the issue, it’s the part where she’s open about wishing harm on someone and then being happy that some harm occurred.

        1. GothicBee*

          This. Wishing harm on someone and expecting it to happen is what makes this an issue and that wouldn’t be different if this were a more “mainstream” religion. I feel like the fact that she feels comfortable telling other people that she has harmed others (through witchcraft) is a big part of what makes it so worrisome too. I’d be worried about her behavior escalating.

        2. CatCat*


          No supernatural element need even be involved. If she just said day in and day out, “Man, I hope Clarence gets hurt, I hate that dude.” And then elatedly declares, “Looks like my hopes have come true!” when he’s injured. It’s just not okay to do that in the workplace.

        3. Good Vibes Steve*

          Exactly. “I hope John breaks an arm” is threatening even if the person has no belief that their “hope” will amount to anything. Add the belief that they can make a difference, no matter whether or not it is true, and it’s a whole new level of harm.

      4. Observer*

        <iAnd how would be putting a curse on someone be that much different than praying for someone to get sick? Is it wrong, yes. Creepy Heck Yes. But it would be no different than if someone said that they prayed and lit a candle at church that something bad would happen to their boss, and then God answered their prayers because he was limping.

        Well, it’s not that much different. As an Orthodox Jew, I do believe in the power of prayer. And if a coworker told me that they got someone hurt by praying right, and that even thought they “didn’t really want to hurt anyone” they still hurt people “because sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands”, you can be sure that I’d be talking to my boss about this.

        It doesn’t really matter HOW this person tries to hurt people – the fact is that Clarissa is absolutely threatening people, and it doesn’t matter that her threat of choice if “magic” vs “prayer” vs “water gun” vs “baseball bat”.

      5. animaniactoo*

        The Wiccan or Pagan is the point of qualifying “not in the benign” sense and being explicit about what kinds of things she’s been saying about her witchcraft belief/practice.

        Also, the point about the work history is that it’s not necessarily more concrete than the statements about curses, etc. AND is fairly likely not to be cared about at that level of retail/CS work. So bringing it up isn’t likely to have any real effect unless you know that it will actually be cared about in this particular job.

      6. Donkey Hotey*

        Say it again for the people in back!

        This is no different than someone praying for someone to get sick.
        Treat it accordingly.

      7. Akcipitrokulo*

        “it would be no different than if someone said that they prayed and lit a candle at church that something bad would happen to their boss, and then God answered their prayers because he was limping”


        But there’s implication there that that would be treated less seriously?

        It’s the same thing. I’d be looking at whether we could keep them on in either case. And during probation? Either case is out of there.

    2. wordswords*

      I like Alison’s wording better, I’m afraid, because this phrasing reads to me as implying that her religious beliefs are a large part of what’s kooky and freaking the OP out, and therefore warranting reporting to the manager. Whether Clarissa believes in spirits and curses or not isn’t the issue; it’s the fact that she talks openly about cursing people to bring them harm (and having it work, at least in her opinion/story), telling disturbing conspiracy stories about “elites,” and calling customers parasites and so on.

      Don’t get me wrong; this does sound like right-wing/QAnon conspiracy stuff, and there’s a lot that’s horrible and bigoted about it even just in the dogwhistles in the summary OP gave. But I would steer very clear of any wording that could be taken to apply equally to a coworker who happened to be Pagan, believe in spirits and witchcraft of any tradition, etc. It’s the threatening speech and intimidation and malicious suspiciousness, and the indications of potential lies in her work history (blatant enough for you to pick up a few weeks in!) that are the real work problems here.

      1. Observer*

        Whether Clarissa believes in spirits and curses or not isn’t the issue; it’s the fact that she talks openly about cursing people to bring them harm (and having it work, at least in her opinion/story), telling disturbing conspiracy stories about “elites,” and calling customers parasites and so on.

        Exactly. That’s where the focus needs to be.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m actually a little more concerned about the part where she’s seeing “spirits or parasites among the customers.”
      Casting a spell is one thing. But actually claiming to see or hear things others do not is quite another, and not in a good way! As Hermione said: “Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign.”

    4. WFH with Cat*

      I think it’s important to note that none of us know what Clarissa believes. She could define what she did/does/believes in as witchcraft, voodoo, the evil eye, The Secret, Scientology, the Kraken, TeleTubbies Gone Wild … Really, we do not know, and it does not matter. Positioning her behavior as a matter of belief or religion muddies the water and makes it rather more likely that the LW’s manager will not want to intervene. What matters is that Clarissa has attempted to injure someone and believe it is her right to do so. The LW was very precise in how she described her Clarissa’s actions and statements — and THOSE things are actionable in the workplace, not whether or not someone believes in any particular tradition or practice.

  6. Sara without an H*

    I’ve never managed a gas station, but I have managed shift workers. Please, please tell your boss about this — it’s always frustrating to find out that one of your staff has been acting out when you’re not there and nobody said anything.

    If I were your manager, I’d start by moving you to another shift. I’d also talk with other coworkers and with “Clarissa” to get a better sense of her personality. But your manager shouldn’t let the process drag on — it’s much easier to let an employee go quickly then to let them stay for months doing damage.

    Oh, if you have to continue to work with “Clarissa” for a while — watch your lunch and don’t let anything you eat or drink out of your sight.

    1. Liane*

      Yes, the post Alison linked has warnings about this in the comments. IIRC, people like Clarissa might tamper with food/drink to create “proof” their curses work.

    2. LGC*

      Ditto – I manage shift workers, and while I have seen some…stuff (both figurative and literal), this is setting off my alarm bells. And the witchcraft is the least of it.

      I’d probably move Clarissa to a different shift at minimum, honestly. And she certainly needs some tight supervision.

  7. Eat My Squirrel*

    It kind of upsets me that all the “witchcraft” stories about people who want to hurt/curse other people. As a Druid with a lot of Wiccan and other Pagan friends of various persuasions, I want you all to know that the vast majority of us are nice people who think this person is just as crazy as you think she is. We are much more likely to send you blessings, chant your name in a healing circle, or otherwise direct positive energy your way than we are to try to curse or hurt you. Any practicing Pagan knows that what you send out comes back to you tenfold.

    Blessed Be.

    1. D3*

      That is because the vast majority of witchcraft (like what you describe) is not a problem at work the way this kind of story and the older one are. Peaceful, positive practice doesn’t end up on advice columns.
      I think most people know that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In fairness, I understand why it’s a concern. When people don’t hear much about X / there’s already a lot of confusion about it, it’s natural to be concerned when they small amount they do hear is negative. And I think a lot of people don’t know much about this topic other than what they come across in random stories like this one.

      2. Eat My Squirrel*

        I know. I just don’t want people to buy in to the negative stereotypes that aren’t true. I once told a friend I was a Pagan and he very uncomfortably asked me to explain what that meant, because he thought “Pagan” meant “Devil Worship.”

        I had to explain that it simply means “not one of the world’s major religions.”

        Being Pagan at work is still very much in the closet, the way being LGBTQ used to be and still is for many people. It’s often not safe for us to tell people our religion.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yep. I have a coworker who is convinced all people who practice pagan/wiccan/similar are evil witches who are out to get his soul.

          I am dipping my toes into paganism, and there is a grand total of one (1) coworker I am comfortable discussing with, as he is also non-Christian and very into discussing that kind of thing, at the very least from a scholarly level.

          1. Eat My Squirrel*

            Yeah. It’s generally acceptable practice at work for someone to say “I’ll pray for you” or “our thoughts and prayers are with you,” in response to hearing about a hardship a coworker is going through. I can’t say “I will enact a ritual for you” or “I will focus the healing energy of the Earth on you.” When that’s what I mean, I say “I’ll pray for you.”

            1. PolarVortex*

              I default to “I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts”. I just can’t say that I’ll say a prayer without feeling disingenuous.

              1. Shhhh*

                Me too. For me, keeping someone in my thoughts does mean praying for them, but I like the more neutral phrasing because it gets my point – that I care about them – across without feeling like I’m making it about me and my beliefs.

              2. Environmental Compliance*

                Yeah, I default to “thoughts” as well. Feels weird saying prayers when it doesn’t match what I was raised to do for prayers (raised Baptist).

                Always a little strange too when you’re in a group and someone starts the We’ll Pray For You chain and then you get elbowed into also contributing somehow and oh EC what church do you go to?

              3. allathian*

                Yeah, me too. Although for me the reason is that I’m not a believer so I don’t pray. That said, it almost never happens at work, most people really don’t talk about their religious beliefs or lack of them. Faith is very much considered a private matter, although the vast majority of my coworkers have a Lutheran background, whether or not they’re believers themselves.

                1. Caradom*

                  True, when people said they would pray for me (dad passed a few years ago) it was friends from my culture, not work people saying it.

        2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          This! The first rule of Magic Club is you don’t talk about Magic Club Clarissa! Most people I know that believes in magic or the supernatural pretty much know not to talk about it unless you know your audience believes in similar or specifically asks you what you believe. I’ve had coworkers get really really rude and confrontational with me when they realized I was Pagan. (and its always the coworker who talks about being deeply Christian while acting in a very unChristian manner) Its not something you’d just blithely babble about to some coworker you barely know. If Clarissa is openly talking about this at a brand new work place (when you are typically on your best behavior) I can only imagine how inappropriate she’ll be once she really feels comfortable. And the fact that OP doesn’t feel safe speaks volumes! (everyone please read Gavin DeBackers book Gift of Fear. OP’s instincts are picking up on something.

        3. Anon for this*

          Yeah, I told people once that I was a Druid and got all kinds of Satan worship things thrown at me. hello, Satan is a Christian concept thank you.

          One friend (still a friend), called me Godless. I said, nope I was GodFUL because I believed in more than one, while he only got One God. It’s why we are still friends, he laughed at that and never brings it up.

          1. Eat My Squirrel*

            I love your response to “godless,” that’s awesome.

            I once told a coworker who kept throwing Bible verses at me that I’m not a Christian. He asked what I believed in and I answered truthfully. He then INCREASED the volume of Bible verses he quoted, while quite plainly describing how his particular view of the Christian theology, in particular, was the only Truth and everyone else was sadly living other than how Jesus intended. I tried explaining my view that it is all the same energy and God manifests itself in whatever way makes most sense to each person, therefore everyone is right, and also here are the ways what we believe are similar to each other, and he wouldn’t have any of it. He was right and I was wrong.

            A few months later, I was in a meeting where the team he was advising declared that we need a leader for the next project phase and it would need to be a full time job. I was about to get laid off as part of a reorg that eliminated my position, and I was actually perfect for the position, so I spoke up that I would do it. The team was enthusiastic about me being the leader. A week later Bible Thumper gives a presentation to management about the project, and when asked if the team had identified a lead, he said no. Then he said we should pull someone from X team, it would be a good growth experience for them. I’m not on X team. Management immediately was like “oh I have a few people in mind from X team.” Totally torpedoed my chances of getting that job. I haven’t spoken to him since.

            Thankfully I got a better job in the end. lol

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          This is one reason I’m more out about being bisexual than I am about being Wiccan.

        5. Zweisatz*

          Can you please not reference LGBT people in comparison? This is two different shoes, legally speaking as well.

          1. RoseDark*

            Ehh. As a trans pansexual witch I agree with the comparison. I’m way less comfortable being “outed” as Pagan than I am being “outed” as queer, but the “is this person going to take the news well or am I going to be proselytized to / harassed / threatened” nervousness is the same.

      3. James*

        Intellectually they do. But there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually, and knowing it in your gut. Specifically in this case it’s called the Clinician Fallacy. Doctors only ever see the worse cases of illnesses, so they tend to assume (despite their training, despite knowing better) that what they see represents the average case. If someone specifically trained to not fall into that trap still does, how much chance does someone with no specific training against it have?

        That’s one of the reasons this letter bothers me so much. Obviously Clarissa is a problem–but you have to deal with her in a way that doesn’t make worse problems. I live in an area where I’m surrounded by people who are openly hostile to my religion; giving them an excuse is not something I’m willing to do. On the other hand, obviously a bad employee can’t be allowed to continue their bad behavior.

    2. I'm just here for the cats.*

      You are correct Squirrel. I put this above but I’ll add it to this thread too. Its not that Clarrisa is practicing witchcraft. Its that she wants to harm someone through her religion. If I were OP I would have the same feelings if the co worker was a Catholic and said that she prayed and lit candles at church hopping that God would take revenge on her boss, and then think that he did because the boss was Injured.
      Its not, or shouldn’t be, that she is Wican (or whatever magical religion she follows) it’s the other odd behavior.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Yes, thank you for that, you put it perfectly. Christians (or Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) could pray for revenge, or any kind of harm, and it would serve the same purpose. A “witch casting spells” and “someone praying” are the same thing.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          Exactly. The problem isn’t the religion, whatever it might be. It’s threatening coworkers, and it seems to me that “I did X, I caused a someone to hurt their foot and I am fine with that” is absolutely a threat.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I also think that part of the issue is that people write Alison about their problems. Witchcraft problems, family business problems, nonprofit problems, etc. And it starts to sound like all witchcraft is bad, all family businesses are bad, all nonprofits are bad, etc. – because those are the stories we hear most often. But I think we all just gotta remember that we’re only hearing about the problems, because that’s what people need help with.

    4. Gadfly*

      I think of them as our (meaning magic users–including the non-pagan ones) version of gun nuts. You have folks who are actually responsible gun owners, who secure their firearms and ammo, who train how to use it safely. And then you have the person who is waving their open carry ar-15 in a grocery store with their finger on the trigger and yelling because the lines are long. They are hard to ignore and they make the rest of us look bad.

    5. AKchic*

      Right? The majority of us just want huge gardens, maybe some goats and a raccoon or two, and a good-sized library with a wonderful rocking chair and cozy blanket. And enough money to live comfortably.

        1. AKchic*

          I plan on teaching the raccoons to sword fight. Why else would they have such perfect little hands? The whimsical image of sword-wielding raccoons riding war goats just pleases me. I don’t think they’d be helpful in the garden, though.

          Ravens (indigenous to Alaska) are plentiful, so I expect them to be around.

  8. Anon this time*

    I put a curse on my boss once. Something to the effect of “may he understand how obnoxious his behavior is”.

    I will neither confirm nor deny wether that came back to me three-fold.

    1. PolarVortex*

      There was a post somewhere on Reddit maybe where someone said their go to curse was for the person’s toilet paper to rip causing their finger to go through it whenever wiping their butt. Imagine that coming back threefold.

      If I cursed people, I’m pretty sure mine would be “may you always hit red lights when you don’t have time to waste, or when you’re going down a main drag with one billion intersections”. I seem to already suffer that curse so I don’t have to worry about it coming back threefold.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        My MIL describes that experience as “we’re parading down (street name)”. Puts a nice spin on it!

    2. Wintermute*

      See I wouldn’t call that a curse!

      Wishing someone gains self-awareness, empathy and emotional maturity is hardly something you’d be ashamed to admit to. That’s a tactic a lot of people use to “curses”, you can want to benefit their life in a way that would also want to help you out without getting in ethical and moral trouble.

      Just like trying to get your boss a new job. It’s not a curse upon them, but it does get them out of your hair.

    3. Be the Change*

      Wad some power the giftie gie us, tae see oursels as ithers see us!

      A paradoxical curse indeed! :-)

    4. Dasein9*

      I have “cursed” people with the fervent hope that they one day look back on their words and feel a deep sense of embarrassment because that will mean they’ve learned better.

      Oh, and the one guy who was mocking me online for being old, I cursed with the fervent hope that he too will be old one day. (He was very angry about that!)

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        “I hope you too get old one day!”

        *ANGRY NOISES* “How dare you want me to live a long life!!!”

    5. Cartographical*

      My go-to on a public forum is cursing people to step on a Lego every time they’re barefoot, or a Lego made of bees. Too much work for the universe to actually pull off all the time, so, harmless but the sentiment is there.

      My favourite is a simple three words, though: “May you learn.” I usually mean it much the way you used it there, that I hope some day they see themselves from the perspective of everyone they’ve injured or degraded, or that they recieve an epiphany about their incredible wrongness. I can’t imagine a worse punishment for some people.

  9. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Really, people?

    I’m a slightly crunchy Christian. I’ve never cursed anyone, even people I HATE, except that I pray they understand the consequences of their actions. And, of course, for the health of loved ones and important people! Don’t use that spiritual energy on annoying coworkers! It goes against the ideas of spirituality and could be used for better reasons.

    Right now my family is praying for conception when we have another try at AI next month. And I am literally doing every New Year superstition lately because I do NOT want another 2020. But the latter is more better safe than sorry.

    1. ArtK*

      Your “Really” is misplaced. What you describe for yourself is different that what Clarissa has done in a couple of very significant ways.
      1. You’re praying for positive things, not harm to people.
      2. You’re not talking about wishing harm on someone to a colleague.

      What you’re doing is wonderful. What Clarissa is doing is making threats.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes, I think the core of their comment is “Don’t use that spiritual energy on annoying coworkers! It goes against the ideas of spirituality and could be used for better reasons.”

          I did at first think that the “Really” was directed at the commenters but in that context it seems clearly aimed at the woman who is saying she hexed her boss.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      We had beans, greens, squash pie, and made lemon pigs. I’ll have my 6 yo make you a lemon pig – she accidentally cursed my sister with twins in October. I’ll tell her not to go overboard.

      1. katestrafalaria*

        As the other half to overcaffeinated I can confirm that we’d be OK with twins!

        thank you :)

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Because of other reading, when I see AI, it’s “artificial intelligence”, and often it’s a really snarky beer can.

          Bestest of luck to you and Overcaffeinated and all your family! (And now it’s time for more coffee.)

    3. Caradom*

      I simply do not see the difference between believing in ‘God’ or any other type of belief. Not in relation to the person, the OP is talking about, just general world view.

  10. whistle*

    OP, please let your manager know what is going on so that she can put what you have witnessed in context with any other reports she might have received or things she has witnessed herself.

    We had a similar situation where I work a few years ago. It started out benignly. The employee (“Crystal”) spent her first week walking around the building and surrounding grounds making notes about ways to redecorate or landscape that would bring a better energy to the company. I believe she actually presented a “report” on her recommendations. OK, I’m rolling my eyes but the only one hurt here is one who needed you to accomplish work during the time you spent making notes on the surrounding aesthetics.

    Then Crystal told a coworker who brings her son into work sometimes that her son has some illness (I can’t remember which one; the son did not have this illness). Crystal explained to the coworker that she had abilities to detect illnesses in people and her son definitely had this illness and needed medical attention. The coworker who confided in me appeared to be a little rattled by this, and so I encouraged her to let HR know, but she didn’t want to and I didn’t want to go behind her back and do so.

    Then the owner’s wife happened to mention to me Crystal had told her she could tell by looking at her that she has cancer (spoiler: owner’s wife did not indeed have cancer)! The owner’s wife wasn’t too bothered by it, mostly just laughing about it, but it made me really uncomfortable. I still didn’t want to report what Crystal told the other coworker without that coworker’s consent, so I just said something like, “Do you think she’s saying anything like that to other people? That could be really upsetting for someone to have a coworker declare they have a medical condition.”

    Crystal was fired about two weeks later. (I don’t know any of the details as I was not privy to them.)

    1. Sara without an H*

      I can understand your not wanting to share your coworker’s confidence without permission. But I also think it was great that you found another way to alert ownership to the problem. At some point, Crystal would have said something to the wrong person and created an uproar.

      Workplace problems usually start small. And they’re easiest to solve when they’re still small.

    2. PT*

      I worked somewhere where a dude came in for a job interview and did some weird “blessing” ceremony that involved some sort of pacing steps on the property after the interview. He told someone it had to do with Biblical dedication of property? He did not get the job. But a month or two later, he did call in a fake bomb threat and caused the building to shut down. He was trespassed from all of the company’s fairly substantial properties and charges were pressed.

  11. lyonite*

    Holy alarm bells, Batman! I’m actually less worried about the curses than “rituals practiced by the elites” thing, which is almost certainly from Qanon or one of its offshoots, and that stuff can get scary pretty fast. Tell your boss, and take care of yourself.

  12. Foreign Octopus*

    Has it really been seven years since that first letter with witchcraft? It honestly feels like it’s only a few years old.

    Also, marvelling at the fact that Alison has had twowitchcraft letters to answer. It’s delightful.

    1. Leslie Hell Knope*

      Seven – not six, not eight – years between the letters? That is no coincidence. Add to that Alison’s red hair and cats, and I think we have a very clear picture forming here… :P

  13. chewingle*

    I get the feeling “jealous of her spirit” means Old Boss tried to explain to her what is and isn’t appropriate to discuss at work (in a, “Please stop talking about ritual sacrifice in front of customers” way) and she didn’t appreciate being scolded to she cursed Old Boss.

    Good luck.

    1. Aquawoman*

      I was wondering why being “jealous of her spirit” required retaliation at all. Just…ignore it and bask in the glow of your own better-quality spirit?

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I was thinking that maybe Clarissa thought her old boss was trying to steal her spirit or soul.

      2. Self Employed*

        Maybe she thought the boss was giving her bad shifts or fewer hours because of jealousy when it was really just lack of seniority?

  14. Hobbit*

    There is a very good chance that OP is not the only one who has heard the new employee make those statements. About a year or so ago, several of my coworkers & I noticed a student acting oddly, but it wasn’t until one of them went around asked “Have you noticed X student? Have you observed them doing Y?” Once we started talking to each other we saw a pattern and notified our supervisor. OP please talk to your boss about this.

  15. 3DogNight*

    Definitely report this to your manager. Even at its most benign this is a HUGE judgement issue. That means that she probably hangs out with people with judgement issues, and they may or may not be kind. There are a lot of times in a gas station where you are alone. This makes you NOT SAFE. In a better safe than sorry way, you need to talk to your boss/manager.

    1. pope suburban*

      Yes, the isolation factor really stands out to me here. Clarissa is not a safe person to be alone with, not by her own admission. She could do some serious harm to either a customer when her colleague is on break, or to a colleague when there is no one else around to deter her or help the colleague. Clarissa’s judgment is so poor (and, frankly, “evil” feels like a word that could work here) that I would worry for anyone in a vulnerable position with her.

    2. library library*

      Also, this has come up in the training period when most people are on their best behavior. If you delay, who knows what will come out when she is comfortable in the job.

  16. I'm just here for the cats.*

    You are correct Squirrel. I put this above but I’ll add it to this thread too. Its not that Clarrisa is practicing witchcraft. Its that she wants to harm someone through her religion. If I were OP I would have the same feelings if the co worker was a Catholic and said that she prayed and lit candles at church hopping that God would take revenge on her boss, and then think that he did because the boss was Injured.
    Its not, or shouldn’t be, that she is Wican (or whatever magical religion she follows) it’s the other odd behavior.

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      Darn mobile devices! It keeps double adding my comments. This was a reply to eat my squirrel above. Do t know how or why it ended up down. Here too!

    2. Sara without an H*

      For my money, I’m betting “Clarissa” put a bucket or something where her former boss could trip over it, then claimed her “spell” caused the injury.

      Oh, btw — praying and lighting candles while asking God to injure somebody is a pretty serious sin in a Catholic context. Just saying.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yes, I know that. I just used Catholics as an example. However, there are Catholics (and other Christians) who would do just that because in their mind it’s ok to ask God to punish someone. These are the same type of people who think Cancer is a sign from God that the person has sinned.

        Oh, btw– Wicans/Pagans do NOT cast spells to cause harm. In their belief, any harm that is caused will come back to the caster tri-fold.
        Therefore, If Clarissa cast a spell to cause harm it is the same thing as a Catholic person praying for God to smite someone

        1. Sara without an H*

          Yes, I’ve known a couple of pagans. I remember one saying something about curses usually recoiling on the sender, or words to that effect.

          I the think the general principle is that harboring hatred and malice in the heart is more harmful to you than to anybody else.

          1. James*

            It varies with the specific tradition, but yes, it’s almost universal in Paganism, Wicca, and related religions that the energy you send out comes back to you, usually amplified. Most of the practitioners I’ve met won’t even do a ritual for someone with benign intent without their consent, on the grounds that it’s too invasive.

            There’s sometimes some confusion on what “An it harm none, do what you will” means. Some–usually younger–people think it means you can do whatever you want so long as you’re not literally attacking someone else. More serious practitioners argue that “none” includes yourself. They view it as a call to think more carefully about our actions and intents, not less. That’s the view I take.

            From everything I’ve learned (and I’m fairly new at this), from a purely religious perspective, what she’s doing is akin to a Christian honestly attempting to make a deal with the Devil. It’s not, strictly speaking, a violation of the theology–it’s just a violation of everything the religion teaches, and a perversion of everything the religion stands for.

            1. silverpie*

              The concept exists in Christianity too, most memorably phrased as “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I think we need to clarify that Clarissa is not physically harming anyone (yet). It’s good to point out that she is claiming to harm by means of her beliefs. Afterall, you can’t charge someone for assault for casting a spell, or praying for someone to get hurt.

        1. Caradom*

          It’s about the risk. If you are so far gone you will threaten people, nothing about belief matters anymore. You’ve just become an abuser. Nothing to do with religion, belief or culture. You’re a threat and it is as simple as that.

  17. PolarVortex*

    Hey OP,

    Trust your gut in the situation you’re in. I am hopeful that if you go to your manager this’ll be resolved, but please know that you should prioritize your safety in any situation you feel unsafe in over continuing to work in a job where you feel unsafe. I speak from experience on times where I failed to listen to mine. Witchcraft or not, you should always feel safe where you work.

    To the witchcraft note, this is where I’m hoping that karma is truly a witch and comes back threefold on what Clarissa did/attempted to do to others.

  18. Observer*

    I haven’t read all of the responses, so it could be that someone already put it this way, but I think it bears repeating:

    If you look at the script Alison gives, it makes no mention of her self described spirituality per se. Whatever you actually say to your boss, keep that in mind. The problem has nothing to do with spirituality but the intent to harm. The talk of evils spirits among the customers is an additional layer, as it’s weird and creepy but also indicates the potential for problems with how she treats customers. And the talk of ritual sacrifice is just the icing on the cake.

  19. Christmas*

    Just because a person sounds “articulate” doesn’t mean they aren’t also mentally disturbed.

    1. Sylvan*


      Hi, hello, I’m mentally ill and it hasn’t damaged my vocabulary. You can express yourself well and still be nuts.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think what the OP was trying to get at is that Clarissa doesn’t seem like the type of mentally unstable person portrayed by TV and movies. She speaks clearly, etc. She’s not rambling.

      I don’t think OP meant it to mean that if a person has mental illness they are not articulate

      1. Chilipepper*

        I think the OP meant that unless you spend any time with this person, you don’t see the instability as they sound articulate and don’t talk about “taking things into their own hands.”

    3. Tussy*


      Off topic but: Mentally disturbed though to me doesn’t necessarily mean a pathological mental illness – plenty of people are mentally disturbed just because of their belief systems and world outlook without chemical imbalances or abnormalities in their neurons firing.

      Is that the same way others use the term? Totally tangential but I’m interested in what other people think I guess.

      1. farm girl*

        I often think that we need some better vocabulary, so we could agree to a distinction between medical mental illness and garden variety nuts.

  20. Georgina Fredrika*

    this is one of those things that I would find 10x more concerning if Clarissa is 30 or 40 instead of, say, 19. NOT that it’s ok when you’re young, but a good percentage of teenagers seem to go through a “ha ha ha I’m ~mentally unstable~ and quirky” or “I’m creating a ~coven~ with my lunch friends” phase that reflects immaturity rather than actual instability.

    I think when people say truly off stuff, go with your gut and you’re better safe than sorry. Most people end up being harmless but there’s a small percentage who aren’t, and there are typically warning sides people write off

    1. Georgina Fredrika*

      also FWIW some of her behavior sounds truly… odd. Like “potentially schizophrenia” odd to be talking about some master plot of overlords or whatever. I realize some people just have weird beliefs, but. It might be worth bringing to your boss’s attention if only so that someone… ? can maybe point her toward help she might need

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        If she is younger, that’s right in the age range where certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia tend to manifest, too

      2. Tussy*

        Non-mentally ill people have weird beliefs all the time. I don’t think there is anything here to say either way and you don’t want to give resources to a person when it could turn out that it is just her interpretation of a religion. Or that she has a diagnosis already (I can see the combo of magical thinking, grandiose thoughts and over sharing with people you don’t know well about that being bipolar – and bipolar takes a while to be managed properly) that she is getting attention for already

        Also kind of one of the hallmarks of schizophrenia with delusions (unshakeable beliefs outside the range of average cultural beliefs) is that they won’t believe they have schizophrenia- because their belief is unshakeable so they don’t see that it is explained by schizophrenia. If it’s schizophrenia she’s not going to get help because the job she just started pointed her to resources. This kind of thing needs to come from someone who knows them well enough to know that these beliefs are out of character and had some kind of influence.

        And unfortunately any resources a person could be pointed to for people with schizophrenia are pretty unhelpful.

        TLDR: It’s not their place and it won’t help to do that anyway. They should approach it assuming nothing about whether or not it is schizophrenia and only in the way it is appropriate/inappropriate for the workplace.

        1. Georgina Fredrika*

          yeah, that’s true, but I’m assuming the issue could be something other than schizophrenia – I just latch onto that because I’m not a doctor and the symptoms are more commonly known.

          And even then, yeah, maybe the boss isn’t the right person but I am thinking in the same line of, if an employee was clearly displaying signs of depression what would you do – of course you make the convo about what is/isn’t ok at work, but this came up a few weeks ago with someone needing a space to cry and I think there was more space for compassion from managers than simply “get out if you can’t handle it”

          1. Caradom*

            Needing a space to cry has nothing to do with threats of harm! Why do people use such awful examples for?

      3. Self Employed*

        The conspiracy theory stuff sounds like QAnon to many readers who are more familiar with it, and not inconsistent with what I’ve read.

        What seems like a potential symptom is seeing “parasites” and “demons” on the customers, unless she just has an idiosyncratic way of describing people who seem tired/sick/cranky. Either way, a customer is going to hear her making creepy/unflattering comments like that and stop shopping there–possibly say something on social media or review sites, too.

        But I agree with the comments downstream why “getting her the help she needs” is not likely to work out well from her employers.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      We don’t know what Clarissa’s age is though. The OP says she is 21 not that Clarissa is 21. I don’t think the age makes a difference. Even if she was 19 and going through a “Ha, ha, ha I’m mentally unstable” phase this is still a cause for alarm. What else would she do because she is “going through a phase”.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        well yeah, that’s why I answered it both ways- as in, if it were me I would be more concerned if X, less concerned if Y, since we don’t know if it’s X or Y.

        And also like I said, “not that it’s ok to act this way” and followed through with tell the boss either way, but there’s a better chance when they’re young that it’s just immaturity. I couldn’t even count on four hands the number of friends I had who probably wrote something like “I’m crazy” on their myspace page at the time. Doesn’t make it right, but the context of age does provide a clue as to whether it’s a symptom or potentially poor judgment.

    3. Student*

      You are perhaps unaware of an important fact about mental illness. Most mental illness shows up in early adulthood, by about 24 – about 75% shows up by then, according to the APA. It’s very rare to have new mental problems at 30 or 40 – many folks will have developed coping mechanisms by that phase of life. The next batch of mental illness turns up in old age.

      If something new that impacts mental function crops up in the 30s or 40s, it’s more likely to be caused by an injury.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, but 30-40 is when people with existing conditions have burned through all their family & friend support to the point there’s nobody making sure they take their meds, and the wheels come off hard.

        1. Nadia Ali*

          I take my meds. They have toxic side effects but I have 2 options:

          Become psychotic and literally insane, that will ruin your life.
          Take my meds.

          I might have a very serious illness but it is my responsibility is doesn’t negatively affect others. Let’s stop making the argument everyone with an illness is useless who will lose everything (I’ve done serious work for a lot of people to improve their lives substantially). I’m also a senior academic in psychology and have access to the best of science and medicine using academic access.

      2. Georgina Fredrika*

        age is definitely a factor in mental illness, though schizophrenia was what leapt to mind for this one (though I am not a doctor!!!! just a guesser) and most women are diagnosed in their late 20s/early 30s for that – we’re just used to men (teen/early 20s) being seen as the default.

        As you point out though, coping is a factor – and sometimes the coping mechanisms start to fray later in life. As a commentator below points out, having people who can help you is a big factor in… well, getting help, and behaviors people might write off in the early 20s can result in relationships getting dropped in their 30s

  21. employment lawyah*

    I’m gonna wear two hats here.

    I’ll start by putting on my “support the commenter” hat:

    They like you, they don’t like her. She’s making you–one of their better employees–unhappy. She’s weird. She is not your problem; she has no right to a job here anyway. Report her to management and ask that you not have to work with her. Tell them everything.

    They’ll probably fire her, and you’ll move on.

    Now, the “more objective” hat:

    The first thing that came to mind from an objective sense is that you may need to adjust your expectations. You may not have a particular reason to “feel unsafe” here; nothing she has said or done has been threatening or doing things to YOU, right? You’re freaked out, it seems, because someone you’re working with is weird as heck. Which she is.

    In a sense, that’s normal. Weird people can be unsettling, especially if you don’t have much contact with them. But I can’t help wondering whether this is partially an experience thing. In reality, “very very odd” and “unsafe” are not the same. Moreover, this weird lady is working at a gas station, which is generally the kind of job that allows for people who aren’t society-ball level (people gotta work somewhere, usually.) The expectations at a gas station, or in a dish-washing crew, or on a construction site, are not the same as in an office. Nor should they be!

    You’re a manager-level 21-year old college student, and you’re probably going to get her fired. Before you do that, you should consider maybe setting a higher bar. Otherwise you may well feel guilty later.

    [shrug] your call as to which advice you like better.

    1. ArtK*

      “… and you’re probably going to get her fired.” That’s really disappointing to hear from an employment lawyer. Unless the LW lies or manufactures evidence, it will be Clarissa’s behavior that gets her fired. Statements like yours are why bad actors persist in companies.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        This. It is her own actions that are a problem. Yes, unless she makes a 180 in her behavior she will likely be let go but it definitely isn’t “caused” by the OP. It is much more common for people to not boot behavior issues upstairs and just go find another job instead.

    2. PolarVortex*

      I am not quite certain how to say this, but your comment comes off a bit…not okay about how “odd” or “weird” people have to work somewhere and therefore work these non-office jobs. And therefore since these people who don’t fit into society need to work these lowly jobs, your expectations for a safe work environment should be different.

      Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way but it almost makes it sound like not working an office job makes someone less or not sane. And that these jobs aren’t held to higher standards because they’re less than office jobs. And that non-societal conforming people should only be working in the ‘lesser’ jobs.

      1. Wintermute*

        I don’t think it’s unrealistic to acknowledge there are some industries known for their tolerance of nontraditional backgrounds, checkered pasts and odd behavior– food service comes to mind, construction is another. It’s not universally true and it of course doesn’t mean people should not feel safe at work. But it does mean you need to adjust expectations of what “feel safe” means.

        Consider that a lot of people would feel unsafe working with people who have a criminal past, as a blanket statement. There’s industries where that’s not as big a deal and thank God for it, because as Lawyah said, people need to work someplace.

      2. employment lawyah*

        January 4, 2021 at 3:50 pm

        I am not quite certain how to say this, but your comment comes off a bit…not okay about how “odd” or “weird” people have to work somewhere and therefore work these non-office jobs. And therefore since these people who don’t fit into society need to work these lowly jobs, your expectations for a safe work environment should be different.
        Well, I have a distinct feeling that you and I are not using the same definition of “safe.” For example, I don’t consider what the OP described to be included in the word “safety issue.”

        In terms of “will you get injured or attacked” the general at-work answer should be “no, absent some very unusual jobs.”

        In terms of “will you be required to deal with or work with people who may make you feel uncomfortable or worried, and/or who might be well outside anything you normally encounter in your ordinary life,” it varies a lot by job. And yes, the expectations I had at my construction jobs or restaurant jobs or other jobs are very different than at some other jobs. And I think that’s appropriate. Not everyone is, or needs to be, polished. Some jobs are more accommodating of that.

        Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way but it almost makes it sound like not working an office job makes someone less or not sane.
        No. I don’t see how you could possibly get that from my post, but obviously the job is not the CAUSE of whatever you mean.

        And that these jobs aren’t held to higher standards because they’re less than office jobs.
        They aren’t “less than,” as everyone knows (including me) who have worked them. They’re different than, and they often are designed to accommodate a wider range of people. In that sense they are, quite often, not held to the same “standards,” again depending on how you intend to use that word.

        And that non-societal conforming people should only be working in the ‘lesser’ jobs.
        Again, I have no idea where you could possibly get that from my post. That is not at all true. I also suspect that you and I probably don’t mean the same thing by that phrase.

        As a practical matter, more “deal with it” flexibility in work allows for more non-standard people to get more jobs, at the possible cost of having more people feel a bit peeved about their (weird-to-them) coworkers. As a rule, this type of flexibilty exists more in lower level positions.

        There’s nothing wrong with companies opting to do it as well. There arguably IS something wrong w/ not applying it to lower level positions, since the weird people need work too.

        1. pancakes*

          The problem the letter writer wrote in about has nothing whatsoever to do with a coworker’s lack of polish, nor with a coworker being harmlessly weird – the problem is that their coworker is repeatedly and unambiguously threatening to harm people they don’t like.

        2. Observer*

          You really want to know how anyone gets the idea that people who work in such jobs are less entitled to basics like safety, and are just lesser humans that are not capable of behaving within the most basic parameters of social interaction?

          The answer is quite simple: You claim that the OP’s expectation of safety is not reasonable, that this is the kind of job where you can’t expect “normal” levels of safety in response to a situation where the OP describes a situation where someone has made it clear that they WILL try to harm them if they feel that they have been wronged, and that they DO see evil and attempts to wrong them where they simply don’t exist. The OP is not “uncomfortable” with someone who is socially mal-adapted. They are worried about someone who might actually try to “take matters into their own hands” and cause them significant harm. And you say that’s too bad. Because this is a gas station job.

        3. PolarVortex*

          A lot of people have said good things, I won’t belabor the point.


          I’ve shared work space with an admitted and convicted murderer. Sat next to him dozens of times, talked to him. Never felt unsafe in his presence. Because: He didn’t go about telling me he wanted someone injured because he didn’t like them.

          That’s the difference for feeling safe in my work environment.

    3. Alex*

      Ooof. I get that you’re trying to be kind to Clarissa with your comments about the type of work she’s doing but…you need to remember OP is doing that work too. And deserves to feel safe there, knowing that her coworkers aren’t willfully malicious people. This isn’t “Clarissa’s awkward but it’s ok because she’s not working in international diplomacy” this is “Clarissa is into cult stuff and also using her faith to cause harm” — totally different things. Just because OP is working a low paid job does not mean she has to deal with whatever comes her way.

      1. Littorally*

        Right. There are plenty of people who aren’t good fits for office environments who don’t talk about how sometimes they have to intentionally cause harm to people. OP deserves a safe place to work as much as anyone else.

      2. juliebulie*

        Right, and regardless of what employment lawyah may think of gas station employees, it isn’t necessarily an “any warm body will do” kind of job. They are working around gasoline. There might be a heightened risk for one of Clarissa’s coworkers to have an “accident” (and if it really is an accident, Clarissa will be really sorry she ever opened her mouth).

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, there are many jobs where workers have to necessarily be held to higher safety standards than the average office cube job. Working at the same site as huge amounts of highly flammable materials should be on there…

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        Right, I could see if Clarrissa was just talking about her rituals (not sacrifical) and how she feels like certain customers have spirits attached to them or whatever. That would be something like clarissa is akward and I’ll just ignore it. But with the stuff about cursing her boss, she actually believes that she harmed him, and doesnt seem to care. That IS bad and needs to be reported.

      4. employment lawyah*

        I’ve done lots of low-level work in my day, though not at a gas station in particular. And again, my “OP-cenetered” advice was to do what OP wants, the other person isn’t OP’s problem.

        But this: “deserves to feel safe there, knowing that her coworkers aren’t willfully malicious people?”


        OP deserves to BE SAFE. Op does not necessarily deserve to FEEL SAFE, since that is entirely dependent on things like “what OP thinks.” And OP really has no right to demand that her coworkers are not malicious, so long as they aren’t malicious to OP or OP’s employer.

        Of course, OP’s employer can do what they want, but if not then yes, OP may need to deal. Heck, a lot of my office’s clients have done some pretty bad things to people (we also do criminal defense) but that doesn’t mean they’re going to attack ME.

        If you still can’t imagine this distinction, I will simply point out that there are a lot of people who feel a lot of “unsafety” about a lot of folks based on things like race or national origin or gender preference, or whether they support/oppose various political standards. Similarly, roughly half the country seems to think the other half if “wilfully malicious” about something or other; that’s a bad standard, too.

        1. "Weird" is not a get-out-of-threatening-behavior-free card*

          If a client says to you, their current lawyer, “My last lawyer wasn’t doing what I wanted, so I took steps to cause her physical harm. She’s lucky I stopped when I did, or she would have had worse than just a limp. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands,” then you have been threatened.

          You may still choose to work with that client, and that is your prerogative. If you work in criminal defense, you probably have been threatened by clients and gone on to do your best for them anyway, and I salute and admire you greatly.

          But one could say that is a hazard of your job that you have elected to take. The person working at the gas station is under no such requirement, and OP should not be pressured to work with someone who expresses the willingness to physically harm coworkers.

        2. Casper Lives*

          I don’t think your point is as convincing as you mean it to be. I mean, your clients could attack you, even if it’s unlikely, not in their best interest, and unlikely to be successful. Source: did indigent defense and had (very, very few) clients threaten and/or attack and/or stalk me.

          However, that’s beside the point. That’s part of what I signed up for with that job, and you too. The (again very small, please don’t misunderstand this as saying indigent people are likely to attack anyone) potential for violence.

          OP is a manager in a gas station. She didn’t sign up for her coworkers “taking things into their own hands” and cursing people! Clarissa should know to keep her mouth shut about wishing harm on colleagues at work. It seems clear to me that she didn’t reflect on this from her last job, as she characterizes her manager as jealous of her spirit.

          I don’t understand the need to defend Clarissa from the consequences of her words and intent here…

        3. Observer*

          You are making a distinction that makes no difference. The OP DESERVES TO BE SAFE. And, right now they have very, very good reason to believe that they ARE NOT SAFE. Clarissa has made it clear that she will do her best to harm anyone who does her wrong.

          Any employer who decides that this is not a risk in their business needs to realize that if something happens they WILL be liable. Because when people make threats like that, you CANNOT just dismiss this as “social awkwardness.”

          The OP deserves to be safe, and Clarissa is NOT safe.

        4. Wintermute*

          I’m not sure I agree with all of your points at all, but I do think you raise one very vital one. The distinction between “feeling unsafe” and BEING unsafe is an enormous one, and yes, you’re right “I felt unsafe” is often weaponized by latent racists. It’s an impulse we should all interrogate before we just take it for granted.

          But in THIS case, even if I agree she probably doesn’t pose an active danger because of her “curses” her comments about the customers indicate there’s probably a problem here and that IS something that an employer should know. While yes, it’s true that most people with serious psychological problems are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, and it’s also true that we don’t know how serious versus metaphorical she was being… too dangerous to risk it. There’s too many potentially risky things a belief your customers have evil parasites inside them could indicate to justify her continued employment.

        5. Caradom*

          Did you even bother to read the letter?

          ‘he is openly very spiritual and told me that at her last job, her manager was “jealous of her spirit” and that she decided to perform a spell on her, and after the spell was “cast” her manager came in limping a few days later. She then said, “She’s lucky I stopped because she might have ended up with a broken foot” and “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people but sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”

    4. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Look I’ve worked places were pajama bottoms as pants were ok. Making your coworkers uncomfortable to the point of not feeling safe was not and never should be. Magic and or Religion aside. Clarissa made a point of bragging about causing harm to a former coworker. That in and of itself is a huge waving red flag.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      The letter writer sounds sensible. As others have said, good managers want to have things such as this brought to their attention.

      Also…no one person ever gets someone else fired. If you are the most recent person to mention something to the boss and then someone gets fired, that just means that dozens of other things happened before you got there.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        >> Also…no one person ever gets someone else fired. If you are the most recent person to mention something to the boss and then someone gets fired, that just means that dozens of other things happened before you got there.

        That is a very true statement and something I wish I’d known earlier in my career. I shudder to think back on some of the stuff I just kept my mouth shut about because I was told ‘if you say anything that means YOU cost the. Their job/career’

        20 year old me was naive.

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I used to tell the kids all the time “no one can get you in trouble unless you are already doing something wrong” Can’t tattle on someone who’s behaving themselves.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Look mate, I have schizophrenia and have probably in my unmediated past come out with stuff like this person has. Conspiracy theories included.

      What I do not now, nor ever, expect is zero consequences for it. I’m not saying she has schizophrenia, just reiterating my experience which would be a very, VERY stern talking to and then a firing if my behaviour didn’t immediately improve.

      Regardless of my own personal beliefs (I am Wiccan as it happens) or mental issues I wouldn’t consider it reasonable accommodations for me to make threatening comments, or espouse paranoid theories regarding child sacrifice at work and have it just accepted.

      There’s weird, which is just a personality difference (hi, I wear gothic dresses a lot) and then there’s far too far over the line. Not every ‘quirk’ is compatible with continued employment.

    7. "Weird" is not a get-out-of-threatening-behavior-free card*

      >> nothing she has said or done has been threatening or doing things to YOU, right?

      I disagree. To say to a colleague that a previous coworker is “lucky I stopped because she might have ended up with a broken foot” and “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people but sometimes you have to take things into your own hands” is indeed to threaten your current colleague.

      As Alison already said, “The threat itself might be laughable, but the hostile intention behind it — the desire to harm — is not.”

      Stick to your guns, OP, and good on you for asking these questions at such a young age. If the manager laughs or writes it off to religion (“There are probably lots of my employees praying to Jesus/Athena/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster for me to get hit by a bus, ha ha ha”), stand firm.

      It is not about religion or being an oddball. Someone talks about taking steps to physically harm her coworkers, and whether she is effective or not, you are not required to work with that person.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Very much agreed. I’d feel really unsafe if one of my coworkers bragged about say, sexual assault on a woman he was dating. Even if he never made a direct threat to me or any other woman in the office I’d still be seriously worried about working with him.

        (Extreme example and I’m not equating sexual assault with religious threats. Just trying to point out that people’s behaviour toward others can logically make unrelated people feel unsafe)

    8. EventPlannerGal*

      I don’t know if this is a “more objective” hat, I think it’s more of a “I don’t want to admit that I’m playing Devil’s Advocate because I want to sound above it all” hat.

      I think this whole “well, you COULD do something about it but just remember that you’re going to get her fired and it’ll be your fault” line of thinking is very strange and disappointing coming from someone claiming to be an employment lawyer. You’re correct that expectations of someone working at a gas station are not the same as in an office job, but OP is also working in a gas station and I’m not sure why she should be admonished for not wanting to work with someone who brags about trying to harm her previous coworkers.

      Also, while as you say the expectations in these types of jobs *should not* be the same as those of an office job, what that means is that, say, nobody is going to tell off the cleaning crews at my events for not wearing ties or the security guards for swearing. That doesn’t mean that a very minimal baseline level of respect for your coworkers isn’t expected even in these ~inferior jobs. I’m not sure why you think that shouldn’t be the case.

    9. AnotherLibrarian*

      Having worked at gas stations in my younger years, I think this advice is really off. Yes, you can expect different standards in those places- more casual dress, a lot more swearing, occasionally having coworkers who might be high, occasionally having coworkers who are high, a bit more off color humor and a lot less expectation of professional behavior. However, I’ve also worked with a fair number of people who were half a bubble off center and I can say there is a big and sometimes hard to describe differences between the coworker who talks about peoples auras and suggests realigning charkas to cure a cold (nice man, very stoned a lot, but reliable despite it) and the person who talks about causing harm to others. It’s hard to describe that difference, but once you’ve experienced it, it is there. I would trust the OPs judgement in this matter.

      1. Alex*

        I’ve worked food service jobs and cleaned houses before I got my degree, and I completely agree. Was there an expectation that we wear business casual or avoid swearing or be fully sober? Never. Was there an expectation that we not harm or threaten coworkers? Absolutely

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I agree. I have had jobs stacking shelves, selling souvenirs in the street, clearing tables, and shovelling literal horse shit. Expectations varied wildly and I have worked with some capital-C characters, including someone who once spent our lunch break telling me that the best way to stave off illness was to wash in chicken blood. Would it have been okay for any of those people to start bragging to me about trying to harm people? Not really, no. They might well have done so, but it wouldn’t have been okay or something just to be tolerated because these weren’t office jobs.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I once worked at a sewage treatment plant. Dealing with literal sewage. The humour was crude (well, yeah), the smells revolting, the dress code was ‘anything you don’t mind destroying’ under safety gear.

          And yet, any engineer who would do something deemed threatening to others would be removed from work, with the union’s blessing. There’s to my knowledge only one job where it’s appropriate to make threats in the workplace and that’s acting IF it’s part of a scene.

          1. James*

            Martial arts instructor. It’s part of training to think you’re William Wallace or Bruce Lee. It’s also part of training to have your instructor demonstrate on your body that you are, in fact, not. It’s martial arts, not dance; you go in knowing you’re going to get your butt (and chest, and legs, and head) kicked.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Fair point. I’ve never done any martial arts in my life so have no idea what goes on with training in those.

    10. Observer*

      You may not have a particular reason to “feel unsafe” here; nothing she has said or done has been threatening or doing things to YOU, right? You

      Are you REALLY claiming that the ONLY reason that someone might legitimately unsafe is if a person specifically threatens them? And everyone is supposed to ignore people who say things like “I can make sure **people** get hurt if they do me wrong’? And they are supposed to ignore the fact that this person is quite clearly seeing “wrongs” that don’t exist (eg evil spirits among the clients)?

      Also, are you seriously claiming that even if the OP knew for sure that Clarissa would never harm them, they should ignore the clear danger she poses to the people she considers evil spirits or parasites?

      The expectations at a gas station, or in a dish-washing crew, or on a construction site, are not the same as in an office.

      You mean that just because someone works at a gas station it’s ok for them to state that even though they “don’t want” to hurt anyone, sometimes they “take things into the own hands” (ie threaten anyone who, in THEIR estimation, wrongs them)? And that it’s just fine for gas station attendants to act on the idea that their customers are evil spirits or parasites?

      If this is the kind of employment advice you dish out, I feel bad for anyone who is stuck working for those clients.

      PS All the people pointing out that it would NOT be the OP getting Clarissa fired, but Clarissa herself are 100% right.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        ‘Yeah my coworker goes around putting his fist through the walls and slamming things when he’s angry, but he’s not doing it to me directly so no need to be scared!’

    11. Self Employed*

      I think Clarissa’s negative comments about customers (having “parasites” and “demons”) could be a problem, unless your gas station is in a location where the customers will just laugh it off if they overhear her. I know I wouldn’t go back to a gas station if the clerk was talking about people that way.

      Heck, I won’t even go back to the Costco where another customer chased me around my car with his mask off making fun of me because the staff just watched him do it and didn’t ask him to leave me alone.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    I think that Allison’s reply needs just one modification:

    “I’ve been training Clarissa, and I’ve been really unsettled by some of the things she’s said. She told me she tried to harm a previous boss THROUGH HER RELIGION, and thinks there are evil spirits among our customers, and she spends our shifts talking about ritual sacrifice. On top of that, what she’s told me about her previous work history doesn’t add up. I don’t feel safe working with her at this point so wanted to come to you.”

    Otherwise, a reasonable person might assume you mean Clarissa physically did something (as opposed to spiritually) to harm her former manager (eg. like litter banana peels about the place). I mean, Clarissa DID do something (a ritual / curse / spell), and certainly had the intent to do harm, but most people distinguish between pushing someone down a flight of stairs and cursing someone to trip over their shoelaces, kwim?

    Basically, you want to convey that Clarissa intends harm, and believes that she is causing harm, but not have your concerns discounted because your manager thinks that you’re exaggerating things.

    You could note that you’re concerned that Clarissa’s “curses” might be her way of admitting she really does do things like push people down the stairs, mind you. I mean, who’s to say that someone with malicious intentions wouldn’t have that spill over into actions, right?

    1. Observer*

      The problem here is that it sounds like you have an issue with her religion rather than with her intent to harm.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      No I disagree. It was purposeful that the script did not make mention of the religion. The point is specifically NOT that she’s doing this through or because of her religion. It’s not about her religion at all. Threats are threats and threats are bad. Bringing her religion into it makes it seem like Satanic Panic or holding her religion against her without basis. Focus on the facts and the facts are she’s threatening.

    3. ENFP in Texas*

      Just a point of clarification: Witchcraft isn’t a religion, it’s a practice. While spellwork is often done as part of a person’s religion, they are not the same thing and saying “through her religion” confuses the issue.

    4. Hapax Legomenon*

      I think a better phrase would be something like “through indirect means.” Whether or not her curse was effective, she has indicated that she would gladly let others get hurt while she has plausible deniability. If the manager is limping because Clarissa saw the manager was about to step on a rattlesnake and chose to let them do it instead of warning them, she deliberately allowed the manager to come to harm. Taking religion completely out of the equation, she still has harmful intent and isn’t completely safe to work with.

      1. Hapax Legomenon*

        And a rattlesnake may not be a very likely scenario but there are plenty of ways one could sabotage a coworker through inaction, like not cleaning up a spill or putting up a wet floor sign so they slip, leaving stock precariously arranged so the next person risks having stuff falling down around them, that sort of thing.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        That would solve the problem of how to communicate the information without either being religiously/faith intolerant or being perceived as over-stating the situation – thanks.

    5. Caradom*

      A threat is an act of violence. Seriously, try it with a police officer or someone rich and you will find out.

  23. CatPerson*

    “I don’t mean to intentionally hurt people but sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”

    Meaning, sometimes you have to intentionally hurt people? No. That is a threat no matter how you look at it. You don’t want to work with someone who thinks that way.

    1. Self Employed*

      Especially in the context of her story being about “taking things into her own hands” because she was mad at her boss for “being jealous of her spirit.” This wasn’t about kicking a date-rapist in the crotch to escape. This was her thinking it’s OK to harm someone for a weird intangible reason that she might project on anyone, including OP.

  24. Tisiphone*

    I’m wondering if maybe Clarissa is telling you about cursing someone and that the curse worked in an attempt to claim the upper hand in your working relationship. It doesn’t even have to be curses and spellcasting per se. What is being communicated is Clarissa’s desire for a bad thing expressed to an entity that can make that happen, and that bad thing happens. It’s not about the witchcraft. This is an attempt to intimidate.

    Any third party willing to commit violence on Clarissa’s behalf is all that matters. She’s telling you this story to let you (and maybe others?) know not to mess with her or else – and she’s given an example of else.

    1. Naomi*

      Didn’t we have a previous letter where a boss was claiming to have connections in the mafia and saying that it was a bad idea to piss him off? That’s a similar situation–whether or not it was plausible that he had such connections, it was clearly meant to intimidate.

      1. Self Employed*

        I had a grifter ex-boyfriend who didn’t actually want to work, so he would make Mafia jokes about his dad at interviews. (Spoiler: His dad was not Mafia-related.)

    2. Caradom*

      Precisely, a threat is a threat and the violent person doesn’t have a right to dictate how a threat should be handled.

  25. Veryanon*

    Life is indeed a rich tapestry. I used to work in HR for a large retail chain, and this reminded me of an employee at one of our stores who had set up a voodoo altar in the store, in full view of customers, so she could (among other things) put curses on people who had crossed her. The store in question was a store specializing in maternity wear, so the client base was primarily expectant mothers. Not a great look for the business…..

    1. 3DogNight*

      We really need to know what happened here. How long was this shrine up? Was she put on a plan or just fired? What did customers say? This is so intriguing (as a spectator).

      1. Veryanon*

        Lol. The shrine wasn’t up very long as we started getting complaints pretty much right away from both other employees and customers. We ended up firing her as she was threatening her co-workers. It was definitely one of the more unusual cases I’ve investigated.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      The world never ceases to surprise me. What a fascinating experience. I think we can all agree that threatening coworkers, regardless of method, is universally not okay. I must admit the fact that it was a maternity shop takes the whole thing to another level.

  26. The impossible girl*

    I feel like there was a huge missed opportunity to use the pseudonym “sabrina” here. jus’ saying ;)

  27. Mr Jingles*

    It’s not about witchcraft. It’s about malice. This person is malicious and as much as I know about such people tjey tend to ‘help’ their ‘curses’ by physical means and just hide nehind their ‘witchcraft’ to make themselves sound more dangerous or even to have a way to discredit their victims if they push back.
    ‘Oh Susie must have misunderstood. It was just a joke! What a coincidence that she stumbled and fell. Oh poor dear! So silly of her to think I could have spilled that soap! Well, what do you expect from people believing in witchcraft!’

    1. Caradom*

      There is no difference between believing in God and Witchcraft. Both are a social construct and both are equal.

  28. James*

    As a manager, I would focus on professionalism, or more specifically, its lack. Even a gas station attendant needs a certain amount of it, both in dealing with customers and in dealing with coworkers. Make it clear that some discussion of religion is okay, but she has gone WAY over the line, and needs to curtail it immediately. Practice whatever faith you want, but don’t make coworkers uncomfortable by discussing it all the time. I would make it clear that I would be having the same discussion with a Bible thumper, a Muslim that referred to customers as infidels on a regular basis, or any other religious person crossing this line. For that matter, a person discussing politics in this manner, or hunting, or World of Warcraft would be a problem. The gun nuts thing is a perfect analogy here. When you discuss something to the point and in such a manner that your coworkers are not comfortable around you it’s a problem, regardless of the topic.

    That sets me up for justifiable termination. If she continues to cross that line it’s not the religious aspect that will get her fired–not even the curses, which I’d ignore (I currently have a broken foot; it ranks as annoying, but not even an inconvenience)–but the lack of professionalism. This isn’t a minor concern here. Someone like Clarissa is likely to press charges if you fire her. For one thing, she’s demonstrated that she has no moral scruples. For another, she likely needs the money and will almost certainly view the company as an easy target, especially after some ambulance-chasing lawyer talks to her. I need to be able to prove in court that her religion had no bearing on her termination. As a manager part of my job is protecting the company from such liability.

    As a Pagan, I feel sorry for her. First, there’s the karma aspect, which is pretty clearly taking a toll. Second, though, how sad is your life if you are that focused on petty revenge?

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, and to be clear, it’s not the religion she claims to practice that is the problem, but rather her veiled threats. Just casually stating that she put a curse on someone at her former job and they later got hurt is a threat, whether or not you believe that this was cause and effect or not.

      Essentially, saying “don’t mess with me or I’ll see to it that you get hurt” is a threat, no matter how you imply the harm is going to happen.

      1. James*

        The religion is not irrelevant, though. The reactions here would be very different if magic weren’t involved. And partially this is my construction background coming out. It’s not okay, but it’s also not uncommon for workers to discuss physical altercations on other jobs. As a safety officer I used those opportunities to inform everyone of what would happen should a physical altercation occur on my jobsite (basically, go home and don’t come back), but it’s simply not possible to kick out everyone who brags about getting into a fight on a previous job. You’d run out of laborers and operators. You also get used to working with some fairly rough people. One of my favorite equipment operators had a string of drug-related felonies, for example. He cleaned himself up and has done really well, but he’s also open about his past. Another guy I worked with was IT for a major pornographic website (really interesting discussion with him, about which websites were safe and which weren’t). Another pair of contractors got along really well, but admitted they beat the crap out of each other to get there. I could go on, and have a few such stories in my own past (martial arts being discussed in the workplace, mostly). Given all that, I am less inclined than most here to view Clarissa’s statement as a threat. A red flag, certainly, but not an actionable threat.

        To me a threat needs to be somethin directed at someone, in the present or future tense. “I’m going to put a curse on you” is a threat. “I put a curse on Joe” isn’t. In the same way “I’m going to knock your teeth out” is a threat; “Joe and I knocked each other’s teeth out last job” isn’t. It’s a concern, and it tells me who I’m working with, and I’m certainly going to use it to plan their work, but it’s not a threat.

        Having encountered a few Pagans that brag about curses, I also don’t think Clarissa is saying “I could do this to you”. I think she’s bragging. Obviously I would need to know more about Clarissa to be confident in this assessment, but most people like her that I’ve encountered don’t even realize that such a statement could be construed as a threat. They intend to show off, and often to play mind games with their coworkers–still a concern, but a very different one from a threat.

        Again, if I wanted to take action I would focus on the lack of professionalism. Discussing violent behavior in the past isn’t professional, even by the gas station clerk standards. Making coworkers uncomfortable is unprofessional. Discussing religion non-stop is unprofessional (in fact, my job technically forbids discussion of religion or politics, though that tends to be ignored by field grunts). That’s something she can’t weasel her way out of, either during the discussion or during the subsequent discussions with lawyers.

  29. Teapotcleaner*

    A coworker used to tell us that her husbands ex lover at a job they shared ended up limping because she was into witchcraft. My coworker said the woman liked to do rituals etc and my coworker saved her marriage in the end. The limping in witchcraft is far too commonly heard. This person sounds like drama. They will bring their bridges and make an exit on their own. But yes tell the boss this is way too weird and offensive.

  30. kayakwriter*

    So I think that absent bobby traps, poisoning or the noecbo effect (which requires the victim to know about and believe in the power of the spell), curses have no effect on a person.

    But your co-worker is telling you she does believe her curses have ill effects on people. So imagine that she instead pointed a gun she believed was loaded with real bullets at someone and pulled the trigger. Unbeknownst to her, the gun turned out to be loaded with blanks, so the intended victim wasn’t shot. That wouldn’t make you hesitate to warn others about her behavior, would it?

  31. The Wandering Scout*

    100% let your manager know. Witchcraft aside, threatening people isn’t appropriate and it does in my opinion show that your coworker really doesn’t have a grip on what is acceptable in a work environment. This isn’t a ‘Bless you!’ when someone sneezes situation. This is pushing her religion onto you and other people in the workplace.

    As an eclectic Sci-Pan witch, this frustrates me greatly – it isn’t cool to put spells on people you work with. Period. Unless they ask (a colleague and friend was looking for a new job, I asked if she wanted a spell jar for it, she said yes – and did get a better job!) you shouldn’t bring it into the workplace.

  32. lilsheba*

    As a practicing witch this disturbs me a lot. This gives people like me a bad name! Trust me witches are not in it to harm people. We work on love, and healing, and bringing prosperity and peace to ourselves and others. Cursing/hexes/baneful magic is practiced of course, but normal witches don’t just do that on anyone and they certainly don’t brag about it like a child. She sounds like a poser more than anything.

    1. Mystic*

      I feel like she trolls through Witchcraft Tiktok.
      It’s sad and beyond annoying when people like this go out and talk like this and give a bad reputation to Witches.

  33. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    I guess I may be a bit late to the party here, but I’m wondering if we could make a more general rule than just “don’t wish harm on your coworkers”

    I propose that as a general rule, no one should involve a coworkers in their spiritual/religious practices/beliefs without having gotten explicit permission to do so.

    This is probably the atheist in me rearing it’s head, and wanting to be more of a blanket statement than others think is reasonable – I’d be just as uncomfortable with a coworker praying for my pregnancy or healing as I would with one wishing me harm. Please don’t try to intercede with your spiritual entity of choice on my behalf unless and until I’ve told you I was comfortable with you doing so.

    1. lilsheba*

      That sounds like a plan to me, and should definitely include people like my co worker who constantly says she’s praying for people. Just stop. I am also an atheist and that just bugs me. I don’t push my beliefs or my practice on to them.

  34. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Statements that could be potentially construed as threatening are a cardinal sin in an office environment. At a gas station, you’re not going to have any employees left if you fire people for things you can’t do in an office.

    1. Observer*


      This is not about things you cannot do in an office. This is something you cannot do and expect to be allowed back in the door. Period.

  35. pcake*

    I am of two minds on this, because to me it all depends on your manager.

    Because here on AAM, we read about bosses and HR that immediately let the person complained about know who was doing the complaining. Whether or not your coworker can lay a functional curse, there’s a decent chance she’s going to feel really done to and “told on”, and that can make your working days with her suck bigtime.

    On the other hand, if I was a manager – and I have been – I’d want to know.

    On the OTHER other hand, if your manager is conflict-resistant, hates to look for employees or feels they REALLY need someone on shift, they may care about the situation but still do nothing. The advantage would be if there are issues in the future, the manager has been told. By you. And perhaps as a follow-up, by email so you can show a paper trail.

  36. BrazilianGuy*

    “I am very happy to be starting 2021 with a letter about witchcraft.” I gagged while drinking my coffee while reading this and I got it spilled everywhere on my desk, with a burst of maniacal laughter. Thankfully I was all alone in the office while it happened. I couldn’t continue reading from this point on; I needed to have a pause to not start it all over again :-D

  37. JPrime*

    Title: “my coworker put a magical curse on her boss”
    Me: “Again?”

    I love this site. :)
    I think the original ‘an employee is putting magic curses on her coworkers” letter was how I found this blog in the first place.

  38. Tirv*

    Just make sure your co-worker doesn’t know it was you who complained or you may find yourself walking with a limp!

  39. E*

    This is scary. I’ll never forget the time a coworker ‘jokingly’ said if he got fired he “was taking everybody with him”. This was someone with military training who owned several firearms. Scary!

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