Ebay Bans Sale of Magic Spells and Potions

Image of Inside Magic's Potion Test KitchenEbay’s 2012 Fall Seller Update prohibits listings for “conjuring” and “magic” on the online auction site.

Our advanced powers of logic allow us to conclude that since the “update” changed the former policy, prior to the latest update, eBay did permit the selling of “conjuring” and “magic.”

Ebay informed all readers the “following items are also being added to the prohibited items list: advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions; work from home businesses & information; wholesale lists, and drop shop lists.”

That fits with the rules of statutory construction we learned during our seven years of study at The University of Grenada College of Law — one of the very few “practically accredited” off-shore, correspondence programs for the study of US law.

When interpreting a statute or rule, we follow the Latin canon noscitur a sociis (words are to be “known by their companions”). Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 552 U. S.  (2008)  Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Servs. v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler, 537 U. S. 371, 384 (2003) (quoting Gutierrez v. Ada, 528 U. S. 250, 254 (2000).

The canon does not really help in this case, however.

Ebay has not identified a broad group of prohibited goods and then specified certain goods as examples.  But by reading “conjuring” and “magic” with the other words in the sentence  — “advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions; work from home businesses & information; wholesale lists, and drop shop lists” — we should see a clearly defined set of goods or services prohibited.

We should, but we do not.

“Conjuring” is a verb by anyone’s definition.  “Magic” on the other hoof, is rarely used as a verb and, even then, only used incorrectly.  “I magic,” “you magic,” or “he/she/it magics” is not found in most verb conjugation texts because it is not a verb.   How ironic is it that the word “verb” is actually a noun?

“Hexing” is the gerund for the verb “hex” and would imply that one is issuing a “curse” or casting a “spell.”

And while we are at it, what is a “drop shop list”?  Is this a typographical error where the author meant to write “drop ship list” or “drip hips slips”?

We try to read meaning into everything with writing.  We have no friends.  We read ticket stubs, 31-page terms of service agreements ignored by those who click “I Agree” on the first page, warning stickers partially hidden by electrified fencing around our backyard, Ouija Board informational brochures detailing the minimal but still statistically significant chance a user will have his or her soul snatched in the course of play, and listing prohibition updates issued by on-line auction sites.

It could be eBay just wanted to write the prohibition to avoid being accused of permitting the sale of “hexes” or “curses” or “drop shop lists.”  That would explain the sloppy structure and possibly bad spelling. Their official blog claimed they wanted to ban the sale of intangible goods.

They wanted to stop the listings for “things that people won’t be able to use or be able to confirm whether they’ve received the items.”

For example, “Items where the value is placed on an intangible factor. For example, listings that offer someone’s ‘soul’ or a container that claims to have someone’s ‘soul’ are not allowed.”

We presume — because we have sold “magic tricks” since this new rule issued — that magic of the type we practice can still be listed.  In fact, we are betting witches and necromancers could continue offering their wares if couched in language that seems less like the occult and more like something you would find at the novelty and trick shop.

Petitions and letters of support came from psychics, palm readers, witches, healers, hex makers, curse creators and those who love them.

The new policy will permit the sale of energy crystals, rosaries, Feng Shui as well as items disclaiming special powers.

For instance, as we type this post, there are just a few minutes left to buy a “Large Zombie Antidote”

The product is handmade is described thusly:

The listing offers a “glass bottle necklace contains a super shimmery – top-secret – formula to prevent you from turning into the walking dead should you be unfortunate enough to bitten by a zombie. Ok, not really but it’s fun to pretend! Give the bottle a gentle shake and you will see just how shimmery and swirly this liquid is (color is a greenish gold with shimmer)!

The disclaimer is within the same paragraph as the description.  But they add an extra version to be sure.

Disclaimer: Liquid is not for consumption. It is a novelty item for fun and laughs only.

But, what if the buyer and seller really believed the product was an effective really was a zombie antidote.  What if they both believed it would stop a fate worse than death.  Would eBay still prohibit the sale?

That’s pretty absurd.

But what about drugs and treatments considered worthless?  Scientists and physicians have offered pretty compelling evidence that homeopathy is hokum.  We do not want to debate the efficacy of homeopathy — this is a magic news website after all — but assume, arguendo, a homeopathic elixir provides as much medicinal value as the zombie antidote. (See, Science Based Medicine’s website for our support). Should eBay allow it to be listed but block remote viewing of a purchaser’s soul?

Ebay has more than 1,200 listings for homeopathic remedies at this very moment.  One person’s potion is another person’s trusted pharmaceutical.

From our perspective, we never sell hexes, curses or bewitching elixirs for good or bad on eBay.  That’s why Zeus created flea markets.

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