Please note, I am most familiar with Wiccan practices and beliefs, so what I believe may not be true for all Witches, and may not even ring true to every Wiccan. I’m basing this entirely on my own experiences.
One of the most famous phrases on the show Once Upon a Time is “all magic come with a price.” Usually this is what Rumpelstiltskin says when he’s either helping someone with magic, or teaching them magic when he’s The Dark One. Most recently, we saw the concept reexamined when Emma, as the new Dark One, uses her powers to save Robin Hood. The voice of the Dark One (who manifests as Rumple on screen) tells her that all who ask for magic must pay the price. In this case, it was Regina.
I started thinking more about how this idea relates to the Three-Fold-Law, which is one of the first things I learned about when I began studying Wicca and the Craft. The Three-Fold-Law reads several different ways depending on where you read it, but basically it’s the idea that whatever we put out into the world comes back to us three times. It can mean three individual times, or it can mean three times as much, depending on the situation, but this can be interpreted as a “price.” We see this in Once Upon a Time, mostly when characters have used their magic for negative reasons eventually pay the consequences for their actions. Sometimes it takes a long time for their actions to come back to them, and that is consistent with the Three-Fold-Law. We don’t know exactly when our actions will come back to us. Like the characters on the show, sometimes we find things come back years later.
The only problem I have is that calling it a price gives off a negative connotation, as though bad things will happen every time someone uses magic, whether or not it’s for positive or negative reasons, and that’s not really the case. The Three-Fold-Law is positive as well as negative. If we put out positive energy or magic into the world, we will see positivity in return. Once Upon a Time shows a lot of characters paying consequences when they use magic for a negative or selfish reason, but they don’t always seem to get positive results when they use magic for good.
In the most recent example, the first time Emma purposefully uses magic as the Dark One in “The Price” to save Robin Hood from a stab wound, she’s told that Regina will have to pay the price for the magic since she’s the one who asked for it. However, it seems strange to me that healing magic would be considered dark and that the price would be a life, as is the case in the episode. I’ve watched the show long enough to understand that anytime the Dark One uses magic it’s considered dark magic, regardless of why the Dark One is using it. I find that Once Upon a Time has a different definition of light and dark magic than I do, although that’s an entire post in itself, so I’ll try to address that at a later date.
Sometimes I wonder if their idea of light magic is really simply magic that reverses dark magic. They define it as magic created from love, which is an important concept in the show, as well as in most Wiccan and Pagan practices. True Love’s Kiss breaks every curse. However, in my practice, I don’t use love and light just to undo the dark. Perhaps some people remember times when light magic hasn’t just been used to undo dark magic? I haven’t watched the show in its entirety in awhile, so it’s entirely possible it happened and I just don’t remember. But I do find it fun that one of their main concepts on the show fits with an actual concept in magic today, even if their definitions are a bit skewed.