Twice yesterday the topic of negative or attack magick came up. The first conversation was private and about the work of negative (for lack of a better word) shamans. The second, was on Jason Miller's blog, which if you don't read on a regular basis, you should.
There are three types of folks that I've seen practice magick intended to do damage to another person.
The Wounded Animal -- These folks are likely the most common. They've been hurt or traumatized at some point in their lives and that comes out in a need for both control and misplaced revenge. Though, the people involved would likely only rarely glimpse their own control and revenge issues. These are the same people that either find a reason to dislike folks or engineer all sorts of psycho/social damage to the folks around them. In the magickal world, most of these people are cowards. They want to punch you in the nose but are afraid you'd hit them back. So, they use social games and hide behind magick. They also attack people our of pure fear and insecurity brought on by those aforementioned traumas.
Response: The normal human response to people that play these games is anger. I have no ethical qualms about defending oneself from these people's games. However, doing so with compassion and prayers for the person's healing seems a more spiritual response than throwing fire balls. Don't mistake me, if one of these people is capable of doing real damage hitting them hard and fast is well within one's rights. I simply find that most of the time that isn't necessary. They will turn their attacks to the next person soon enough. Their wills are constantly being weakened by the next perceived threat. They are often more a nuisance than a threat. Your normal warding will simply deflect much of these stuff. Have you done your banishings today?
The Bully -- These are people looking for a reason to launch an attack in the name of 'defense' but any excuse will do. They can find affront and danger almost anywhere. Often times, the more self-aware of these folks merely know or believe they are the biggest kid on the block and are capable of magickally stealing other people's milk money. Often, these are really Wounded Animals too. However, they have reached a point where being nice, kind and full of so-called white light, is useless. Unbalanced Mercy is but weakness that allows evil to flourish. Unbalanced Severity is but cruelty and barrenness of the soul. So says some Golden Dawn ritual.
Response: Hire Jason Miller and be done with them. Or, if you're good enough, do it yourself. The latter is the option most of us would choose. However,it is only the egoist that ever believes he is always the best. Get help when you need it. The other option is just to quietly move out of their lives. I will eschew discussions on protecting others at this point. Often, that is just another excuse for committing acts of revenge but not always.
The Magician: Those who are willing to respond to the willful(or the sub-aware) act of negative magick with opposing force. In twenty years I've launched negative magick three times. I can think of one situation where I should have from the distant past. Though, discretion was probably the better part of valour as I would have had my ass handed to me and I didn't know Jason back then.
If I felt pressed to perform such magicks as many as three times a year, I'd hope my magician friends would call me short. While I agree magickal attacks happen more often that Llewellyn would have you believe, if I found yourself on the receiving that many attacks from other practitioners I'd want to ask myself why.
My response to negative magick is pre-emptive. When I learn a new skill, I often do some sort of home or personal protection with it. I use the theory that many different kinds of spells and traps will either deflect, absorb, throw back or at least severely weaken anything incoming. If such people can not get to me, I don't have to waste my energy on them nor even be distracted. I can do what I perceive the best use of magick is, spiritual growth and development. Well, that and exploring the unknown depths.
P.S. Prayer works. Use it.