Casting spells for and against Trump divides Neopagan community

The election of Donald Trump has set off a battle among witchcraft and occult practitioners seeking to either bless or throw a magical wrench into the administration of the new U.S. president. A special session of the recent Boston meeting of the American Academy of Religion brought together both scholars and magical practitioners to address this growing conflict in the occult community. Scenes of Wiccan practitioners, or “witches,” casting spells to thwart the Trump presidency have taken place at some of the protest events that have mushroomed since last November’s elections. But these spectacles are part of a wider effort to join witchcraft and activism. A paper presented by Peg Aloi (State University of New York at New Paltz) looked at the activist group W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Troublemaker Conspiracy From Hell, among other acronyms) and a broader “bind Trump” movement, which uses homegrown rituals of “magical resistance” against the president, such as tarot cards and spells using orange candles (to symbolize Trump’s hair). W.I.T.C.H. actually started in the late 1960s as performance art and a feminist protest group and has since adopted more Wiccan elements. Its latest incarnation has been based around anonymous protests using magical ceremonies and has organized covens in several American cities.

These efforts have drawn criticism from other Neopagans, who view them as generating bad publicity, with the most extreme of these being groups and leaders who have sought to counteract the anti-Trump witch activists. Leading these right-wing Neopagans and Wiccans are David Griffin and Leslie McQuade of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as well as such new groups as the Cult of Kek and Aristocrats of the Soul, which have launched magical counterattacks against the Trump attackers and carried out their own rituals to protect the president. Griffin and McQuade call on all believers to combat what they call the “black magical terrorists” targeting Trump. There is some intersection between these groups and what has been called the “alt-right,” mainly in the way they critique globalization, use social media and blend Internet “memes,” such as Pepe the Frog, with magical themes, according to another paper by Egil Asprem of Stockholm University. He concluded that the Neopagan use of rituals is a case of generating “collective effervescence” in the face of diminishing trust in the establishment, pointing to a similar revival of magical interest and activity during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.