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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — As the Trump administration continues to create great divides within the country and within the Pagan community, many magical people continue to turn to ritual as part of their action and protest. The nomination, hearings, and eventual confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court has triggered a new hex event, one that has been making mainstream headlines.

Catland Books in Brooklyn, New York has invited people to participate in a public hexing of Kavanaugh Saturday, October 20, 2018. The ritual is being led by Dakota Bracciale, co-owner of Catland and founder of Black Hand Conjure.

[Catland event website]

The event is described on Eventbrite as a “…publich(sic) hex on Brett Kavanaugh and upon all rapists and the patriarchy which emboldens, rewards and protects them.”  Bracciale goes on to say, “We will be embracing witchcraft’s true roots as the magik of the poor, the downtrodden and disenfranchised and it’s(sic) history as often the only weapon, the only means of exacting justice available to those of us who have been wronged by men just like him.”

A second ritual is scheduled for immediately after the hexing that is titled “The Rites of the Scorned Ones” and is described in part as seeking “to validate, affirm, uphold and support those of us who have been wronged and who refuse to be silent any longer.“

The Wild Hunt reached out to Dakota Bracciale; however, we were unable to conduct a full interview in time for publication. Bracciale did refer us to several other interviews given to other publications.

In an article published by the Guardian about the upcoming rituals and in reference to occult practices and language, Bracciale is quoted as saying, “It strikes fear into the heart of Christian fundamentalists. That’s one of the reasons that we do it. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. We don’t subscribe to this bullshit, pacifist, love and light, everybody just get along thing. If you want to hijack the country, if you want to steal the election, if you want to overturn Roe v Wade, if you want to harm people who are queer, well guess what, we’re not doing civility. If you’re going to be these awful bullies, you have to understand someone is going to punch you back and it might as well be a bunch of witches from Brooklyn.”

Bracciale’s view point of Witchcraft and the use of magic can be summed up with this quote, “Witchcraft has a deeply rooted history as a tool of resistance and resilience, to survive oppression, disenfranchisement, and being an outcast of society.”

Using magical practices as a form of resistance is not new. However, the digital forms that these actions are taking is new.

One of the most recent books on the topic is Magic for the Resistance by Michael Hughes, and it was published by Llewellyn last month. We talked to Hughes about the Kavanaugh event, asking how effective such work may be.  He said, “There are different definitions of “effective” when it comes to magic. Obviously, the attempts of many people (myself included) to utilize magic to prevent Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court did not work. However, he is still under investigation, so who knows if he ultimately will be removed.”

“If Democrats take back Congress in the midterms, that obviously increases the chances,” Hughes continued. “So we’ll just have to see—magic often works in unexpected ways. But in the sense of giving people a channel for their anger and frustration, and for reclaiming a sense of their power, these sorts of rituals are absolutely effective. And that is critically important during these dark times when it is easy to fall prey to despair and hopelessness. Rituals enable us to stay focused and charged for everyday activism.”

Hexing events bring with them controversy and conflict within magical communities. There are debates on whether its ethical, with some pointing out that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.  We asked Hughes whether or not he felt that hexing the people who are implementing policies we feel endanger us is a good idea or a bad idea, and should those participating be concerned about backlash? If people engage in this type of work, public or privately, should they be concerned about backlash?

“Yes, I think these sorts of rituals are a good idea, provided they are thoughtfully conceived and executed,” he said. “I’m always one for poking a stick in the eye of hypocritical evangelicals, and nothing gets them riled up like activist witches!” This is very similar to what Bracciale had to say on the language and practice.

Hughes went on to say, “As long as the intentions are not malign, such as wishing physical harm on someone, I’m all for it. If you hex or bind someone to prevent them from doing harm, or to remove them from office, that’s no different than using mundane means for the same results.”

However, he said he draws the line at hexing and cursing for physical harm. “I believe nonviolence is the only way to effect positive change, and violence perpetuates itself in a bitter cycle and can generate unexpected blowback. As witches and magical people, it’s important that we embody the highest principles and ethics in our workings.”

On the question of backlash or consequences Hughes said that is was possible, and that even mundane actions can bring backlash.

“That’s why witches and magicians need to make it clear that we are on the side of justice, and compassion, and equality. We’re not hexing or cursing or binding because we don’t like Kavanaugh, but because we stand for the rights of women not to be sexually assaulted. We believe that men credibly accused of sexual assault should be thoroughly investigated and not be ramrodded through a sham hearing dominated by old, white Republican men. As long as we stay true to our principles we have nothing to fear,” he explained.

One of the reasons that we are seeing a more public approach to magical resistance is the increasing in public awareness and acceptance of Paganism as a legitimate practice.

“We’re lucky to live in an era when we can publicly organize and harness our collective spiritual power in the fight for the things we believe in,” Hughes said.

“The evangelical right has shown they worship power, spite, and bigotry, not Jesus. Pagans and witches and magicians have risen to the task of fighting for the bedrock principles that have guided our country through very dark times. We’ve always been underdogs. We’ve always been marginalized, so we feel the pain of those suffering under the current authoritarian regime—women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. History has given us this opportunity to come out of the broom closet to fight for justice and equality and to resist authoritarianism and hate. We are the spiritual face of the resistance, and we’re going to win.”

Just as the country is deeply divided, so are Pagans. While most of the public magical resistance has been attributed to those who oppose Trump and now Kavanaugh, there are others, such as those in the Facebook group Pagans for Trump, who are working magic for the other side.

The Kavanaugh hexing event is scheduled for Oct 20 through Catland Books.