In light of recent accusations of Satanism, black magic, and all kinds of evil intentions directed against those who participated in last Friday’s mass ritual to “bind” Donald Trump, I contacted Michael M. Hughes—the organizer of the February 24th event and de facto public face of magical resistance—and invited him to set the record straight. Hughes shared his thoughts on religious freedoms, future relations with the Christian right, the political power of witchcraft and art, Judeo-Christian roots of magic, and the benefits of “self-exorcism,” adding moral complexity to this heavily polarizing event.
At the stroke of midnight (EST) on February 24, 2017, an untold myriad of self-described witches, magical folk, and ordinary malcontent Americans gathered for a global political protest event, which aimed to apply a tradition of ritualistic magic to “bind” the president “and all those who abet him” until Trump is removed from the Oval Office. The organizer calls for the ritual to be repeated on all successive Waning Crescent Moon nights (including March 26th, April 24th, May 23rd, June 21st, July 21st, and August 19th).
In the days and hours leading up to the Trump-binding event, the ritual gained significant media attention, celebrity endorsements, and exploded in popularity on social media websites like Twitter (with #bindtrump and #magicresistance trending) and Facebook (which has grown to 11,650 “likes” at time of writing). Participants shared their videos and anecdotes of the midnight spellbinding, which included a varied array of expressions, from brief individual recitations to gaggles of robed witches performing elaborate ceremonies.
This strategy seamed to mean something different to each participant; for some, it was simply an artistic manifestation of the anti-Trump movement, representing a creative technique for demonstrating their dissatisfaction and amassing public awareness for their cause; however for others, the ritual held actual supernatural power to affect the current political landscape. The guidelines of the ritual were first made public on February 19th by Michael Hughes, who described it as a plan that had already been brewing for some time in certain circles and which allegedly originated with a “member of a private magical order who wishes to remain anonymous.” He also added,
“I make no claims about its efficacy, and several people have noted it can be viewed as more of a mass art/consciousness-raising project (similar to the 1967 exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon), than an actual magical working. But many are clearly taking it very seriously.”
As expected, the event sparked considerable blowback from many within the Christian right, igniting an old culture war and bringing witchcraft back into the forefront of modern American discourse. Evangelical Christian supporters of President Trump reportedly gathered to pray as a way to “counteract the spell.” Led by theo-conservative activist groups, Christian Nationalist Alliance (CNA) and Intercessors for America (IFA), the nation-wide call to prayer condemns the “magical attack on believers and servants of God” as a Satanically-inspired act of “blasphemy” against the Christian god, initiated by “those who have covenants with evil.”
These responses highlight an intensifying demonization of members of the anti-Trump movement and those who belong to culturally obscure religious/spiritual organizations. The religiously-charged condemnation of this event is born out of a long standing tradition of ignorance and intolerance toward the magical community and its pop-culture manifestations, but the association with the political left has added new fuel to the fire.
This post will analyze accusations of Satanism and immorality aimed against the organizers of the magical ritual to bind Trump and practitioners of magic/witchcraft in general. It will then briefly explore the multifaceted religious origins of this unique form of magical ritualism, which borrows most distinctively from the religious/spiritual traditions of Wicca, Neopaganism, and Occultism, as well as folk religions and shamanism. However the ritual also has roots in the mystical elements of more “established” religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, which is likely a major point of resentment for its critics within the Christian right, which overwhelmingly support Trump,, actively advocate socially conservative positions, and often follow strict Protestant fundamentalism.,
After reviewing my original post on Jewish settler ideology, I don’t think I adequately addressed the critical question, what is ancient Judea and Samaria? And furthermore, what is the biblically based claim to its divine bestowal upon the Jewish people? I hope this brief history lesson will suffice. Further, I hope the biblical passages quoted below will provide some insight into how easily violent settler ideologies can draw upon scripture to justify their point of view.
This morning’s joint press conference between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump was packed with a mix of salient foreign policy revelations and awkward jokes about Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. It marked a clear departure from the often turbulent, yet hardly obstructing and exceedingly financially generous Obama-era relationship with Israel’s hard right head of state. Although Trump has recently moved to moderate his earlier statements supporting Jewish settlement construction, the already well-formed personal friendship between the two leaders and their alignment on various political issues—including national security strategy, Iran, the “unfair” UN, as well as a fondness for walls—suggests the bond between the US and Israel may be stronger than ever.
This is good news for Netanyahu’s far-right friends within the Jewish settler movement, a growing group of largely Israeli and Israeli-Americans living on illegal towns and rogue outposts in the West Bank, an area captured by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967 and which has remained under military occupation for almost 50 years. Today it is home to approximately 3 million Palestinians, 550,000 Jewish settlers, and an unknown number of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers stationed at military checkpoints and watchtowers sprinkled throughout the territory, including within settlement blocks, where they serve as guards.
The language one uses to describe this disputed area is highly informative of their political, even religious leanings. For instance, for many Palestinians residing in the cities and villages west of the Jordan River (and in the Gaza Strip), this land is “Palestine,” their promised share of the larger historic Palestine that will one day be part of a two-state solution. For moderates respecting the neutral definition of the area as a still-to-be-determined not-yet-quite-a-county, the term “West Bank” is considered most PC, although its etymological objectivity is debated. Some instead prefer “Occupied West Bank” or “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” However, for hardcore Zionists holding to the belief that all of Israel—including the area west of the “Green Line”—is the God-given gift to the Jews, this land is “Judea and Samaria,” reclaiming its biblical name and hoping for its ultimate official annexation by the state of Israel. This term is also used in an official capacity by the government of Israel.
Pertinent to a discussion of Netanyahu’s remarks during his first press conference with our Dear Leader is some background information on the settlers’ biblically-based claim to “Judea and Samaria.” After all, Mr. Netanyahu evoked this notion while responding to a question on whether or not there was room for the two-state solution in a Trump-brokered peace process, stating,
“Jews are called Jews because they are from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonists in Judea.”
It’s clear from the start that fact-checking this claim will not provide a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to its validity; that just isn’t possible with such deeply-rooted religious convictions that are based on ancient historical evidence. I hope that this post will instead draw attention to some of the divisive rhetoric employed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, informed through the context of the religious ideological foundation of Israel’s settler movement, a dominating force placing enormous pressure on the leadership bodies of both the Israel and the US.