February of 2017 was when reality set in for a plurality of Americans. As it turned out, they were not in a dream. There was no coma imprisoning them this whole time to be let out of. The glitch in the Matrix was not going to be patched. Donald Trump was now by law the highest-level public official in the United States. After months of disbelief and teeth-gnashing, the facts of history had to be faced. Some threatened to move abroad. Some took to the streets with clever signs and hats. Some stayed in and hashtagged in sympathy. Some tried to check out of reality altogether. But for a select few, this was not enough. Donald Trump was a unique adversary whose defeat required, shall we say, uncanny methods.
After the inauguration, a document was made public entitled “A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him.” It describes a ritual “to be performed at midnight on every waning crescent moon until [Trump] is removed from office.” Its components include an unflattering picture of Trump, which they provide, a small orange candle, a white candle (any size), a Tower tarot card, water, salt, and a feather to represent elemental Water, Earth, and Air respectively, an ashtray or a dish of sand, etc. Pyrite and sulfur are optional. The resulting “binding spell” is not a curse or a hex, but one that would “restrain someone from doing harm.”
In other words, this is not the equivalent of magically punching a Nazi; rather, it is ripping the bullhorn from his hands, smashing his phone so he can’t tweet, tying him up, and throwing him in a dark basement where he can’t hurt anyone.
“This document has been making the rounds in a number of magical groups both secretive and public,” writes self-professed “eclectic magician” Michael M. Hughes. “I make no claims about its efficacy … . But many are clearly taking it very seriously.” Among the many was Lana Del Rey, who tweeted the dates of the crescent moons and added, somewhat unhelpfully, that “Ingredients can b found online.” (The tweet has been deleted.) Del Rey became something of the unofficial spokeswoman for the effort, making one wonder how many occult rituals are being performed without a celebrity’s endorsement.
But the exposure has not produced any tangible results so far. Nine rituals later, Trump is unhappy about his job, but he is still able to add little touches of harm on top of the regimen of violence, indignity, disenfranchisement, and confusion the United States government regularly provides to people within and without its borders. When asked about the ritual by NME, Del Rey offered the coda appropriate to the underwhelming outcome: “Look, I do a lot of shit.”
The failure to harness the power of the occult to effect change seems like no great loss in the swirling sewage of failure coursing through this year. But it offers some interesting dilemmas depending on the root cause of that failure. I can think of three.
The first possible cause is that witchcraft and other dark arts simply do not work. Even Hughes admitted this possibility in his introduction to the ritual. Some people, he wrote, saw it more as a symbolic “mass art/consciousness-raising project” not unlike the time Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies tried to levitate the Pentagon in 1967. And Del Rey’s neo-hippie cum Nico persona simply compounded its countercultural sheen. It is aesthetic and cathartic rather than properly spiritual, another crest of the wave of “neopaganism” that, however deeply or shallowly adhered to, stands in for broad antipathy of the mainstream.
The second possible cause is that witchcraft and other dark arts do work, but that they were not powerful enough. Not, anyway, compared to the power of God as it is infused with Donald Trump. The pro-Trump Christians are correct. Donald Trump’s moral character and keen mind are what is required to revive America from its malaise and to bring Christ’s message back at the center of American life.
Some may chortle at that second one, and while I am not one to chortle I will at least plaintively nod along. Even if Donald Trump does possess a moral character that ventures somewhere beyond “what looks best,” his grasp on religious matters gives numerous Christians pause. And yet there is something to the Trump presidency that can’t quite be rationalized. A kind of charisma hangs around him that no one can lift; that empowers him exponentially, if not to push forward on an agenda then at least to confound and dizzy his adversaries. No one can quite best him, and the screeching sound of his scurrilous minions being vindicated over and over is still more salt in the psychic wound. It could be that Trump is that good. Or it could also be the third possible cause of the binding spell’s failure: witchcraft and other darks do work, but the pro-Trump camp knew them better.
One makes this suggestion with caution. It brings to most people’s minds the odious memory of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s harried, booze-sodden face of as he accused the entire United States Army of having been subverted by Communists. McCarthy’s legacy is a pox on all of us. His rise exposed us as a public who craves showmanship at the expense of precision. His fall left the impression that our institutions were invulnerable to duplicity and sabotage.
In 1943, the National Security Agency enacted the Venona Project with the purpose of intercepting and decrypting messages sent from Soviet intelligence agencies. The project lasted until 1980, receiving thousands of transmissions. In the process they uncovered several spy operations being undertaken in the United States and other Western nations, often in close proximity to or right inside of the halls of power. Evidence against the likes of Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, the Cambridge Five, the Rosenbergs, Victor Perlo, and others were gathered by this project, though none of it had been made public until 1995.
For as long as the United States remains a powerful nation—and maybe even after its decline, for the hell of it—there will always be nefarious actors looking to infiltrate it at any level. And to exclude the purveyors of the ultimate darkness from these actors would be senseless and dangerous, especially when that darkness has so eminently fillable a vessel as the White House’s current host. Among the greatest embarrassments of the liberal order is how it has wasted the potential of countless inquisitors and left aimless several would-be Witchfinder Generals in far less dignified roles as, I don’t know, Recreation Commissioners, or Board of Education Presidents.
But here I hesitate again in suggesting their immediate reinstatement for two reasons.
First is the possibility that a Satanic presidency will have no greater a success record than any Christian presidency. Surveying our most pious recent Presidents—Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, and Bush II—no consistent Christian thread runs through any of them. In some instances, the guidance of Christ went almost entirely unheeded. It stands to reason that the occult will have just as many obstacles to perfect application. The United States government is susceptible to vice, it is a matter of finding what doors are open for its delivery at a given moment. The witches and warlocks of the Trump administration could be smuggling in all the sacrificial babes, virgins, and fauna that we can procure for them, and they may never get it exactly right.
Second is the benefit occult operations in government bring us generally. For all of its antagonism toward virtue, peace, and man’s salvation from his fall, witchcraft brings a sense of balance where a sense of nothingness once was. What is a worse method: a free jazz approach to governance spawned of mindless self-indulgence, or of hyperfocused malice of an otherworldly menace? What is a worse outcome: shortsighted institutional corruption for pure grift, or the farseeing institutional corruption for the Fallen Prince to gain his foothold into our plane for the expansion of his Dark Realm? Indeed, such is the state of our affairs that not a few may look on the blackening of the sun, the wailing of the dead, the flaying of the innocent, and the preponderance of locusts and think, “At least it was to some purpose!” before being shredded asunder by hooks from every direction but no certain origin.
An occult of this kind is of eminent use for the American public, not because its victory will somehow ennoble us, of course, but because of the example it offers. Our moment of petty evils can accumulate in to a far greater evil without vigilance. This is the lesson of Robert Eggers’s now-classic The Witch that seemed lost on the Satanic Temple. “Living deliciously” is liberating only insofar as an obstinate and prideful Christianity will enable it to seem in comparison. In the end, adherents still give themselves over to a power greater than themselves, though it is a power that may not really care one way or the other who is giving or why, only so long as they fulfill his obligations for the opportunity. On that alone, our quid quo pro-affectionate President cannot deny its appeal.