Across the country, according to reports, something similar was taking place: Countless witches and other occult enthusiasts had pledged to partake in a simultaneous mass ritual at midnight on February 24 in order to "Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him." (The point in performing a binding spell, as the spell instructions carefully noted, is not to harm an individual, but rather to prevent them from harming others. "This is not the equivalent of magically punching a Nazi," the Medium post containing the ritual incantation stressed. "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.")By the time the mass ritual was performed, it had become a media sensation, covered everywhere from BuzzFeed to Breitbart, and had attracted exactly one high-profile celebrity to the cause (Lana del Rey, obviously). It had also become, to some particularly fervent people, a high-stakes battle over the state of the deeply unpopular president's soul—a rightwing Christian group, incensed by the "blasphemy against God," announced that they would be praying to counteract the spell. "This is a declaration of spiritual war, and it requires a response," they wrote. "We ask you to join us in praying for the strength of our nation, our elected representatives, and for the souls of the lost who would take up Satanic arms against us." This absurd development buoyed the dominant media narrative, which framed the event as a quirky spectacle or novelty: "Witches and Christians Are Prepared to Battle over Trump," or something to that effect, wrote several headline editors.
But this isn't the first time witches have meddled in Trump's affairs, and the magical Trump resistance is far more fractured than most media coverage would suggest. Liberal witches, like much of the left, vehemently disagree on how to handle the embattled former reality star and his administration; some find the rhetoric of the binding spell too divisive, while others worry that the populism of the mass ritual could dangerously dilute any desirable magical effects.Michael Hughes, the magician who publicized the Trump-binding ritual, conceived of it as a fairly straightforward act of self-defense against the current administration, which he describes as "an obvious danger." He was not, he said, expecting the backlash from the occult community. As the spell started to go viral, witches began flocking to the comments section of the Medium article Hughes had published to express their dismay and horror. Some of them were worried the spell's imprecise wording—the ritual chant originally asked that Trump "fail utterly" without specifying at what—could have unintended, cataclysmic consequences for national security; others cautioned that the planets weren't aligned correctly on the specified date. The majority of the ritual's detractors, however, worried that the spell, being too negative, was running afoul of the "Rule of Three," which states that whatever energy a person puts into the world will return to them threefold.
This is not the equivalent of magically punching a Nazi.
Other witches decried the fact that the ritual, by going viral, had involved far too many inexperienced or first-time magic users. "The idea of circulating this far and wide and bringing in thousands of magic users is appealing," wrote John Beckett, a respected Druid, in a post on Patheos. However, he warned, "not all magic users are equal. Some are well-trained, experienced magicians. Some are beginners who are still trying to figure out what they're doing… Just bringing more people into the working isn't going to make it effective."In effect, the left-leaning witchcraft community was rehashing several contentious political arguments about how to best handle Trump, only with spells—there were the "they go low, we go high" witches who hoped to reason with Trump supporters using enlightenment invocations, and there were those who were skeptical about the value of appealing to the masses with watered-down magic.
We aren't just fighting Trump. We're fighting the people around us. We're fighting the Sons of Kek, too.
According to ATL, Pepe can be seen as a form of chaos magic, an ancient belief system that relies on magic symbols, or sigils, to project one's will into the universe. "When a lot of people pool their united willpower towards a single sigil, it's called a hypersigil, and it's exponentially more potent," he explained on his website. "Millions of the 'little people' that browse 4chan have embedded the image of Pepe with their hatred for Hillary's alleged corruption, and their hope for Trump's victory over her in November. Whether they did this consciously or not, it's exactly what has happened."
Here we have this old woman yelling about a cartoon frog, and then she gets brought down on the anniversary of her treachery.
Ferréol compared the Cult of Kek to Creepypastas, user-generated horror stories that are shared extensively around the internet. Most notably, this practice birthed Slender Man, a creepypasta that became powerful enough to (allegedly) influence a murder. "I feel meme magic is, in that case, a way to see how that collective can impact on the real world…Thoughts becoming forms, like Slender Man, who went from a simple [photoshopped image] to a collective nightmare," he said. "Donald Trump is the new Slender Man."
Donald Trump is the new Slender Man.
Those who partook in the binding spell on Trump strongly disagree. Carrie St. Aaron sent Broadly an effusive email the day afterwards, describing the palpable rush of energy they'd felt once the spell was complete. "Wow. That was incredible. There's 1.4 thousand Facebook RSVPs, and that's only the Facebook users. Lana del Rey herself participated. I'm kind of stunned that it got this big. I feel like the Christian opposition and the Sons of Kek were just completely overpowered," they wrote. "I honestly feel like we're ushering in a new age, and it's… incredible, to say the least."Hughes, too, was excited, telling me that the feedback had been overwhelmingly positive and that he'd heard from magic practitioners from all around the world. "The longer-term goal of removing Trump from office will take time, which is why the rituals are ongoing. But I will most definitely be watching closely, especially as the administration begins its planned full-scale assault on our democracy, its people, and its institutions," he said. "Each rebuke to that destructive agenda will be ours to savor, and I suspect the harder he pushes, the harder the resistance will push back."