The case of Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was sentenced to only six months in jail after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, has inspired a burst of activism, from millions sharing a letter penned by his victim to thousands of others working to unseat the judge who sentenced him. The latest action is slightly more metaphysical in nature, though—arriving in the form of hundreds of practicing witches coming together on Tuesday night to hex the convicted former swimmer.
The event was organized by Melanie Elizabeth Hexen, a midwife and belly-dance instructor who lives near Wilton, Iowa. She said she and her local coven, made up of 13 women, were inspired to create the event after feeling "outraged and helpless" over Turner's short sentence. Hexen made a Facebook event to allow others who wanted to take action to join in on the mass hex, and within 12 hours more than 600 people had RSVPed.
"There must have been a huge need for this for it to blow up so fast," Hexen said. "We all felt so much injustice and anger and sadness and the need to connect on a psychological level with other people who felt the same and could do something about it."
At 10 PM Central Time, the virtual event officially began, with witches around the world hexing Turner in their own homes and sharing photos of altars and descriptions of their ceremonies on the Facebook page. Most hexes focused on impotence and causing Turner physical pain.
A sample ritual Hexen posted to the group suggested using a black candle and a photo or representation of Turner, wrapping it with a string, and chanting the following hex: "In the most holy name of Hecate, the Goddess of Life and Death, She who holds the key to the underworld, let this rapist meet justice. Let him be destroyed."
Hexen then suggests repeating this three times:
"Brock Allen Turner we hex you.
You will be impotent
You will know constant pain of pine needles in your guts
Food will bring you no sustenance
In water, your lungs will fail you
Sleep will only bring nightmares
Shame will be your mantle.
You will meet justice.
My witchcraft is strong. Our witchcraft is powerful. The spell will work. So Mote it be."
Witches participated from various regions of the US as well as internationally, hexing in from countries such as Peru and Uruguay, and the ceremonies varied widely by person and practice. Some women anointed their candles in urine or menstrual blood, and many incorporated sulphur or salt circles. While most targeted Turner directly, others included the judge who sentenced him as well as his father for defending his son's actions. Others tackled broader issues like the "destruction of rape culture," as one witch described her spell.
A few women also conducted positive ceremonies, lighting candles for the victim and those who saved her, and sending positive energy to the witches completing the hex. Hexen has no specific plans for mass hexing again in the future, but many people are continuing to take action in private groups and creating future events.
Hexen said many of the witches who participated on Tuesday were survivors of sexual assault themselves. They posted their own experiences in the Facebook event, sharing support for one another and making their hexes more potent.
"I was touched so deeply they were involved in this ritual, and I feel that their witchcraft was ten times more powerful than mine in this situation," Hexen said. "Someone who has been through something like that would have so much rage and so much power and so much need for justice that they made it so much stronger. It was brave of them to come forward and hopefully cathartic for them to do that."
Danika Murphy was a participant in the event who hexed Turner by writing down his name and invoking the goddess Lilith, a protector of women and children. Murphy said that as a sexual assault survivor who never received justice, she felt the ceremony was a means to create change, both for herself and society at large.
"Last night's hex was very empowering—it was very uplifting to see everybody come together and do something about an issue we feel so strongly about," she said. "Hexing is very powerful. As I was always taught: If you can't hex, you can't heal."