Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Secrecy and public protest (should the bind Trump ritual been secret?)

Recently, an anonymous witch put forth the idea of a global magic ritual to bind President Donald Trump and his allies, to prevent them from doing harm to the environment and individuals. Such ideas are not new. For instance, last year a group of witches hexed convicted rapist and swimmer, Brock Turner, after his father argued that twenty years was a long time to be punished for twenty minutes of fun and a judge agreed, giving Brock just six months in jail and probation. And before the advent of social media and even the internet itself, groups of witches would occasionally get together to cast spells in the public interest—for instance, decades ago, several covens cast a spell to ensure the arrest of an unknown rapist that was preying on Denver’s Capital Hill neighborhood.

Such rituals are actually part of the DNA of modern witchcraft. Legends say that witches have gathered several times throughout history to cast spells at raiders threatening England. A tale from the Italian witchcraft lore that was in circulation before the formation of modern Wicca says that Italian witches gather together in times of need to magically correct wrongs being done to themselves. And while we know that such tales are made up to please researchers and believers, we must nevertheless acknowledge that the idea of resistance is there; and it did influence such people in the past as Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, as well as informs that beliefs of some of today’s crop of witches. The idea that witches bind together for the greater good, or at least to protect themselves and their loved ones, is as much part of our modern practices as the wheel of the year. It may not be widely taught today, but the traces of the idea are still there for those who decide to embrace such ideas.

Not everyone embraces such ideas. One of the reactions to the global binding of Trump, as well as the cursing of Brock Turner, was an outcall that real witches would never do such a thing. The most extreme reaction, outside of some trollish Christians who declared that this is why they support burning witches, was self-proclaimed authorities declaring that such spells violate the “harm none” law of Wicca and witchcraft, and that such spells are actually black magic.

Personally, I find it interesting that people line up to scream (figuratively, that is—though they might actually be screaming at their keyboards as they type) that such rituals are a form of harm to those that are being bound and cursed. Stop and think about it for a second. By invoking “harm none,” these critics of such binding rituals are arguing that the predators are allowed to continue doing whatever they like because the act of binding them actually harms them. In other words, they are more concerned that the predator will be harmed than they are about what harm the predator is inflecting on others.

Now, I will admit that in the case of binding President Trump, that such a discussion would be completely appropriate. After all, Trump is the President, and has been properly elected to represent the concerns and needs of the American people. And while many people loathe the man, and perhaps think that his policies and decisions are bad for everyone, not everyone feels that way—there are actually people who love our President and think that he is the best President that the United States has ever had. In the case of Trump, one is not merely binding a man in a limited way, but they are potentially preventing good that he might enable for some people. If one is honest, one must admit that for every person that Trump hurts, that he might be helping millions of other people. (Of course, the keyword in that sentence is “might”—the happy little cynic who says that Trump is only helping Trump himself could also be correct.) So in the case of binding Trump, one ends up using a slide rule and judging how much harm is allowed to be done to one set of people, or the environment, in exchange for how much benefit to another set of people while arguing about what section of the population is actually the most important for the health of the nation and possibly, the world.

As a result, one could claim that the binding of Trump is pure black magic, and that all the witches taking part are crypto-fascists hell-bent to overthrew the sovereignty of the United States to hasten the day when we are controlled by an one-world government; in essence, cursing the entire United States. (Some of my readers may think that I am making that bit up—nope, that was the actual reaction of one ceremonial magician who declared that he had been “secretly organizing” an resistance to the binding [hmmm, given his past behavior that “secretly organizing” claim is just him being unwilling to admit that he is so out of the loop that his least favorite critic actually blogged about the ritual before he, the brightest light in modern occultism, heard about it], and that the resistance would be organized around the astral Liberty Tree with him leading the patriots on the astral while his wife, the mighty Witch Queen [again, his words, not mine] would be organizing the physical end of the counter ritual.) The amount of harm being done by Trump is all in the eye of the beholder, and the internet predicatively was abuzz with arguments about whether or not, he was actually harming America.

But the most interesting reaction was those who declared that the very announcement of the ritual was a mistake, for it violated one of the most holy principles of witchcraft, the virtue of silence—and that it gave notice to the enemy who could easily short-circuit the ritual, as well as muddling up the working itself with too many amateur witches. This response, in my less than humble opinion, overlooks what the global binding ritual of Trump was really about. The truth of the matter is that secrecy does play a part in rituals. The binding of Trump is not the first ritual performed in modern times against a political leader—other leaders have gotten on the wrong side of witches and magicians—but a lot of these rituals have been secret with just a small group involved. So why was this binding ritual announced and spread though social media? Because the ritual was not meant to be secret—in fact, the knowledge of its existence was the real magic of the ritual, not any binding effects that it would have on Trump and his supporters.

In other words, the global binding ritual was meant to attract attention of social media, and in turn, the free press. And it worked. Attention was paid.

One of the things overlooked often by the modern generation of witches, especially those who are ignorant of Wicca’s British history, is the fact that Wicca always had one foot out, trying to get into the limelight. Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley (like him or hate him, he influenced Wicca), Alex Sanders and his wife, Maxine, as well as Sybil Leek, were all attention whores (so to speak). They wrote books and articles, gave interviews, encouraged newspaper and magazine articles, appeared on television—they were the original Big Name Witches. For them, publicity and public attention was good—they pursued publicity for fun and profit. What these early BNWs knew was that a tiny religion can get a lot of attention by being “dangerous,” that their opinions on religion and spirituality could get far more interest than the actual number of witches merited, by being outrageous. It was guerrilla marketing for the ideas and opinions of witches, a tactic of getting heard in a world that is full of other ideas.

And that, in my opinion, is what the public binding of Trump is really about—getting heard. It is about drawing attention to the possibility that perhaps Trump is bad news for everyone, other than himself, his nearest friends and their business interests—and that his values do not reflect the values of everyone. Modern Wicca and witchcraft with our values of common decency and environmental concern simply does not reflect the values that the Trump administration embodies, and we need to have our voices heard.

And this ritual, like it or not, will continue to draw attention in the future, for it is scheduled for every last quarter crescent moon between now and when Trump finally leaves office. The ritual will be a periodic reminder that not everyone is happy with a Trump presidency, and that some of those people call themselves witches and magicians.

1 comment:

Scott Stenwick said...

I do think that the best strategy would have been to keep it secret as long as they could have recruited enough people. But once the ritual was leaked, they went with the second-best strategy, to drum up as much media attention as possible to attract the largest possible group.

The number of people recruited if the ritual were kept secret is the biggest variable that I don't know how to estimate. If the ritual had been kept secret, the binding folks wouldn't have had to deal with the counterspell nonsense that Trump supporters kicked up. On the other hand, if the counterspell group was very small and the binding group, facilitated by the media presence, was very large, it's possible that the binding group could have realized a net gain from the attention.