When it was announced in February that some witches were planning a mass ritual to stop Donald Trump, the Internet mostly reacted with bemusement, as one would expect. Not all were so amused, though; some fearful and angry Christians called for a mass prayer to protect Trump from the evil witches planting the seeds of his doom. There was also the cadre of chaos magicians performing counter-magick in support of Trump, because, you know, chaos (whether or not they actually support Trump, or just see him as an agent of chaos, is unknown). Then there were the old reliable, fluffy bunny Wiccans, who were offended that “witches” were once again being wrongly aligned with the forces of black magic.
The responses from the Wiccan community ranged from the garden variety “you’re going to fuck up your karma forever” to one of my personal favorite freak outs from a man named John Ivy, claiming to be a third degree initiate of the Alexandrian Tradition for over 45 years, who wrote:
Those being involved with this asinine attempt at “binding”, or casting a spell against, President Trump are NOT “witches” by ANY stretch of the imagination. These “zealots” advocate “fighting dark, i.e. President Trump, with dark magic”, which is extraordinarily ignorant on their part. Since “black magic”, per se, is in NO way connected with valid “Witchcraft”, the ONLY association it can have is with the “dark side” of Esoteric Philosophy, which in this case, is Satanism, pure and simple!!! Anyone who says it’s NOT, is just full of sh*t and doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about! They DON’T see the connection because that entity known by Christians as Satan is the “great deceiver” and blinds its followers to the truth.
Exactly what the difference is between Ivy and the Christians clutching their pearls is not entirely apparent, but I’ll table that point for now.
Whereas traditional witchcraft believes that a witch must know how and when to curse, as well as heal, Wiccans believe that any magic you put out into the universe will return to you threefold. Therefore, if you curse someone, you are essentially cursing yourself even worse. Any witch performing a hex on Trump was fucking their three-fold karma up real good; not only would they not get to be president, but they would probably not get laid at Beltane either.
This is hardly the first time Wicca has been at odds with fellow witches (nor the first time they claimed a monopoly on the “W” word). With the increase in popularity of traditional crafting, tensions between the two communities seem more pronounced as of late. Last year when the film The Witch was released, many Wiccans decried the film for reinforcing negative stereotypes, claiming that it didn’t depict “real witchcraft.” Traditional crafters, on the other hand, could not have disagreed more, and more than a few found it to be a transformative tale of liberation through witchcraft. A common refrain populating social media posts about the film in the witchcraft community was that “not all witches are Wiccans,” something that some Wiccans appear all too ready to ignore once again now that Trump has come into witches’ crosshairs.
Whereas witches and witchcraft have been around since time immemorial, it should not be forgotten that Wicca is a modern invention founded in the 1950s. Progenitors like Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders and Doreen Valentine based their newfound religion on the questionable theories of anthropologist Margaret Murray in her books “The Witch-Cult of Western Europe” and “The God of the Witches.” It is as much a religion venerating the neo-pagan wheel of the year, as it is a magical practice. At the same time that Wicca was coming into the public eye, traditional crafters were also making themselves known. The traditional witchcraft of Robert Cochrane, who started the Tubal Cain tradition, and the Feri tradition of Victor Anderson, were promoting competing ideologies that were not nearly as drenched in white light as Wicca. While Wiccans have long sought approval in society at large, in order to safely “come out of the broom closet,” most traditionalists are more secretive and private about their work, seeking not a place at the Unitarian table. Furthermore, given the unapologetic use of curses and odes to Lucifer found throughout traditional witchcraft, Wiccans are all too eager to throw their traditional counterparts onto the pyre and declare them heretics lest they confirm Christian fears that witches do indeed dance with the Devil. So, it is little wonder that when faced with any sign of traditional crafting, such as a hex on Trump, Wiccans are quick to jump up and declare it to be false witchcraft.
The problem is that the definition of witchcraft is hardly cut and dry, and barely agreed upon between communities. Wiccans tend to believe that witches must be part of the neo-pagan religious community and only practice “white” magic, whereas others believe that a witch can do whatever the hell they want and work in any spiritual tradition, including Christianity. The one element that is consistent between all opinions, though – and that even Wiccans would have to acquiesce to – is that a witch practices magic, which is what sets him or her apart from the normal practitioners of whatever spiritual tradition they ascribe to. Therefore, maybe the war between who is and who isn’t a real witch misses the boat altogether; instead, maybe the only issue that really should be addressed is – what is magic(k)?
Aleister Crowley famously declared that magic was “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” Although his definition has been tweaked here and there since, it remains the best. Even Scott Cunningham, the much beloved Wiccan author, basically reworded Crowley when he wrote “magic is the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects.” Both definitions are entirely amoral. Magic is simply a tool to achieve a desired end.
Wicca, though, is very adamant that there is a difference between white and black magic, and that the latter must be avoided at all costs. To quote Cunningham again, at his most hysteric:
This is important – magic is a positive practice. Wiccans don’t perform destructive, manipulative, or exploitive magic…negative workings are absolutely taboo. ‘Evil’ magic is an insult to themselves, to the human race, to Earth, the Goddess and God, and the universe itself.
To his credit, Cunningham maintained his position against such magic to the point of almost reducing the practice of magic in Wicca to merely protective workings. Of course, even Wiccans have needs and desires beyond protection, like love and money. As a result, plenty of Wiccan spell books traffic in magic for both, declaring them operations of white magic for the benefit of the witch, while doing no harm to others. Even a puritan like Mr. Cunningham wrote the occasional spell for both. Yet, to pretend that either operation is purely positive is naïve at best.
Love magic, above all, is the manipulation of another’s will to one’s own. If it were not, then one would not need love magic – the love affair would simply happen naturally. Similarly, when casting a spell for a job, one can lie to oneself and say they are only helping themselves get a leg up; but if they were meant to have the job, they would not need the magic. By casting the spell, one may be robbing another from receiving a job they were meant for.
Simply put, any manipulation of the natural order is black magic, at least according to the very definitions of white and black magic that Wicca has tied around its own neck, where black magic harms and white magic does not. To think otherwise is to demonstrate a complete lack of respect for magic itself and underestimate its true power, while overestimating one’s capacity to mitigate its ramifications.
In his book Transcendental Satanism, Matt “The Lord” Zane writes, “black magic is based on gratifying the will or desire of the individual, as opposed to white magic, which is adjusting your existence to the external, the universe.” In other words, black magic is forcing a change in the world, while white magic is accepting the world as it is. He points out that performing magic to obtain a personal goal and sending magical energy out into the objective world is self-serving in that you are disregarding what the universe has given to you, and are instead attempting to bend the universe to your will, an operation he calls “a beautiful, satanic act,” which, understood correctly, is entirely true. So even the most airy-fairy love spell is, at its heart, an act of left-handed rebellion against the natural order.
For my own part, I do not distinguish between white and black magic. Magic is magic. As stated before, magic is amoral, it is simply a tool to manifest the contents of one’s will. Instead, I believe there is high magic and low magic. High magic is magic done in the service of gnosis, whereas low magic is magic directed toward worldly concerns. Both are necessary on the path of witchcraft, and both should be done only after serious consideration of all that may come as a result.
Probably the most measured response to the Wiccan hysteria over the Hex on Trump comes from Druid, and former Vice President of CUUPS Continental, John Beckett, who wrote in his Patheos essay “Why I’m Not Participating in the Mass Binding on Donald Trump”:
This is reflective of dualistic thinking: some magic is good and other magic is evil – white magic vs. black magic, if you prefer. Magic isn’t that simple. Life isn’t that simple.
In almost 25 years of magical practice, I’ve seen no evidence the Threefold Law actually works as stated by some Wiccans. I’ve seen plenty of evidence of the “Strawberry Jam Effect” – you can’t work with it without getting it all over yourself. Some of this is psychological – the more you think about aggressive magic, the more aggressive you’ll become. Some is spiritual – ask spirits for their help and they’re going to want something in return. Good intent is no protection and generic disclaimers (“for the good of all with harm to none”) serve only to weaken the spell.
Real magic is not safe. Witchcraft is not safe. Participating in a revolution is not safe. Those who pretend it’s safe are dangerously naïve.
So mote it fucking be and a curse on Putin’s puppet.