Stranger Things: Trump’s Presidency Brings Modern-Day Witches and Internet Occultists Out of the Shadows
How modern-day witches flourish in a technological age
You might think that the Trump administration itself is the strangest thing about the current American political climate, what with its Twitter rampages and alternative facts and support from white supremacists.
But the Trump administration has also accomplished something else: bringing more practitioners of the occult from across the political spectrum further into the public eye.
On February 24, covens of modern-day witches all over the U.S. joined together, physically and virtually, to cast a spell to “Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him” to keep them from doing harm to others or themselves. They are facing off in this battle against a cadre of 4chan users who believe that they harnessed memes (specifically that of Pepe the frog) as sigils to help Trump gain power (and Christians who are trying to harness the power of prayer to protect Trump from this witchcraft.)
The witches seeking to bind Trump and his supporters also knew they were taking up magical arms against a group that started partly as a joke, the Cult of Kek. The extent to which the Cult’s members believe in it versus the extent to which they view it as a golden opportunity to troll liberal witches is not totally clear, but it seems at least some buy into the theory that the popular usage of the Pepe meme actually resurrected the ancient Egyptian god Kek, who is associated with chaos and primordial darkness, and harnessed his power to actually help Trump get elected.
Others belief that Pepe was utilized as a sigil — a symbol that can be charged with the user’s power and intention — and that sigil supposedly grew in power as it was repeated and distributed across the internet and into the real world (for example, as a lapel pin on a “white nationalist”).
This is not the first time that modern witches have sought to harness their power against political and social injustice. Last summer, when convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner was sentenced to only six months in jail, hundreds of witches performed a mass hex on him.
More broadly, witchcraft is experiencing a kind of renaissance among young American women who are taking up the mantle and engaging in practices ranging from spell-casting to learning herbal remedies to reading tarot. They are reclaiming the title of “witch,” once used to denigrate women who did not conform to societal standards, re-purposing it as a celebration of their own power. The form they believe that power takes varies from witch to witch, but as a wide-ranging practice or loose belief system it is definitely gaining in popularity. It is also a way of identifying with women throughout history who pushed back against patriarchal oppression, and can be seen as part of a larger phenomenon among young Americans to identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Witchcraft is just one form that spirituality can take.
Likewise, this is not the first time a group of people has believed in the power of sigils and other occult forms of magic in determining the outcome of a political or even military campaign. Some Nazis (including some very high-ranking officers, such as Rudolf Hess and Heinrich Himmler) believed that the swastika was not just a symbol of their movement, but a sigil that was charged with power as it disseminated, and that could help them achieve victory. Aware of this belief, the British actually recruited famed occultist Aleister Crowley to their cause. He reportedly fed false information to German occultists, and according to legend created the “V for Victory” symbol as a counter-sigil to the Nazi’s use of the swastika.
In a way, the idea of the sigil is a spiritual spin on the more commonplace concept of branding. The more people see a brand logo or name, the more likely they are to recognize it, and then remember it when shopping and buy it. The sigil, then, is a metaphysical brand: as more people see it and engage with it, its users believe it gains some sort of power over people’s actions.
Whether that power has awakened an ancient Egyptian god who will bless Trump with his powers remains to be seen. But this battle between witches and magicians does make one thing clear: resistance takes many (sometimes unexpected) forms.
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
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Laura has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University, and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies. In addition to Reverb Press, she is a contributor at Mic and Medium.