Michael M. Hughes is an author, speaker, magical thinker, and activist. He is an eclectic magician, and his innovative practice draws upon his 25+ years of theoretic and practical occultism. He is the author of the upcoming Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change, as well as the cult horror Blackwater Lights trilogy and numerous essays and short stories. You can sign up for his newsletter at his website.
You started a viral campaign to cast magick to bind Donald Trump and all those who abet him. How did this come about? What inspired you to do so?
Like many interesting ideas, it came about after a night of drinks and intense conversation. A few weeks after the inauguration, a friend and I were commiserating and throwing out ideas about how to publicly resist the relentless parade of horrors we saw emerging from DC every day. We tossed around a bunch of possibilities—throwing a large party to benefit the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, organizing local marches, and the like—but I felt the response to the surreal new Trumpian world had to be equally surreal. As a practicing magician (I spell magic without the k), I thought back to historical precedents when magical people and countercultures pushed back against their political nightmares—the proto-Yippies exorcising and levitating the Pentagon during the Vietnam War, for example, or Gerald Gardner and his coven raising a cone of power against the Nazis in WWII and the W.I.T.C.H. activist groups that formed in the 60s.
I felt that any response likely to break through the 24/7 news cycle noise had to be sufficiently unusual and provocative. Marches and protests, while important, are shrugged off. A mass spell, however—that has power to captivate and enchant even the most jaded. I just had absolutely no idea how big it would get.
— Michael M. Hughes (@michaelmhughes) June 12, 2018
Can you explain why you feel Donald Trump is dangerous?
I don’t think you have space for a book-length answer, which is what the question deserves. I’ll just say that anyone who doesn’t see the ongoing dangers of Trump and his administration—to democracy, the rule of law, the environment, working and poor people, reproductive rights, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, minorities, the free press, and just about everything good and decent—is probably not reading this anyway. They’re watching Fox News.
Do you feel binding Donald Trump and those who abet him transcends political parties? Why or why not?
I think human decency transcends parties. Unfortunately, the GOP has become the party of authoritarianism, guns, and hate, and serves only its extremely wealthy donors. It began with the unholy alliance of the “Christian” fundamentalist Right and Reagan (an era I remember well), and it has only gotten worse as billionaire money bought out Congress and built think tanks and a media empire to parrot their lies. Which is why most Republicans with even a shred of morality have left the party. I mean, come on—how can you be the party of “family values” if you’re ripping babies from their mothers’ breasts and throwing them in cages?
So as far as the Trump binding spell goes, it is very specific: anyone supporting and enabling the unjust, inhumane, anti-democratic actions and policies of this administration are subject to its consequences. It is self-defense on a global scale.
— Michael M. Hughes (@michaelmhughes) May 29, 2018
There are those who argue that witchcraft and politics shouldn’t mix. You obviously disagree. Why?
Magic and witchcraft have always mixed. Life is political. People who say, “Oh, I’m not political” and try to keep their magic separate from the world around them are simply speaking out of privilege. Political actions and decisions have very real effects on people every day—especially the marginalized, persecuted, and oppressed. Which is why witchcraft has always been embraced by those with no other options. When you have exhausted everything else, magic is waiting.
Some argue against binding as negative magick, however, there are historical instances of famous figures in Witchcraft, including Wicca doing that. What are your thoughts?
I should state upfront that I’m not a witch or a Wiccan, though I did practice the Craft for a number of years, albeit in a Scott Cunningham, witchcraft-lite style. But my practice now is very eclectic and draws from a broad spectrum of magical and spiritual traditions. So when witches criticized me and brought up Wiccan Rede in response to the Trump binding, I respectfully disagreed. Binding spells are some of the oldest spells we know of, and were employed centuries before modern witchcraft emerged. Across the broad spectrum of Pagan traditions, defensive magic has always been part of the toolkit, whether or not individual witches utilize it.
Magic is a tool, and as such, it is perfectly legitimate to use it defensively. And the Trump binding spell is very explicit in its intent to bind Trump and his cohorts from doing harm. I always ask people this: if someone or something or someplace you loved was under attack, would you do everything legal within your power to stop it? If so, why wouldn’t you use magic?
— Michael M. Hughes (@michaelmhughes) February 27, 2018
In your new book Magic for the Resistance, one of the things I really enjoyed aside from the spells and rituals provided for hexing, binding, protection and healing was that you devoted a section to discuss Self Care during these times. Why is self care important to anyone doing this work?
Anyone who is even remotely concerned about the state of the world is feeling pretty beaten down these days. It is physically and emotionally draining to witness the onslaught of attacks on our fellow beings, our institutions, our values, and our environment. But the fight requires us to stay strong and fortified. And that’s where ritual and magic can play a critical role.
Magic and witchcraft focus a lot on shaping the external world. Magic is equally important for keeping us sane, grounded, attuned, and healthy. We need to plug into the magical current to recharge.
In fact, the Trump binding ritual serves as a form of self-care. It was explicitly designed to re-empower those feeling helpless or burned out.
What other methods of magick aside from these do you believe should be employed for social justice on a personal level?
We need to bring our entire game. We’re quite literally fighting for the future of sentient beings and our planet, so any and all techniques, mundane and magical, are useful and required. In my book, I discuss protective magic (particularly the use of mojo bags), restorative techniques, sigil making for social and political purposes, and of course defensive techniques for communities and ecosystems under attack.
You’ve created a sigil for your workings against Donald Trump, can you explain its significance and how it should be used by people?
It is pretty simple—the sigil represents the Trump binding spell, nothing more, nothing less. It is used to empower the spell and serve as its public symbol. People began asking for t-shirts and hoodies with the sigil on them, so I obliged, and I also created pendants and altarpieces in a variety of materials. Many people, including me, wear the sigil pendant when they do the monthly binding ritual.
Do you feel all those who oppose Trump should be working magick against him and his administration or do you feel there’s other magickal actions that can be taken by those who don’t want to bind or hex?
Everyone who is opposed to not just Trump, but the larger global mind viruses of authoritarianism, nationalism, plutocracy, and racial supremacism, should be working whatever magic they are comfortable with as a component of their larger resistance efforts. Everyone who is concerned about social justice and inequality should use every tool at their disposal, just as every environmentalist should energize their practical efforts by connecting spiritually with the energies of the earth and its inhabitants, be they physical or non-corporeal.
Our ancestors and spiritual allies understand the gravity of our situation, so be sure to work with them, too. All hands on deck!
It’s important to note that magic doesn’t replace the mundane but critically important activities of political engagement—calling representatives, marching, protesting, and voting. Magic plays two important roles: adding energy and power to push the results in the right direction (i.e. results magic) but also keeping us nourished, fortified, and energized to resist the dark, regressive political and social forces holding us back from evolutionary growth and threatening our collective survival.
Reader’s Digest, March,1941 on Hitler hexing parties. “The main thing is that as many people as possible do it, and that Hitler learns it’s being done.”#BindTrump #MagicResistance #WitchHunt #HexHitler pic.twitter.com/V0ryuKz223
— Michael M. Hughes (@michaelmhughes) May 12, 2018
Some witches who are sympathetic to your cause have also criticized the magickal workings against Trump for being public and breaking the Witch’s Pyramid point of “To Be Silent” about spells. What are your thoughts on this? Why have you chosen for these rituals to be public and known?
Thanks for asking this question, as it is a criticism that drives me bonkers. First, as I stated, I’m not a witch, so that has no more application to my workings than an admonition from a Baptist Church. I’m cool with people believing it, but it has never made sense to me, as there are magical traditions from around the world that require the targets to be aware of the magic being used against them (for a well-known example, a shaman who publicly curses an enemy). But historically, that admonition comes from the 19th century occultist Eliphas Levi, who wrote: “Everything is possible to him who wills only what is true! Rest in Nature, study, know, then dare; dare to will, dare to act and be silent!”
Now, I enjoy Levi’s writings and have learned from them, but he was a product of the Victorian era and I don’t agree with him at all in that sense. And my understanding of magic is that it is multidimensional and mutable, not just something done in private, and can be channeled and focused as part of large public workings. The Nazis and the Nuremberg rallies were malignant examples, but public art, direct action, and especially large musical events can be powerful workings in their own right.
The Trump spell has engaged thousands of witches, traditional and eclectic—and they clearly don’t find public magic problematic.
Lastly, anything we can look forward to from you in the near future? Any new books, projects, tours, events?
I plan to do as many signings and conference appearances as I can manage once Magic for the Resistance comes out. I have been humbled by the thousands of people who have joined the #MagicResistance movement, and I want to reach out and learn from them—to see how they are using resistance magic in their lives. I also plan to put my Tarot Boot Camp class online because so many people have been asking for it. Tarot was my entry into occultism, and teaching people the history and how to read the cards is incredibly rewarding.
I’m also doing research for another book of magic, this one aimed broadly at the inexperienced but magic-curious audience that has so warmly embraced this current book. I am convinced we are living in a true renaissance of magic and witchcraft, and that our numbers will continue to grow as more people gravitate to practical spiritual practices.
So if you’d like to host a signing or a talk for your circle, coven, or community, please reach out! Since I’ve worked solo for so many years I am a relative newcomer to the larger Pagan community, and I’ve been heartened by the reception I’ve gotten from people like you, and look forward to becoming even more engaged and active.
The planet needs us all now more than ever, especially the healers and the voices for the oppressed and marginalized. Keep up the fight, witches! A better world is ours for the making.
Patreon Exclusive Bonus
Michael M. Hughes shares his technique which he calls “Feeling The Future” which derives from the New Thought and Positive thinking traditions that he believes greatly benefits his magick. He uses the Trump Binding Spell as the example for the technique. This is available for Patreon supporters with the tier “In The Know Jackalope” and higher.