Magic for the Resistance
Rituals for Spells and Change
By Michael M. Hughes
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Published by Llewellyn Publications
September 2018 (available for pre-order)
AMBER LOVE 24-JUL-2018 My work is supported by the generous backers at Patreon.com/amberunmasked who appreciate my reviews and my stories; and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast. Also, I’m an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my personal recommendations such as this one. This review was made possible by NetGalley.
When I joined the Official Bind Trump Facebook Group, I had no idea who the founder was or specifically to whom we owed credit for the global sensation that became known as the #BindTrump spell and the #MagicResistance tag. I saw it make the rounds on Twitter via every kind of media publication from indie mags to mainstream news. I heard Lana DelRey was joining in and promoting the spell to stop Donald J. Trump and all who abet him. I didn’t believe it and checked her Twitter for myself. Yes indeed, it was there. Then in the Facebook Group, I began enjoying all the incredible creations other witches came up with for how to make the spell their own or use it as a template for other witchcraft activism. There are so many talented people there willing to share their ideas and photos of their altars. As of today, the group is just shy of 3,500 members.
I noticed a post by Michael Hughes. It was a sigil he offered to be used as the “official” #BindTrump sigil, but he continued to encourage people to make their own if they wanted and knew how. The members, including myself, loved the sigil so much, it soon became people’s avatars or part of their spellcasting. It went viral just as the original spell had. I still didn’t realize it was Hughes who started this phenomenon. There was enough demand for him to make 3D printings or castings of the sigil which could be worn as necklaces or placed on altars.
June 14th, Hughes posted that he had a new book coming out, Magic for the Resistance: Rituals for Spells and Change and it was available for pre-order. The first thing I did was check NetGalley to see if there was any chance I could review this. It’s published through Llewellyn, the “big cheese” of witchcraft and spiritual media. I was thrilled when I got the approval and dug in immediately.
The book is set up in clear logical order by chapters with so much inclusion and instructions, that I questioned whether or not I needed to continue to write my own handbook. After reading, I can say, my book (should it ever come out) would complement Hughes’ work well. He offers so much that I only tapped into. Needless to say, if you’re interesting in learning as a novice or want some ideas as an experienced witch, this book has a ton to offer. His spells and rituals are designed for most of the social justice causes you can think of today: environmentalism, sexual abuse, reproductive rights, hexing the NRA, and protecting immigrants. Each of them is presented after chapters and chapters of historical context.
Hughes presents the work with plenty of humor. He prefers to be called a “magician” rather than pagan, witch, or conjurer. Right at the beginning he gives a great introduction about his personal life and background explaining why. He was a stage performer and has no need to hide that side of himself. A mentalist, someone attuned at cold reading an audience to prove mystical powers. Only for Hughes, he sees his mentalism as working along with his powers of spellcasting. He’s been practicing the craft most of his life, but he wasn’t open about it. Creating this spell changed any chance of Hughes staying in the broom closet.
Another highlight is that Hughes presents the diversity of African-American to Haitian to Celtic to Buddhist to Christian perspectives. This is obviously intensely researched, and I’ll add, properly cited. Magic for the Resistance takes off with a timeline through some of witchcraft’s more (in)famous public hexes and spells. Readers will get a much better understanding and appreciation for why women showed up to protests in the past two years clad in black robes with pointed veiled hats and carrying signs silently. They are a new offspring of the hippie subculture. Their tactics are clever and amusing.
“Be conscientious of your guests with special needs, and plan accordingly.”
Hughes is a considerate author and magician. He gives a lot of sound advice for frugal alternatives. He also provides suggestions for people with disabilities who may not be able to do things like stand and walk in a circle or go to a protest or walk through the woods. His sensitivity on financial considerations, ableism, and racial issues makes this book revolutionary. He goes even two steps further. At his suggestions for taking something from nature to use (such as a rock or feather) or if you leave wards (such as spell jars or melted candles) out in public/nature, you should spend the time and energy to pick up some litter while you’re there. His second suggestion comes at the end of every ritual: giving donations to a worthy cause befitting the intention of the spell.
“It all began an evening shortly after the 2016 election as a friend and I sat drinking beer and ruminating about the dismaying results. He had been surprised at Hillary Clinton’s loss, while I had felt a creeping unease that Donald Trump’s use of nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and misogyny during his campaign would lead him to victory. We exchanged ideas about what exactly, we could do as a response to the increasingly bizarre and distressing events that were unfolding in the wake of Trump’s ascendancy.”
In fact, in my studies about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (a type of meditation and yoga instruction created by Jon Kabat-Zinn), the documentation states that if you can’t do the movements physically, visualizing yourself doing them has the same effects on the brain routing messages as witnessed through MRI technology.
Answering “Why and How?”:
Common questions might be, what good does coordinating a grand-scale hex do? If the target(s) doesn’t believe in it, will anything happen to them? In fact, Hughes goes into detail about how the alt-right used occultism and evangelical Christians used prayer and tried to cancel out anything the #BindTrump witches were doing.
“Far from being ineffectual ‘slacktivism,’ as some of its critics have branded it, the ritual (and other developed by participants) helps many of us stay focused, committed, and invigorated for out everyday activism and resistance. It has become a spiritual balm and monthly remind of our commitment to fighting injustice and the ongoing dismantling of our liberal democracy.”
Hughes emphasizes care to the planet throughout the book. He has a personal commitment against buying crystals or gems whenever possible and using substitutes he finds in nature or ones given to him as gifts. It’s how he protests economically against destructive mining practices and the exploitation of mine workers. So if you would rather use some brownish-grey rock you found on your hike than something as dazzling as a shiny rose quartz, by all means, do so; you can use a marker to draw a sigil on it anyway as you charge it for your purpose.
Along the same lines as being environmentally aware regarding the planet at large, Hughes has a lot of reminders appropriately placed in the chapters about safety. There are some common sense things that might slip your mind during the excitement of wanting to cast a spell. Maybe you overdo it with the incense and your smoke alarm goes off; or you accidentally catch a curtain on fire with a live flame candle. Keep bowls water handy (I also recommend a fire extinguisher), open windows, don’t ingest anything just because you read about it in a book or on the internet. He also mentions keeping your spellwork out of reach of pets and curious humans. He even gives a reminder about how humans need the vitamin D from sunlight even though we also need to be worried about applying sunscreen.
“Guerrilla magic also includes leaving charged magical objects in the places where they can be most effective — a corporation office, a courthouse, the site of a police shooting, or a forest threatened by development. In short, guerrilla resistance magic can, and should, be applied wherever it is needed.”
Hughes makes it obvious that if you want to bring attention to an injustice, you have to make a spectacle. The bigger, the better. Choose the clothes carefully that you’ll wear to an event. Be shocking and dramatic. Be loud or be silent, either works. Create sigils on something that you can hand out to others who show up like you would party favors.
Perhaps one of the most important and oft overlooked elements of witchcraft is self care. It’s become a meme, a buzzword, a hashtag. Nonetheless, it’s important: you can’t help others if you leave yourself drained of energy, health, and resources. A lot of witch books will give the ritualized tips about salt baths before working a spell, but rarely explain daily upkeep.
What I appreciated from Hughes’ book is that he addresses different facets of keeping yourself safe. As previously mentioned, don’t go around taking magic shrooms and cannabis or MDMA without thought and thorough research (and maybe even with a doctor’s recommendation); don’t forget that any prescribed medication you are on could have serious interactions if you don’t ask a pharmacist about your plans to take something. Give yourself time away from the activism or you will be burned out and be unpleasant company. You do not have to apologize for taking a day to nurture yourself.
Meditation is another point of emphasis. As a new yoga instructor, I’ve paid more attention to how many times I find my witch mentors using meditation in their daily craft. As Hughes points out, despite all things having a point of origin whether Buddhist or paleolithic, some things become universal. Meditation and mindfulness are such things. He gives details on his two favorite forms of breathwork in this chapter. Hughes incorporates some popular mudras (hand and arm positions) into his rituals too. You can end them with “Amen, so mote it be, Om,” or anything else you find suitable to mark the end of a ritual.
If you are in the market for a superbly-written book with history, instructions, and sample rituals to fight the patriarchy, protect others and the environment, and win justice for the highest good, Magic Resistance by Michael M. Hughes is the perfect book.