I have been a witch for 25 years. Although, at different points I've called myself different things; a magic-maker, a practitioner of earth-based spirituality, a healer. At the bedrock of this identity, at the root of my magical practice, has been an ethical incantation:
My will be done
And harm to none
I don’t know the true origin of this wording, but it has become common practice for witches and magic-makers today. We use these lines at the end of our spells and prayers, kind of like an “amen” or “so be it.” The words acknowledge that we are human and our understanding of the vast and complex workings of the universe is limited. So of course we want the outcome of our magic to be “my will be done” – otherwise what’s the point? – but we also add “harm to none.” And this is important, because in the witch tradition I practice, we see ourselves as healers. Our work is to restore balance and harmony in the world and in ourselves. By saying “harm to none” we are asking spirit to help us get what we want, but in a way that doesn’t attack or dominate others. It’s sort of like nonviolent communication in prayer form.
But after four years of President Trump, my ethics are changing.
It started in 2016, right after the last election. There was a surge of very public “Hex Trump” actions happening, fueled by young Black and Brown witches on instagram. I was angry about it. Indignant. It went against everything I had been taught. Especially the idea that we should never use our magic as a weapon.
I was in the process of writing a very self-righteous blog post countering the “Hex Trump” trend when a conversation with an old friend pulled me up short. “Magic,” she said, “is one of the few things women – especially Black and Brown women – have been able to use when we don’t have access to the people in power. And when those people in power are using constant violence to keep us down?” She paused before continuing. “Let me just say that there have always been people who were willing to risk retaliation or harm to themselves in order to protect others. Whether it’s poison in the master’s cup or hex, sometimes you do what you gotta do.”
That conversation stayed with me, simmering on the back burner, as assault after assault has come from the Whitehouse. Especially the part about people who are willing to risk retaliation or harm to themselves to protect others.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the last four years have aged me by decades. I am a queer feminist, and I never thought our patriarchal, capitalist, colonialist government was “great.” But I also see now how much I took for granted. I have been dreaming my whole life about a world of justice and peace. A world where our primary objective is the mutual thriving of the earth and human communities. A world that is so much different than our world today. But in all that time, I never felt afraid, unsafe, or truly scared about the future. I feel afraid now.
Although she was kind and didn’t say it directly, my old friend was pointing out my “spiritual white woman” arrogance. We don’t live in a time of peace. So saying “harm none” is “nice” but it also avoids the reality that harm has already happened and continues to happen. Saying “harm none” is passive, avoids messiness or implication in current harm, and has made me feel innocent. It’s a bystander statement.
I don’t want to be a bystander.
So. I’ve been thinking a lot about Standing Rock. How a community of people – elders, parents, children, young adults – came together and put their bodies on the line to protect the Sacred Water. They stopped the machines, the riot police, the government. Part of what they showed the world in their powerful movement was what it looks like to integrate ceremony and prayer with action.
I don’t believe that magic alone is enough to stop Donald Trump and the nightmare Republican party. Political action, art making, money-raising, VOTING . . . all of that is so important. But magic has a role to play. For me, I think it is this:
If I could, I would put my body physically between Donald Trump and anyone he would hurt with his power. I would stand between the asshole Republicans and the earth, no matter the cost. But since I don’t have access to them, I will use my magic.
I call on my ancestors
You who lived through violent leaders
You who fought back, who resisted
Bind Donald Trump
Bind the Republican party
Bind their followers
Stop them in their tracks
Drain them of their power
Make their violence become impotent
Whatever it takes
My will be done.
If this writing resonates with you, join us on Monday, November 2nd for a pre-election ritual
Witches for Justice
Online Ritual Event
Monday, November 2nd
8:30 - 10:00pm EST*
Together, we will weave protection for the people, communities, land and waters whose wellbeing is at stake. We will honor those who have lost their lives fighting for justice including Senator Elijah Cummings and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And we will honor those who have lost their lives due to police violence, ICE detention and immigration injustices, climate crisis, violence against trans and gender non-conforming folks, and others whose stories we don’t know. We will use our magic to rise up and take a stand. To swing the election toward Biden. And to remind ourselves that, no matter the election result, we will keep going and growing for healing and justice.