Book Reviews

3 Books for the Magical Activist

Witchcraft is not a political ideology, but it’s been frequently noted that it’s often the tool of the oppressed. It’s a type of power embraced by people who may have no other recourse. In that vein, while not all magical practitioners would consider themselves liberals, these three books have a definite liberal worldview. If that offends you, you won’t like any of them.

Hexing the Patriarchy is a small hardcover book with enchanting illustrations and quotes sprinkled in the margins. It’s only about 5×7 inches and 276 pages.

The book is set up to be alphabetical, for some reason. There are books that are alphabetical and it makes sense, like encyclopedias that cover a lot of different topics. It’s a way to organize the information. However, this book only has one entry per letter. So A is for Ancestors, B is for Binding, C is for Conjure.

The book is a hodgepodge of spells, rituals, recipes and activities, many written by Ariel Gore and some contributed by other writers. Although the other writers are credited in the sections where their spells appear, I wish there was a separate section at the back listing each contributor and a brief bio.

The book covers a wide variety of topics but doesn’t go into much depth on each one. Recipes are for things like Anti-Patriarchal-Bullshit Salt Scrub (page 39) and Personal Power Oil (page 67). Spells are things like Brujita Spell to Wear Down the Patriarchy (MK Chavez, p. 48) and Red Dragon Spells of Liberation from Supremacy Ideologies (Rhea Wolf, pm 55).

The chapter for F is “Fight Song”:

One of the ways the patriarchy undermines us is by making us feel like shit for everything from our waistlines to our leadership styles. By bombarding us with messages of unworthiness, these trolls hope to effectively disarm us so we’ll stay home shame-spiraling instead of hitting the streets and kicking their asses. To counter this, a witch needs an anthem.

Considering what we’re up against, we need a whole playlist of anthems.

p. 73

She goes on to recommend just such a playlist.

There is a brief introduction that explains why she wrote the book, addresses the controversy among witches about hexing, and lays out her purpose:

Patriarchy — the age-old system that enforces a gender binary and creates brutal hierarchies among men while universally privileging the masculine over the feminine — hurts all of us. It forces us to act as if men don’t need relationships, women don’t need selves, and trans and nonbinary people have no right to exist at all. We reject that system.

p. 15

Hexing the Patriarchy: 26 Potions, Spells, and Magical Elixirs to Embolden the Resistance

Ariel Gore

Seal Press, 2019

Magic for the Resistance was published earlier than the other books on this list, and it’s by an author who went viral for a spell to bind Donald Trump. It seems not to have worked, and if you’ve seen the prayer warriors who intervene (magically, though they’d never call it that) on his behalf, you’d have an idea why.

The man himself grew up in a church led by Norman Vincent Peale, who was famous for popularizing the Power of Positive Thinking. If you think that Trump doesn’t practice magic, you haven’t been paying attention.

I remember reading an article during the 2016 election that talked about a wall at his campaign headquarters that had pictures of his opponents (unflattering pictures, of course) and they were marked when they were “vanquished.” I am personally of the opinion that it makes no sense to cast magic against someone who works with magic because they have defenses, first of all, and often the ability to take the negative energy that is being sent their way and use it for their own purposes. If you don’t like the man, stop sending him your energy!

Aside from this, the book itself contains a lot of useful magical information. It starts with a general FAQ and a brief history of magical practitioners fighting off oppressors. Other chapters include Toolkit for Magical Activism, Offensive and Defensive Magic, Magic Beyond the Altar, Finding the Others: Coven and Community Building, Self-Care and Resilience, Preparation for Ritual, and The Magical Activist’s Spellbook.

A sample spell is “Black Lives Matter: Spell for Justice for a Victim of a Police Action” (p. 176), which is topical yet again (as it is all too often).

There’s an appendix in the back with some correspondences and some booklists divided by topic (I’m a sucker for sections in books that recommend even more books!).

In his chapter on Offensive and Defensive Magic, he discusses the differences of opinion on this type of magic, including people who don’t believe in ever doing any binding or hexing. He obviously does believe in it, but he explains:

It is also critical to examine how far you would go in a hex. If you wouldn’t do something by nonmagical means, don’t do it with magic. I advocate nonviolence as the most useful and practical mode of resistance, so I would never do magic that would physically harm or kill someone, like cursing someone to get cancer or to get hit by a bus, just as I wouldn’t slip a carcinogenic poison into their drink or shove them in front of a bus. I would most definitely do magic to nonviolently impede their actions from harming me or others I care about.

p. 89

Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change

Michael M. Hughes

Llewellyn Publications, 2018

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we all do, and I have to say that this book has the least appealing cover of these three. That’s unfortunate, because the book itself is solid and the author is knowledgeable.

The first chapter has a section called Activism in Its Many Forms that covers “mundane” activism such as Petitioning and Letter-Writing, Lobbying, Outreach and Volunteering, Marching and Demonstrating, and Civil Disobedience and Direct Action. This is followed by a brief primer on how to do magic, from setting intent to raising power and magical follow-through.

The next section is called Getting to Work, and it’s broken into: Strategizing, Building a Defense, Building an Offense, and Victory and Loss. The Victory and Loss section has a spell to cultivate resilience and he says:

Throughout your efforts in both magic and activism, you will not only experience large victories and losses, but you’ll probably also experience them in smaller ways all along your journey. Certainly the work of justice and equality can feel like we are taking two steps forward one day and two steps back the next. When we’re lucky, it can feel like we’re speeding right up through the finish line as well. Because of the dynamic nature of victory and loss it is important that we channel the power of flexibility and adaptability with all things.

p. 128

The final chapter touches on magical activists in history.

Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance

David Salisbury

Weiser Books, 2019

The books are listed here in order from the most eclectic to the least. Hexing the Patriarchy is a magical cookbook. Magic for the Resistance includes a lot of information about different types of magic and some spells and recipes. Witchcraft Activism goes most deeply into activism itself and has the fewest spells.

I’d recommend Hexing the Patriarchy to someone who was new and wanted to peruse the subject for the first time. Magic for the Resistance is better suited for somebody who is already an experienced magical practitioner who wants ideas on how to incorporate magic into activism. Witchcraft Activism is the best choice for somebody who wants to get more deeply involved in activism on all levels and also wants to use a bit of magic while they’re at it.

1 thought on “3 Books for the Magical Activist”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s