The movement of witches and magic-users to “bind Donald Trump” took on viral momentum recently, with in-person performances of the spell at local magic shops (Catland in Brooklyn, in my case), mainstream media reports, evangelical Christian pushback, and the opposition of a pro-Trump cult of Pepe the Frog “worshippers” centered around 4Chan, who believe that the Pepe meme is now a hypersigil related to the ancient Egyptian chaos god, Kek. Even one of my favorite musicians and queen of Coney Island, Lana del Rey, got involved (on the side of the angels, of course). In other words, the situation is both getting very weird, and very alarming.
I contributed my own #BanishTrump piece for Patheos early on in this kerfuffle (coughcough several days before the viral Medium piece was published cough), but I don’t think my approach is all that similar to the “binding spell,” though the target is obviously the same. John Beckett over at Patheos explains well why the popular spell is unlikely to work, and might even cause unintended harm to the anti-Trump movement. Peregrin Wildoak had some similar comments about it on his Facebook page. To summarize: the idea of a “mass spell” breaks the rule of the Magicians’ Pyramid to “keep silence”; it invites a large number of dabblers who have no strong grasp of magical practice or its consequences to cast a spell on a powerful elected official; its publicity invites opposition from Christians and right-wing occultists whose numbers might actually dwarf those on our side; and the actual spell is poorly constructed.
Some of these critiques might also be relevant to my own approach to this issue, but not all of them. For one thing, I agree that it is dangerous for a mass group to perform magic when many of those people are untrained in the practice. I personally adhere to the traditional curriculum of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which doesn’t allow its students to perform any magic beyond the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram until they join the Inner Order — that means years of occult training, meditation, and banishing before a student can licitly perform the kind of powerful magic that would be necessary to effect a famous personage like Donald Trump.
My own approach is not to “bind” Trump the person, but to invoke beneficent spiritual forces (Jesus Christ in the case of Christian esotericists) to banish or exorcise Trump the image from Trump the human being. This is different from the binding spell for a number of reasons:
- It is safe for beginners, as banishing rituals are the only “spells” taught to neophytes in most occult orders. The example ritual provided in my post that was created by Father Fitzgerald, an Anglican priest and chief of the Stella Matutina, was specifically written for the use of uninitiated Christians, not “magic-users.”
- Banishing rituals like Fitzgerald’s are meant to enact healing or conversion, not “binding” in the sense of throwing President Trump “in a dark basement where he can’t hurt anyone,” as the Medium piece proclaims. As I detail in my post, there is a theological background to the understanding of the distinction between “Trump the image” and “Trump the person” — as Peregrin wrote on his Facebook page, Donald Trump himself is still a human being, and thus has dignity as created in the image of God (imago Dei). As a Christian, “binding” the human bring Trump is not really a licit use of magical power — hence the reliance, in the popular spell, on invoking spiritual forces to accomplish the task.
- Expanding upon that point, a banishing spell in the Golden Dawn tradition relies on purely benevolent spiritual forces, not elemental spirits or other neutral spiritual beings. In the example I provided, the “spell” is really just a ritualized prayer to Jesus Christ. Saints, angels, and other benevolent spiritual beings are safe for even the neophyte to work with — neutral or even harmful beings like demons, elemental spirits, and ancestors are perhaps not. Beckett explains this well in his post about the binding spell:
It ignores the sovereignty of spiritual beings. This spell calls on elemental spirits, angels, demons, and ancestors to bind Trump. Why would they do that for you? I can guarantee the elemental spirits don’t give a damn one way or another. Angels and demons have their own agendas, and many of my ancestors would have voted for Trump. They aren’t going to do it because they agree with our politics.
What authority do you have to command these spirits? Experienced magicians working in some traditions may have authority over some spirits, but no one has authority over all of them – and beginners have none. These are independent beings with their own sovereignty and agency – treat them respectfully.
Do you have existing relationships with any of these spirits? If so, they may be willing to help you. If not, you’re likely to get the same response you give when someone you’ve never heard of sends you an e-mail asking for money.
Are you going to pay them for their work? If so, with what? A few ounces of wine that you weren’t going to finish anyway isn’t likely to be much incentive to take on such a big job.
While I don’t necessarily agree with John here about (unfallen) angels — in the Christian tradition, such spirits are always benevolent servants of God, who have our best interests at heart — I agree with the overall point he is making. There is a big difference between invoking God to exorcise a person and summoning all the spirits you can possibly contact to “bind” a person.
Furthermore, as I explained in my #BanishTrump piece, according to Christian theology, all created powers and principalities are fallen. This includes the elemental spirits, lesser gods and deities, and demons, along with the images, ideologies, and institutions that theologians like William Stringfellow include in their contemporary demonological writings. It is thus a dangerous business to invoke the add of fallen cosmic powers against another fallen power (the image Donald Trump), even if Stringfellow is clear that the powers and principalities are constantly in competition with each other.
On the other hand, an exorcism of a power or principality is licit. This is because, as Christians, we are called to participate in the reconciliation of the cosmic powers with each other, with humanity, and with God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who has been seated at the right hand of the Father “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:21).
This brings me to another objection to the popular binding spell against Trump — we are called to participate in reconciliation, not “binding.” As hard as it is to accept, according to Christian theology, we are not to engage in total war against the fallen powers and principalities. In the story of Genesis, after God creates the world and everything in it, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This includes the powers and principalities.
As Stringfellow reminds us, the cosmic powers are not created by humanity, even though we often give them form and worship them as images, ideologies, and institutions (Dion Fortune provides an occult perspective on this process in her work on the Tree of Life, The Mystical Qabalah). The powers and principalities, like the angels and like human beings, are creations of God, and are therefore good, even if they are fallen (again, like human beings) in this era called the Fall.
As Christians, we must contest, exorcise, and banish the fallen powers when necessary, and this is what I think we are called to do when confronted with the image principality that is Donald Trump. Yet at the same time, we are not to destroy or dominate the powers — our vocation is to proclaim to them the good news of Christ, just as we proclaim it to our fellow human beings. This is because, as Stringfellow explains,
Christ’s resurrection is for men and for the whole of creation, including the principalities of this world. Through the encounters between Christ and the principalities and between Christ and death, the power of death is exhausted. The reign of death and, within that, the pretensions to sovereignty over history of the principalities, is brought to an end in Christ’s resurrection. He bears the fullness of their hostility toward him; he submits to their condemnation; he accepts their committal of himself to death, and in his resurrection he ends their power and the power they represent. Yet the end of the claims of the principalities to sovereignty is also the way in which these very claims are fulfilled in Christ himself. The claim of a nation, ideology, or other principality to rule history, though phony and futile, is at the same time an aspiration for salvation, a longing for the reality which does indeed rule history. In the same event in which the pretension of the principality is exposed and undone, how and in whom salvation is wrought is disclosed and demonstrated. In Christ the false lords of history, the principalities, are shown to be false; at the same time, in Christ the true Lord of history is made known. In Christ is both the end and fulfillment for all principalities, for all men, and for all things. (Stringfellow, Free in Obedience, 73; emphasis mine)
It might be hard to hear, but Christian esotericists must not only exorcise Donald Trump the human being and pray for him as an image of God — we must also pray for Trump the demonic image. This is because, though a fallen principality, a cosmic power of this present darkness, a demon threatening our nation and our world, Trump the image is still a created being of God, and was declared good when God surveyed God’s creation.
Though currently fallen, serving death, and making false claims to be a “lord of history,” in the eschatological reality accomplished by the resurrection of Christ, Trump the image will join in the choir of angels and archangels, of powers and principalities, in adoring the Word of God — just as they did in that parable of the eschaton, the Christmas scene, in which the representatives of the powers and principalities (the Magi), along with the shepherds, the angels, and the creatures of the earth all gathered with the Holy Family to adore the incarnate Christ in the manger (Free in Obedience, 70).
We must go to war with the cosmic powers, for our sake and for the sake of the world, but we must also offer mercy as God offered mercy. This is a hard saying — the notion that one day, Trump the image principality (not to mention Trump the human being, who is also made in the image of God) will worship alongside us in the heavenly choir. But this difficult truth is at the heart of Christianity, and is the real difference between a binding spell for Donald Trump and an exorcism: as Christians, we must understand that the chief end of all creation, including the powers and principalities, is to serve and worship the Living God — and thus any attempt to bind or hinder a creature of God from fulfilling its telos is tantamount to building a border wall between creation and its Creator. This is not the way of the Christian, who follows Christ the Liberator in breaking walls and chains, not binding people through them.
As Pope Francis said before last November’s election: “Dear brothers and sisters — all walls fall. All of them. Do not be fooled.”