You May Be a Witch and Not Even Know It: The Resurgence of W.I.T.C.H. Activism Under the Trump Administration
There’s no better time of year than Halloween to celebrate the witch. She has been recast in recent years from a figure of anti-Christian evil to a feminist icon. Today, the symbol of the witch has a new and charged meaning; she has been reembodied as a righteously aggressive emblem of political resistance. Progressives have a new paragon in the form of the witch—especially in W.I.T.C.H., the anonymous group of self-identifying spellcasters who are using magic and organizing to protest the unconscionable actions of the Trump administration.
Across the country, W.I.T.C.H.es have been hard-to-miss figures in various protests against the Trump administration. They joined the Women's March and the March for Science dressed in black smocks with pointed hats and veiled faces. They’ve protested against police brutality deaths and ruthless immigration raids, and they regularly meet in their cities’ covens to practice their craft and organize around local injustices. In Boston, Broadly reports that a witches’ coven has been focused on fighting for housing justice, as gentrification has particularly victimized the poor and people of color in that city.
Their work is politically charged, even beyond their focus on the Trump administration. As stated on their website, “we aim to use our power to fight injustice in all its intersectional forms, and help dismantle the white supremacist patriarchal system that perpetuates it.”
(Credit: W.I.T.C.H. PDX)
The black veil that obscures their faces may seem somewhat frightening, but the veil has a purpose: it broadcasts the W.I.T.C.H.es’ intersectionality. "Anonymity gives us the ability to stand for all marginalized people," W.I.T.C.H. Boston told Broadly. “By removing our personal visages, people are able to see us, relate to what we stand for, and recognize that any one of them could be us.” It’s in line with their ethos, which promotes worship of and respect for the Earth and the interconnectedness of humanity.
Casting spells may seem radical or childish, but in their core beliefs and activist work, the W.I.T.C.H.es are more or less straight-up progressives. As Broadly rounds up, to join a W.I.T.C.H. coven, “you must stand for anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-patriarchy, indigenous rights, gender self-determination, women's liberation, trans liberation, anti-rape culture, reproductive rights, sex worker support, LGBTQIA rights, environmental protection, religious freedom, immigrant rights, anti-war, anti-capitalism, disability justice, privacy rights, and workers rights.”
You may already be a W.I.T.C.H. and not even know it.
If the activism of W.I.T.C.H. sounds familiar, you may remember them from the feminist protests of the 1960s. The original Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.) emerged in 1968 on the heels of other feminist groups seeking to abolish the patriarchy. They notoriously cast a public spell on the New York Stock Exchange in an act of anti-capitalism activism. For years, branches of W.I.T.C.H. organized protests and guerrilla theater demonstrations in order to protest oppression. They notably stood against the radical feminist groups who came to value women’s rights (often those of white women) over the Black Panthers and other activists of the era who were seeking to dismantle discrimination.
In 2017, Trump’s presidency has inspired a new wave of witch activism. W.I.T.C.H. PDX. organized officially in Portland, Oregon right after the 2016 election and has since inspired other local chapters in various cities. “Witches are needed more than ever to transform the world with the magic of the sacred feminine,” as the latest edition of the W.I.T.C.H. zine proclaims.
Some may mock the members of W.I.T.C.H. That’s precisely what happened in February when it was reported that a group of witches were casting monthly “binding” spells over the Trump administration at the light of the crescent moon in order to protect the American people from his special brand of evil. Fox News was gleeful at this news, even giving one witch a prime interview spot on Tucker Carlson's show. Despite Carlson's attempts at mockery, Amanda Yates Garcia held her own in the interview. When Carlson asked why casting spells might be a better means of protest than wearing a T-shirt or voting, she explained that spells have symbolic power. Much like pledging to the flag, “symbolic action does have power, and that’s why people care about it. That’s what will galvanize people to resist.”
Even nonbelievers may find that kind of magic easy to understand. In Lindy West’s recent op-ed in the New York Times, she speaks to the power of the witch-as-symbol, noting the pervasive force of the #MeToo confessions, which have been almost magical in their ability to uncover a darkness common to so many. “The witches are coming, but not for your life. We’re coming for your legacy,” West tells Harvey Weinstein and all other powerful male predators.
The resurgence of W.I.T.C.H. comes at a time when American culture is re-embracing witches. A “witch hunt” almost always refers to the pursual of the innocent on unsubstantiated grounds (no matter how much Woody Allen would like to co-opt the term). The Salem witches were feared for holding more power than women ought to according to the 17th-century status quo, yet they came to be honored as symbols in later feminist movements, and as figures of innocence during the McCarthy era. Some, like Tucker Carlson, may laugh at the idea of witches leading the way for the oppressed to speak up, but there’s arguably never been more sympathy for witches and purveyors of magic in pop culture.
If you’re concerned that a lack of knowledge in potions and hexes could hold you back from joining your local coven, fear not. “Anyone can be a witch,” W.I.T.C.H. writes in its zine. “Years of eurocentric training not required.”