The XX Factor

A Night Among the Witches Fighting the Trump Administration

Calling the corners at WAFT’s Crystal Ball.

Heather Schwedel

Donald Trump’s approval ratings recently hit a record low. Among young people, college graduates, nonwhite people, and women, the disapproval ratings are especially high. Here’s one more constituency to add to that list: witches.

The Trump administration has awakened all sorts of people’s political consciousnesses. It’s only natural that witches would be among them, and more and more, they’re gaining attention for their actions. Witches were in the news a few weeks ago when a Facebook post calling for a mass Trump binding ritual went viral. And on Sunday night, a new group called Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism threw its first event in New York.

WAFT supporters donned crushed-velvet cloaks and false eyelashes for WAFT’s Crystal Ball at the House of Yes, a nightlife venue in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. As a representative from the Lady Parts Justice League, a reproductive rights organization, circulated around the party, administering metallic ovary temporary tattoos (which I spotted on necks, foreheads, and décolletage), another volunteer held a sage smudge stick and walked around offering partygoers impromptu cleansings. Gays Against Guns was also on hand, witchy jewelry was being sold, and drinks were being poured.

When she’s not fighting totalitarianism through witchcraft, WAFT organizer Ana Matronic sings in the group the Scissor Sisters. On Sunday night, she wore a mod wig and a dress covered in white tulle. She said the idea for WAFT was born earlier this year in “a minivan on the way back from D.C. from the Women’s March.” She explained, “we are a group of alternative spiritual practitioners, and we are extremely concerned about the fascist spirit.” She added, “we already got together on a regular basis and dressed up as wizards and had a good time, and so I thought we should get together with a little bit bigger of an idea.” The evening’s proceeds would go to Population Action International.

At the witching hour, there was a plan to call the corners, but the performance portion of the evening began with an aerialist and a singer. WAFT turned out to make a handy chant for some Paris Is Burning–style voguing on stage: “waft with me, waft with me,” speakers blared.

Attendees seemed to be a mix of practicing witches; “witches at heart,” as one guest called herself; people who like to dress up; and people who oppose totalitarianism (with some understandable overlap among those categories). Talk about a rainbow coalition.

“When I heard about witches doing performance art/dance/nightclub for a resistance against a totalitarian government, I was like, ‘Wow, that really sums up everything I’m about,’ ” a witch named Peter Mercury told me, before helpfully explaining what I could expect during the calling of the corners. “I think witchcraft is making this unique resurgence in this sort of doomsday world we’re currently living in,” Mercury went on. I asked him if he’d participated in the mass spell against Trump outside Trump Tower a few weeks back: “I couldn’t get there, but I did cast the spell, so my energy was part of it,” he said. “I don’t view it as black magic in any way. It’s binding. It’s protection.”

Meanwhile, Anna Cole, who was wearing a Victorian dress and had come to the party with friends, explained that while she isn’t a witch, “I think the witchcraft thing does resonate with us because we’re both really into feminist issues, and we were talking on the way over here about how some of the more patriarchal religions are not exactly friendly to women.” She said she has spent much of the first few months of the Trump administration at protests.

Though their activism is only recently making headlines, according to Matronic, the idea of the woke witch is far from new. “I think witches have always been, traditionally, people who lived on the fringe of society and saw all of the people who are falling through the cracks and the wayside. They recognize and see the fringes. They’re concerned about the environment, they’re concerned about people of all ages and abilities. There’s a care aspect to it. Right now the attitude in Washington especially seems to be very uncaring.”

Midnight came and went (it really wouldn’t be anti-fascist to keep to a strict schedule), but around 1 in morning, it was finally time to call the corners, or cast a circle, as it’s also known. As Peter Mercury had explained to me earlier, this means defining the space that will be used to cast a spell or host a ritual: “It becomes a liminal space between this world and the next. You are creating the sacred space.” To do that, you call in the four elementals, which are associated with the four cardinal directions. This party really was turning out to be a very educational experience.

The Crystal Ball’s circle casting took the form of a song written specifically for the night, and Trump’s wall be damned, it was bilingual, featuring a Spanish incantation. A figure in a red cape flounced in the center of the room as several people sang and gesticulated onstage. It wasn’t exactly just another night at the club, but if you weren’t looking for it, you could have totally missed that witchcraft was being performed; it just seemed like a performance, a party. But soon enough it was time for more aerial acrobatics. The song ended, and Matronic announced, “The circle is cast. The gods are present. She is here, and she is in you.”