Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Magic for the Resistance” by Michael M. Hughes

Full Title: Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change
Author: Michael M. Hughes
Published: September 2018 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Human Rights, Magic Studies, Occult, Witchcraft
Edition Details: 264 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4/5 stars

First Glance

In light of the social and political turmoil following George Floyd’s death, I mentioned to my wife that I had a list of witchy books related to activism and magic resistance. I had originally started a wishlist based on several Patheos posts. When she asked me why I hadn’t purchased any of them yet, I didn’t have a good reason. Half a dozen books were ordered immediately, and this was the first to arrive.

Positive Bits

To start, I appreciate the author’s choice to include a large section on the history of magic and activism before touching the magic itself. I think context is key to understanding magical workings, and the added knowledge gives additional strength to your magic. It was also interesting to note that he was the creator of the “Bind Trump” ritual that went around in 2017 and hit the major news networks. I had no idea!

The histories presented are done so in an entertaining and informative way, and I appreciate that sources are listed as footnotes. Some of the events are familiar, if only in a word-of-mouth kind of way; however, I like to look up details on events, particularly if they sound outlandish and have no specific sources.

In the section that includes spells and rituals for your magical activism, the variety provided allows for a “different strokes, different folks” approach. In fact, more of the rituals lean toward what I would call generally pagan or Wiccan-flavored than I expected, considering the author’s description of his own spiritual path and history. However, I found the less delicate options (like the spells “Calling Bullshit” and “Hex the NRA”) fit the more offense-vs-defense attitude the book seems to suggest. There’s a good balance.

I’ve personally set aside notes on a couple of projects for upcoming moon workings, so I definitely gained some ideas from this book that I didn’t have before. I’m glad this book was written to be so approachable, even from a non-witch perspective.

Less Enjoyable Bits

No book is perfect. I’ll admit that part of my issues stem from differences in paths. The author made it clear that he’s not a witch or pagan, but rather a magician with a relaxed attitude toward methods of magic. In some cases, you can see the ceremonial magician leanings, particularly when he tells you to do a thing, but then tells you “it just works, not sure why”.

When my previous training covered some basic ceremonial magic, we were told the same thing: if you follow the instructions, with or without belief, you will get the results. Actions matter more than intent. That never really worked for me, considering how often we’re told that intent matters more than tools, herbs, and stones – because we’re the source of magic, and they’re just a focus.

Unfortunately, the author gets a little preachy in the middle as he discusses “Self-Care and Resilience” and “On the Casting of Circles”. I don’t mind someone suggesting a no-kill fast for magical purposes, but implying that your magic will be negatively impacted by eating animals is a step too far. (To be fair, he does say to “trust your intuition and what your body tells you”.)

When we get to the section on casting circles, he dismisses the entire process without discussing the benefits of a circle; clearly, he has a hard preference for no circles in magic. He then immediately follows that dismissal with a watered-down ceremonial magic circle that takes up several pages of instruction, rather than anything familiar from witchcraft and circle casting methods in general. I feel as though the pages of complaint against circle casting are a product of the author’s experience in ceremonial magic and its structures. To each their own?

Tidbits Worth Repeating

A good rule of thumb to use is this: Would you endorse a legal action to stop the target’s harmful actions or policies (say, against a minority group, a forest, or a person unjustly accused of a crime)? If so, then a magical action is absolutely ethical. – Page 7

The more you do magic, the more possibilities you see for its use. Always look for ways to blend your magical workings with your practical activism. – Page 118

Now light a candle and get to work. – Page 222

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – I think this is a good place to start, if you’re wanting to use your magic as part of our activism. The overall accessibility of the spells and rituals makes it ideal for a beginner in this kind of work.


bookdragon, poet, witch

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