In June of this year, shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Indianapolis-based artist Nathaniel Russell used social media to share one of his signature "fake fliers." It read: "Witches: We need you. Hex on NRA, curse for Trump, love potion for all Earth peoples." Russell encouraged anyone and everyone to freely distribute the artwork, and it popped up on Instagram feeds and bulletin boards around the country.
As Halloween approaches, Feminists Against Trump — a faction of the Vermont Feminist Collaborative — will answer the call for activist witchcraft in its own way. On Saturday, October 29, the group will gather at the top of Burlington's Church Street to "cast magical spells of love and feminism to destroy the Great Orange One and the racism, xenophobia and sexism he feeds on," according to an event flier.
The witches theme isn't just a seasonal tie-in. Organizer Laurie Essig comments by phone that witchcraft seemed an apropos vehicle for political spectacle given that "witches have historically been associated with nasty women." She's referring, of course, to Donald Trump's criticism of Hillary Clinton as "such a nasty woman" in last week's third and final presidential debate. Trump's choice of words, imbued with double entendre, was near-instantaneously co-opted with glee by many Clinton supporters.
The Vermont event fits into a broader trend of "magical" protests, from the widely publicized mass "hexing" of accused rapist Brock Turner to the WITCH performance collective's January ritual in support of Chicago housing rights to this month's annual "The Resurrection of Care" in Los Angeles.
Essig, a professor of sociology and director of the Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies program at Middlebury College, will lead Saturday's witch-in with Tina Escaja. The latter teaches Spanish at the University of Vermont and is interim director of its Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies program. They are currently at work writing original spells in both English and Spanish.
The Vermont Feminist Collaborative, still in its infancy, is a loose network of teachers and scholars from Vermont's institutions of higher learning, including Saint Michael's College, Castleton University, Middlebury and UVM. Essig explains that the group addresses questions of how to share resources and "shape the world of Vermont feminism." Initiatives in the works include a series of Wikipedia edit-athons.
How large will the anti-Trump coven get on Saturday? It's hard to say for sure, but costumes are encouraged, as are to-be-determined forms of participation that fit the event's spirit. "The point is to open it up to the community," says Essig, "[and to] make some good feminist magic to surround ourselves with — something other than the hate that his campaign supports." Will there be Trumpkins? "We might be smashing Trumpkins," Essig says.