Michael M. Hughes is an author, speaker, magical thinker, and activist. He is the creator of the internationally viral Mass Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him, one of the largest and longest-running magical workings in history. He frequently appears on podcasts and speaks on politics, magic, pop culture, the paranormal, tarot, and conspiracies. His new book (which is available for pre-order) Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change is a highly anticipated and politicaly charged book of rituals and spells for positive change.
Below you will find an interview with Michael.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: I would have to say the Trump binding spell and the magic resistance movement it kicked off. For something I thought might interest a handful of my magically inclined activist friends, the ritual’s virality and endurance has been very surprising and rewarding. I am truly humbled by how widely it has been embraced, both within and outside of the Pagan and magic communities. But since I think a lot of magic is really just managing to be in the right place and the right time to facilitate the flow of energy, I feel more like I assisted in the birth of something that was already gestating and just waiting for the proper form in which to emerge.
Q: Who are some of your personal heroes?
A: God, I hate that question! I could go on indefinitely, but I’ll throw down a few: E. E. Cummings, Dr. Seuss, Jacques Cousteau, Alan Watts, David Lynch, Robert Anton Wilson, Jane Goodall, Jacques Vallee, Terence McKenna, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, David Byrne, J. R. R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Guy Murchie, and Ann and Sasha Shulgin might be a good representation. In the magical realm, I’m all over the place: Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, Gareth Knight, Ramsey Dukes, John Michael Greer (also a good friend), Josephine McCarthy, Peter J. Carroll, Joscelyn Godwin, George Hansen, and too many others to list. When it comes to activism, I find inspiration in the greats: Thoreau, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, MLK and Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, John Muir, Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson, Julia “Butterfly” Hill, but especially Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies and the creative, prankish forms of protest they unleashed. I’m delighted to see a new generation becoming active in response to the pervasive cultural sickness of violence and gun fetishism. Those kids understand their power.
Q: What was your first “oh shit, this is real” experience?
A: When I was in grade school I had a severe crush on a girl named Michelle. Since I was a good Catholic boy, I said probably a dozen Our Fathers and Hail Marys one night in hopes I would be able to sit next to her on a field trip to the local orchestra. Sure enough, the next day the teacher herding us into the building put the two of us together, and I spent the entire concert in a weird sort of pre-pubescent ecstasy sitting next to her with my brain locking up every time her arm brushed against mine. That’s when I knew magic worked, and I’ve never doubted it since.
The other memorable experience was when I began experimenting with pyramid energy. Seeing biological matter—an orange section, a piece of bacon, and a cup of milk—transformed by the pyramidal shape blew my young mind (and mystified my parents). The food items placed beneath the pyramid dried up and didn’t rot. The milk formed a curd but didn’t spoil. But the same food items sitting a few inches away, outside the pyramid, rotted completely. That was an ontological game-changer. In fact, my science project on pyramid power (as it was called then) went to my state competition. I’ll never forget listening as the organizers debated where to place me: in biology? Chemistry? Physics? They finally found me a spot in an uncategorized ghetto, where I’ve happily dwelled ever since.
Q: What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: Candles. You can do amazing work with just one candle.
Q: At what age did you start doing magic and why?
A: I honestly can’t remember. When I was young, I was always doing magic-y stuff, like drawing symbols for things I wanted (long before I knew what a sigil was), building altars, and performing simple, intuitive rituals. I had some unusual anomalous experiences of lights and entities in my bedroom as a child, and I’ve spoken at length about that. I always felt connected to the natural world and the world of spirits, especially as a kid in the woods and in a nearby neglected graveyard. I got my first deck of tarot cards when I was 11. So my childhood is basically immersed in magic. It helped that during the 70s, pop culture in the U.S. was soaking in the supernatural, from books to movies and TV (I was a huge fan of In Search Of…).
As far as an actual practice, in my 20s I discovered Wicca (of the lite Scott Cunningham variety) and chaos magic about the same time. Later, I found ceremonial magic and dove deeply into the Golden Dawn tradition. But I have always been eclectic in my studies, and as I read more academic writing on magic, I realized that Mathers and company had based their system on some dodgy historical knowledge. I bailed on Kabbalistic magic entirely (I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not for me) and began a very broad, historical and cross-cultural study of magical systems from around the world. I decided to excavate the root practices, to see if there was some sort of universal template underlying diverse traditions. Over time, and with a lot of practical experimentation, I found that my most effective magic was the simplest. Simple components, simple rituals, straightforward setting of intention. What I do now is more folk magic than the heavy ceremonial workings I used to do.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: Read widely. By that I mean books, not websites. Find a good library and learn to use interlibrary loan. Read about magic in all sorts of cultures and historical eras and look for the commonalities—that’s where you’ll discover the techniques that have withstood time because they work. Use your intuition to guide you to the traditions that resonate with your ideals, esthetics, and persona. And practice! Do it, don’t just read about it.
Q: You have a book coming out soon, can you tell us a bit about it?
A: Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change is set for publication in September, just in time for the midterm elections. The book discusses how spells, rituals, prayers, and other techniques can be employed to resist or impede dangerous or oppressive political movements, politicians, and actions. Although it’s not explicitly stated, it also forms a good synopsis of my style of practical magic—a system that can play well, and plug into, many spiritual and magical traditions. In fact, an open-minded Christian could tweak the spells to fit within that framework (as some progressive Christians have done with the Trump binding). Since I believe in the democratization of magic, I wanted the book to work for magical newbies as well as crusty old traditional witches and mages like me.
But it is not just about resistance. The book also encourages magical practices to promote progressive, inclusive, liberating, and empowering political, environmental, economic, and social causes. I see the major problems facing us—authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, environmental destruction, erosion of civil liberties, and attacks on marginalized populations—as spiritual problems requiring spiritual solutions. The book is an effort to merge spiritual practice with practical activism in a way that is accessible and energizing.
Q: What projects do you have coming up later in 2018?
A: I’m hoping to put together a broader book on magic and magical living this year, and I have another novel percolating. If I can manage, I am also hoping to finally get my tarot course online because people keep clamoring for it. I am also planning a number of talks and presentations, so be sure to sign up for my mailing list if you want to catch me in your area.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: Magic has always been intertwined with politics, as I discovered when researching my book. Today, more than ever, I think it is vitally important to use our spiritual and magical technologies to resist the anti-evolutionary currents in our society and to create the world we want to see. We are truly on the razor’s edge between a sustainable, supportive, and socially just world and the terrifying abyss of societal breakdown, atavistic nationalism, religious fanaticism, and environmental collapse. Failing to engage is not an option. It’s all-hands-on-deck, and that means working within the system to fix what we can and bringing our spiritual and magical energies to the larger battle. It’s a long game, and it won’t be easy, but fuck it—progress was never easy.
As Peter Gray wrote in Apocalyptic Witchcraft, “If the land is poisoned, then witchcraft must respond.” I’d enlarge that to encompass our poisoned society. We fight for the health of the macrocosm using the energies within us—and in the process, we heal the microcosm that is ourselves. We fight because that’s who we are—Gaian antibodies.