For the coven of New York witches hosting a large-scale hexing of Brett Kavanaugh - in honour of the justice’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme Court - the event was their way of showing "resistance and resilience".
When we arrived at the venue Catland, an “occult” bookshop that sells a variety of books, tarot cards, and crystal balls, security was tight with the hexing host mindful of the attention, wanted or otherwise, the event had created.
We were told we would not be allowed to leave once we’d entered - meaning we would be present for the entire three-hour ceremony - an announcement that made us wary of what was to come.
Once we’d shown our photo-IDs and received confirmation, we were brought into a dimly-lit backroom filled with tightly-packed chairs and an altar featuring penis-shaped candles pierced with nails and poppet dolls imitating Judge Kavanaugh and Donald Trump. Mr Kavanaugh, who was the president's pick for the Supreme Court, was confirmed to the position after facing a number of allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Mr Kavanaugh denies all the accusations against him.
There, in the ominous storage-turned-hexing room, we awaited further instructions from Dakota Bracciale, the co-owner of Catland and the witch in charge of leading us through the hexing, as the rest of the attendees filed in.
Apart from the noise of the gathered attendees, who ranged in ages, were the noises from outside the thin walls - of the shouts and prayers of Catholic protestors who’d arrived to combat the supernatural proceedings.
The protestors, who’d come bearing bible verses and rosaries, proceeded to sing hymns and preach their beliefs - quite loudly.
After realising that their warnings regarding the ritual and the dangers associated with living “in the dark” weren’t going to end anytime soon, Bracciale encouraged attendees to call and file a noise complaint with the city of New York.
At 7:45pm, police showed up, however, their presence did little to quell the angry religious shouting.
Humming from inside Catland increased as the witches became angrier at the “rude” interference coming from outside the thin walls.
Chants of “F*** Brett Kavanaugh” from people still gathered outside were more successful in silencing the noise.
Roughly 15 minutes later, once the 60 attendees and press, of which there were about 20, were all settled in, the hexing was finally able to begin - marked by a further dimming of the lights and a reminder that no flash photography was allowed.
“Candles get burned, b*****s get hexed,” Bracciale, who identifies with gender-neutral pronouns, told the crowd.
The actual hexing was quite short and included the reciting of psalm 109 King James Version - an interesting juxtaposition to the impassioned shouts from protestors on the street - and then a hands-on moment where participating witches could write the names of the people they wanted hexed.
“Write the names of everyone you want to curse and write on the altar as well,” Bracciale passionately said.
These names were thrown into vases and covered with graveyard dirt, coffin nails, broken glass, sulphur, cactus thorns, water from a thunderstorm, and urine.
To ensure that the hex continues to work, black candles will be burned on the macabre creation monthly - on the night of the dark moon - and the same psalm will be recited “until they pay for what they’ve done.”
Apart from “spell casting,” which Bracciale had promised ahead of the ritual, the night was about much more than targeting Mr Kavanaugh and wishing him ill.
“...on a more important level, this is a coming together of people who recognise this as an important moment in our country,” Bracciale told The Independent.
The knowledge and awareness of this critical moment was evidenced by the reactions from the witches, who regularly and without pause shouted out their support for what Bracciale was saying - which included impassioned promises to exact revenge on those who’d wronged them.
After the bible verses and the crowd participation was a “tribe anointment” - a ceremony that promised the witches that they were apart of something much bigger, and not alone in their individual experiences.
To honour the occasion, Bracciale brought out a concoction which they’d made themself - and asked those who wanted to to dab their pressure points with the oil.
What followed was a moving second ritual called “The Rites of the Scorned One,” at which point filming and pictures were prohibited and press was asked not to write down details.
Prior to the event, Bracciale told us the second ritual is one “centred around the understanding that rage is an extremely important part of our person and self-sovereignty.”
In respect of the wishes of those involved, we will share our own takeaway of the second ritual - that it was emotional, raw and indicative of the scars that remain when one suffers from sexual abuse.
Bracciale concluded the second ritual by sharing their own story of rape and sexual assault.
The night wrapped with promises to host similar events soon - at which point we were informed that exiting would be done in groups to ensure the safety of every attendee.
After three hours, the Christian protestors still remained - ready outside the doors.
Once we were allowed outside, we were met with a large spotlight and cameras belonging to alt-right and conservative press organisations - intent on filming those who had attended the hexing.
We were quickly led away by security, who walked with us the 10-minutes back to the subway station, where we departed Brooklyn on a Manhattan-bound train.
Overall, while we were surprised by the absence of what we’d imagined as “magic,” the event was much more emotional than what we’d expected - closely resembling a group therapy session more than anything else.
In addition to a hexing, the ritual was a bonding experience - which Bracciale had hoped for when they'd planned the event.
“It’s a sort of coming together of solidarity on many different levels,” they told us. “One of the things I picked up on pretty early on was that when it comes to times of trouble and periods in someone’s life when things are tumultuous, they want to have some sort of support that they can tap in to.
“How do we get everyone together to weather the storm?”
While the hex to oust Judge Kavanaugh may or may not work, the real magic in the back room of the Brooklyn bookshop was the unfaltering acceptance and the belief in one another’s ability to weather the storm.
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