It may, on the surface, seem like a harmless way to trivialize special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
But to the actual community of witches, President Donald Trump’s constant invocation of a “witch hunt” is deeply problematic and, frankly, a bit hurtful.
“Many are mad, and the rest are rolling their eyes,” said David Salisbury, a lead organizer at Washington-based witch community Firefly House.
Witches are not a constituency with which politicians normally concern themselves. And there’s little sense in the community that Trump actually cares about what they truly think. But for those who practice witchcraft, the president’s words bring up a painful period in history, when men and women were accused of being witches and murdered, both in the American colonies and in Europe.
Actual witch hunts have left what witchcraft author Kitty Randall, who uses the name “Amber K.” in the witching world, calls a “traumatic emotional imprint” on modern-day witches.
“To have him compare his situation to the worst period in our history is just infuriating,” Randall said.
On Twitter, Trump has called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” more than 60 times, including four times on Sunday alone. Trump’s supporters have adopted the nomenclature as well, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich saying Friday that the Mueller investigation is both a witch hunt and a modern return of the Inquisition.
Witches view the use of the phrase as more than just a pejorative rhetorical device. They place it, rather, in the larger context of the president demonizing and marginalizing minority groups. According to witches who spoke to The Daily Beast, most contemporary witches are feminists and support other marginalized groups. Salisbury called Trump’s witch hunt tweets “disgraceful,” especially because of Trump’s attacks on immigrants and women.
“It is particularly horrifying because many modern practitioners of witchcraft devote their lives to seeking compassion and justice,” Salisbury said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Faced with a barrage of “witch hunt” slurs, some witches have chosen to raise the stakes, resorting to spell-casting. A group of witches organized on the internet casts a monthly “binding” spell on Trump, while another group attempted to hex Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
But Trump doesn’t need to be worried about a plague of toads showing up at the White House any time soon. Randall said most witches have opted not to use magic against Trump.
“I don’t think we need to attack Trump with spells,” Randall said. “He’s in the middle of a process of self-destruction.”
“Trump is safe from any ‘witch hunt’ because no self-respecting coven would have him,” Randall added.
Instead, the witches just want Trump to stop comparing himself to the victims of anti-witch persecutions.
“If Mueller’s investigation were truly a ‘witch hunt,’ then Donald Trump would be hanging naked from chains in a cold barn somewhere, being tortured into admitting his pact with Satan, before being burned at the stake,” Randall said. “Instead he’s golfing at Mar-a-Lago.”