“Thieves will be hexed,” warns a sign affixed to an altar near the front window of Catland, an occult boutique and event space in Bushwick. The altar — with its colorful effigies of saints and burning votive candles — is only one of the many metaphysical elements in the shop, which carries items ranging from The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities to oils that promise to bring mayhem or revenge. (The latter tincture requires gloves.)
‘We collectively had an event where survivors were able to feel safe and could experience catharsis and healing.’
Catland is a hub of magical activity. They host “Yoga for Witches” every Wednesday and lead a number of other events — Demonology 101, for example — throughout the month. Last Saturday, however, Catland held an event that was unique even for their own crop: a ritual to hex Brett Kavanaugh, the President Trump’s newly-anointed Supreme Court Justice.
Brett Kavanaugh is a thief of sorts, some participants of the ritual may argue. Like so many powerful men who preceded him, the judge is an example of those that steal the dignity, agency and political prowess from the hands of women and sexual assault survivors.
In September, after Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, publicly alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when the two were both in high school. Since then, two other women have also come forward with their own accusations and thousands rallied against his confirmation. Still, with a Republican majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee and after a flimsily executed F.B.I. investigation, Kavanaugh ascended to his lifetime seat on the high court bench.
“We knew he was going to get fucking confirmed. Of course, he was,” said Catland co-owner Dakota Bracciale, 29, as they (Bracciale’s preferred gender pronoun) lead approximately 50 people through the hexing ritual. “But, that doesn’t mean we can’t punish them for being the spineless piece of shit aborted fetuses that they are.”
A separate altar — complete with phallic candles pinned with coffin nails, not to mention animal bones, Saint Expeditus figures, poppets emulating Kavanaugh, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — was the centerpiece of the ritual. And while Kavanaugh was the rite’s focal point, Bracciale encouraged guests to write down the names of ex-boyfriends, abusers, pedophiles and anyone else they deemed worthy of catching wind of the hex. Together, they recited “Lavetur in nobis sanguis tyranus,” Latin for “we bathe in the blood of tyrants,” and Psalm 109. It might seem odd for witches to draw on the Bible for inspiration but, according to Bracciale, “You wanna curse a bitch? The Bible has its tips.”
Outside, counter-protestors blasted Christian music and denounced the ritual. At one point, they could be heard chanting, “God bless Kavanaugh.” They aren’t the only Christians denouncing Catland’s event; the National Catholic Register reported that a Catholic exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, CA would be offering Mass to counter the hex’s effect on Kavanaugh. “Conjuring up personified evil does not fall under free speech,” Father Gary Thomas told the Register. “The decision to do this against a Supreme Court justice is a heinous act and says a lot about the character of these people that should not be underestimated or dismissed.”
Those inside remained undeterred.
For some who do not practice witchcraft, the ritual was less about casting hexes than it was about offering solidarity.
Tracey Freeman, 21, a senior studying biology at New York University, noted the differences in Catland’s event to other more mainstream rallies, like the Women’s March and the March For Our Lives, both of which she attended.
“There’s often so little acknowledgment of intersections within the community,” Freeman said. “But when you come here, it’s a very small community that is just together in inclusivity and is radically against all forms of oppression, which I don’t think you see in the broader political climate or in other marches and rallies.”
While this is Catland’s first hexing event specifically aimed towards Kavanaugh, the shop also hosted three consecutive hexings towards Trump last summer. On Nov. 3, Catland will also host a second hexing for Kavanaugh to accommodate those who could not participate on Saturday.
“To have an outlet like Catland that can host events for survivors and host events that seek radical change and justice in the world is super important,” said B Hollywood, a Catland employee and Bracciale’s partner. “I really think that we collectively had an event where survivors were able to feel safe and could experience catharsis and healing through that.”
Photos and video by Erin Sheridan.