Hexing the Patriarchy

26 Potions, Spells, and Magical Elixirs to Embolden the Resistance


By Ariel Gore

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A magical guide to subverting manboy power, one spell at a time

Skeptics might think witchcraft is nothing more than a fad, but make no mistake: modern witches aren’t playing around. Today’s wizarding women are raising hell, exorcising haters, and revving up to fight fire with a fierce inferno of magical outrage.

Magic has always been a weapon of the disenfranchised, and in Hexing the Patriarchy, author Ariel Gore offers a playbook for the feminist uprising. Full of incantations, enchantments, rituals, and witchy wisdom designed protect women and bring down The Man, readers will learn how to . . .
  • Make salt scrubs to wash away patriarchal bullshit
  • Mix potions to run abusive liars out of town
  • Use their bare hands and feet to vanquish bro culture
  • Conjure dead relatives to help smash the system
. . . and more.

From summoning Ancestors to leveraging the Zodiac, these twenty-six alphabetically inspired spells are ready-made recipes for toppling the patriarchy with a dangerously divine, they-never-saw-it-coming power.


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I formally initiated myself as a witch when I was a twenty-one-year-old single mom surviving on welfare and student loans. The patriarchy had me by the throat in the form of misogynist family court judges, food-stamp-cutting governors, and national politicians happy to dehumanize poor women to feed their own greed for power. I felt like I was under legislative, financial, and psychic attack all at once—because I was.

I’d been talking to owls since before I could talk to people, and now, in an acquaintance’s forested backyard, I came upon a deer. When we locked eyes, I decided she was a messenger of the Goddess, and I whispered a little prayer: We’re up shit creek here. Send help if you can.

The very next day, in an old-school brick-and-mortar bookstore that smelled of coffee and wet leaves, I happened upon a copy of Witchcraft for Tomorrow by the British witch Doreen Valiente. I read “The Witch’s Ballad” on the first page, and I thought, Count me the fuck in.

I followed Doreen’s instructions for self-initiation, and I made a plan: I would magically defend myself from the patriarchy, and once I’d recovered my strength, I’d go on the offensive.

I lived in Sonoma County, California—kind of Witchville central at the time—and soon enough, I found a few witchy elders to help me on my way.

One of the first assignments I got from one of those witchy elders was to create my own alphabet.

“My own alphabet?” I felt a deliciously childish ting! in my chest at the idea. “Like the secret codes I used to make when I was a kid?”

My elder took a drag from her menthol cigarette, grabbed a handful of tortilla chips, and laughed. “Just like that, honey.”

Creating my own secret alphabet, painstaking and fanciful—I mean, how do you decide what your W will look like?—came as excellent relief from the daily work of mothering and adulting in a world that hated mothers and only seemed to value adults as consumers. Maybe my O would look like my baby’s satisfied belly. My Z could be a lightning bolt to zap feminist sense into the people who had power over me. My I would be a raised revolutionary fist with a great blood-red manicure.

My toddler daughter was learning her English ABCs at the same time, so we sat in our sunny dining nook, learning to spell and write spells together, and everything smelled of oranges.

I was in college then, too, and working nights with my Chinese professor on an ambitious English translation of Nushu, the secret written language used exclusively by women in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Southern China when women were excluded from male literacy. Nushu script was phonetic, unlike the written patriarchal Chinese I’d been studying since I was a kid, and passed down from mother to daughter. Rural and working-class women used Nushu to write and embroider songs, poems, oracles, spells, gossip, and congratulations and condolences after weddings.

Beside a well, one does not thirst. Beside a sister, one does not despair.


The China Daily called Yang Huanyi, the last living woman who’d grown up using Nushu, “the oldest inheritress of… probably the world’s only female-specific language.” But now it occurred to me that women and poor people had always created their own alphabets and their own languages when the languages of their fathers or those in power were turned against them—or forbidden altogether.

It made sense to start with an alphabet. I would soon learn to spell out spells. I’d curse the family court judges in cursive. I’d write a new future beyond these dehumanizing systems I’d been trained to blame myself for getting snared in.

Yang Huanyi died in 2004.

Only scholars know her matrilineal language now.

But I refuse to believe that only tender and good things can vanish.

Instead, let’s vanquish racism, misogyny, capitalism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and exploitation on scales both micro and monstrous.

The patriarchs in power want us to believe that “boys will be boys,” and racist dog whistles are legitimate campaign platforms, and unequal pay has some nonbigoted “logical” explanation. But we see through that gaslighting bullshit.

We’re spelling out our resistance.

Since my first initiation back in Sonoma County, I’ve practiced magic in a handful of distinct traditions—from Wicca to Spiritualism and, when expressly invited, Santería and Voodoo. None of these traditions asked me to renounce the others, so I didn’t. Some asked me not to talk about them too much, so I won’t. But the basic path—whether we’re formally initiated or not—has always been about uncovering our inherent divinity and stepping into our spiritual authority. And my first teacher for that was the Catholic priest who would become my stepfather.

I first met Father John when I was four years old.

He had a Black Panther poster taped to one wall of his office, a print that announced “The Spirit of the Lord is Freedom” on another, and a picture of a Sierra mountain taped to his desk. I would grow up to understand that my dad believed in this trinity completely: political activism to heal us all from the dehumanization of white supremacy plus a spirituality that was all about freedom plus an anchoring in the natural world equals good hope for liberation.

He was, not surprisingly, excommunicated from the Catholic Church on the very day he became my stepfather.

I thought that was a shady move on the church’s part, but my newly unemployed stepfather seemed unfazed. He just rolled a thin piece of paper into his typewriter and responded to the archbishop’s excommunication letter—a document that forbade him from so much as receiving Holy Communion in the institution he’d served his entire adult life—by telling the archbishop that his decree sounded like something out of the Inquisition.

“Despite the hollow booming of your Automatic Canons,” my stepfather wrote, “I am peacefully in communion with the universal Church and shall receive communion when I please.”

Now the Catholic kids of the nonliberation variety weren’t allowed to play with me anymore, but I took my cue from my stepfather and shrugged off their rigidity like they were so yesterday. I was introverted, anyway, so I appreciated my unearned pass from the dreadful social scene that was the Early Birds Kindergarten Group at Addison Elementary. Instead, I spent my afternoons making collages out of psalms in my stepfather’s wood-floored office: yes, we lived in a world made of spiritual words, and we were free to rearrange them as we pleased.

Along with being born into Catholicism and achieving that priesthood as a young man, my stepfather grew up with American Spiritualist séances, and now he carried his old family ouija board up the concrete stairs from the basement and we all asked the spirits to become our life coaches.

In the early twentieth century, when my stepfather was a kid, Spiritualism was still a major religious movement and not seen as being in conflict with Catholicism or any other tradition.

My stepfather believed that his dead aunt Mina joined us for dinner every evening at seven. We always set a place for her. In the 1980s, he rewrote his Bible, using female pronouns for God. He ordained a witch. He performed weddings for queer and trans Catholics. And soon, he taught me to move physical matter.

I shit you not. When my stepfather forgot his glasses on his way to his job as a bookseller at Printer’s Ink Bookstore, he didn’t have to turn his old three-speed bike around and come home. He just pulled over to the curb, closed his eyes, and concentrated on moving the glasses through time and space. When he felt done with his task, he opened his eyes, reached into his pocket and—four times out of five—found his glasses there.

I thought this was an excellent trick. I wanted to know how to do it, too! John explained his process simply, like the ability to move objects with his mind was quite everyday and just a matter of practice. He told me to close my eyes and visualize in absolutely vivid detail the item I wanted to move, beginning by picturing it in its likely current location and moving it slowly—visualizing as many turns as I needed it to take—and then placing it someplace where it could possibly be anyway. Magic like this, I understood from his explanation, did not like to make a “provable” spectacle of itself.

I trained in this process daily, focusing my energy on moving money from the Great Western Bank up on Hamilton Avenue into the pages of the Alice in Wonderland books on my bottom shelf. I didn’t think of this practice as psychic bank robbery, but I guess that’s what it was. In any case, I became quite adept at it. I started with small amounts of money and eventually could move ten dollar bills with confidence.

I know. You want to know if I can still do it. But a witch has to have some secrets.

My Gammie Evelyn, an old-school Hollywood dame, had her own way of dialoguing with what she couldn’t see. Each morning, she psychically scanned her body for health issues, and then she meditated through them. She learned this technique from her own grandmother, who we all called Aunt Eva, a widowed Christian Science practitioner and single mom who came out to California in the early 1900s with my young great-grandmother, Miss Nellie Mae. (Christian Science is the medicine-adverse religion founded by the spiritual medium Mary Baker Eddy in the late 1800s—nothing to do with Scientology.)

My Gammie Evelyn had left the church by the time I knew her, but she still did her daily health meditations. She drank like a fish, drove a red Cadillac, never went to the doctor, lived until she was ninety-one, and donated her body to medical research as an example of an undoctored woman.

It turns out that my stepfather’s family’s work with their ouija board and my Gammie Evelyn’s health meditations were both related to modern Spiritualism, a distinct religion and a broader religious movement that at times sure looks a lot like a way of rebranding witchcraft so as not to get us burned. At its peak at the turn of the twentieth century, there were some ten million Spiritualists in the United States and England. It was a major religion—not considered fringe or esoteric.

Some Spiritualists were Christians and some weren’t—either way, feminism, the abolition of slavery, and antiracism were intrinsic tenets of the religion.

Progressive politics and the spirit world were good friends.

Years later I would learn that Doreen Valiente, the author of Witchcraft for Tomorrow—that book I’d happened upon back in Sonoma County—belonged to a Spiritualist church for a while herself. In I Am a Witch, she wrote: “If I say that witches have links with Spiritualism, this will probably upset some Spiritualists; but it is nevertheless true. In fact, every genuine phenomenon connected with modern Spiritualism can be found occurring in ancient witchcraft; mediumship, clairvoyance and clairaudience, psychic healing, levitation, astral projection, materialisations, even the formation of the circle by placing men and women alternately to balance the power.”

Doreen was, like me, a high school dropout with grand aspirations. But she was more badass. In her late teens, she used her deep understanding of language and letters to become a translator at Bletchley Park, the hub for codebreaking against the Nazis. She was a pro-choice spy and a legit psychic who in the early 1950s obtained some original notebooks delineating the magical system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society whose founding members included W. B. Yeats.

In 1953, two years after Britain repealed the laws banning witchcraft, Doreen was initiated by Gerald Gardner, another influential witch for whom she often served as a ghostwriter. Her instructions for self-initiation in Witchcraft for Tomorrow are, to my knowledge, the first ever published.

When my daughter and I moved from Sonoma County to Oakland in the early 1990s, the witchy folks we met worked primarily in Ifa, Santería, Voodoo, and Conjure—all based in African traditional religions. I was familiar with the magic in Luisah Teish’s 1985 Voodoo primer Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals—hell, my sister and her friend had practically burned down our mother’s studio trying to evoke the orisha Elegua that year—and my new friends invited me to participate further, saying, “Good, Teish’s book was orisha kindergarten. We’re going to move you into orisha elementary school.” And in orisha elementary I began to learn new avenues to connect with the unseen world.

Magic, I was learning, wasn’t just about influencing our physical realities but also about retrieving the energy the patriarchy has taken from us. I felt happy: here were adaptable, urban, ancestor- and earth-based spiritual systems that had forged web-like paths to our West Coast community. Originating in Yoruban West Africa, Voudoun practitioners syncretized their religion with Catholicism and other Christian sects as a way to preserve it without getting punished by their enslavers. Voudoun also fomented with pagan influence in the Caribbean where about eighty thousand Irish witches sold as slaves to the West Indies joined the more than three million Africans there and brought the May Pole and Madame Brigit to Voudoun. The religion arrived on the Gulf Coast before the Louisiana Purchase and soon became Voodoo, a distinct North American tradition.

If Doreen Valiente is “the Mother of Modern Witchcraft” as she has become known, Marie Laveau is the grand matriarch. One of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century, she should be in our history books with Abe Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony. But of course, she isn’t—yet. I added Marie Laveau’s portrait to my dresser-top altar to remember and honor her, made the pilgrimage to her grave in New Orleans, and studied her biographies.

Born a mixed-race, “illegitimate” free woman of color in French New Orleans in 1794, the border crossed Marie Laveau, making her a US American after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

She was a hairdresser, a Catholic, a Mambo, a hustler, a dancer, an antislavery and prison activist, a healer and a hexer, and a powerful Voodoo queen—a Black woman who held real authority in a time when people of color and women didn’t come by actionable authority easily. She knew all the secrets of the powerful white people in town, making her invulnerable to the law.

Music historian Michael Ventura considers her the mother of jazz, and hence the mother of all American music. When Marie Laveau died in 1881, she was important enough to mainstream American culture that her obituary ran in the New York Times. But her life story touched on everything I’d never been taught about American history, including this: magical traditions like witchcraft, Conjure, Voodoo, Hoodoo, brujería, Spiritualism, spiritual mediumship, Wicca, and Reclaiming have always been powerful—and female-led—religious and political forces in North America.

In 2000, my daughter and I migrated again, this time north to Portland, Oregon, and there we met traditionally trained witches and conjurers who worked with the northern mysteries—the indigenous spiritual tradition of ancient northern Europeans preserved in runic artifacts—and others who engaged in more experimental magic without formal training. I started a church with some pals—Big Mama’s Church of Christ the Girlie-Man, if you must know. Our chapel was the local feminist bookstore In Other Words.

I remember a lot of communion wine.

But it made sense that a bookstore became my church. Where there is a bookstore, there is magic. A bookstore was where my stepfather found work after the Catholic Church canned him. A bookstore was where I found Doreen Valiente. A bookstore is where a writer like me sells her wares.

Over the years, wherever I lived—and especially in less-social years—writing had become my go-to conjure method. From alphabets and the void of my dreams came words and intentions and stories. With daily work and lucky manifestation, I turned my devalued labor into scrappy and beautiful books. Other writers began to send me little effigies of their own book ideas, and I put them on my altar and I did what I could to envision them into existence.

All the magical traditions I have come into contact with and made up for myself share this belief: independent of a priest, archbishop, or any formal church structure, all humans can speak to and work with hidden worlds, but we have to speak the languages of those hidden worlds, and the languages of those hidden worlds are music, word, and symbolism.

Tradition—or the use of the symbolic languages of our ancestors—amplifies power. But as often as we honor our ancestors by remembering their languages and invoking their ceremonies, we honor them by not repeating their hurtful mistakes—and by being thoughtful about how we can best serve our changing communities here and now. In some of the magical traditions I’ve studied, for example, there’s a lot of historical and not-so-historical talk about white magic and black magic. Living as we all do under white supremacy, you can imagine which one was considered “good” and which one, “bad.” I reject this as both racist and a false binary. Witchcraft—truly any magical tradition—can grow and change as it’s practiced. Given the dire global situation we’re in now—all of us again under financial, legislative, and psychic attack by desperate patriarchs—I propose we all provisionally initiate ourselves and get moving with some witchcraft.

Kelly Cree and Jessica Mullen, who write the Monthly Manifestation Manual for the School of Life Design, sum up one basic magical process this way:

1. Focus on your desire.

2. Practice feeling as if your desire is already your reality.

3. Engage physical props (for example, light a candle).

4. Give no fucks about the outcome.

So, we’re looking for focus, a feeling of intention rather than want, symbolic language, and a relaxed attitude of letting go of our attachment to the results.

It’s a good idea to end our magical requests with “or whatever is best for all beings in all realms” or “if it’s for the greater good.” That way we’ve got an inoculation against our own ignorance or righteousness. We want what’s best for the most vulnerable, whether or not our specific visions hold the answers.

I’ve written ten books before this one, and every book is its own kind of spell.

When this book first showed up as an image in my imagination—where all things begin—I saw it coming together like one of those old synagogue or church recipe collections where you get instructions for making Madge’s Meatloaf and Bubbie Eddy’s Mandel Bread, mimeographed and bound with a thick, plastic spiral. Only this ladies’ auxiliary cookbook is about toppling the patriarchy before we make dinner—because it’s gone on too long.

It truly has.

Its time has come.

Patriarchy—the age-old system that enforces a gender binary and creates brutal hierarchies among men while universally privileging the masculine over the feminine—hurts all of us. It forces us to act as if men don’t need relationships, women don’t need selves, and trans and nonbinary people have no right to exist at all. We reject that system.

We’re over the endless destruction that seems to be the only skill of toxic hypermasculinity. We’re over unrepentant rapists being handed judicial positions where they’re allowed to have authority over women’s bodies. No good has come of patriarchy, and if those entitled white men aren’t willing to step away from positions of power, we will use every tool in our arsenal—from the everyday to the otherworldly—to undermine them and ultimately remove them.

It seems to me that the orthodox religions always know more about the devil than I do and can describe him in more detail, and if I hadn’t a nice type of mind I’d begin to wonder what company they keep when the moon rides high in the sky and good witches are doing simple little incantations and asking for spiritual guidance.

—SYBIL LEEK, Diary of a Witch

Magic doesn’t require that we convert to a different religion or adopt any religion at all. Witches are pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, agnostic, atheist, and anything else they happen to be. Witchcraft comes to us from every language that has ever existed, so some of us spell magic with a c and some of us spell magick with a ck and we don’t need to jump to assimilate our differences. If there’s anything in these pages you don’t care to try, feel free to skip it. Bubbie Eddy doesn’t care.

But consider the possibility that it’s the patriarchy itself that put the fear of witchcraft in us.

So let’s divest from belief in the devil.

Keep making the connections.


Question dominating language.

Trust your own authority.

Listen to people more marginalized than yourself.


Feel free to use the spells in this book in any order you like. The A–Z progression works beautifully. Or you can start by spelling out your own name. If I were taking that approach, I’d begin with:


Reclaiming Power

Infinite Intelligence

Essential Oils

Lunar Love

Or maybe you’ll get out your ouija board with its ABCs and let spirit point your way.

You can try the spells by yourself, with a buddy, or in a small group. Thirteen is a traditional maximum size for a coven. But if you can’t think of twelve other people you can stand, fewer is totally cool.

It will magnify our power to sometimes perform hexes simultaneously, so I invite us all to coordinate with other magic-makers in hexing the patriarchy at scheduled times. Working alone or with a group at other times is effective and wonderful, too, as each spell will echo and amplify the others through time and space.

You don’t have to wear a black hat or dress up in a gauzy outfit or dance naked in the forest. It’s better to be yourself. Dress how you dress. You don’t even have to believe anything. Magic is simply a way of cultivating personal power and uncovering our inherent divinity.

You’ll notice that some of the spells in this collection are designed to very actively hex those who are abusing their power—we’ll learn to bind them with the letter B and to send psychic servitors to do our bidding in the courts and Congress with the letter S. Other spells focus on taking care of what we love, and on preserving and restoring our own energy. We’ll protect the moon, for example, with the letter L


  • "It's time to conjure. Ariel Gore's Hexing the Patriarchy is a call to arms--if by 'arms' we mean hearts and guts and brains and twinkle parts against brutality. This book is about the spells, incantations, and storytelling we need to bring ourselves back to life. This book is a magical field guide that will set the crap that needs to burn on fire, and compost the living shit out of the wrong world toward revolution, revelation, reformation, and release. I'm all in."—Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of The Misfit's Manifesto, The Book of Joan, The Chronology of Water, and more
  • "Employing fierce metaphysics, creativity, humor, and pure badass conjuring, Ariel Gore's magical, majestic Hexing the Patriarchy is a practical field guide to fixing what's wrong the world, one earth-loving, mama-empowering, patriarchy-squashing hex at a time. Just holding this book in my hands makes me feel giddy with hope."—Karen Karbo, author of In Praise of Difficult Women
  • "Ariel Gore has given us . . . the tools and the nerve to be magic. Her cauldron is for every stepped-on and marginalized being to add to and shine on. Gore knows that in the collective we are free from our masters--while one can be free in their mind, those who actualize their potential as a tribe might save what's left of our world. Hexing the Patriarchy is an anti-fascism tool that belongs in our feminist libraries and medicine chests to aid what ails you through this fight."—Sophia Shalmiyev, author of Mother Winter
  • "I endorse Ariel Gore's book, which covers everything from wholesome light witchcraft for health to what you gotta do to punch your enemy in the throat. The spell I most needed, and used, was 'Be Your Own Muse.' If you've ever been a muse to an m-a-n, especially a certain bass player, you know what fresh hell it was. Thank you, Ariel Gore."—Jennifer Blowdryer, journalist and punk music artist
  • "We have needed this book for centuries! Ariel Gore, in all her witchy-smart goodness, will inspire you, bolster you, lift you up, remind you who you are, and show you how to find your power in a world that is constantly trying to keep you from having it. And, she does so in a way that is good-natured and endlessly fun to read. I expect to pick up this book and practice the spells throughout the rest of my life -- unless all of you buy this book and do the spells with me, and we collectively do away with patriarchy for good."—Kerry Cohen, author of Lush: A Memoir and Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity
  • "This alphabetized witch primer had me at 'B: binding spells for grabby assholes'!"

    Jennifer Baumgardner, author of Manifesta and F 'Em

On Sale
Oct 15, 2019
Page Count
288 pages
Seal Press

Ariel Gore

About the Author

Ariel Gore is a journalist, writer, and teacher. Her novel We Were Witches was celebrated for its “piercing and wise” (Booklist) examination of modern womanhood. Gore is the founder of Hip Mama, an Alternative Press Award-winning publication covering the culture and politics of motherhood, and the creator of the Fascism Fatigue Coloring Book. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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