Augustus Sol Invictus first made headlines last month when the Associated Press reported that the Orlando-based attorney seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for the Senate seat held by Marco Rubio had ritually slaughtered a goat. "I did sacrifice a goat," Invictus told the AP, adding that the avowed act of sorcery was "probably a quibble in the mind of most Americans."
This is true not least of the American magical community. When I asked the Covenant of the Goddess, one of America’s oldest and most respected pagan bodies, about Invictus, I was directed to the group’s Florida council.
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"I am unfamiliar with the person in question or his campaign," said Gordon Stone, a spokesman for the covenant. Anne Marie of the Florida Pagan Gathering told me that similar rites would not be observed at the group’s celebration of the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain. "I can assure you that there are no animal sacrifices at the Florida Pagan Gathering and that there never will be," she said.
It’s not just wizards and vegetarians—PETA has also called Invictus’ actions "bloody and cruel"—that are put out. When Adrian Wyllie, the former chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, resigned last month, he put out a statement accusing Invictus, whose full name—not the one on his birth certificate—translates to "great or revered unconquerable sun," of support for neo-Nazism, civil war, and the phasing out of "the weakest, the least intelligent, and the most diseased." And in a separate message released a few weeks ago, the party condemned Invictus’ Senate platform. "The LPF finds the initiation of violence through his call for civil war and state-sponsored murder abhorrent. These platform issues are diametrically opposed to the principles of the LPF." The party’s current leadership is not happy with him either. "I believe that Invictus’ campaign has no future hope of association with the [party], let alone assistance in any form," Char-Lez Braden, the new chairman, told me.
Invictus was happy to discuss hircine slaughter, the Florida party, Nietzsche, Zeus, LSD, the legitimacy of the federal government, and many other subjects on the telephone after I called his law office and was given his cellphone number. It was difficult to know where to begin. His paganism is only one of many remarkable things about him.
Invictus was born in the Sunshine State in 1983 to a libertarian father who was also deeply religious. As an undergraduate majoring in philosophy at the University of South Florida, Invictus founded the Freethinkers, a group for students with unique religious perspectives. "I had very Christian, very tyrannical parents," he told a reporter from the Oracle, the student newspaper there, in 2008. "I was forced to go to church all the time." Invictus said his parents "used to steal my books and my CDs and throw them away" and called the Bible, which he claimed to have read at the age of 13, "immoral."
His maverick reputation seems to have followed him to the DePaul School of Law in Chicago, where he was involved with the school’s International Human Rights Law Institute. An acquaintance, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me that during his time at DePaul, Invictus did not appear to practice paganism or espouse libertarian beliefs. The source said that Invictus "had a fascination with Nazism" and denied the historical account of the Holocaust. He also took what the source called "a dim view of women."
"Yeah, I get that a lot and I don’t understand why," Invictus said when I asked about these claims. "I have two daughters. I have a fiancée. I am a pagan. I worship the goddess. So I don’t know where this stuff comes from. I’m the last person on earth who would be a sexist."
What about the Nazi stuff?
"There was a rogue agent there," he said, suggesting that he offended a female intern who later decided to embarrass him when he stood for the Florida Bar Association by dredging up an essay of his on the upside of state-sponsored eugenics programs.
He told me that he no longer advocates state-sponsored eugenics and expressed his frustration with the fact that members of the Florida Libertarian establishment have taken exception to his essay. "It was six or seven years ago that I wrote that," he said. "They just won’t listen." In response to criticism from members of his party, he has uploaded the essay to his LinkedIn page and written a new introduction to it. He says he’s been misunderstood.
The course of Invictus’ legal career is easier to trace than his intellectual and spiritual development or his personal life. After being admitted to the bar in Florida and New York in 2012, and in Illinois and Massachusetts in 2013, he founded Imperium, a general practice law firm that now has two partners. According to the firm’s website, his own current legal areas of expertise include drug trafficking and terrorism. Last year, he successfully handled the appeal of Marcus Faella, the leader of a neo-Nazi group who faced life in prison after being convicted of multiple domestic terrorism charges. Faella ended up serving a six-month sentence in a county jail.
In April 2013, Invictus’ name turned up on a handful of legal blogs, where an open letter he addressed to graduates of DePaul Law was traded as a curiosity. Inviting his former classmates to "Witness ye the glory of my life at 29 years of age," he declared himself a "genius … well-educated & creative, well-mannered & refined" and "God’s gift to humankind where the English language is concerned." He referred to what he called his "militant self-discipline" and claimed to "dress better than all of you, pronounce my words perfectly, and have a winning, professional handshake." He also mentioned his ownership of "a Cadillac & a poodle, multiple computers & a personal library"; condemned modern architecture as "vapid and worthless," television as "pure excrement," and American democracy as "filth"; and claimed to have renounced, among other things, his law degree, his membership in the Roman Catholic Church, his possessions, and his U.S. citizenship.
The letter ended on an oracular note. "I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself," he wrote. "Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all."
It was sometime after the composition of this letter that he made an arduous journey, walking from central Florida to the Mojave Desert—a trip that was the occasion for the ritual sacrifice that brought him into the headlines last month.
"I saw some headline that said I sacrificed a goat in the Mojave Desert," he told me. "That’s not true. It was after I returned to Florida." He said he killed and consumed the goat upon his homecoming in an act of thanksgiving meant to propitiate an entity he referred to as "the god of the wilderness." "I’m a city boy," he said. "I was tickled pink to be alive and you give thanks to the gods when something like that happens."
Invictus admitted that animal sacrifice is not a common practice. He also questioned the pagan credentials of those who have disavowed it. "It is controversial and it is not commonplace. That I will admit," he said. "There is, however, this trend in paganism that I don’t think speaks for actual paganism. They’re afraid of history. I think they don’t want a witch hunt."
What about the god of the wilderness? Was he appeased by this act of sorcery?
"I expected nothing in return for this sacrifice," he said. "I don’t know whether the god of the wilderness is gratified by bloodshed. I don’t know, just like I don’t know whether a three-year-old giving Mommy a macaroni art picture—whether she is going to be grateful for this. What does Mommy think? I don't know."
He also mentioned the Christian sacraments. "I think it is a little strange that Christians are up in arms about this because the doctrine of transubstantiation means that they are eating literal flesh and drinking literal blood of a human being, and I did that of a goat."
In November 2013, after returning home from the desert, he found himself ejected from the Ordo Templi Orientis, a mystical society founded at the end of the 19th century by Aleister Crowley, the British occultist and soi-dissant "Great Beast 666." Frater Lux Ad Mundi of the order’s U.S. Grand Lodge would not say why Invictus had been expelled, calling his dismissal "a confidential matter."
Wyllie, the former chairman of the Florida Libertarians, has suggested that Invictus was forced to leave the group after sacrificing the goat, a claim Frater Mundi disputed. "There are no rituals performed under the auspices of U.S. Grand Lodge, OTO, or its liturgical arm Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica involving animal sacrifice," Mundi said, suggesting that, after reading information about the order on its website, including its nondiscrimination policy, I should "compare it to Mr. Invictus’ statements and draw your own conclusions."
Invictus told me he was "expelled from the order for political differences with the leadership," not for animal sacrifice. "It is true that animal sacrifice has nothing to do with the OTO," he said. "It is also the case that the OTO policies have nothing to do with animal sacrifice, so it’s not against OTO policy. I will state, though, that this particular sacrifice had nothing to do with the OTO."
Invictus announced his Senate candidacy six months ago in a YouTube video entitled "A Call for Total Insurrection." Wearing a waistcoat sans jacket and standing in front of a podium with an American flag behind him, he urged the American people to embrace "revolt."
"I want each and every one of you to be a legitimate threat," he said. "I don’t want you to vote so much as I want you to wake up, drop out, and tune in. I want you to take LSD and practice sorcery. I want you to listen to trap music and black metal, to learn the law and break it deliberately … to subject yourself to rigorous physical training, to treat your bodies as holy temples."
As of last month, his campaign website featured a diverse list of books "that have influenced Augustus Invictus in the development of his campaign platform." John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Leo Strauss’ History of Political Philosophy, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring appeared on the list, as did The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and The Nomos of the Earth by Carl Schmitt, the Nazi jurist and philosopher.
The website has also been home to Invictus’ blog. In one post dated July 30 he called for a boycott of Walmart, eBay, Amazon, and other corporations following their decision to discontinue the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, and the banning of the Democratic Party. "You have all become the pawns of a mindless fad; and yet you think yourselves educated on [sic] history," he wrote, before hauling out the old chestnut about Woodrow Wilson having The Birth of a Nation screened at the White House. "Tell me, history lovers, should we not ban the Democratic Party, with its racist legacy?"
When I asked him about these comments—some of which have been removed from the internet since we spoke—he said that his language was hyperbolic. "I’m a pretty colorful person," he said. "I don’t generally say that my campaign speeches are pure poetry, but I also don’t make my speeches the typical stump speeches of the Republican or Democrat politician." He told me that in his "Call for Total Insurrection," he was not literally advocating civil war or black magic, though he said that he does support abolishing the Drug Enforcement Administration and the decriminalization of most drugs.
Other items on his website gave me the impression that his views on abortion (which he said should be illegal in most circumstances) and the environment (he is for an expanded federal role in protecting it) are out of step with those of most libertarians. I asked him why he was seeking the nomination of a party that didn’t seem keen on having him and vice versa. "My father raised me as a libertarian. So the people who are in power presently are of no concern to me," he said. "Libertarians have a false view of the necessity of economic freedom."
At present Invictus is the only declared candidate seeking the Libertarian nomination. Roger Stone, the veteran political strategist, has flirted with the possibility of entering the race, a prospect Invictus has welcomed in an open letter posted to YouTube. "I have a firm policy of not responding to known crackpots," Stone told me when I asked him about the video, adding that he will make up his mind about running next year.
"I don’t foresee that [winning the nomination] being an issue, honestly," Invictus told me. Somewhere in the distance, a goat shuddered.