Do you dream of having the same powers as (insert favourite pop culture witch reference here)?
Well, it seems you’re not alone. Because in the spirit of Hermione, the worst witch and Charmed, young people today are turning their backs on the vampire moment owed to us by Twilight and embracing witch culture instead. And surprisingly, the newfound popularity of witchcraft isn’t just a Halloween fad.
Even rapper Azealia Banks admitted ‘I’m really a witch’ on her Twitter before all hell broke loose and she unraveled into a stream of rants (of which she’s notorious for). So if you feel like keeping on your witch costume when Halloween is over, we wouldn’t blame you one bit. Here’s why.
But witchcraft isn’t real!
Surprisingly, witchcraft is a very real practice. It’s a religion that is still popular in countries across the world. In the British 2011 census, 7000 people described themselves as witches. And while no witch has been convicted of sorcery since 1944 and no witch has been executed since 1727, those that dare to identify as part of this group are sure to be met with worried glances or a witchy cackle in the face. It can be hard for a witch these days to come out of the broom-closet.
So what do they do?
Much as you’d expect, they make potions and spells using crystals and candles. But they’re political actors too. Journalist, Tanya Gold, describes them as the ‘ultimate eco-religion’ after seeing Kate West, author of The Real Witches Handbook address a crowd of fellow witches at Witchfest in Croydon. West encouraged her audience to bully politicians into taking action on global warming, long before it was fashionable. Witches love the planet and worship the stone and trees through the prism of their God and Goddess using something mystical called ‘the art magical’ – nobody non-witch really knows what this is (our bet is even the witches don’t).
The rise of the witch
Withcraft, plus the embrace of magical practices like reading tarot cards and even fringe homeopathic practices like reiki and crystal healing have gained significant steam in recent years. Following the story of a group of witches, American Horror Story: Coven (which showed witchcraft as the embodiment of girl power) was the singular most popular season in the shows history. Rookie Magazine, , a favourite amongst teens published tutorials on how to read Tarot cards and a popular Tumblr blog, Charmcore insists it is run by three witch sisters, spouting sarcastic witch advice and praising celebrities it deems to be ‘obvious witches’.
The feminist witch
Witchcraft is a religion that venerates the female -there is no shrouding of women and no submission to men. Perhaps that’s why it’s gained so much popularity in a climate of third wave feminism and #MeToo. The Spiral Dance is a book written by Starhawk (her full name) and acts as many witches first introduction to Wicca (a spiritual movement based on the earth that started in the 1950s). Wicca uses spells and acts as a parallel to witchcraft. In her book, Starhawk writes ‘To reclaim the word witch, is to reclaim our right to be powerful’. Wicca was made at a time when people sought to rewrite religion to bring it in line with women’s liberation and saw witches chanting catchy slogans like ‘Dubble, dubble, war and rubble, when you mess with women, you’ll be in trouble’. Intimidating, we know. It’s telling that a spirituality with it’s modern roots in the feminist movement is so popular right now.
Magic or intuition?
Speaking with The Guardian, Suzi X (a tarot reader and front woman of ‘witchcore’ punk band Shady Hawkins) summed it up. ‘I think one of the biggest conspiracies of a male-dominated society is the suppression of feminine intuition, in that women have been conditioned to second-guess our own hunches, or second-guess our own abilities, all the time,’ she said. ‘You know when you can just tell someone is creepy, right off the bat? That’s your intuition speaking.’ By embracing your witchiness and listening to that niggling voice inside (and of course by looking at your tarot cards and even horoscope) women can come to trust themselves.
A fad or forever?
Commentators think that the rise of witchcraft might be part of a more general transformation of the cultural beliefs and practices of the younger generations. Many young people today claim to be ‘spiritual but not religious’ and something like witchcraft gives them an outlet for this way of thinking. Whether witchcraft will last or is just a fad is yet to be confirmed. But in the meantime, we might as well get started on our make-Ryan-Gosling-turn-up-at-my-house-with-a-box-full-of-Krispy-Kremes spell.
Photo by Mallory Johndrow on Unsplash