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On The Commodification Of Witchcraft

By The Persephone Complex @hollycassell

Witchcraft is booming. New books, products, and spiritual services come out every day. Masonic and occult symbolism is vividly present in mainstream pop music, we have more cutesy "white witches" on TV than ever before, and more and more people are sharing their magic online, posting pictures of their altar space or Sabbat celebrations. I spoke with You Magazine recently about why I think modern witchcraft is becoming so popular, and to me the answer was obvious. Millenials and Gen Xr's want a spiritual path that honours everything organised religions too often ignore or demonise - women, our natural darkness, our sexuality, and above all, mother nature.

On The Commodification Of Witchcraft

The surge in interest in witchcraft has been so great that Sephora recently announced they are bringing out a "starter witch kit", containing a rose quartz, a smudge stick, some oils and a few other things. The kit will cost $42. This news has attracted so many differing opinions and perspectives over recent days that I felt I needed to discuss it here. Let's overlook, for a second, the question of where these crystals were mined, and by whom. It's true that many trendy lifestyle stores have already been selling over-priced witch tools such as Tarot cards, incense, and crystals for years. But that doesn't make it acceptable. That doesn't mean we should grow complacent at every instance of unethical flogging of sacred materials. We are allowed to be angry every fresh time it happens. The commodification of white sage, and the unsustainable harvesting of it to meet demand from white girls dabbling in spirituality, is problematic on its own. White sage is not yet endangered, as some well-intentioned people on Twitter claim, but it does need to be responsibly harvested to avoid damage to what is left of our planet's wildness. Even putting aside the fact that you could buy enough herbs and seeds to start a garden, or several instructional books, with that amount of money, witchcraft isn't a commodity and it can't be bought at all. Not only could young witch's money be better spent, this kit is also spreading the idea that being a witch is all about having the right "stuff". How declawed and unthreatening have we become, that being a witch is a fashionable and kitsch identity one can pick up at Sephora.

We want to buy the symbols and tools of a witch without thinking about where they come from and whether they were made through pain and exploitation, or the energy they carry. I read an article the other day that contained a passage I probably won't ever forget: "So what does our world look like? Let me describe to you our power animals....sharks long-lined and finned by fishing fleets that have butchered through the Tuna shoals we have fed to our plague of familiar cats". That image perfectly encapsulates what I'm trying to warn against here. The balance has been utterly destroyed, and huge corporations bear much of the blame. Profiting off a resurgence in witchcraft is crass and adds insult to injury.

On The Commodification Of Witchcraft

For me, there is a connection between my veganism and my craft. Witchcraft has a long and bloody history, full of sacrifice, death, and violence, and I have no desire to erase that. You don't have to be vegan to be a witch - historically speaking, that's just not true. But if you unpack the core foundations of all nature-based magic, you do by definition, have to be anti-agriculture. Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the world's deforestation, and the destruction of our eco-system. Witches have respect for the cycle of life, death, and new life. They may have hunted for their food, or sacrificed an ox, or used the bones of a bird to cast a spell, but those things did not disrupt the natural environment. Animal agriculture has pushed us so far away from the wheel of the year, from the cycles of death and rebirth, and from the possibility of any sustainable meat-eating, that to me it wouldn't make sense for me to be a witch living in the city in 2018, and worship nature, yet not be vegan. We are calling the corners with water and earth we help to pollute. We wear black lipstick tested on terrified rabbits.

I had my Silver Ravenwolf phase as a teenager, and that's nothing to be ashamed of - seeking a sub-culture that feels like home. It's not the young girls buying this starter kit that I feel are at fault. This isn't about gatekeeping esoteric knowledge, or making witchcraft elitist. Quite the opposite, I want the young and the curious to know that magic is their natural state, and all they have to do is return to it. I don't want anyone to feel like they must buy anything to be a "real witch". Witchcraft is not a clique, to which the price of entry is $42.

On The Commodification Of Witchcraft

There are many gifted, experienced, authentic witches selling quality witch tools. You probably already know who they are, if you are reading this post. I see people copying them, instead of supporting them. Everyone wants to feel like "the next supreme". Nobody wants to humble themselves enough to learn, or admit they may not have the answers. Witchcraft is not hereditary, but it is wisdom handed down from initiate to initiate. We seek the wise woman, or medicine man, or herbalist, for help in our time of need - and they give it to us. I see so many trying to bypass the essential trial and adventure of appearing at a crone's door and lacing her hand with coins. We have lost respect for Baba Yaga, for Hecate, for those who have gone before us. I can't help but feel that if you truly cared about witchcraft, about the survival of this spiritual wisdom, rather than just your own alternative image, that you'd give your money to witch-run businesses instead.

Witchcraft is always going to have a fanclub. Magic is sexy and mysterious and enticing, and trends are useful for spreading niche information across the globe. There is nothing gross about witchcraft becoming more popular, and there is nothing shallow about having a witchy aesthetic - but we must be mindful and on the lookout for how those things can be at odds with one another. Witchcraft is a wild art. You must believe in your word and in your own heart to practise it. Go out into the woods and put your hands in the earth that knows you.

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