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Why I'm challenging the idea of witchcraft as a "trend"
What if organised religion is the trend and witchcraft the truth?
I see the person’s point; as crystal jewellery, energy healing, sound baths and meditation have gone mainstream in the West, so too have #witchtok, spell candles and tarot iconography. And there are undoubtedly connections between the two. My answer though was no; increased interest in witchcraft right now is a much deeper subject.
For me, the uptake in people claiming that label of witch for themselves is down to two bigger and far more important things: The increased focus on social justice and the environment.
I don’t say that to sound self-important but because I truly believe the two deepest ingredients of witchcraft are connection and empowerment.
The witch knows that we are connected to all; to the depths of ourselves, our ancestors, other people, animals and, perhaps most importantly of all, the Earth. So is it any wonder that as nature cries out for our help, as we find ourselves faced with a climate change so drastic it will make Earth unliveable for humanity, we find ourselves turning ever more deeply to that place of nature connection for insight and solace?
Meanwhile as witches, we know that everyone has a power within them; a beautiful, flowing power that deserves to be respected, honoured, and expressed. The social justice movement meanwhile stands against a different type of power – one that is anything but flowing or respectful and has been exclusively accessible to very small groups of people over recent centuries. To reclaim the label of witch is to reclaim our own, true power, and remind others in the world to do the same no matter what they have been taught or told, or how small they have been made to feel.
These are things I feel passionate about, so my answer of “no. I believe the witchcraft trend is rooted in social justice and ecology” felt important and true to me. Yet in the days after that conversation, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with the question until eventually I figured out what was upsetting me:
The idea of witchcraft as a trend.
Of course I know that witchcraft has become fashionable. I’ve also seen the barrage of “witch, please” t-shirts and increased number of overpriced crystal balls in the shops, am very familiar with the increase of mainstream spell books, and know only too well just how many “witchfluencers” there are on social media.
But to call witchcraft itself a trend? It strikes me as just another way to minimise and silence the kind of deep, true power I spoke of before.
And to laugh at the people who are discovering witchcraft through TikTok or Instagram? Well, that feels more than a little similar to those who are claiming someone can’t be a true fan of Metallica if they discovered the band through Stranger Things.
The world is changing; information that was once only available through fireside storytelling and handed-down books of family lore is now just as likely to come to us through TV shows and social media. And while such resources definitely require a hefty dose of discernment and a lot of additional research; as someone who first dabbled with witchcraft after reading The Worst Witch as a child, I can tell you that to be nudged into awareness through them is just as valid as through any other source and can promise you I will never gatekeep someone else’s journey by criticising their first steps on a path.
What I will gatekeep though, is the suggestion that this way of life can be called nothing more than a trend.
You should know I don’t say this because witchcraft is the name I give to my belief system, although it is a way of life that I hold incredibly sacred.
I say it because I encourage you to step back from the dominant narrative around this one and instead look at the evidence. Witchcraft, at its heart, is about the honouring of nature. It is a system that encourages us to live and work in harmony with the stars, our planet, and all she has to offer us just as our ancestors did; hell, just as the characters in any post-apocalyptic movie, TV show, or book series eventually realise they must remember how to do!
Although witchcraft is the most prominent version of such practice here in the UK and other European lands, those same principles apply to other lands right across the world as practiced by many traditional African and Asian cultures, by the Australian Aborigines, the Maoris of New Zealand, and the many indigenous peoples of the Americas to name but a few. And while the specific practices used by each of those groups are different, that’s largely because the natural environments and resources available to each of those groups differ so broadly.
For as long as there have been humans there have been those who looked to the stars for guidance, to the plants for healing, the animals for support, their own hearts for wisdom, and to the Earth herself for reverence.
Witchcraft now is different from the days of old for sure, days before my own ancestors were forced to honour the Gods of their Roman invaders rather than the lands I still call home. But of course that will be the case – the world is different. We are different. And we cannot and should not go back when Earth herself is forever evolving.
But in fact, even the modern world finds itself putting stead more and more in the practices of the ancient ones; with science increasingly recognising that manufactured medical remedies are simply advanced versions of the herbal potions and lotions used by folk healers centuries ago. Remember at the height of the Covid pandemic when we were all encouraged to sing Happy Birthday to ensure optimal length hand washing session? Not really that different from the days our ancestors would recite an incantation as they waited for their herbs to stew in a cauldron.
The truth is that witchcraft – and other Earth-based practices like it – have been here all along, albeit sometimes forgotten thanks to the cultural displacements that disconnected people from their ancestral homes, the industrial revolution that pulled workers out of their natural rhythms, or the hefty PR campaigns waged by organised religions that longed to become top dog. But if the current “trend” is showing us anything, it is that those ancient practices will resurge time and time again as we come back to ourselves and our roots.
In fact, if we were to look for a “trend” in belief systems and faith-based practices, then perhaps we should look a little more deeply at the organised patriarchal religions.
You know the ones I mean; those that invested a great deal of money and violence in trying to encourage people to live by their rules and practices and have done a damned good job of being top dog for the past handful of centuries.
In my own lands I look at the vast array of church buildings; at least one in every village encouraging people to look outside of themselves for salvation, illumination, guidance and answers with reminders that they were not and could never be as powerful as the well-educated man (usually) in the pulpit who claimed to be the only one with a direct line to something greater than himself.
I look at the ways such belief systems have so often led people to play small, by rules designed to keep them subservient to a system instilled by invaders desperate to expand their empire, determined to ensure that the only “right” was theirs.
And then I look deeper.
At the stone circles that can be found on sacred moors honouring the moments that the Sun’s energy is at its peak, and inviting us to embrace that energy for ourselves.
At the holy wells so often built under those structures; places which prove to us once and for all that the Earth is always willing to bless us with our most pressing need no matter who we are and how we behave.
At the breathtaking moments under a vast and star-filled night sky when a person cannot help but recognise their own clear and potent connection to something deeper, something greater.
And at the ways that so many of the stories these religions are built around came from cultures much older and spoke of shamanic, nature-based practices conducted by practitioners of the old ways and rebranded as standalone miracles.
Personally, I don’t care what you worship and how just as long as you are respectful of others who think differently to yourself. But I do believe the time has come for us to look beyond the man-made structures and council-concocted rules that were only ever based upon trends of times gone by and, instead, consider more deeply the truths and practices that underlie them.
Ancient, timeliness ways of being that will lead us back to our planet, back to one another, and back to ourselves.