Meet the Witches of Instagram
Forget broomsticks and potions: the new-age witch is socially conscious and super-stylish, and she’s taking the Internet by storm. Morgan Reardon investigates the sorceresses of social media
I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE.
When I was 13, I watched The Craft for the first time while staying at a friend’s place. And so began a deep love/obsession, where for the next year I’d save all the money I made at my weekend job in a surf shop to spend on crystals, spell books and tarot cards. Much to my parents’ dismay, I declared myself a witch. I loved the ethos behind the religion, which involves a deep appreciation for nature and divine feminine power. In short we, as women, have the power to be whoever we want. What’s not to love about that?
It turns out, I’m not alone. In fact, witchcraft is becoming incredibly cool, making its way into the mainstream and finding an unlikely home on social media.
Enter Bri Luna, aka the Hood witch. Based in Seattle in the US, Luna is one of Instagram’s most-loved witches, with more than 290K followers. Her page is filled with visually stunning images. It’s witchcraft-meets-fashion: you’ll find pictures of crystals and tarot cards, and loads of affirmations – even from Solange Knowles, telling us that no-one should steal our magic. It’s powerful and pretty, just like Luna herself – a truly wicked combination.
When I ask her what being a witch means to her, she laughs. ‘There’s no “one size fits all” way to define a witch,’ she tells me. ‘I believe every woman is a witch – and she may not even know it. To me, being a witch is more than spells and candles: it’s the freedom and power to boldly and unapologetically embrace nature, heal yourself and your community, and embrace all aspects of whoever you are – fiercely.’ When Luna launched her site
Thehoodwitch.com in 2013 – which, in addition to her blog, has an online store that stocks everything from cauldrons to a selenite wand – she was one of the few modern witches posting magic content online. ‘I approached the content of our website with what I loved and what I felt was missing from the rest of the Pagan community,’ she says. ‘I didn’t really fit into the natural New Age/Pagan communities. That wasn’t my style, and that’s okay. In order to feel good about what you’re doing, it’s important to remain authentic. I infused my personal style into my photos – with my nail art. I matched our crystals and products to my nails, and I created elaborate tarot spreads, incorporating natural elements and adding some glamour to the community. My nails have become synonymous with our brand; Vogue magazine even wrote about them. It’s about empowerment. I’m just a conduit – and this is my offering to those receptive to the message.’
‘Magick’ at home
According to the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, there’s no official or definitive South African census of the number of self-defined Pagans in our country. ‘I don’t have much connection to a wider group of witches/Pagans in South Africa or know of any local Pagan celebs, but I would love to connect!’ says Nicola Nan Rabkin, who runs the Insta account @modern_moonism. ‘I consider myself to be a “witch of the south”, and have a little side business to encourage women to tap into nature’s cycles and their own rhythms to increase their personal power and innate magic.’
Locally, crystals and tarot cards are being used by many women who crave a deeper connection and more meaningful spiritual life. ‘I use tarot cards, crystals and the burning of indigenous herbs for my rituals,’ says Rabkin. ‘I’ve also hosted New Moon ceremonies for women in the past, although I’ve stopped because I find I want to be alone around that time.’
Modern witchcraft is not quite riding around on broomsticks or sacrificing the blood of virgins – the stuff Hollywood would have us believe. Today, the lines between witchcraft and self-care practices are becoming increasingly blurred.
‘I BELIEVE EVERY WOMAN IS A WITCH – AND SHE MAY NOT EVEN KNOW IT’
Natalie Jepson owns Ritual Kind, a local smudging brand that grew from her interest in smudging as a self-care practice. ‘I couldn’t find any local smudging products that I liked,’ she says, ‘so I decided to use local herbs to create a product women can use to carve out personal time that didn’t involve going to a spinning class or slapping on a face mask. It’s not necessarily about “witchcraft” for me – I see it more as meditation, setting aside time to focus on yourself and be connected to self-care and your own presence. I also do my best to be informative and honour the traditions formed originally from smudging.’
Celebrities are getting on board too. Mary-Kate Olsen swears by sage smudging when it comes to clearing bad energies, while Bella Hadid posted a snap on Instagram last year of her favourite crystals, which she said she’d be ‘charging with the bright & full “pink moon”’.
‘Many of my clients use smudging to set intentions or clear their work space before sitting down to start a creative project,’ says Jepson, who grew up Catholic and believes smudging to be as natural a ritual as lighting frankincense and myrrh in church. ‘Women are more in tune with their cycles and the moon’s effect on their life. I think that moon ceremonies and smudge ceremonies also offer an opportunity for women to be vulnerable together.’
All about the ’Gram
But why are women now choosing to share what was once a taboo topic on a forum as public as Instagram? The answer is simple: because it makes us feel more connected. If you search hashtags such as #witchesofinstagram, you’ll get more than 1,6-million hits, while #witchcraft has two-million tags.
‘I haven’t noticed any local witchy influencers, which I think may speak to how small the community is in South Africa – and perhaps how misunderstood it still is here,’ says Capetonian Thaya Bedford, who regularly practises modern Pagan rituals. ‘I honour the moon daily (in whichever way I can that day), which is absolutely natural for me – I live very close to nature, and respond deeply to the seasons and natural phenomena. Honouring the moon is an ancient practice, regardless of your religion or spiritual path. I have insomnia on days leading up to Full Moon; it feels right to swim in a mountain pool or run into the sea! Witch means “wise” and witchcraft means “craft of the wise”; there’s nothing taboo about it.’
Feminists to the forefront
One of the strongest messages of witchcraft is the theme of feminism. And since the women’s movement has never been stronger, more and more of us are beginning to see the value of living our life this way.
‘A powerful yet subtle shift is taking place – the awakening of the divine female energy,’ says Luna. ‘Many women have been taught to ignore their intuition for fear of being ridiculed. But it’s time to return to our calling. Magick is our birthright.’
For celebrity, former rock star and witch Fiona Horne, this is a time to empower one another. ‘ There really is an awakening occurring in our culture. It’s a phenomenon that’s being reflected in the #MeToo movement and other profound public outcries.’
Perhaps the best thing about witchcraft is that literally anyone can be a part of it, and according to legit witches Horne and Luna, it’s within all of us. ‘ The first step is to allow yourself to be you,’ says Horne. ‘Suspend disbelief, cynicism and fear – be open to considering the world a magickal place and it will be.’ Now excuse me while I head out to buy some crystals…
BRI LUNA, AKA THE HOODWITCH
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