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

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - PSYCHE -

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

KATY PERRY, BELLA HA­DID AND MARY KATE OLSEN ARE ALL CRYS­TAL FANS BELLA HA­DID SHOWS OFF HER CRYS­TAL COL­LEC­TION

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