Witchcraft goes mainstream

Wicca gains popularity as self-help tool

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Witchcraft goes mainstream

Artwork by Maya Markowicz

Artwork by Maya Markowicz

Artwork by Maya Markowicz

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Tarot cards. Crystals. Sage.

For many people, the word “witchcraft” calls forth an image of a hunched old woman stirring something bubbling in a cauldron and cackling evilly. This inaccurate portrayal has, until recently, impressed negative stereotypes on witches and witchcraft.

“A lot of the depictions they [the media] have of witches, witchcraft, tarot readings and that kind of thing are very negative a lot of the time,” senior Talia Vail said. “It’s actually a very positive form of caring and nurturing for yourself and for others. There’s definitely not talking voodoo heads. That’s not a thing. Voodoo is a whole ‘nother ball game.”

Witchcraft, according to Wicca Living, is a catch-all term for the said manipulation of energy and reality through various means, such as crystals and spells. Witchcraft is practiced by some (but not all) people who practice Wicca, one of several Pagan religions. Wicca has nothing to do with the worship of Satan.

Vail said she got interested in witchcraft fairly recently, in the form of tarot readings. She is seldom seen without her deck of tarot cards, lovingly wrapped up in a floral scarf that used to belong to her grandmother.

“I realized for a while that I had some sort of spirituality, but I didn’t really know how to describe it. While I was researching tarot and witchcraft and Paganism I realized that Paganism and its polytheistic, malleable beliefs resonated with me more than the major religions that I saw, like Christianity and Judaism,” Vail said. “Witchcraft is just an extension of that, it’s a way of connecting with the world in a specific light and manipulating it to your benefit.”

Witchcraft has recently exploded in popularity, especially among teenagers and young adults. This rise in popularity has also led to controversy. Last year, the beauty giant Sephora announced they would be selling a “Starter Witch Kit,” which included sage, tarot cards and a pink quartz crystal. This announcement upset many self-proclaimed witches, who accused Sephora of insensitivity and of commercializing their culture just for the aesthetic. Sephora later pulled the product.

Jill Weiss, owner of The Green Man Metaphysical Shoppe and Apothecary in North Hollywood and practitioner of British Traditional Witchcraft, explained the reasons for the newfound popularity of witchcraft.

“I figure it’s either people are getting nothing from their organized religions, people think witchcraft will give them power over others (not a healthy reason; our tradition emphasizes self-evolving and if there’s ‘power over’ at all, it’s power over yourself), people feel there’s ‘something other’ out there and craft is one way to explore that, or people are drawn to it all their lives because they have always had a connection to spirit,” Weiss wrote to the Talon.

According to Weiss, British Traditional Witchcraft (or Trad Craft) is a practice with roots in the New Forest region of Britain that was practiced by the “country folk.” The tradition is often passed down through families, and specific practices vary from region to region. According to Weiss, Trad Craft is different from Wicca; Wicca is a goddess-centric, earth-based religion, while craft is a practice that can be accessed by people of any religion, or of no religion.

“What I practice is a tradition called Ced (pronounced Ked),” Weiss wrote. “It was received by gnosis (direct “download” communication from spirit) by our high priest/WitchFather, Griffin Ced (who also happens to be the manager of The Green Man).”

Weiss said she first got interested in Trad Craft and met Griffin Ced by attending classes and rituals at a store called Raven’s Flight in North Hollywood, which is now closed.

“Through the years after Raven’s closed, several of us nudged Griffin to teach privately, for small groups. I realized that his tradition was what spoke to me, and I started studying with his coven,” Weiss wrote.

According to Witchcraft and Witches, a coven is a group or gathering of witches who meet regularly to perform spells or rituals, or to take part in ceremonies such as Drawing Down the Moon.

Weiss said that she is “glad that some parts of craft are becoming mainstream.” According to Newsweek, millennials especially have moved away from major religions and turned to witchcraft as a form of self-help.

“Even though a lot of the mainstream popularity and commercialization of craft is downright silly … at least it is an opening for people to go beyond that and actually study craft,” Weiss said.

Senior Lily Graeff said that the increase in popularity of Wicca and witchcraft is “totally rad.”

“It’s a nice way to find inner peace and inner strength. I think if people want to become more Wiccan and use the earth to feel comfort that they should inform themselves about certain things, like proper crystal healings and knowing what energies to monitor,” Graeff said. “Playing with a Ouija board or wearing all black does not mean you’re a witch.”

Graeff was exposed to witchcraft early on.

“My parents were into it when they first met,” Graeff said. “They used to go to this place called Psychic Eye which has crystals and healing books and psychic readings. We’ve always saged the house and kept crystals around.”

Sage is a plant commonly used in spells and rituals. In everyday life, the herb is used for digestive problems and skin conditions, or as a cooking spice.

“It’s supposed to cleans areas that have bad energy,” Graeff said. “It could be energy from past people or places can have bad energy. Some people also have bad energy due to people and situations.”

Contrary to popular belief, Wicca and other forms of Paganism are not at odds with science. In fact, according to African Exponent, the two go hand-in-hand to fill in gaps in each other’s explanations of reality. Weiss commented on the relationship between witchcraft and science.

“Witchcraft, for me, is about energy. Some of the energies used in craft can’t be measured scientifically (yet — but I think they will eventually) so science can’t confirm results. But science is expanding and is in many ways “catching up” to craft,” Weiss wrote. “For instance, recently science has realized that experiences your ancestors had can affect you. This is old news to witches!”

Weiss also had some advice to give to those interested in giving witchcraft a try.

“Go to various classes and public rituals, and see what speaks to you. It may be Craft, it may be Wicca, it may be Stregheria, it may be Druidism, it may involve the Norse or Greek or Egyptian or Roman pantheons,” Weiss wrote. “Read books by established authors (Scott Cunningham is always good for newbies in Wicca). And yes, come talk to us at the store.”

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