Broomless, cauldron-less witches bring hope

By Ella Dame, Managing Editor

Witches have been portrayed fictionally within pop culture, Halloween decorations, halloween costumes and even some music. Because imagery of witches is so extremely common, I was far from surprised when I saw people claiming to use witchcraft on my TikTok For You page. Although I may not have been surprised to see it, I was very confused upon closer inspection. The video featured a user claiming that the witchcraft they were performing was, in fact, real.

I was dumbfounded and immediately went to the video’s comment section to confirm my disbelief. I discovered an entire community I had never known existed — the comments were filled with other self-proclaimed witches cheering the user on. From that moment forward, I have been engrossed in books and books of research on the topic. My research soon revealed the naturalistic beliefs and simplistic unifying nature that belongs to a global community of people using Wicca to soothe their fears and drive their lives.

The topic I found myself researching wasn’t “witchcraft in 2020,” but rather I began researching “Wiccans in 2020.”  Wicca is a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe, according to Britannica. The Wiccan religion focuses on giving back to nature and involves natural practices implementing those ideas similar to the woman in the video I saw.

The witchcraft that the witch claimed to be doing was not anywhere close to what I had imagined witchcraft to look like. The TikToker filled a small bottle with different herbs, crystals and oils, and sealed it with candle wax. I had always assumed that witchcraft was uniform and all it included was women on brooms, bubbling cauldrons and levitating objects. Current day witchcraft truly is formed off of the belief that nature can be used to impact one’s life.

Spells, like the one that Tik Tok user was showcasing, are made by Wiccans and are created with natural ingredients and peaceful mantras. Post my extensive research, I decided I would visit a witch store in Chicago, again something I had previously not known existed.

When I entered I was hit with the strong smell of burning incense, and as I looked around, I saw colorful tapestries, decorations and an entire section filled with different crystals. I was amazed by the selection and a bit overwhelmed at the same time. I ended up buying a couple of beginner items like an incense holder, incense, a couple of crystals and some different colored candles. As I was leaving with my little bag full of new treasures, the store owner said “so mote it be.”

The moment I returned home, I Googled that term and found that it functions as a positive blessing or as a Wiccan way to wish blessings on somebody, according to an article on the Learn Religions website . As I continued on with my night, I set up my new materials and found some more TikToks on beginner’s guides to modern witchcraft.

It was a bit confusing at first, but some of the incense sticks I bought claimed to get rid of stress and negative feelings. I found myself constantly cleansing my room with burning incense and I honestly started to feel a lot better. I discovered this subcommunity back in July and have been using incense and crystals ever since. With the coronavirus bringing on more stress than most people can handle, I found peace with connecting to nature.

There’s an upward spike in those practicing witchcraft whenever trust in the “establishment” falls and instability rises, according to an Atlantic article. I quickly related to what Bianca Bosker wrote as she found through different interviews that oftentimes when there’s a rise of mainstream witchcraft some large event is simultaneously occurring as people are searching for hope or new answers.

Currently, the coronavirus has proven to correlate with a rising interest in witchcraft, not only on TikTok, but within many popular commercial chains. Urban Outfitters has started selling tarot card kits, magic books, astrology guides and palm reading guides; it’s among many other stores, like Anthropologie and Sephora, that have taken notice of a growing interest in witchcraft and in response created products catering to those interests. 

While I have taken more interest in the researching and reading aspect of Wiccan culture to subdue some of my coronavirus and school-related stress, there has been some backlash from the Wiccan community regarding people treating their practices as a trend. Many practicing witches feel that newcomers should get true experiences with learning about witchcraft instead of buying a mass-produced retail version of the real thing, according to an article in Vox magazine.

I’ve only bought my materials from Chicago witch shops like Alchemy Arts, located in Edgewater, but I am continuously learning about Wiccans and their different practices from a respectful perspective. While modern witchcraft has brought me some peace of mind during these trying times and a better connection with nature, I don’t see it as a trend. Rather, witchcraft has begun to reach more popular platforms, educating more people and bringing light to a topic often misconstrued in different facets of pop culture.