Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sexes, Hexes, and the Rise of Witchcraft in Popular Media

What was once a feared practice is now one of the largest rising obsessions in today's culture.  ♦ 
Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…”

These words are familiar to many in the millennial generation, having Shakespeare parroted back to them during their time spent in school. The ideas of witchcraft, magick, and peering beyond the veil have been following the millennial generation around for most of their lives. Popular books, movies, and television shows all include some aspect of witchcraft, and the magickal genre has only grown with the generation. Early childhood experiences from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Roald Dahl’s Witches to more mature shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and American Horror Story: Coven have only served to cultivate the consumer. Even recent movies like Suspiria and The Love Witch have helped pique the interest of watchers, turning Muggles ever-towards more witchy-themed endeavors.

In the past few decades, themes of witchcraft have grown to permeate media, fashion, pop culture, and most definitely literature. But what does this mean for book culture? With the sudden rise of paganism and Wicca in the millennial generation, it means demand. Constant demand for more literature, more style, more stuff! In a way, witchcraft has become less of an eclectic practice and more of a stylized genre. Some may even argue that witchcraft is becoming a brand. Clothing stores, large makeup brands, and places frequented by alternatively-dressed kids are now selling easy start-up kits for spellcraft, alchemy, and other forms of popular witchery. The days of having to use secret websites or shipping items from out-of-state are over. No longer does the word “witch” refer to a girl wearing all black. Anyone can start on their magickal journey, as long as they have a spell book.

The rise of witchcraft in media has led to the complete explosion of the modern spell book, (via physical copies, digital, or online resources), helping to grow the magickal generation. While paganism has been around since the dawn of time and the term “Wicca” was coined in the 1950’s, the acceptance of witchcraft did not truly take off until the 2010’s. Some of the most popular spell books have been published by the author Arin Murphy-Hiscock. She has been publishing magickal guides since the early 2000’s, but became a formally recognized top author in 2017 when her book, The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More, became both an Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller. Similar guides and other “how-to” spell books have also become an increasingly common part of the millennial athenaeum.

Another large component for an increased demand in spell books is the stereotypical millennial mindset. Societal values such as feminism, acceptance, queer visibility, money issues, environmental concerns, self-care, racial equality, rebellion, and opposition to the status quo all drive the millennial need to find solutions outside of themselves. One event in particular that calls to the popularity of witchcraft in this current age is the prevalence of “social hexing.” For example, hexes, curses, and otherwise negative forms of magick are cautioned against in the Wiccan tradition in the form of The Wiccan Rede and The Three-Fold Law, also known as “The Law of Return.” The Wiccan Rede is summarized by most traditional practitioners as, “These Eight words the Rede fulfill: "An’ Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.” The Three-Fold Law states whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times. Magick, as according to traditional media, is meant to be used for good and the lessening of “bad.” For example, the foundations of the magickal laws were explored in the film called The Craft, as well as appearing in most traditional texts of paganism. However, the casual practitioners or “magickal trenders” don’t necessarily take these foundational forms of occultism/paganism/Wicca to heart, which could partially explain the implementation of these public hex events. Supporters of these movements believe that these events show support and visibility for people who feel like they have been marginalized by various sections of society.

Described as Brooklyn’s “premiere occult bookshop and spiritual community space,” Catland Books is the supposed originator of the art of the “public” or “community hex” as a form of magickal activism. In June of 2017, Catland Books hosted a premier event to hex Donald Trump. After the immense popularity of the first event, Catland Books has hosted many more, hexing or binding politician Brett Kavanaugh and the entirety of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Each occurrence is marketed as a community event and is meant to bring people together and foster a sense of visibility and community for groups who feel as though they remain unheard.

From socially taboo to comfortably mainstream, witchcraft has inundated the media in ways that have brought people together. With its continual popularity, it’s clear that magick isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As long as these industries continue to capitalize on the human desire for escape, there will always be the need for the color black and for some form of commercially available magick.

  • About the Author
    Tess Bellamy is a senior Professional Writing major with a penchant for horror stories. She enjoys reading books in Spanish, Elvish, and Runic variants. She spends most of her time with her partner, Sebastian, and their pets, Pudgy (dog), Artemis (cat), Lady Emberine (spider), and Fyre (snake). She dreams of one day writing spooky cookbooks that anyone could enjoy.

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