Witchcraft is ancient, yet contemporary witchcraft is thriving as it evolves alongside 21st-century science, knowledge, and technology, especially on social media.
An influx of witches using social media has brought significant attention to the witchcraft community. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube seem to be accumulating an increasing number of followers and practitioners of the ‘Craft’ each day.
Witchcraft and magic have now become a cultural phenomenon that’s quickly spreading over the internet, with an ever-growing community, as a younger generation renews its interests in astrology, crystal healing, and the occult. So what does that mean for Western science’s structured ‘craft’ and its coexistence with this ancient art?
Background: A tale as old as time
The history and origins of witchcraft can’t be traced. Ancient humans from nearly every cultural background engaged in spiritual ritual, shamanism, and magical practice. The practice is so widespread and enduring that some claim that it is innate to being human.
Until recently, witchcraft was associated with darker meanings, viewed with suspicion and even hostility; however, over the past centuries, people’s opinions and views on the Craft started changing to the point where it transformed into a mainstream phenomenon as we see today.
It was probably in the 19th century where witches started “rebranding” when transcendentalism and the woman’s suffrage movement gained traction. Witches went from being perceived as devil-worshipers who only meant to cause harm to intuitive, strong, and empowered people trying to fight violence and misogyny.
As long as the world has been evolving, witchcraft has been there, adapting every step of the way. The sudden ‘online’ interest in the Craft or magic isn’t new to the internet. Witches have been forming online communities since the earliest days of the internet through dedicated websites and forums.
Analysis: From cauldrons to Smartphones
“For most of my life, this path was not something you could openly talk about until just a few years ago,” Crystal Moon, a 42-year-old witchcraft practitioner that found her freedom in social media told The Debrief.
For a good portion of her life, Crystal chose to “stay in the broom closet,” however, as time went by, she figured that it wasn’t fair that she had to hide who she really was, just for fear of being doubted or ridiculed: “I am that witch that I’ve always suppressed behind closed doors.”
A few years ago, she decided to take advantage of the anonymity social media provides and created her online version of a Book of Shadows (a “book” used by witches for recording spells, rituals, magic diagrams, recipes, and anything else associated with their Craft).
As her page started growing, she realized that sharing her knowledge in the Craft was the right path for her. Like many other seasoned witches, Crystal hopes that her experience might help new witches find their own path as they begin their journey into witchcraft.
“Having this social media account has made me realize now that I need to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks of the Craft since I’ve always dabbled in many things and am now pursuing that goal of having a sustainable online store. At some point, I will even be launching some witch basics classes and meetings just as an outlet for new people to feel free to ask the questions they need to be answered”, she said.
Nowadays, search for the term ‘witchcraft’ on Google or any of your social platforms. You’re going to find a variety of people from the witchcraft community openly sharing their interests and knowledge in the Craft.
Live-streams of tarot readings, spell tutorials, candle magic, portable altar making, and crystal healing are only a few things you can encounter in these countless witchcraft pages.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect inside the witchcraft community. Doubt, trolling, and hate are constant throughout social media, but you are also likely to find a lot of misinformation that could be detrimental to unseasoned witches.
“I’m very grateful for my community, as it hasn’t shown me anything but support and love. However, I know I’m lucky,” Lidia Pradas, a 25-year-old Wiccan with a massive Instagram following, tells The Debrief. “The occult community is not free of controversy, and I think there are shadows we need to work on, like bullying, misinformation, scammers, and cultural appropriation.”
She started her social media account to share her beliefs, and to keep track of her Craft, but she ended up with an incredible online community. Even though Lidia believes that social media has boosted the reach of paganism, she’s also aware of its downsides.
“Technology has allowed the Craft to expand and reach many people. Which is awesome, but it also has a downside. Misinformation is everywhere now. You need to be very careful with your sources,” she said.
Crystal shares the same worries about some accounts that might only be in it for the ‘clout’ and not the right intentions.
“I worry for the young witches who follow many of these accounts as they are feeding a lot of false and inaccurate information.,” she explained. Whether they are providing incorrect information, false history lessons, screwing up the names of essential herbs or deities, Crystal says the internet has given anyone the ability to say whatever they want. “It has become a world where you have to sift through the ‘online witch mud’ to find someone who you can truly trust to ask questions when starting.”
Browsing the internet for information on witchcraft can be a double-edged sword: you might find great, helpful information, but there’ll also be a lot of inaccurate and sketchy sources.
“I think that, as an author and a creator, one of my jobs is to fight that misinformation as well as the people that harm the community and give it a bad name,” Lidia says.
Technology has not only allowed modern witches to broaden their knowledge and horizons, but it also spawned entirely new forms of the Craft, as they’re harnessing the power of digital tools into their practices. A few witches might use technology to reach their communities, but others are physically using it, for example, as a way to charge their crystals.
The witchcraft community is growing exponentially online, but it is also turning into quite a profitable industry. Seasoned witches use their knowledge to teach and guide newcomers through paid classes—some open online shops. Even bigger companies create subscription-based ‘witch boxes’ that offer you new “essentials” for the Craft every month.
Outlook: Witchcraft is here to stay, As It Has Never Gone Away
There’s a growing fascination with astrology, crystals, tarot, and all sorts of magical practices that allow people to tap into the power of nature and themselves. While witchcraft has always been around, this sudden rise in interest might come with the necessity of change, a reaction to the divisive political and social world we inhabit. When people feel powerless, they reach out for things that may provide them comfort, some aspect of power, to combat a world that seemingly has constantly been spinning out of control.
Science and technology have always been stable forces for human development. They allow our fragile species to maintain some authority over the world around us; they enable us to alter our environment. Magic and witchcraft provide something similar, albeit significantly less ‘respected.’ Yet, oddly enough, significant portions of the scientific discourse owe a considerable debt to the esoteric and the occult movements, which were the foundational roots for most contemporary science.
However, where science has (and still is) historically been dominated by men, witchcraft has always served as a counter-cultural force. Witchcraft sees no gender, color, sexuality, or preference of any kind. Anyone can be a witch if they believe that it is the path they should take. The inherent structures that govern many of the sciences (and rightfully so) do not exist in the more holistic witchcraft world.
Some might prefer a more solitary practice, while others might want to find a community, and through social media, they can, as it allows them to connect with witches from all over the world with just a few clicks.
Technology is the ultimate educational tool. It allows unseasoned witches to learn these ideas with like-minded practitioners through curated Instagram pages, TikTok and Youtube videos, or even specialized online classes. “Follow what pulls you, and don’t join a coven or a group just because your friends tell you to,” Crystal explained as a cautionary note for anyone entering the study as a neophyte. “Embrace your magick and use it every day.”
Perhaps people are more receptive to different views and experiences, and witchcraft will remain and thrive, even as modern science and technology continue to slowly take the magic out of our daily lives.
Raquel is a forensic geneticist turned freelance writer. She has a knack for technology and a passion for science. You can follow her at scitechcorner.com and on Twitter @theRaquelSantos.