Over the past few years, a trend has been abrew. An underground subculture previously reserved only for the religious and spiritual fringes has suddenly become a widespread social media phenomenon. Occult traditions, based in Wiccan and Pagan religions, are undergoing a resurgence in popular culture. Though sociologists estimate that the number of practicing Wiccans and Pagans in the U.S. is only around 350,000, the Wicca, Witch, and Occult hashtags on Instagram reveal over 4 million posts. Clearly, witchiness is in.
The rise of the occult in pop-culture and everyday life feels like the natural progression of a society that gravitates toward tattoos, piercings, and festivals like Bonnaroo and Burning Man. The occult, and all things witchy, have served as an exotic and daring trend for both thrill and zen seekers alike. The practicing witches for whom the occult is more than just a fad are being praised, perhaps for the first time in their long and persecution-ridden history. They band together publicly to perform binding spells and rituals against the Trump Administration with instructions that request components like fool’s gold, unflattering pictures of Trump, and feathers. Where their ancestors hid in fear of persecution, these modern witches are anything but subtle.
Everyday women are purchasing bracelets injected with healing water, Instagramming the crystals they keep on their desks at work, and downloading meditation apps to help themselves stay focused. YouTube content creators share their paranormal experiences and astrological musings online. Modern women are grabbing elements from a variety of occult subcultures and mashing them together to form a sort of super-esoterism, one laced with feminism and intersectionality, as well as magic.
For practicing witches, the rise of the occult points to one thing — the desire to reclaim control of female energy. Gabriela Herstik, a practicing witch, points out that “women and femmes and gender nonconforming people specifically are feeling the impact of a government and society that continues to restrict them of their bodily autonomy, sexual agency, and equality.”
She continues, “Witchcraft is a reclamation of the divine feminine, of the ancient power of the goddess which has been neglected by patriarchal society and religion for thousands and thousands of years.”