A real witch told us why she's glad Sephora pulled its problematic "Starter Witch Kit"

@QueerBeautyWiz / Twitter

In an effort to profit off the latest beauty and wellness trend, Pinrose (a popular fragrance brand) revealed its Starter Witch Kit was hitting Sephora’s shelves on October 9th. However, both Sephora and Pinrose missed the mark—and real witches took to social media to share their rightful outrage.

The kit, which was set to retail at $42, included a deck of tarot cards, a rose quartz crystal, a bundle of white sage, and several Pinrose fragrances. Due to the rise of crystals, herbs, and tarots in the past few years, it’s not surprising that Pinrose and Sephora jumped on the bandwagon. But the way the companies executed the kit struck a nerve with practicing witches.

Gabriela Herstik, author of “Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft,” spoke to HelloGiggles about why the Starter Witch Kit was problematic.

“Urban [Outfitters], Free People, a bunch of those stores have already been selling white sage and crystals for years,” Herstik said. “But what makes this kit different is one, the name, and two, the fact that white sage is being overharvested and not as easily available to the indigenous people it’s sacred to. Three, there’s no context to help people explore witchcraft in a way that’s deep and meaningful.”

Based on the trendy holographic packaging, our guess is that Pinrose was trying to sell the Starter Witch Kit as an aesthetic rather than an educational and/or spiritual guide. This is deeply troubling for those who have committed themselves to learning the craft, and many practitioners, including Herstik, believe the kit is a form of cultural appropriation.

Herstik explained that, to her, the Starter Witch Kit felt like cultural appropriation, “because there’s no information or context to honor the people this practice and herb comes from.” She went on to say that Sephora and Pinrose seemed to be “co-opting for money and gain, and white washing sacred practices” that generations of indigenous and “latinx people, people of color, and other minorities have cultivated for centuries.”

“It just felt like capitalism at its worst, selling something because its trendy instead of working with actual stores owned by witches,” Herstik added. “Sephora has enough money to hire a witch to be a consultant, partner with independent sellers, and actually make something real, powerful, and magical! And they didn’t.”

The online debate may have started over the kit, but the layered arguments revealed more issues within the witchcraft community.

After receiving backlash, Pinrose issued an apologetic statement on September 5th. The company wrote:

“First and foremost, to those who have shared their disappointment or taken offense to this product, we apologize profoundly. This was not our intent. We thank you for communicating with us and expressing your feelings. We hear you; we will not be manufacturing or making this product available for sale.”

They continued, “Our intention for the product was to create something that celebrates wellness, personal ceremony, and intention setting with a focus on using fragrance as a beauty ritual.”

Pinrose cited the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service database to show that “Salvia Apiana (White Sage) is not classified as threatened or endangered.” The company also noted that the kit made no reference to ceremonial smudging, a sacred purification ritual used by Native Americans and other indigenous people, or “ceremonial circles.”

Despite the ongoing debate, modern witches and those who are practicing the craft agree that Sephora and Pinrose did the right thing in cancelling the kit before it was released. Herstik told us how she felt when the retailer pulled the product:

“I was really glad to see this because the witch community was LOUD and we weren’t about to shut up about this. $42 for a “witch starter kit?” Come on. You can buy sage from the grocery store and grab a rock from outside and you’ll be good. I’m glad Sephora canceled this because they could have done a great job, and instead, didn’t and now they paid the price.”

She continued:

“Being conscious of your magick is a huge part of this practice and something a lot of us are constantly learning about. We just want those who are inspired by us to step it up and hire us to help make the world more magical, instead of adopting our practices to fit a diluted and mainstream narrative.”

Like committing to any other religion, if one is serious about diving into witchcraft, it’s pertinent to do the research, learn the history, and respect the belief system and lifestyle you’re choosing.

Talk to those who have been involved in the witchcraft community for years. Seek out your local indigenous spiritual leaders and mentors. Understand the real persecution witches and magical practitioners have gone through (hint: the Salem witch trials don’t count). Create your own tools or buy them from those who put love, care, and knowledge into them.

It’s true that being a “witch” means something different for everyone. But for those who feel like they’ve earned the title, know that being a true witch has nothing to do with the possessions they own. Being a witch comes with hard work, dedication, and understanding—none of which can be purchased in a single $42 Sephora kit.

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