Season of the Witch
Between tarot readings, astrology, and emoji spells, it’s undeniable that witchcraft is in. The #witch hashtag has over 5,250,000 hits on Instagram; Minneapolis has been dubbed a “witch district” of storefronts; and celebrities like Lana Del Ray took part in and encouraged a mass hexing of President Trump via NME.
Now, she has confirmed it in a new interview with NME when quizzed about her love of the occult.
“Yeah, I did it. Why not? Look, I do a lot of s**t”, she replied.
“I’m in line with Yoko [Ono]and John [Lennon] and the belief that there’s a power to the vibration of a thought. Your thoughts are very powerful things and they become words, and words become actions, and actions lead to physical charges.”
It would appear that magic is in the air…
The latest wave of feminism is, undoubtedly, a big part of this surge in popularity. Witchcraft and feminism are inextricably linked; female empowerment is a core tenet. Young women find power and community in witchcraft, something that can escape the almighty grip of the male-dominated society around them. That appeal carries over to pop culture. Take, for instance, the upcoming TV reboot of the woman-led Charmed, or the pseudo Riverdale spin-off The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina over on Netflix. Young, magical women who are literally empowered? Sounds about right. Indeed, the new Charmed even promises to be “fierce, funny, [and] feminist,” and that “tearing down the patriarchy” is a focus of the show. (The original cast isn’t wild about the reboot, particularly bristling at the idea that the show wasn’t already feminist.)
This isn’t a recent phenomenon; witchcraft, feminism, and pop culture have long intersected. The sixties and seventies saw the rise of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), the return of the Ouija board, and films like George Romero’s Season of the Witch. Yet, one of the most important witch icons of the time came from a sitcom.
Bewitched hit the airwaves in 1964, a time rife with high concept television and a tumultuous political landscape. Starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens who was a witch-turned-housewife—the show twisted the family sitcom standard by giving the woman all of the real power. Married to ad man, Darrin (Dick York, followed by Dick Sargent), Samantha gave up the magical world for the mundane; a decision her mother Endora (Agnes Moorhead) never let her live down. The setup seems fairly typical: a middle class family, dutiful housewife, and irritating mother-in-law. If it were Darrin’s show, it likely would have faded into obscurity, but Bewitched belonged to Samantha.
At its core, Bewitched was about power dynamics. Darrin may have insisted—or even commanded—Samantha to hide her magic, but it wasn’t his decision to make. (After all, a show about a witch who never uses magic? Come on.) Though the scenario may seem dated now, but Samantha’s agency was never in question; it was a life she wanted. One where she was willing to trade a life of unimaginable power for love. The show worked best when it worked with a metaphor: the series dealt with issues like representation and stereoyping through the lens of sitcom magic. While later seasons saw the show lose its thematic and emotional grounding in a desperate claw for ratings, for a time it was one of the most progressive shows on television.
However, culture is fickle. Witchcraft lost some of its luster over time, and when the “Satanic panic” of the eighties surfaced, anything remotely occult came under Evangelical crosshairs. Even something as harmless as Dungeons & Dragons was targeted as a corrupting force of American youth.
Yet, culture is also cyclical. In the nineties, witches saw a pop resurgence. 1996 saw the release of The Craft, followed by magical rom-com, Practical Magic, two years later. On television, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer brought witchcraft to even more audiences. Though cited by some as a declawing and commodification of real witchcraft, for many it was an introduction to a new, empowering movement. The Craft director, Andrew Fleming, has expressed surprise that it inspired so many young women to seek out covens.
That popularity is in full swing in the Instagram era. Witchcraft’s practically become a brand; storefronts like Hauswitch and Witch Baby sell witch supplies, lifestyle products, and host witch-centric events. There has been criticism of appropriation and exploitation—Pagan religions are still religions. Corporations wanting to get in on the zeitgeist have definitely blundered; Starbucks recently took heat for stealing artwork to cash in on witchcraft’s popularity.
However, for many it’s a gateway to something new and powerful. Cult hits like The Love Witch, Charmed and Sabrina relaunches, and online figures like the Hoodwitch are keeping witchcraft alive and well in pop culture today. It’s hard to say how long the spell will last, but witchcraft is resilient. It’s exciting, empowering, and inclusive. Witches have persisted for thousands of years, and no matter how fashionable witchcraft is, it will undoubtedly survive the marketplace. Trends come and go, but magic’s eternal.