Jealousy, consumerism and ecological disaster: the underside of the business of witchcraft – Elle

Arlette is a modern-day witch. Understand: she casts spells, concocts potions, and explains everything in videos, on TikTok and Instagram (@lespetitschaudrons) – where she has more than 300,000 subscribers. Its editorial line? “I offer little magic rituals accessible to everyone, which make you feel better”, sums up the 30-year-old. We have in turn a tutorial to “enchant your morning coffee”, the recipe for a potion to have “goddess hair”, create your “witch’s altar” or the famous format “a day in my life as a witch “, in which she “vlogs” her daily life. And the success is there: in less than two years, she was able to quit her job to devote herself fully to her activities as a connected witch, and published a book with Larousse, out of stock just a few days after her exit.

In recent years, it has been difficult to miss the “witch” trend. In bookstores, grimoires 2.0 are snapping up. On our screens, the “revivals” of witch series, such as “Charmed” or “Sabrina”, caused a sensation. On Instagram, more than 9.1 million posts have the hashtag #WitchesofInstagram, and on TikTok, #Witchtok has nearly four billion views. This success can be explained by several factors. In a less and less religious world, esotericism makes it possible to reconnect with one’s spirituality – oh so useful in times of crisis. The figure of the witch also carries feminist demands: the election of Donald Trump would have participated in the rise of the phenomenon, as noted Mona Chollet in her bestseller “Witches: The Undefeated Power of Women”published in 2018. But a few years later, when witchcraft has become “mainstream”, it is also – and above all – a business.

Etsy shops, books and jalousies

Many “witches” are also life coach, naturopath, magnetizers or oracles, and it is an industry that is running at full speed. But even apart from that, to put into practice the videos that teach “how to make a protection spell” or “which crystal to choose to give yourself courage”, you need equipment. Glass vials, various and varied herbs, colored wax candles, parchments, incense, crystals, cards… While many consumer brands have started selling this type of product – Cultura and La Fnac now have entire shelves dedicated to esotericism, and you can find crystals, incense and sage at Sephora – the “WitchTok” is supplied mainly via specialized Etsy shops, which are more and more numerous. Elune and Inerys (these are nicknames), two young women aged 27 and 29 working in communication, launched “WeWitch” in December 2021. “We have always been fans of Harry Potter and Hocus Pocus, supports Elune. As we grew up, we started to read a lot of things on the subject, to inquire. “And when an economic crisis was announced, they smelled the good vein.

On their Etsy page, they offer kits to get started in witchcraft: pendulums, vials with the most frequently used aromatic herbs, sage, feathers and shells. All for a base price of €36.99. You can also buy stones individually, wax and stickers “for all kinds of magic spells and rituals (White, Green, Wicca, Druidism, Celtic, Pagan, Pagan…)”, details their description – which also states that, in accordance with Etsy’s rules, no results are guaranteed, and that everything sold there is for recreational purposes. “We thought we were selling our products to teenagers who are having fun, but in the end, we have more and more adults among our customers,” observes Elune. If they do not yet earn enough to live from their online store, it is “a good source of additional income”, with “exponential” development. And this, despite increasingly fierce competition. “We’ve noticed that some people buy kits from us just so they can put a negative review on our shop, and when we go to their profile, we see that they’re selling the same thing. »

On social networks, the atmosphere between witches would not be good. “When I started making my videos, which aim to reach as many people as possible, I was attacked a lot saying that I was shaming witches, deplores Anastasia, of the Little Cauldrons. To get started in this environment, you have to have thick skin…” Hateful comments, mockery, even harassment: the witch is not really beloved in the community. “Casing nothing, a lot of girls today make a living from it, there is great competition, and perhaps a little jealousy…”, pleads Anastasia. In her book, she offers recipes and magic potions for the general public. “I think that witchcraft should be accessible to all, and that we can articulate it as we see fit,” she explains. But not everyone thinks like me: some believe that there are rules that should not be exceeded, and that clearly justifies the hatred I face. »

On Instagram, the clothes make the witch?

This observation is shared by Ketty Orain-Ferella (@Ketty_adastra). “There are differences of point of view in the middle, and a certain tendency to judge the practices of each other. It generates a lot of tension. But I think it’s mostly due to the fact that the whole economy that has developed around witchcraft is sometimes at odds with the very essence of witches. “What has allowed witches to become so popular online is partly the climate crisis we are going through,” notes Chris Miller, a researcher specializing in spiritualities. Witches are above all people who preach in favor of reconnecting with nature, and who know how to use the plants found there. »

Among Anastasia’s most popular videos, we find in particular “hauls” in which she shares her “witchy” finds in hard discount stores, whose ethics are not really oriented towards ecology. “I’ve had comments about this before, telling me that a witch is supposed to be in tune with nature. But a witch is above all a woman like the others, argues Anastasia. A woman who sometimes has whims, or wants to have fun at a low price. “New storage for his plants, a pretty crystal or other to decorate his altar – and serve his witch aesthetics which makes him successful on social networks. Because on media where everything is based on the image, it is difficult to do without it. Especially when you want to make a living from content creation. “To make money on TikTok or Instagram, you have to be popular,” says Chris Miller. On the “WitchTok”, popularity is a combination of several factors: knowledge is part of it, of course, but there is also the whole visual aspect which is very important. As the Americans say: “It’s a vibe” (“it’s a state of mind”, in French).

White magic with dark consequences

Except that. Apart even from the materialism and consumerism to which all this refers, the production of certain esoteric articles raises questions. The American journalist Tess McClure, from the “Guardian”, went to Madagascar in 2019 to investigate the origins of the crystals sold on all the street corners of our Western cities. The West African country, among the poorest in the world, is the main site for the extraction of semi-precious stones (pink quartz or jade, in particular). Between 2016 and 2017, revenues from the export of these stones increased by 170%, as demand exploded. Tess McClure particularly focused on Anjoma Ramartina, a city without running water or electricity, but which is among the largest producers of rose quartz. This production is in the hands of armed gangs, which push the locals (and in particular the children) to dig ever deeper to satisfy the growing demand – despite the risks of landslides and silicosis. “I find it hard to see how these stones can reconnect us to our hearts,” sighs Ketty. The witch also denounces the ecological and ethical problems posed by the palo santo, “sacred wood” that the followers burn to purify their interior or get rid of negative energies. The popularity of Palo Santo is destroying its ecosystem, in Latin America, as detailed “ Refinery 29 »: the harvesting of this wood requires a certain know-how so as not to damage the surrounding plants, but faced with the demand, the traffickers have no scruples.

“We are at a point in the trend where it is important to realize what is at stake and to have a more responsible practice of witchcraft, pleads Ketty. I am convinced that one can practice very good magic without needing all that. A pebble picked up on the edge of a path where you walk with your children will always have a lot more emotional charge than a crystal bought at Urban Outfitters. There are local alternatives for any ritual. “Laurel, thyme or lavender have the same virtues as Palo Santo, with the advantage of being available in most of our gardens. Especially since to have a “power”, there is a whole protocol to respect: for example, the Palo Santo only has esoteric properties if it is provided by a shaman – and a priori, “Action” n is not one.

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Jealousy, consumerism and ecological disaster: the underside of the business of witchcraft – Elle

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