Some students spend their Saturdays stocking up on groceries, hitting the beach, or preparing for a night out. For others, like Noa Orvis, a sophomore environmental science and policy major, that day is reserved for solstice prayer circles. She and her mother don’t just buy crystals to use as decorations on their bedside tables, they use them as part of their spiritual practice, focusing on their “transformative powers.”
There has been a “well-documented resurgence of occultism among millennials,” in recent years, according to the New York Times. Still, some students say people need to understand the distinction between a spiritual practice and another trendy aesthetic.
“I think the (most) problematic aspect of the trend is that it cuts out a lot of the deeper and important parts of witchcraft that really shape and affect some people’s lives,” Orvis said.
Orvis’ mother identifies as Wiccan, and practices “magick,” which is the art of utilizing natural forces in nature to bring about change as a form of religion, Orvis said. Witchcraft has always been a part of Orvis’ life, and it’s confusing to see it become a trend among people her age, she said.
To Orvis, following the trend isn’t problematic. It’s the surface-level nature of the trend that is the issue.
“There’s so much more to witchcraft that’s worth exploring and it seems like that aspect of it is getting lost,” Orvis said.
Some companies are even beginning to profit off of the increased interest in witch culture. It was recently leaked that makeup supply chain Sephora would begin to sell a “starter witch kit” for $42 which was rumored to include tarot cards, sage, perfume and a rose quartz crystal. Sephora confirmed they would be selling the kit, but the product was later pulled from shelves Sept. 6 after social media backlash from practicing witches, Buzzfeed reported.
“What Sephora is doing is an example of cultural appropriation,” said Adina Corke, an English graduate student and the president of Chapman’s Pagan Club. “This marketing scheme further perpetuates the idea that paganism of any sort is focused on magic and it’s all witches and broomsticks.”
Adelaida Velasquez, store manager of The Dragon and the Rose, Orange County’s largest collection of Wiccan, Pagan and metaphysical supplies, said many long-time practitioners of Wicca felt that the Sephora witch kits made light of a sacred practice.
“Especially with older practitioners, who, when they were growing up and getting into this practice, they faced a lot of discrimination like getting kicked out of their homes or physical harm,” Velasquez said. “It’s a little bit different than nowadays. Now people are a little more open about (witchcraft), so a lot of (older practitioners) were angry, but a lot of other people were saying, ‘This is a way for other people to safely start connecting to this practice’.”
Aliya Foote, a 19-year-old Anaheim resident, has considered herself to be spiritual since she was 12 years old. She identifies with Wiccan beliefs, and said she is frustrated with the recent trend of companies profiting off of the practice. To her, the objects in the box are sacred and not to be marketed as an aesthetic.
“People have no idea what witchcraft is and what the items in the kit actually are,” Foote said. “It’s not a force to mess around with at all or play with because it’s trendy.”
After the starter witch kit was leaked, many took to social media to protest what they believed was the “exploitation” of their beliefs.
One Twitter user wrote, “My religion is not a trendy overpriced aesthetic.”
Even popular singer SZA, who said she used to work for Sephora, took to Twitter to express her distaste for the kit. Sephora isn’t the only company that is profiting off the witch trend. Some companies even deliver witchcraft supplies right to peoples’ front doors. One company, Goddess Provisions, had a customer base grow from 300 subscribers to 6,000 between 2015 and 2017.
“I think there is good and bad in the delivery services,” Foote said. “It is super beneficial for people who genuinely follow the beliefs and practices. But it can be abused by those who follow trends.”