What Does It Mean to Be a Modern Witch?
Witchcraft is undergoing a transformation and destigmatization before our eyes. Crystals, tarot cards, and other mystical practices/items are being integrated more and more into the mainstream and paving way for individuals to claim their identities and spiritualities. Urban Outfitters is demonstrating a deep interest in crystals and crystal healing. Popular media sites from Nylon to Vogue, frequently publish articles about witches and even witch fashion. Etsy, Tumblr and Instagram are flooded with images of the modern witch, alters and “witch aesthetics.”
All of these mainstream avenues are allowing witchcraft to come out of the dark and spooky and highlight witchcraft as a symbolic avenue for feminism and women’s empowerment.
The appeal of the modern witch and the aura of the mystique in 2017 could be correlated and stem from the need for a change in power and energy. We see things have been patriarchal and filled with masculine energy for too long. The internet and social media are helping to raise awareness, we are seeing witches for what they really are: strong, powerful people who don’t succumb to societal norms.
The modern witch is unapologetic, empowering and in touch with her self- spirituality. Powerful women (though all genders and sexualities are welcome to be witches) have been deemed as deviant and dangerous throughout history, giving the term witch negative connotations and robbing these women of their power and voices. When these women were feared, the public lashed back by setting these women up for trial (literally) and reducing them to nothing more than a servant, whore, mother, or fantasy. countless women were accused of witchcraft. These witch trials were tragic events which were fueled by fear and misinformation. Women who were outspoken, strong-willed, or powerful were targeted and either silenced or killed. Put simply, people were afraid of the unknown and needed someone/something to blame.
Misinformation and lack of understanding can create space for a culture of fear and exclusion. With Halloween being upon us and a whole lot of magic in the air, we wanted to take a look into witchcraft in the modern day, what exactly it means to be a witch, and how someone might go about dabbling in the mystical.
2016 and 2017 have been hard years for a number of us, particularly women, and an article, The Love Witch and Witchcraft’s Appeal in the Era of Trump sums up the current draw to witchcraft beautifully. We are longing for voices, power, inclusion, and love. Countless women are finding these things with the realms of the mystical, and this could not be more important right now.
Witchcraft has also become resolutely tied to larger historical narratives on the punishment of rebellious women, standing side-by-side with those who were diagnosed with hysteria and locked up in psychiatric institutions merely for disobeying their husbands or fathers.
It seems that witchcraft isn’t just trendy or current, it is necessary and entirely pivotal in today’s society. The sense of community that a coven provides is something unique to other religions. It’s open to all walks of life, which can be alluring to women who feel unempowered and queer or trans people who are not traditionally welcomed into other religions.
To help us paint a portrait of the modern witch, we spoke with Bakara Wintner, author of WTF is Tarot?: …& How Do I Do It? Tarot Reader, and owner of Everyday Magic. Though witchcraft and mystical practices look vastly different from individual to individual, we spoke with Bakara about her relationship to witchcraft through tarot, finding your spirituality, and being a published author after receiving her first deck of tarot 4 years ago.
“It served as an object that completely recontextualized my experience. When things happened or when I met people I was able to perceive them through the archetypes of the tarot. It provided meaning, fulfillment, and the sense of connection that so many people are trying and failing to find in larger organized religious.
This is, in my opinion, why people are being drawn more towards a personalized understanding of spirituality. The word witchcraft and the word witch encompass all of that, it’s not just one specific thing, it’s completely personalized.”
The mystical is a personalized understanding of the spiritual, it gives power and voice to its beholder, and it allows us to make a space for ourselves in the realm of the spiritual on our own terms. So, what makes someone a witch? “If you say you’re a witch, you’re a witch,” says Bakara. No credentials needed, you literally just have to believe it to achieve it. This is one of the most special aspects of witchcraft, in our opinion, it is as inclusive as can be. “It’s a way of claiming a power that we all inherently have.”
“Historically, women were called witches when they amassed too much money, land, or power. Women, specifically, reclaiming it now is a way of aligning with a power that is unregulated and specifically can’t be regulated. So, it’s kind of radical in that way.”
Like we said, it’s pretty damn special. The thing is, the term witch just doesn’t seem big enough. We asked Bakara if she felt the word adequately encompasses all that it alludes to. “I don’t think the word witch is big enough to cover it.”
In fact, some magical practitioners don’t identify with the word at all. “As is with God, faith, or any sort of spirituality, words will just fall short every time.” Though the word witch/witchcraft doesn’t extend to cover all that it’s alluding to, Bakara believes that it gives individuals power by giving them a term to stand behind when they’re seeking to claim their spirituality for themselves.
WTF is Tarot!?
The ways in which individuals describe their experiences with and relationships to tarot are powerful and beyond inspiring. We believe that any avenue for self-reflection and self-exploration is positive, and this is the perfect example. Put simply, people need something to believe in, but what many people don’t know is that that thing can be YOU. Tarot is a way to discover, transcend, and understand yourself; it’s a powerful tool and something everyone can explore. Bakara said it herself:
“I think of tarot as one of the most effective ways of changing the world. When someone recognizes that a practice like tarot works, their entire paradigm shifts. If you believe that you can shuffle a deck of cards and it can accurately and powerfully mirror your reality, then you believe in magic and that’s a game changer”
If you’d like to learn more, WTF is Tarot?: …& How Do I Do It?is the perfect way to get your dose of knowledge and inspiration from one of the best in the biz. A couple of months after Bakara opened Everyday Magic, she was approached by a publisher that asked her to write a book on tarot. She wanted to write it through the lens of everyday life.
She put forth how we experience the archetypes in our everyday lives. For instance, “the son of wands is like the fuck boy and the father of swords is like the dad who always knows where your paperwork is. It’s current, hip, and accessible, it’s for people who would otherwise be afraid to approach tarot.”
Her book is an exceptional introduction into the world of tarot, truly, we would recommend it to anyone.
If you’re ever in Durham, North Carolina, you should pop in Everyday Magic. The shop began as a way to create a physical space for the items that Bakara was prescribing for her clients: crystals, tarot cards, ritual objects but has blossomed into a safe space for anyone and everyone interested in the mystical. Additionally, you can check out their online store at shopeverydaymagic.com and Instagram at @everyday__magic.
Witchcraft is vastly different for everyone but at the end of the day, witchcraft comes down to mindfulness. Making a mindful decision to claim your spirituality for yourself. Moreover, you can become a healer or a “magical practitioner” if you aim to help others through your practices, as Bakara does with her readings. It’s a practice, like anything from yoga to organized religion, but it’s yours to make with it what you will.
Witchcraft is powerful, malleable, and transcendent; it is for everyone and it is positively magical.