The Occult As ‘Self-Care’
The other day, journalist Tara Isabella Burton wrote about how occultism has gone mainstream among Millennials, many of whom take up some form of it as “self-care” and an expression of political identity. When I talked to her at Walker Percy Weekend about this phenomenon, she said that it is quite common in Manhattan.
As if on cue, today’s New York Times, the most important newspaper in the world, publishes a piece by a witch named Pamela Grossman, who talks about the therapeutic and political value of practicing witchcraft. Excerpts:
As I got older, my witchcraft became less about trying to cause specific outcomes and more focused on helping me become a more purposeful and compassionate person. And while I still do rituals of the more traditional sort, my magic has become something I carry with me in all facets of my life.
I was doing magic at the day job I had for 14 years, where I got to oversee photography projects, and placed a figure of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and female independence, in my cubicle.
On my altar at home, I keep a copy of the United States Constitution next to my candles and talismans, as a way of asking Spirit to protect our country from nefarious forces.
I’m doing magic when I march in the streets for causes I believe in. (The proliferation of “HEX THE PATRIARCHY” placards fills me with particularly witchly glee).
“Witch” is one of the words I now use to describe myself, but its meaning varies depending on context. At any given time, it can signify that I am a feminist; someone who celebrates freedom for all and who will fight against injustice; a person who values intuition and self-expression; or a kindred spirit with other people who favor the unconventional, the underground and the uncanny.
I use the word “witch” to signify both my Pagan spiritual beliefs — that nature is holy, thus the planet we live on and the bodies we live in are all sacred — and my role as a complex woman who speaks her mind, behavior that is still often met by society with judgment or disdain.
I’m a witch when I’m celebrating the change of the seasons with my coven sisters, as well as when I stand against the destruction of the environment. I’m a witch when I’m giving thanks to the sun, moon and stars, and when I’m working to subvert the corrosive narrative of sexism, racism, queer-phobia and xenophobia.
And if you haven’t yet read the Burton piece, do. It’s long, detailed, and well-reported.