The term “witch” has changed meanings a lot over the years. It is now often synonymous with being a feminist, clever, and powerful, so we have come a long way from the female-targeted Salem Witch Trials. But I’m not here to discuss a feminism issue; I’m here to discuss a cultural one. Sure, every girl has been a witch on Halloween at one point or used an Ouija board at a sleepover. It was all harmless fun. However, now that owning black cats and crystal healing is suddenly “trendy,” are we mocking real witch culture?

            Yes, “real” witches exist, and they are furious.Let’s start with what drove me to write this article: a $55 CAD Starter Witch Kitthat the brand Pinrose released at Sephora. Marketing towards everyone under the #instawitch tag on Instagram, the kit contained items like tarot cards, white sage, and crystals for all your hexing / aesthetic needs. The company quickly pulled back the product due to massive backlash from practicing witches who claimed it was cultural appropriation. Some stated you could only learn the craft from other members of the community and your materials have to be authentic, not from a corporate brand. 

I’m not going to lie, I thought these so-called witches were just a bunch of goth girls who dye their hair purple and think wearing black is a personality.  Turns out, real witches practice magick(with a k so it’s not mistaken with stage magic) and actually own crystal balls and cast spells. Although some Christians still view it as a branch of Satanism, Wicca – aka Pagan witchcraft – is a fairly new religious movement with its own goddesses and gods. Members of the community do identify themselves as witches and claimed this witch kit was mocking their beliefs. 

Real witchcraft aside, there is a bigger problem behind this witch trend. Much of the herbal components of witchcraft is basically Native American appropriation. Americans have always viewed indigenous peoples as mystical and spiritualwhich led to them being stigmatized for years. It is true that tribes did believe in magic and created the concept of spirit animalslong before it became a Buzzfeed quiz for people to take. The community also had medicine men who used herbal healing methods…except they got arrested and sent to asylums. Pinrose’s kit had white sage which is part of the spiritual process of smudging. I’m not an expert on this, but Adrienne K. wrote this piece describing the process and her opinion on smudge kits being sold as a form of “spiritual theft”. It definitely makes you think twice about sprinkling sage around your apartment after telling ghost stories. Our society can be hypocrites, and we have to acknowledge that.

Now, what does this all mean? Do we boycott “boss ass witch” t-shirts and skip out on Harry Potter marathons? Well, it’s your choice but I think that’s going a bit overboard. The key here is to be knowledgeable about the subject. Like I said, it makes you think twice. Remember that indigenous practices that are our hobbies today actually have spiritual value and were once (some still are) prosecuted by society. Also remember that your aesthetic could actually be someone’s identity. As with everything, be respectful. So yes, you can still be spooky – as long as you’re spooky and informed.

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