I mean, it’s not clickbait – but it’s self-aware enough that it definitely is. Except that I hope I’ve gone quite a bit past the reacting stage and maybe into the responding stage – and except except that I still don’t exactly know what my response really is.
People who know me personally will know that I’ve been trying to make sense of witchtok for quite a while (witchtok being the witchy and witch-adjacent short-form video content made and shared on TikTok and the compilation videos that I personally browse on YouTube. I’m quite sure the compilation videos are harvested by bots. Anyway.).
I want to be very clear that I’m not coming at this topic with the stance of “kids these days are so silly! they don’t know anything! why in my day we had to walk five miles just to buy a used Dorothy Clutterbuck biography and we were grateful“. Do you think information was better in Ye Olden Days? I was getting my feet wet in the witch and pagan communities as we know them now at the same time that the infamous Irish Potato Goddess was introduced to the world. Before that, Time-Life Books helped me make my first tarot deck (who else learned about witchcraft and tarot reading from Mysteries of the Unknown?). We had bad astrology books, bad tarot books – astrology was pretty trendy in the 70s and 80s. There was the cliche pickup line, “what’s your sign?” that reflected the cheesiness of the trend but also just how ubiquitous astrology had become. You could buy Star Scrolls at supermarket checkouts; those were little rolled up bits of paper with astrological insight based on your sun sign; the scrolls were just narrower than a cigarette. Sun sign jewelry and tattoos were everywhere (still are and I still don’t know who buys them). I remember all this junk astrology very vividly from my childhood in the early 80s.
So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not like “kids these days” have a monopoly on shitty witchcraft information, and it’s not like decades ago we had like really great information or anything like that. The books were meant to make money for the people who published them, not to educate people on the timeless art and science of crafting change in accordance with will or anything like that. (I do think that we now have many authors who are writing some really excellent work, but there’s always the issue of knowing what material is going to be helpful to you, and why, and what books are good but just not helpful to you, and all the rest. But that’s probably another post in itself.)
I’m coming at this with some real genuine questions. Because I haven’t been embedded in circles of witchcraft seekers for a long time, not steadily enough to recognize trends and changes. I absolutely meet seekers all the time, people who have questions about starting their practice, about what they need to know, about how to find the information they want, about what tools and materials they should seek out, about how to talk about their practice with others outside the fold of belief – these questions absolutely never change, but other things do. And sustained, close contact with populations of seekers is probably required to trace those changes. I haven’t had that because for many years I’ve thought of myself as largely retired from that sort of thing.
And so this brings me to the first question raised by witchtok – where are people getting their information? A lot of it clearly is just recirculated among itself – which, understandable. I see this in particular with plant and mineral correspondences and techniques like spell jar construction. I think a lot of it (plant and mineral stuff) also comes from Tumblr – which, again, understandable. It’s free, it’s accessible, and it’s just there. It’s where a lot of current online witchcraft grew up (just like how my witchcraft grew up on Geoshitties and didn’t really question where that information came from).
People do clearly read; they show the books they’re reading and mention titles they recommend – and y’all, some of these titles are wild. Ummmm, didn’t a certain PreciousMetalApexPreditor get hardcore cancelled by us a long time ago for being a bad author and perpetuating false narratives and encouraging bad practices and other things? The self-described baby witches have decided that she’s OK to learn from again, and perhaps some of us need to get over our grumpyass retirement and suggest some better reading material. Many of these books are…not ones I’d suggest. Not be a long shot.
There are good, ethical authors writing for major pagan publishers. There are good, helpful books that can be obtained through major bookstores. Thriftbooks exists. Local bookstores will order you anything if you ask. Libraries will help you obtain virtually any book you ask for. You don’t have to steal books. Comrades don’t steal from comrades.
Why am I being told not to have crushes on deities. Who started this. I would like them to explain this teaching to me. I would like to be educated. And then I would encourage them to perhaps educate others more clearly on this point, because I feel that any sound logic that might have originally existed has been entirely lost.
Indeed, the witchtok deity / spirit / Power discourse is a real interesting forest. There’s definitely stuff that comes across as real and genuine and in-contact – but a lot of it really makes me wonder who taught them these things in the first place. What’s the teaching. Who told them these things.
I also wonder about this “X type of witch” conversation. I can’t tell how seriously this is taken. I don’t feel like it’s taken extremely seriously. I mean, I saw the Tumblr mood boards / aesthetic boards gain traction years ago and even though it wasn’t my thing it was fine. But I wonder if at some point people lost the distinction of it being an exercise in self-expression and thought it was a form of identity that one needed to step into in order to express legitimacy as a witch. Like, unless one was able to self-describe as “x type of witch” then one wasn’t actually a very good witch, or a very self-aware witch. And I’m here like, “there are no types of witches”. You can feel strongly connected to whatever, or feel less strongly connected to whatever, but that doesn’t identify you in any way. But maybe it does. Maybe this is one of those things that, until it’s named, I don’t see it. But the thing is, even once moon witch, sea witch, star witch, grass witch, etc. was named, I still don’t see it. These boxes are still entirely meaningless and arbitrary, another way to self-police how well I do or don’t measure up to standards that don’t actually exist. If I am, for instance, a sea witch, how much of a sea witch am I? How much of a sea witch do I need to be in order to qualify? If I stop being a sea witch, what do I become? I’m not being factitious or sarcastic – if these are categories that we’re going to genuinely and seriously use to describe ourselves in modern witchcraft, then these questions need to have serious and thoughtful answers.
There’s actually a lot more about witchtok I want to talk about. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I feel like this has gone on a long time already. To be extremely clear, I don’t feel combative with the people on the platform, but I do feel confused by the information they’re sharing. Furthermore, this isn’t an age thing. Although some self-identify as baby witches (or make videos addressing baby witches), that refers to where they are in their practice, not necessarily physical age. Learning is a life-long process, and learning how to learn is really the most valuable lesson of all. (So maybe I’ll write about that someday.) This is absolutely not the olds talking to the less-olds and demanding that they account for the time they’ve been left unsupervised. I want to learn too, to recognize the blank spaces in my understanding and to listen from a stance of genuine inquiry –
and to ask, “Why do y’all use so much salt?? In all your workings, all that salt?”