A few months ago, I searched #witch on Instagram and it came up with 5.7 million posts. Today, it’s over 6.1 million – a sizeable leap in a short amount of time. Witchcraft, it would appear, is trending and it’s all so beautiful.
Many beautiful photos taken by beautiful people in beautiful locations.
Perfect altars with strategically placed ritual items that convey mystery and magic. Pretty young things with perfect lighting to highlight glossy straight hair and the latest goth-chic fashion. At home shots of books, crystals, herbs and tarot, impeccably staged.
Even though I’ve been known to use #witch on my Instagram account, my version of witchcraft falls short compared to the majority of photos.
My altar, through lack of any other suitable space, is in the hallway by the front door with no natural light to capture moody shots. I’m also lacking perfect ritual items – it’s all a bit mix and match. I probably shouldn’t mention the shelf below that’s crammed full of my tarot decks. Not very aesthetically pleasing at all.
My outdoor altar, and by that I mean a camping table, fares no better. The great visions I have for a gorgeous set-up never translate well from brain to reality. Usually I can count on a gale suddenly appearing and everything ending up flying around a field. I’ve yet to burn altar candles outside that haven’t pooled melted wax onto the altar cloth.
And while we’re talking about outside rituals, I have to confess at the last ritual the raging fire we normally enjoy was replaced by a tea-light. This is what happens when I’m left in charge and the normal fire-starter is away. Not quite the glamorous image of witches around the fire.
Oh, and the stylish selfies of witches… yeah, that never happens for me. My hair, once black, is now greying rapidly and it’s never been sleek and shiny. I rock the permanently wind-swept look. I’m never going to make the cover of witch-Vogue (or trend on Instagram for my contribution to witch fashion). I’m middle aged, well-rounded around the edges and prefer comfortable over couture.
Last weekend, I went to an open ritual by my friend Rachel Patterson. I enjoy these rituals because Rachel is lovely and there’s always, and I hope she won’t mind me saying, a slight hint of chaos lurking at the rituals. They’re fun and a bit unpredictable: the first one I went to was on a beach surrounded by hundreds of decaying, stinky starfish. I guarantee I’ll never forget it.
I can’t compete with the beautiful photos on Instagram because real life doesn’t reflect the images we show there.
The beauty in witchcraft lies in the photos we choose not to share or the moments we don’t deem to be social media worthy.
It’s the improvisation of swapping a fire for a tea-light. It’s the muddy Wellie boots. It’s the plans that don’t go, well, to plan and the laughter that follows it.
It’s digging in kitchen cupboards for spell ingredients. It’s casting spells on the go. It’s the behind-the-scenes work of planning to make rituals run smoother.
Most of all, the beauty in witchcraft lies in the freedom to express the imperfections and be on a path that embraces it all.