“NO CHANCE I COME UPON YOUR CHAOS MAGIC VIDEO FIRST AND THEN I SCROLL TO FIND OUT YOU’RE A WICCAN.”
The above being a comment left by the first person to angrily unfollow me on TikTok. I kind of want to get it as a fetching armband tattoo.
I honestly would’ve been perfectly content to avoid TikTok for the rest of my life, but I found myself needing a new phone for work. (I know the two seem unrelated, but stay with me.) I wanted a new phone about as much as I wanted to get on TikTok in the first place, but then I had the following conversation with my boss.
Boss: “Did you download that app we’re using for manager communication?”
Me: “I tried, but it’s not compatible with my phone.”
Boss: “Hmm. Let me see your phone.”
[I hand him my phone. The look on his face suggests I just threw a dying raccoon at him.]
Boss: “Oh… oh, my God. It’s so old.”
Me: “That’s offensive. It’s vintage.”
Boss: “How can you even use it with the screen all cracked?”
Me: “The cracks give it character. Like kintsugi.”
Boss: “This is completely unacceptable. I’m getting you a new one.”
And so he got me a new phone. And I had to go over to Chester’s and have him teach me how to use it — he literally put together a lesson plan for me — and I successfully downloaded the app. And then, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, I downloaded TikTok, if only because, for the first time, I owned a phone that would actually support it.
Initially, I didn’t plan on making any videos myself. But then I thought of a humorous scenario involving my job, and I decided to film it to see if it would get a response. A few people thought it was funny, so I filmed a couple more, one of which unexpectedly took off — so much so that I figured I shouldn’t even worry about the tortilla chip crumbs in my beard that I’d failed to notice until after I’d uploaded the clip.
A week or so later, I put together a video about using Chaos Magic to fight God, which… y’all, it was clearly a joke. And at first, people understood this. But the number of likes and reposts started escalating, which drew more attention, until it became evident that my brand of sarcasm doesn’t always translate well to a visual medium.
Comments poured in. It started with laugh emojis and people saying stuff like, “Yes! Teach us more, magic beard man.” Which I appreciated. But other people started taking the video seriously and felt the need to document their concerns.
(“I like that all of the comments are one of two camps,” Chase later reported, skimming down the page on his phone. “‘Fight God with me, Brother,’ or ‘The power of Christ is absolute, you heathen.'”)
But out of the mayhem rose a third category of commenters: specifically, aspiring young Pagans and occultists, some of whom were just looking for resources on Chaos Magic (which I was happy to provide), and others who were deeply disturbed that I would make light of the subject and sought to correct me.
“I have found myself on the wrong side of TikTok,” lamented one teenager. “I’m a Chaos Witch, but it’s very apparent that we have different perspectives.”
“Pfttttt,” another kid wrote. “I’m a Chaos Witch [too], but idk if you guys can do the same stuff as I can.”
“You can’t harness Chaos without accidentally unaliving someone here and there,” someone else inexplicably opined. “If you’re not afraid, you’re doing it wrong.”
It was around this time that the comment at the top of this post appeared, shuffled in with the ruckus of omnipotent high school Chaos Witches, Elizabeth Olsen fans, Loki devotees, shadow work proselytizers, and surprisingly aggressive New Age cheese doodles.
In other words, I had officially fallen through a cursed wardrobe and landed in the wilds of WitchTok.
At this point, you may feel like I’m about to fly into an apoplectic rant on how big of a shit show WitchTok is. But I can assure you that I am not. Instead, I am going to remain calm and discuss the shit show rationally.
TikTok in general is a frenetic space, with trends flashing into and winking out of existence literally overnight, and WitchTok mirrors that energy: One minute, everyone is frantically blowing cinnamon through their front doors to attract prosperity, and the next, they’re all putting lemon hexes on each other.
Oh. Wait. This just in. Nobody hexes with lemons anymore. It’s all about cursing with mushrooms this week.
I promise I’m not making that up.
Nor am I making up the feuds, which are honestly kind of legendary. Followers of one content creator will mass-report the account of a rival creator, the followers of whom will then mass-report the account of the first creator, all while both creators crank out vitriolic videos that would technically be threats if there weren’t Terms of Service to toe.
A lot of the tussles are fueled by hot debates on closed practices and cultural appropriation, but from a perspective that’s predominantly European in descent. Like many social media platforms, the algorithms that run TikTok routinely target BIPOC creators for imaginary ToS violations, which means that legitimate practitioners from marginalized groups often find themselves shadowbanned while Ashleigh and Madisynne, who’ve been Witches for three whole years, scream at people for buying books by black authors.
So there’re the arguments, and the Eurocentrism, and the misinformation, and the power tripping, and the crab mentality, and the fear mongering (“I’m a fifth-generation Nebraskan Spatula Witch, and I’m telling you, if you don’t blow cinnamon through your front door, demons will literally poop on you.”), not to mention the standard-issue anti-Wiccan rhetoric and bizarre takes on NeoPagan history. But there are a few bright spots that, at least so far, have made it worth sticking around.
Amy Blackthorn, Jason Mankey, Mhara Starling, and Thorn Mooney are all active on the app, and there are sleeper cells of other creators (like Astrodion Arkeros, Austin Toney, Benandante, Chaweon Koo, Elwynn, High Priest Siah, Haus of the Golden Bees, Kevin the Tarot Reader, Lilith’s Son, Mama SunFiyahh, Queen Zoaya Counts, Ren, the Scorpio Witch, the Wandmaker, and WitchSense) who consistently put out engaging, educational content.
From a Discordian standpoint, I’d rather lift up the Witches who spread creative disorder than the ones attempting to impose their proprietary destructive order on everyone else. And if my own Witchy content goes largely unnoticed in favor of my antics at the spicy shop, I’m totally okay with that.
If anything, it keeps me from running afoul of grumpy twenty-somethings who think they’re going to take down the Pagan Patriarchy by yelling about Gerald Gardner and ignoring Doreen Valiente. I’m happy to just stay in the background and admire the view from my perch on GayRetailTok.
I’m also happy about the followers I’ve managed to accumulate, although I’m wary, because on TikTok, popularity is its own worst enemy. If a video gets too many views, there’s an increased probability that it will work its way into the feeds of people who might take it as provocation, leading to arbitrary retaliation.
A video in which I was lip-synching to a medley of Emo songs was removed for promoting violence. Another, in which I stood up for Tyra Blizzard, who’d been openly targeted by white supremacists, was forcibly taken down for harassment and bullying. A third had its sound muted, which I did see coming, once the tone of the comments shifted from, “Ha ha! Great video!” to “Why am I seeing this?” to “Sodomy is a sin.”
But, as in many areas of life, getting scolded by Greyface is the most effective way to ensure that I will keep doing whatever it is I’m not supposed to. And I’m not emotionally invested in Tiktok, so if my account ends up shut down over anti-racism or queer content, I won’t have lost my voice: In fact, I’ll just get louder on other platforms.
Keeping in mind that TikTok as a whole is a transient thing, and in five years, no one will remember anything that occurred there, I’m going to treat my videos as extensions of the Turkey Curse in hypersigiled form. If a niche audience continues enjoying my comedy, that’s great; but if my content gets under the skin of Aneristic TikTokkers who encourage willful ignorance and care more about metrics than liberty, then I’ll have truly become the kind of influencer I’m built to be.