The Witch & Sephora: The Selling of Magick

The Witch & Sephora: The Selling of Magick September 4, 2018

Starting in October beauty chain Sephora will be selling “Witch Kits” and it has some of my friends in an uproar. “How dare someone commercialize and profit from the Craft!” they type on Facebook, and I just sort of shrug my shoulders. The activities of another don’t necessarily effect me, and I think that’s particularly true in this case. (How one person practices Witchcraft has absolutely no effect on how I practice Witchcraft, unless I choose for it to do so.)

~UPDATE SEPTEMBER 5: Pinrose, the makers of this kit, have decided not to go forward with the product. Reading their press release I’m genuinely saddened by this. This kit seems to have been made with love and care. I think this is a major loss for our community. The White Sage included with the kit “was planned to be used in this kit is sourced from a Green America Gold Certified company. The sage is grown in the wild in California and is sustainably harvested and sold by Native American owned and operated businesses.” Pinrose is a woman-owned business and all of their products are made in the United States. This is the kind of company many of us love.~

“Witchcraft” has always been a very broad term, and more and more people seem to be using it lately as a catch-all for any type of magickal activity. When the word witchcraft is used in such a manner Sephora’s Witch Kits are something that should probably be expected. Magick has always been a “for sale” commodity. The cunning-woman down the street doesn’t just give away her skills, she charges for them. Hoodoo, Conjure, Cunning-craft, Southern Granny Magick . . . . . it’s all for sale and most often has been over the centuries. Magicians and Witches have to eat too.

Image by darksouls1 via pxhere. CC License.

It’s true that the “for sale” sign has gone through some changes over the last 125 years. It used to be that magickal transactions occurred between a trained* professional and the buyer seeking assistance, at the start of the 20th Century it started to become popular to “do it yourself.” So instead of visiting a person for magickal advice individuals turned to mail order catalogs and drug stores for products. Often the owners of such institutions weren’t actual practitioners, but then again, they provided a service that made magickal practices easier to participate in, and offered a level of privacy.

(Such trends have accelerated in recent years, as less and less people interact with one another on a face to face basis. I can go to a grocery store and ring up my own groceries, text a friend instead of see them, and chat at someone over an “internet help desk.” The market for “do it yourself” only continues to increase.)

Gerald Gardner, the first modern public self-identifying Witch believed that one shouldn’t charge students to learn the Craft, but that didn’t mean he was against promoting Witchcraft. He wrote books designed to introduce people to his understanding of it, and participated in TV, radio, and print interviews to raise awareness. He owned and operated a Witch Museum on the Isle of Man. Don’t misunderstand me, Gardner was not selling initiations or a way into the tradition that bears his name today, but he was providing a way into the broader world of Witchcraft.

Witchcraft kits from Sephora are also just a gateway. When people get angry over them it’s important to remember who is going to be buying them: people who aren’t a part of our current community. The likely buyer of a Witchcraft Kit has never been into a metaphysical or Witch shop, and probably doesn’t own any books by Llewellyn or Samuel Weiser. It’s likely they’ve never been to a ritual, and most of them probably never will.

Anything that brings someone to the Craft is OK with me. Perhaps a Witch Kit is the doorway some people need to find the Craft, the Goddess, or bring some magick into their lives? Most buyers of such things will never read this blog or go to a Pagan festival, and that’s fine. I’m excited for the people whose lives will be changed by stepping onto a magickal path for the first time. Most people who pick this up will do so as a joke, or because it’s trendy, but there will be a small percentage who experience something magickal and YAY! for them.

The kit in question.

It does suck that companies that have actively supported the Witch Community over the years aren’t going to be profiting from this. Some of you reading this would hate a “Witch Kit” whether or not it was made by Sephroa or Llewellyn, but there’s clearly a market for this kind of thing. (And Sephora is not the only company doing it.) It would also be great if my friends who owned and worked in Witch-shops were profiting from this kind of thing too, but as I pointed out earlier, the people buying this sort of thing don’t know that Witch shops even exist.

And the contents of the Witch Kit are nothing to get upset about either. Tarot Cards? I bought my first deck at Spencer’s all those many many years ago. (And read the addendum below if you’ve been hearing the Tarot Cards in this deck have been plagiarized.) Eau de parfums? I guess scents are a pretty easy way to start one off with a magickal experience. Rose quartz? Rose quartz has been for sale in dozens of places now for the last thirty years. I know some of my friends are upset about the sage in the kit, but it’s just called “cleansing sage” and not “smudge.” Sage was used by the Romans for cleansing temples, it has a long history in many different cultures.

This Witch Kit is obviously not a spiritual one in the sense that it invokes deities, spirits, ancestors, or even Watchtowers. There are no traditional tools in it, no stangs, no athames, or even a wand. It’s a gateway for the curious and nothing more. Wearing the mantle of “Witch” also comes with the realization that it will be in used in silly and trite ways, such as this one. But if it helps just one person find the Craft or a magickal path, then it at least did some good.

ON THE TAROT DECK INCLUDED IN THIS KIT VIA MAT AURYN:

The artist of the tarot design is Vera Petruk from Russia. She is on all the stock sites selling images of her art as stock for commercial and non-commercial use and her art can be licensed to different degrees. It’s most likely Pinrose just bought the rights to it. She sells each individual design on the cards as stock images. This is her original deck using the art.

Each Tarot Card design is available on stock sites like shutterstock, which means anyone who purchases a license has the rights to the images (like Pinrose/Sephora did).

People are claiming her deck is the Old Memories Tarot, which is incorrect. It looks like The Old Memories Tarot, like Pinrose/Sephora bought a license to use the art for the deck (which is why its limited to a set number – as licenses only allow to print a certain amount depending on the nature of the license). But the Old Memories Tarot didn’t modify them like Pinrose/Sephora, which is allowed under certain stock licenses.

Vera’s deviant art has been posting artwork in this style since 2013. She uploaded the fool card on there in 2016 along with a link to purchase stock images of all the cards. The furthest back anyone mentions the old memories deck online is 2017 that I can find.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 5-THE PLOT DEEPENS

*We hope they were trained at least, no guarantees

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