I’m okay with being in a faith and in multiple traditions that will undoubtedly never be mainstream. I don’t see being mainstream as being at all important. What I do see as being important, however, is accessibility to those who are seekers in addition to legal and enforced protection against discrimination. And that accessibility and enforced protection does mean entering us into that problematic cesspool known as “becoming mainstream”.
But you don’t need to be completely mainstream in order to have any of those things. Being vegan certainly isn’t, and yet options are made increasingly available to those who want them due to choice and/or food allergies. Unfortunately like the situation we’re in, a number of vegan companies had to “sell out” and be bought by larger, normally meat and dairy producing companies in order for that to happen. It is the world we live in, and as the saying goes, there is no such thing as 100% ethical consumption in a capitalist society.
Such are the very similar choices we face today as witches, pagans, and polytheists, and we must consider them carefully. Yes, we want to be accessible. Yes, we want to be available to those who would seek us out who ordinarily may not necessarily have such access. And we may have to swallow a few hard facts of the world we currently live in the process of making that happen.
But at what cost? What can we afford to compromise on, and what should we actively walk away from? Where do we place that dividing line? We recently had a “witch kit” that was going to be sold by Sephora pulled from production due to a great number of complaints. I really do feel that out of all of those complaints, the most valid one was made by those who are Native Americans about the sage being sold in the kit. Colonizers: we can do better than that. I have absolutely never once used sage in my practices in my entire life, and there are many, many other witchy practices for cleansing and purification that aren’t appropriating from people whose lands we took, people we killed, and spiritual practices we outlawed. A simple bundle of incense would’ve been just fine; I’m a huge fan of sandalwood and frankincense. We could’ve just swapped it out for something like that and kept the kit.
Want to know how many closeted people could’ve gotten this from Sephora and had an opportunity to practice and be supported without raising too many questions from people whom they live with at home? I think of fifteen year old me, my hidden stash of books on Wicca that my dad got me that I hid from my mom, and what little paraphernalia I was able to get away with and disguise as being totally innocuous. That fifteen year old me could’ve used that kit, people. There are a lot of people out there who would’ve loved it. Beyond replacing the sage, I had no complaints. Yes, I raised an eyebrow at Sephora selling this sort of thing, but VIB (no, not yet at Rouge level, alas!) me would’ve bought that in a heartbeat if nothing else out of curiosity.
I get that many of us do not want to “sell out”, cheapen our faith and our practices, and have concerns over perception and appropriateness. Was the kit mocking us? Making witchcraft look like a “trend”? Why would a store that sells beauty products want to sell a witch kit to begin with? I agree that the venue was a little strange given the product in mind, and yes, I can see where it makes us look like a trend versus a serious practice. This is where we want to weigh in the value of accessibility versus “selling out.” What are the pros and cons of having a product like that being sold at such a venue?
Unfortunately, we do live in a capitalist society and anything involving dollars is where it’s at. If we want to be accessible, it will cost us–and we need to actively consider what we can afford versus not, and I suspect if we thought about it deeply enough we would surprise ourselves. But where we can do better, such as not using products from people we colonized and actively forbade from doing their practices or considering carefully what venues we want to support and how they will present us, we can do.
We can also stop unnecessary gatekeeping. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if it’s a witch kit with a tarot deck, a few crystals, and an incense bundle then so be it. That’s not much more than I had when I too first began, and I was no less serious then than I am today. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be reasonably discerning on how and where we make ourselves available, but it does mean being a lot more openminded about who these products and services really are for. And right now, we could stand to be a lot less aggressive on certain boundaries than on others.
I can guarantee that this won’t be the only situation under heavy discussion and scrutiny, but maybe, just maybe next time we could do better.