Channeling The Medium: Witchcraft, Trends, & Media Culture

Channeling The Medium: Witchcraft, Trends, & Media Culture September 29, 2016
The author, circa late 90's
The author, circa late 90’s

I’ve always been good at spotting trends, and from 2007-2012, it was a major part of my job as a fashion jewelry designer. What’s going to be the next hottest thing?  What will everyone want to be wearing? What’s the new or newly refurbished idea?

However, similar to psychic readings, pinning down timing can be an elusive and difficult thing.  How long will it take for the trend to catch on?  When will it be primed for the mass-market consumption vs. high-end fashion? (An essential bit of information when dealing with companies like Target and Macy’s.)  While my last job might have given me a bit of a Cassandra Complex, pretty much everything I presented as trends have indeed manifested, and some of them have had some significant staying power. There are probably a few folks I worked with going, “damn, that crazy goth chick was right.”

So what does this have to do with Witchcraft? A lot.  Follow along with me.

Most people don’t notice trends until they’re being bombarded with them at the most basic level everywhere (or catch on themselves), but skulls, crystals, sacred geometry and symbols have been seeping back up in popular culture for years now. may be talking about “Mysticore” now, but it’s nothing new to the independent designers, artists, and practitioners who’ve been working with these ideas for several years –or a lot longer.  And then there’s all of the TV shows and movies (Salem, AHS: Coven, The Good Witch, etc to name a few) also feeding into it, bringing the Witch (in her many guises) to household screens everywhere.

The attention and focus on witchy things generally creates a mixed response in the P-word community: glee, nervousness, excitement, and eye-rolling – all of which I understand and have partaken in myself over the years – because well,  “All of this has happened before and will happen again” to quote BSG.  I remember in the late 90’s when we had “The Craft” on the screen and Silver Ravenwolf’s “Teen Witch” on the bookshelves – and the numerous discussions online and in P-word media about what it meant.  And when you’re being flooded by a sea of contrived Instagram photos and the word witch getting flung around everywhere, it’s hard not to be a bit snarky or jaded.

Hence why I was rather surprised to find myself all verklempt during Pam Grossman’s “Witch Pictures: Female Magic and Transgression in Western Art” at the Esoteric Book Conference a few weeks back in Seattle.  The art history and cultural material was very familiar to me as a professionally trained artist and well-read Witch, and well-curated (I highly recommend attending one of her lectures if you have the opportunity.) But it was in the wrap-up where she was pontificating on why the Witch is popular in media today, and what does it really mean to us, to society, and to the new folks embracing the term and ideas? – that I found myself with tears in my eyes.

It comes down to this: it doesn’t matter how many of the young and the hip are truly into witchcraft, or just momentarily fascinated with it as a hot trend.  What does matter is that the witch is surfacing again in our collective consciousness, even stronger than before – and it’s inspiring a LOT of people.  Just as The Craft and Teen Witch inspired many young people twenty years ago to find Wicca, Witchcraft, and other forms of P-wordism (I’m sure that includes many of you reading this blog right now), we’ll be able to track in another 20 years time, how many more people got their start right here, right now.  And isn’t that awesome?  The same thing happened back in the 1950’s (look to Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, The Farrars, etc and see how they all met and interacted), and again in the 1970’s, and so forth.

At the heart of many trends are solid ideas – some of them being extremely powerful and influential.  Fashion and media reflect the collective consciousness (and subconsciousness).  It can be frustrating to see the things you love become embraced by popular culture, but if we truly love them, why be selfish about it?  Yes, tell me how horrible it is to find clothing and jewelry with designs on it you actually like, along with better understanding by the general public through exposure.  Yes, there’s a lot of enthusiastic young people with esoteric symbols that make you want to roll your eyes, but it’s possible that they may stick with it, learn more, and be our next generation’s leaders. We can’t police anyone’s sincerity or devotion to an idea, only our own actions.  None of us are living in a vacuum either – we influence each other, both consciously and subconsciously – and we are both products and creators of our culture.

In the end, the legacy of the witch as she’s infiltrated multiple media over the centuries (because circles, trends, and cycles – this is nothing new) is about discovering the wild within ourselves, the search to understand the unknown, and to tap into and reclaim our own power.  She will continue to do that, moving from plays, prose, prints, and paintings of olden times to whatever is the next form of social media.  She is a medium, and she chooses how she wishes to speak to us, through whatever channel she pleases.


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