A Word on “WitchTok” and Other Witchy Social Media
It is human nature to be attracted to the aesthetically pleasing. Throughout evolutionary history, looking for aesthetically pleasing things has often helped our species, and others, survive. The apple blossom leads to the apple, the flowers of the Capsicum annuum grow into nutritious bell peppers and even watching the beauty of early daffodils can lead you to a honey comb. Developing an instinct to be drawn to the beauty has given us the ability to procreate and consume foods to continue life. Just as the apple blossom is beautiful, so is the deadly Oleander flower. These delicate pink flowers can be found on bushes in many gardens in the United States. Beauty does not mean it is always good.
In the 21st century we are more visually connected than ever before. Our pictures, videos, snapchats and reels are viewed globally on a daily basis. Social media is a method of communication, connection, marketing, learning and more. As more people find Pagan spirituality fulfilling, more Pagan based content is being made. Much of it is not authentic. It is very common to find beautiful works of art in the form of make-up, costume and décor, with witch or pagan-based tags. These posts have hundreds if not thousands of reactions, comments and the content maker will gain a large following. Due to these stunning displays of art, the large number of reactions and eventual followers, these individuals often get sought out to educate beginners. Commonly they are beginners themselves and in no position to begin producing educational content. It is not uncommon to find false information shared, with good intent, on social media because witch and pagan themed content is growing in demand. We need to guard ourselves carefully in this world. Appreciate the art for what it is, beautiful crafts… of art. Art work is beautiful and should be enjoyed and celebrated. Beautiful works of art are, by no means, an indicator of the skillset of the artists beyond the physical art itself.
Many times, while scrolling Instagram, I will see stunning makeup artistry with amazing editing and filters and lovely backgrounds that look out of a million-dollar movie set. They will have tags suggesting they are a witch, volva, seer, wiccan, priestess or some other sort of pagan magic worker. Their visual appearance is what pop culture would have one believing someone within the pagan world does appear as while practicing. More often than not, when I look at their overall content, there are few, if any, mentions of actual practice. Be it magical or simply faith based. Stunning makes up, amazing costume, tens of thousands of followers…. But very little goes beyond the aesthetic. Rarely do they have websites and when they do they are never education based. They tend to not have blogs of their own beliefs or practices and when they do share tips on practices, it is almost always very basic, general information such as there being a tradition to bake bread for Lammas or the historically incorrect tradition of leaving carrots out for Sleipnir on Yule (which I admit my children do, there is nothing wrong with creating new traditions. I actually encourage making traditions that fit your lifestyle in the 21st century).
Yes, many people do have ritual garb worn for holidays and special occasions. Yes, many of us have special equipment for these events. Yes, oftentimes these special occasions will take place in the woods. After all, pagan religions tend to be nature based. For the newcomer there is going to be a fine line, near invisible, between the two. It will come down to experience and, in my opinion, a gut feeling. If it feels like a joke, it might be. Truth be told, there is even some overlap. There are practitioners that are also artists and they do blend the two seamlessly. They are, however, few and far between.
To those wanting to learn to identify the difference between an artist and a practitioner, look at their content. It they are solely producing art, they are an artist. They may be a pagan artist, but they are an artist. Art is a lovely thing and it should be treated respectfully within the field of art. If they are producing art and educational outlets, they may be both an artist and an experienced practitioner. For platforms such as Instagram, read the caption they give their images. Some of the best educational tidbits you’ll find on social media come from pictures of busy moms with a tarot deck, scruffy men wearing a beanie or mundane-looking people. People who have mastered a craft tend to not put on a show. If someone can do a tarot pull while their child is running around eating a waffle in just a diaper, they more than likely know what they’re doing and they clearly are not trying to wear a mask of artistry. Remember that paganism is real life. Raw, venerable life interacting with existence. That is not aesthetically pleasing at all.
Appreciate the art; I am not suggesting to unfollow artists. Their work is wonderful, but one’s ability in art does not make them skilled in any area other than art. A pretty cape and well-done face paint does not mean someone has an established relationship with the spirits of their own home or their own ancestors. It means they have a pretty cape, can do makeup well and know how to market a look.