Breaking Away From Social Stigmas and Stereotypes: This Is What Real Witches Actually Look Like
Having had the pleasure of connecting with such a diverse and supportive community of witches on Instagram, I recently asked them to submit photos of themselves for this post, to show readers what a real witch actually looks like. I'm sure for many, including solitary witches without a sense of community, these photos will be quite interesting.
Click on each featured witch's photo to find them on Instagram.
On any given day, you might find me hanging out at a bookstore with one of my babies (ahem, toddlers), or getting a double espresso at Starbucks, or maybe even cruising the racks at Neiman Marcus if my busy life allows it. My shoes are likely from Marc Jacobs or Kate Spade, and my handbag might be Liebeskind or Linea Pelle. I'm frugal in most areas of life, but when it comes to shoes and purses, I'm a designer junkie--something I can't help considering I shaped my entire career around working with high-end fashion and jewelry designers prior to running Hello Violet.
At first glance it's easy to see who I am on the surface: I'm a (very tired) mother, a fashion lover, and, for lack of a better term, a girly-girl.
What you wouldn't know, even after small talk, is that I am also strangely intuitive and highly sensitive to otherworldly things. These qualities, combined with a few supernatural experiences, led me to begin studying witchcraft when I was eight, checking out every book I could get my hands on at the elementary school and public library.
By the time I was eleven I realized I had a remarkable ability to manifest my thoughts and wishes (without rituals). Add a candle and maybe even some herbs or oils and BOOM. It's crazy, to say the least, and something I still can't really explain.
In sixth grade my mind was set: I was a magical person and was born to be a witch. (Is that a thing? I'm making it one now if it's not, thank you very much.)
With all that said, it's not like I was initiated into a coven or anything. I didn't even know any other witches, aside from The Craft-esque teens who cast spells on boys in the mid 90s and were really pulling off that Faruza Balk as Nancy Downs look (guilty as charged). Some of my friends were fascinated by my magical beliefs, while others were technically not allowed to be in my presence at school per their parents’ orders. Being a witch, as I've learned, can be quite lonely. And understandably so, considering centuries of hysteria, stereotyping, and the fictionalization of witches and witchcraft in stories and movies.
And who doesn't love a good story with a witch?
If you look up the word ‘witch’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are a few definitions:
- : one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially : a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or `familiar : sorceress — compare warlock
- : an ugly old woman : hag
- : a charming or alluring girl or woman
- : an adherent of Wicca
Okay, so I might be charming, but I'm not Wiccan and I'm definitely not having brunch with the devil on Sundays. I'm a Netflix and sleep kind of gal, with some magical stuff in the mix, and while my beliefs are mostly aligned with paganism, I actually believe in everything and nothing all at once. I am simply one with the universe and where it intuitively takes me. Call me eclectic, I guess.
And let's just clear a few things up: Not all witches are Wiccan, and not all witches practice black magic(k). For some witchcraft is a part of their religious/spiritual beliefs, for others it is a way of life. For many witches, it is part of their lineage, with rituals and herbal remedies being passed down from generation to generation. But I suppose that's all for another day…
"I'm Gillian The Witch of Murray Creek. I've been practicing for over 15 years and began my craft as many do, in Wicca, but followed the guidance of my Aunt and began astral travel which lead to a vibrant and varied practice based on our blended lineage, hence it is something betwixt hoodoo, the traditional crafts of the British Isles, and animism based on the practices of Seminole and Sioux. I honor spirits of land, creatures of this and other realms and that of my ancestors." - Gillian
The reality is, regardless of spiritual path, many modern witches are isolated in their practice and personal beliefs due to stereotyping and the social stigma that surrounds witchcraft. Telling friends, family, co-workers, and members of the community about your ‘alternative’ spirituality, as I've learned through other witches, can hold emotional and social consequences. You may lose friends, alienate people, or be written off by family. You might even get the this is just a phase eye roll if you're young enough. There is a term often used in the witch community for opening up about your craft: You are coming out of the broom closet.
"I submit my photo to you, as my "coming out" as a green witch. See, I'm a pageant girl, and admittedly, quite the stereotypical one too: I love the high heels, the big curls, and all the glamour that comes with it. Although, pageantry is not just about beauty, it's about young women coming together to empower each other and give voice to causes they hold dear. However, I find myself constantly being singled out. I am unable to be as open about my beliefs as the rest of the contestants. Revealing that I am a witch could potentially cost me the crown, and worse, many friendships. I need to show everyone, especially those in the pageantry world, that witches are just like anyone else. You might see us on the bus, at the store, or even on stage. Coming out as a witch should not affect the way my pageant sisters see me. No witch should be looked down upon simply for expressing different beliefs. We are here, and we are just like anyone else." - Angelica
At the risk of sounding cliche, it is human nature to fear the unknown and to fear what you cannot see or understand. However, that statement carries its own fallacies in regards to modern paganism and witchcraft. The fast is, Wicca is the fastest growing religion in America with a growth rate of 143% between 1990 and 2001. It is trending to be the third largest religion in the United States, right behind Christianity and Islam. And when you take into account that not all people who practice witchcraft are Wiccan, the population of witches outside of Wicca creates a much larger census. Point is: Witches are everywhere. You probably see them everyday. They are attorneys and office administrators and business owners.
When I was in the business planning stage I didn't research competition (as dumb and risky as it sounds, I don't believe in it). I just knew I wanted to steer away from the stereotypical Dungeons and Dragons look that the online metaphysical retailers of the late 90s and early 2000s had. I would instead build a brand with a bright and colorful luxury aesthetic based around the idea that not all witches are dark and gloomy. I didn't want to name my brand Ye Olde Pagan Shoppe. In fact, I sent out a survey and let my potential customers choose where they would shop. Their pick from the list: Hello Violet. That, in my opinion, says quite a bit about modern witches. And after connecting with other small business owners in this market, I am seeing more and more pagan supply and metaphysical retailers move away from that dark, old world aesthetic, and onto something clean, bright, and modern.
That's not to say that all witches are suddenly bright, cheery, and matching their wardrobes with their chakras at Mod Cloth. There are plenty of witches out there who prefer to dress in black and shop at places with an old world or gothic appeal. I once had a customer ask me how I went from managing designer retail boutiques to running a metaphysical shop, and my answer was that I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. Fashion, style, taste in music, personal interests, hobbies, and career can be separate from spirituality. The only definitive truth about witches, and what connects them to each other, is that they are all unique, human individuals.
I will, however, admit that I believed Hello Violet’s inventory and aesthetic would cater to an extremely narrow market, and that most witches would stick to the good old D&D styled shops. But as I got to know my customers through both social media and in person at pop-up markets, I found that even I was shocked by how diverse and seemingly ordinary practicing witches were. I've sold ritual supplies to college girls in Abercrombie & Fitch, and palo santo and sage to middle-aged moms in sweatpants who want to protect their psychic child from negative energies. Like I said before, being a witch can be isolating when no one else in your circle holds the same beliefs, and I myself had somehow thought I was unique in my sense of style, interests, spirituality, and daily activities. Meeting other witches through this business has not only been an eye-opening experience, but in many ways has offered a sense of relief.