introducing the witches of tiktok
Hubble, bubble, connection trouble, fire content and cauldron bubble. 🎃
Anyone with eyes and an Instagram account would’ve noticed the rise of astrology over the past couple of years. Whether it be someone sliding in your DMs to ask about your natal chart or one of your mates posting memes about being a Taurus with the caption ‘same’ in their story, astrology is everywhere (and it's totally real, obv). Now, while we're not saying that memes are a gateway drug for messing with the occult, for some, the internet's current obsession with astrology has become a starting point through which they can appreciate and explore their own spirituality. And that exploration is taking place -- where else! -- on TikTok.
Though TikTok started out as a community platform for lip sync videos, there’s no denying that platform has transformed way beyond what anyone could have foreseen. Aside from the treasure trove of toxic cringe videos, that one girl drinking kombucha and other short form comedy videos that the app is now famously known for, the collaborative nature of TikTok has allowed genuine communities and subcultures to flourish. E-boys, for instance, are using the app to share styling tips. Teenage girls are uniting through interpretive dancing to their ex's voicemails. And witches are getting in on the action too. Young wiccans, previously a misunderstood community, are using the platform to be open and honest about their practice, finding each other across hashtags including #witchesoftiktok which has over 37.6 million views worldwide.
“It’s a safe space to connect with other individuals that share the same interests,” explains Rayanne Wilson (@raysnothere) a ‘baby witch’ who’s been practicing witchcraft for the past seven months, “It’s also the Age of Aquarius! It means that this generation is much more connected to innovation, radical expressions and originality. Many people are drawn to witch content because it connects you to the universe which is something I believe every human is meant to do.”
Undeniably, part of the appeal is that witches in pop culture have always been portrayed as both cool and powerful. The latest instalment of the Polyester podcast focuses on witchcraft in the media, where Anna Bogutskaya of feminist horror film collective The Final Girls explains: "The witch is one of the very few icons of power that is intrinsically gendered.” In the episode they describe how young witches shown on screen in Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Craft find their identity both through their special powers and community. That's exactly what the witches of TikTok are doing too, albeit inspired by the world of the internet rather than TV or film.
“Younger people are curious, they see other witches and think 'Wow, I didn’t think it was possible to do that'," says Bunny Bon (@c.est.bon.bon). Bunny describes herself as "a witch making memes and giving tips." She's amassed over 50,000 followers spreading that extremely digital message, and believes that witchcraft on TikTok is popular because of its younger audience and inclusive atmosphere. “Some have commented on my videos about how they weren’t pagan or a witch and that they just found it interesting. A lot of people in general don’t believe that witchcraft is actually a thing so when they see someone who is serious it catches their attention.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of baby witches who have duetted my videos, asking for advice or just having fun and I think that sense of community is very important because sometimes it feels like you’re alone or not doing things right.”
Another TikTok witch, Daisy Chambers (@r.ains), explains that she loves the educational nature of the community. "It means that I am learning more and more about other types of witches and people's different pantheons which normally I wouldn't delve into," she tells i-D. "It never really occurred to me [before TikTok] to look into Norse paganism and how they may use witchcraft in everyday life, for instance.”
As with IRL Wicca, witchcraft on TikTok is deeply embedded in individualism as much as community. Each TikTok witch has their own rituals or specialisms that they utilise in their daily life, whether that's seeking guidance from Tarot spreads, sage-ing their house to rid it of bad energy, harnessing energy from crystals and candles or running themselves a ‘moon bath’ to cleanse themselves at the start of a new moon. The central idea, no matter what your particular ritualistic preference, is a simple one: to get more in tune with both yourself and your environment. At a time where climate apocalypse is on all our minds, that feels like an especially prescient focus.
“Witchcraft gives you a better understanding of the world and how you can help,” Daisy explains. “I have found that I am more conscious of what I buy when doing my groceries for example. This means that there is also now a wider movement where those who practise are taking precautions when buying tools and herbs to make sure they are ethically sourced.”
Witchcraft and Wicca is open to interpretation and various ideologies, all rooted in self-care and preservation, which naturally leaves the religion and the community open to misunderstandings, misconceptions and ridicule. All of the witches we spoke to told us how they'd received judgemental comments online for their practice, but they're equally happy to shrug it off. And while some of TikTok's nu-witches have familial history with the practice, with traditions passed down from their mothers and grandmothers, still others discovered their communities and expertise completely online. Chanel Foreman (@raeraysplace) wants to bridge the gap between those with ancestral ties and newcomers, “My mother’s not a fan," she admits. "But she has an old way of thinking about witches. She believes if you're not a born witch you're a poser. Lol. I’m trying to change that. Just like how most taught witches laugh at the idea of a born witch. I’m trying to bring these two groups of thinkers together.”
Young subcultures have a stereotype, perhaps unfairly, of being exclusive sects, sniffing out these 'posers' and keeping them at arms length. But what seems to define TikTok's new generation of witches is conversely, the values of inclusivity and togetherness espoused by Chanel. “Sure, it can be considered mainstream and popular but everyone can be a witch,” Toni Helless (@them_fatale) explains. “You don't need to be female and you don't have to be born from pagan blood.” As a green wiccan they work a lot with plants and nature: “I personally recommend doing what I did and that's to study and learn from apps or videos or books before trying any type of spell.”
Basically, it's all about cracking the books and following the right people. No pointy hat or black cat required. But we might wear one anyway.