When you think of the term witchcraft, you might think of the beloved book and film series Harry Potter, or perhaps you might think of something a little more evil. Maybe Angelica Houston in The Witches, or you might be thinking back to old fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, where a witch wanted to fatten up the children and eventually gobble them up. You might think back to childhood, perhaps remembering a time when you longed for magical powers or the ability to yield a wand. While some of us merely accepted the idea that magic is pure fantasy, some have actually learned how to master it. It isn’t through a wave of a magic wand or the cause of fantastical events, but rather something more subtle and in a way, more helpful. Magic comes through the form of spirituality, ranging from meditation to Wiccan practices. Witchcraft today is much gentler than we might be used to from literature and television, leaning on spirituality more than anything else.
Many spiritual, self identifying “witches” find themselves on the popular app TikTok, so much so that they have even coined a name for their “side” of TikTok: Witchtok. Lauren Byrnes, LMU student and Witchtok content creator under the name WildFlowerWisdom, started her influencer journey with a touch of magic. With the use of a manifestation spell, Byrnes was able to build a platform. She started by making a video. “When I was demonstrating the spell on TikTok, I decided to make the spell with the intention of this video to blow up, and that was my first video to hit a million views. I was like, wow, that spell worked so quickly.”
Byrnes has built quite the platform over her time on TikTok (wild.flower.wisdom), gaining about 258,000 followers and 5.7 million likes with her witchy and spiritual content. If you’ve spent time on Witchtok, you’ll notice a wide array of videos, from hexes to garden magic, but the most important thing according to most practicing witches and Byrnes is the concept of manifestation. “It all ties back to the law of attraction which is the basic universal principle that what you put out into the world and the thoughts that you think have a vibrational frequency and that frequency will line up with what you’re trying to manifest.”
Due to the unique and dark history of magic and witchcraft, many people have reservations about incorporating spiritual Wiccan or witchcraft practices into their daily lives. Most people will connect witchcraft to the Salem witch trials that happened in 1692. These trials consisted of hanging supposed “witches” for performing spells and black magic. These trials even inspired the Author Miller play The Crucible, along with several other horror/ Halloween movies (Hocus Pocus, The Blair Witch Project and of course, Scooby Doo).
As the story goes, the daughter of the town Reverend became very ill and was diagnosed with possession via witchcraft by the village doctor. This one event caused the unlawful hangings of 19 men and women in the town, who were either accused of being witches or of being associated with witchcraft. Today, it’s hard to understand how any of this could have happened. One of the leading factors of these trials is religion and the strong belief that the people of Salem had in the work of the devil and the supernatural. This belief was brought with the pilgrims from Europe and stayed with them for a long time after. According to the accounts of the trials, the people who were apparently “bewitched” would experience delusions, vomiting and muscle spasms.
The concept of the witch has since been modernized, and many people who identify as witches today may practice Wicca, which is recognized as a religion. Wicca stems from paganism, but there are some pagan traditions rooted in witchcraft that are not practiced in Wiccan culture. Wicca is a spiritual practice centered around finding the “divine in nature.” Many Wiccan traditions and celebrations are centered around nature and the phases of the moon. These holidays can occur during Midsummer, Yule, Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. Some Wiccans may worship gods or goddesses, most of which are Greek, and they may also work with spirit guides, defined as “evolved spiritual beings that are connected to your soul to help you grow, evolve and learn in this lifetime.”
Witchcraft goes beyond the Salem Witch trials and European Pagan beliefs, however. Magic, the supernatural and witchcraft all have beginnings in several places, from China to Cuba. Religions that have come out of the cultures of people of color include Santeria, Candomble, Vodoun (commonly known as Voodoo) and Brujeria, which is what Emrys Costello grew up practicing.
Costello, who works for Mystic Connections, an Orange County based witchcraft store that sells, “crystals, jewelry, divination tools and metaphysical supplies,” has always found a connection with the spiritual world of witchcraft and crystal work. “I started as early as five incorpting crystals into my life. I had a rose quartz and blue calcite that I found at a rock shop, and since then I’ve just been incorporating them.”
How do crystals even work? Some might see crystals as just a pretty rock, but many crystals, including quartz, are used in modern technology. It’s through their contribution to technology that we are able to understand how crystal work ties in with manifestation. Quartz, for example, is used in the making of phones, televisions and watches due to their incredible use of vibration. Their ability to hold a vibration is how they are able to help, especially with manifestation. According to witchcraft, everything has energy, including thoughts. By putting our energy into certain crystals, that crystal can hold onto that vibration and help you achieve your goal simply by maintaining the positive vibration.
It can’t be denied that magic and witchcraft have a negative connotation. Today, people are still being killed over being labeled a witch in certain countries. The term witch itself comes from a long history of racism. Take the Salem witch trials for example. One of the first arrests made during the trials was the arrest of Tituba, the Caribbean slave of the town minister (uncle to Abigail Williams, the child diagnosed with “possession”). Tituba was arrested because Abigail Williams accused her of bewitching her and her sister, due to her different cultural practices that the Christian town members considered the work of the devil, simply because of the differences of religious practices. Most forms of witchcraft, whether it be Brujeria or Voodoo, have been demonized by white European christians, and that connotation still latches on today. Some even go as far as to say that witchcraft is the same as satanism. While dark magic does exist according to Byrnes, it isn’t part of what she and many other witches practice.
“What’s really beautiful about everything in this world is that it’s all tied to free will. So if you don’t believe that something can affect you, then you’re protected.” She goes on to explain the dangers of messing with dark magic, and how all negative energy put out can come back to you. “I personally steer clear from anything that can cause negativity or harm. I feel like most people who are on witchtok and all of that are in the same mindset as me.”
Many people also believe that magic, manifestation and spells are all acts of the placebo effect taking place. Oftentimes, the work of magic can be written off as a coincidence and not as something deliberate. To that, Byrnes says that belief is the most important and pivotal part of magic. “Belief is like the most powerful thing there is. Belief is what manifests your reality. So if you don’t believe that a crystal is going to help you and you see it as just like a rock then to you, it’s just gonna be a rock, but like, the placebo is one of the most powerful things out there.” When it comes to crystals, Costello agrees, “I think they do help people if they’re open to it, but if someone is not open to them, then it’s just not going to do anything for you.”
These days, I’m not exactly looking to suddenly gain the power of telekinesis or the ability to use a wand. I think I’m just looking for a bit of magic in this thing we call life, and I think this is what witchcraft is all about. Real life magic isn’t making something disappear, or being able to stir your tea without the use of your hand. Real life magic comes from the world around you, from the Earth we live on. The small, often unnoticed intricacies of life and nature are all part of what makes up magic. Byrnes reflects on her path of spirituality, and how her use of witchcraft has helped her through her journey. “Spirituality has made me a much happier and much more stable person. I take the time to know what’s going on with myself and do the things that I know make me feel good. It’s put me on a path to living my best, more fulfilled life.”