By Bianca Guzzo
Movies like The Wizard of Oz and general history about witches have shaped how we think witches look and act. Folklore has taught us that nothing good comes from their “black magic” and that witches call upon the devil to conjure their spells, but thanks to TikTok, self-proclaimed “modern witches” have been able to share their magic in a way that’s super easy for just about anybody to connect with. They’re here to help you manifest your wildest dreams, banish an ex, or attract your dream job. They use tarot cards, crystals, and they’ll even teach you how to decode your birth chart. Whether you think there’s any real power behind them or not, they’ve not only gained loyal followings, but they’re also partly responsible for bringing a subculture that has long existed in the shadows of society into the mainstream. This new age of witchcraft has not only made alternative forms of spirituality more socially acceptable, but it’s made metaphysical practices quite trendy, too.
The first time I was introduced to witchcraft was obsessively watching episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a kid. I was enchanted everytime Sabrina could make anything she wanted come true with the wave of her finger. It turns out witchcraft isn’t just waving your finger to get a hot fudge sundae. Its magic is rooted in hundreds, if not thousands of years of tradition and it’s become trendy through a niche corner of TikTok that’s grown over the past few years. Now it’s more about using the power of manifestation and drawing the energies of the universe to work with you in accomplishing all of your goals. USAToday.com describes WitchTok as “a thriving community of creators who share a common link of magic and witchcraft”, and attribute the popularity of WitchTok as a direct response to the loss of control we felt through the thick of the pandemic. As people suddenly had a lot of free time during the pandemic, they started exploring with their own tarot decks and learning the energetic properties of crystals. When WitchTok started making waves on the social media app, the creators behind it claimed to have years of practice under their belts. They created accounts to share what they loved most about the craft with whoever was interested in listening. People liked having a connection and an answer to the unexplainable things we were experiencing. In the same article USAToday also mentions that WitchTok is popular among the queer community, who have historically felt excluded from certain organized religions. Witchtok gives people from every corner of the earth a judgment-free space to dabble in spirituality on their own terms, and that message of inclusion really resonated with people.
As it started gaining popularity other creators saw the opportunity for growing their audience through engagement and started making their own content. It felt like it became oversaturated thanks to the way the app’s algorithm worked. There was a moment when if you liked or interacted with one video of a card reading or crystal intuition test, your feed would be flooded with similar videos. For the most part, WitchTok has been really welcoming with a “the more the merrier” mentality, but it also became obvious when spiritual content was being posted purely as engagement-bait. Viral “manifestation sounds” that promise to deliver a lump sum of money to your bank account by the morning are suddenly backed by users saying they woke up to surprise deposits in their bank accounts after interacting with the post. Videos of tarot readings made to deliver a message from the universe “just for you” promise that your soulmate will send you a message if you like, save, and share the video with a friend. Even worse, some videos vow that your entire life will go to shambles if you don’t like or comment on it which can cause panic among superstitious users who put their trust and belief into this specific content. It creates a cycle where people feel they need to interact with a post in order to avoid bad luck in their lives.
Unsurprisingly, this modern form of witchcraft has its skeptics. In 2022 TikToker Ethan Keiser called upon the witches of TikTok to curse him by sending them samples of his hair and fingernails to complete the spells. The point of the experiment was to provide his viewers with “critical thinking” skills when it came to consuming this content. After months Keiser remained unscathed by the attempts to “hex him”. WitchTok and modern witchcraft really isn’t about miracles and fast-acting hexes, though. Now it’s more about finding a deeper connection to the universe and the people around us. It’s also about harnessing the powers from the laws of attraction. Manifestation or “The Law of Attraction” hit the mainstream in 2006 after celebrities like Oprah began promoting The Secret, but according to selfpause.com, the practice of making your dreams into a reality can be traced back to a 1906 book called Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World, though people have probably been practicing it for much longer. Witchtok reinforces that manifesting is something anyone can do, and it doesn’t require any money or resources to do it, making it an inclusive introduction into the world of modern magic.
As of October 2023, the WitchTok tag on TikTok has an astounding 48.8 billion views, and more people are being drawn to new spiritual practices every day. For many it’s not only a community they can self-identify with but it’s also a way for them to feel connected to the universe, which may also be a source of comfort or purpose for some. Whether you want to do a ritual to banish a clingy ex from your DMs, strengthen your intuition, or simply learn how to read your birth chart, there is a video or creator on TikTok that can supply you with the knowledge and the resources to do so. Witches have come a long way from being ostracized and living in the shadows of society to unapologetically sharing their magic with the masses, and even though there are skeptics it shouldn’t stop you from exploring something that interests you. After all, everybody has a bit of magic in them.