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Occultism, and witchcraft in particular, has reached its cultural peak moment here in the teen years of the 21st century. We have, through a confluence of social media, mobile devices, inexpensive publishing and the efforts of a few dozen half baked authors, found ourselves in a position in which those things that were once closely guarded secrets are now Vice articles and blogs (just like this one really).
In this age of instant communication the population of those who self describe as “witch” and “magician” is astounding. By estimates made in the 1970s there were fewer than 5000 people between Europe and America who practiced magic in any serious way. Today, based on book sales and media exposure, that number is easily in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Who are these people who claim titles and lineage, who pander to personality cults and fill tumblr blogs with pictures of expensive toys bought on etsy for their altars?
Many are those who ultimately are seeking a subculture, like punk or edm. They seek a group to belong to, and the romanticism surrounding the witch narrative is deceptively inviting. They buy the books (or download them for free), they collect bits and bobs and dabble in ritual and charm.
More often these seekers are looking for a place of power in a world that leaves them powerless. Disaffected individuals who want so desperately to have something of their own, to have strength when the world has robbed them of hope. To hold a defense where none is provided by the consumer culture in which most of us are trapped.
But the Path is not something that can sustain the traffic of millions. The craft is hidden to many who, for all intents and purposes, are blinded by their own desire to belong and have power. They go through the charms and books, say the words and do the things they are told and yet nothing occurs. They may fool themselves for awhile but sooner or later the lack of results in their workings bores them and they wander on, seeking another subculture in which to find shelter.
In a smaller way it has always been like this. So many come and try and fail and eventually move on. It is not for everyone this life. But something else is occurring here in this zenith of occulture. The selling out of the craft. The turning of these ideas into a marketing practice, the attention seeking costumed pretenders who go about their practice in the public. They bring along photographers to their sabbats, allow their private spaces to be depicted in articles, and use the role they have assumed to garner fame and glory in the pages of publications far and wide. They build a cult of personality around themselves using some hastily read mishmash of eastern religions, yoga and the trappings of some occult practice.
“We know that there is a negative involved in financially gaining from the practice of the Craft. A diminishing of its sacredness that inhibits the purpose of our Craft. Those of us who continue on regardless of this negative ultimately suffer the consequences.” - The Tenets of the Folkwitch
A specific and troubling trend among this group is the “casting a spell on a public figure” as a form of performance art. Where black velvet clad people gather in some public place and do some “witchy” things that claim to be “cursing” some politician, entertainer, etc all with an audience and the press in tow. Of course nothing happens from these gatherings other than a bump in sales for their self published books, maybe an interview on some occult podcast or another. Does it affect the person claimed to be their victim? Never.
There have grown in the last decade quite a large number of false practitioners who claim to have mastered some fanciful secret path. Who will teach you, for a nominal fee, the secrets to power and riches, to god like powers over the people around you that they claim to hold. They will sell you a book via their youtube channel that will make you wealthy and beautiful and scary and powerful and all of the adjectives you ever wanted. Except they won’t, because they haven’t a fucking clue what they are talking about.
The greatest power one can have is self perception. The ability to face the realities of the world around you, the limitations and variables that form your worldview. If you can not admit to failure, how can you ever know when you have found success?
“We realize that all living traditions and histories inform and influence one another, that concepts of purity and "true paths” are nonsense. Culture is an incongruous hybrid of ideas, no less the practice of natural magic. There is only the sound of the sky, the spirits of the earth, the old ways. There is no truth.“ - The Tenets of the Folkwitch
Many claim a power they do not have. Would be gurus, secret handshake club members, covens of black turtle neck wearing assholes who look like Steve Jobs if he never cut his hair or nails. They will tell you they have power, to harm and to help. They will use all of the skills of their sociopathic bag of tricks to make you believe. And you may buy into it, believe that what they say is real and you too are one of the chosen. But there is only one way to know for sure.
If you want to know if you are really a witch, kill someone with just magic. Thats right, go out and find a victim and using no means by which you could otherwise be blamed, using only the power of ritual and charm, take another person’s life. It should be someone you really, really hate. No sickness spells or loves spells, no little charms that could just be a coincidence. Take a fucking life of some shitbag and then, and only then, will you know.
If you are on the Path, it will reveal itself to you. For the thousands upon thousands who claim authority and knowledge, who take every public opportunity to pronounce their greatness, who constantly proclaim their abilities to harm and curse, there are very, very few who can do any of these things and none of them talk about it in public forums. Its not a game of dress up, the spirits aren’t making your candle flicker, you aren’t going to become a god. Either you can harm and heal, or you can not.
This one is coming along nicely! Thinking I may add a boarder (and recentre it) and then list it for sale? I definitely want to do more dinosaur skulls so let me know your favourites and I’ll give them a go
Jessica So Ren Tang is a Chinese-American artist.
She received a Bachelor of Art in Studio Art from Mills College, Oakland, and has exhibited in various galleries.
With embroidery, I explore my Asian-American born identity-the dualism of being too Asian to be American, and too American to be Asian. In my object series, I recreate familiar Asian American objects that take on the visual identity of the original object but reject said identity due to its material.
In my girl series, I replace the facial identity of suggestively posed Asian women with Asian textile patterns. The patterned skin creates a broader spectrum of Asian identity; it becomes more ambiguous and fluid as identity moves between the two.