I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast where we're adventuring into the world of mindful modern magic and authentic spiritual practice. It's January 13, 2022, and today's topic is fads and tends in witchcraft and magic. Are you ready to grow your soul?
This may not be true for everyone listening to the podcast, but I’ve never really been, like, cool. I’ve… Like, I’ve always been one of those people who I swear by the time I latch onto a trend it has usually been so far past actually trendy that it’s retro. And I’ve gone through all the stages of relating to whatever is popular or whatever in different ways. The disdain for anything trendy. The rejection of fads and adoption of what are actually fads still but arise in reaction to other fads. The criticism and pushback against anything popular or trendy, especially when it feels like only certain people can adopt whatever the trend is. The guilty pleasure thing where you adopt the fad but try to do it in an ironic way. The flat out deciding that it doesn’t matter what others think and adopting trends and whatever anyway.
What does this have to do with magic and spirituality?
Basically, it occurred to me recently how much our attitudes and approaches, reactions, whatever to social patterns in general, social pressures and whatnot, how much that really does tie into our spiritual outlook. Because at some level our spirituality is always about our relationship to the world, to existence as we understand it.
And whether we like it or not, those reactions we have to, like, day to day or mundane social patterns and culture aren’t different to how we relate to existence spiritually. There are the same kinds of patterns of things becoming adopted as particularly relevant or popular or noteworthy and then fading in popularity or focus, just like with music or fashion or anything else.
So to start us off, I think it’s a valuable thing to consider what it means for there to be trends and fads in spirituality, in magical practice or witchcraft, because it’s really just part of the core experience of being human in human societies. I think this is one of those things that we kind of lose context on, lose sense of when we look back at history because if a trend lasts long enough it becomes a style, a cultural marker that we associate with the time when it was at its height.
Even back to pre-historic societies, we talk about them in terms of the style of blades or pottery they made, and that’s essentially picking out and designating groups of people based on the prevalent trends they created and adopted. This is as much a natural part of human consciousness as magic is. And if we were to actually be able to go back to those ancient civilizations and observe the development of these pottery styles or whatever, to figure out why and how they arose and what they signified, we’d know a whole lot about that group of people, that society.
Every trend that pops up, no matter how long it sticks around or how significant it is, says something about the people who adopt it. They reflect specific circumstances and aspects of a culture. Even what seems like the weirdest fads that pop up and quickly go away happen because they satisfy something of a collective desire or interest. And whether we adopt trends or even just find them interesting or amusing versus whether we reject and ridicule them has everything to do with whether we’re part of the culture they came from, our relative feelings of connection to that culture or group, that sort of thing.
And all of that ties right into our spirituality because it informs our worldview and reflects our values and connections.
So while we’re sitting here considering this stuff, I’m going to ask you to be honest with yourself, to honestly consider whether your core values, your authentic approach to your existence within society, mean that you consider it important to be strongly connected to and accepted by the society or whether you consider it important to resist being shaped and influenced by society. When it comes to our core values, our authentic core values, I think this is one of the most important ones to dig into because not only do our relationships with the rest of society and the groups we’re in work as a jumping off point for tracing back to some of our formative moments and deep insight into ourselves, but being honest with ourselves about this stuff isn’t always as easy or obvious as we think it might be.
Like, I never as a kid really felt truly welcomed into groups, I was kind of taught in my family environment that we were kind of on the outskirts of society but in a way that, like, we were supposed to be proud of that and have a certain amount of contempt for the mainstream. But really looking at how that has played out in my life, if I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, I have always resented not being part of whatever was going on, not feeling able to participate in trends, not being cool or accepted. There’s definitely a tug of war going on internally between wanting to be part of things and feeling like it’s not my place. And it shows up in my attitude towards stuff like the trends and fads that pop up in the spiritual and witchcraft spaces I’m in, both online and off, simultaneously feeling drawn to them and wanting to kind of preemptively push them away.
So when it comes to trends that arise in the spiritual communities we’re part of, what are your reactions and where do those things come from? Because it absolutely goes deeper than just spiritual or practical considerations, although there are those factors as well. And I want to get into that next.
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Now back to the episode!
There’s actually a difference between a trend and a fad even though in a lot of cases those words get used somewhat interchangeably. I think of it kind of the same way as rectangles and squares. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, and all fads are trends but not all trends are fads. It mostly has to do with longevity. Fads come and go very quickly, while trends persist. And if a trend continues long enough, it becomes an established practice.
I think it’s important to put aside ideas of, like, fads are always stupid or whatever that might come up for you as we’re getting into this, at least, you know, for the duration of this episode so we can actually look at things objectively. Because even spiritual or magical fads are driven by some underlying desire or need that whatever it is fulfills in the moment. Those underlying reasons aren’t necessarily good or healthy, but they do exist.
So, let’s think about how trends and fads arise and happen in the first place. They all start out as an idea, a choice, or a behavior. One person or subgroup does something, starts the pattern, and the extent to which it is picked up and perpetuated in the larger context happens organically. People see others do something or have something, hear something recommended, somehow observe and become aware of whatever it is and then either pick up or reject that thing based on their own internal judgments on the situation.
Of course, there’s kind of the force of marketing and such that comes into play more and more these days, but I want to kind of set that aside right now and take the discussion, deal with this as an organic thing.
If you’ve listened much to the podcast or read Deep Self Magic, you’ll probably already know what I’m about to say, but here it is: No matter what we think of any given trend or fad or whatever, whether it’s in the spiritual context or not, it’s part of spirit. It’s the passing of ideas from one person to another, spreading like a wave across a culture or a group, and it’s literally the flow of spiritual energy. So the extent to which we choose to engage with it is a spiritual decision, even if it has nothing to do with our practice.
But lots of fads do have to do with our practices or at least the context around our practices. If we’re part of a spiritual group, a religious group, even just a larger context like being part of the pagan community or smaller groups like specifically the, like, if you’re part of a local coven, if we’re in a group there are going to be trends that arise within that group that then become relevant to our practice. Depending on our position in those groups, we might even feel like it’s part of our responsibility to judge these trends or speak out in favor or against, that kind of thing.
And there are a lot of reasons to not just rely on knee-jerk reactions to fads when they come up. Because at some level the fact that they become fads or trends means that if we trace them to their roots, to the reason why they’ve become a phenomenon, we’ll find out something important about the state of the community or group in that moment.
So recently I know there’s been a big uptick in demand for moldavite because of the influence of social media. A trend with a little bit longer history and timeline is the movie and book The Secret pushing the Law of Attraction and the concept of manifestation into the world of witchcraft and magical practice. When I first started getting into paganism and witchcraft, it seemed like everyone was an eclectic solitary practitioner, and that seems to be waning. People now seem to be gravitating towards specific traditions with more specific labels and frameworks. Every single one of those trends is happening because of other dynamics which probably have a lot more to do with our own practices and spiritual lives than the trends do. So, like, people suddenly being obsessed with moldavite has a lot to do with the properties attribute to it, the reported dramatic impacts it can have, and the fact that many new practitioners are finding their advice, mentors, and examples on social media platforms like TikTok where drama has a lot of value and power. There’s lots to pick through there, and underneath it all is the dynamic of pandemic life, lots of people already pushed to rethink and restructure their lives, less opportunities for many to connect in real life, and the way virtual groups on social media prioritize things that play well for clicks and likes.
And while we can get judgy about those things, there is a real need and demand in the witchcraft community for advice and guidance, teaching, inspiration and examples. People are looking for powerful spiritual tools because there is so much uncertainty and need for stability and desire for quick spiritual fixes, and that’s… It’s likely that there are things we’re all experiencing in our lives and practices which, you know, relate, like disconnection and lack of guidance and maybe even ways in which the pandemic-driven shifts in our lives might make us want to explore things we would have ignored before. Same thing with any trend. Any fad.
So whatever current phenomenon you can think of when it comes to the spiritual communities you’re in, take a moment to practice the process of considering why it’s even a thing. What has driven its popularity, what attracts people to it, and what need is it filling? What does that reveal about the larger community needs and dynamics?
And don’t do this from a position of trying to figure out what’s wrong with people or whatever – not from a place of judgment. Do your best to set aside whatever gut judgment you have because there are probably pieces to the puzzle you’re missing. It doesn’t need to change your mind or your choices, but a full understanding of what is going on around you is always beneficial to our practices and our magic.
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The last thing I want to talk about is the practical usefulness of trends and fads, specifically in the spiritual space. Because yeah, they arise for a reason, they resonate with people for various reasons, filling some kind of need in a community. They’re kind of a window into the changes and dynamics going on within any given group.
But the thing is, they’re not entirely just a reflection or a byproduct of deeper things going on. One one hand, they’re the mechanism, or at least one mechanism, by which change happens, especially in groups where there’s not a lot of formal structure. The more loosely organized a group, the more the changes within it are driven by, like, just organic flow of ideas. And that organic flow of ideas happens through trends and patterns and fads. It’s like ripples in a pond. They happen when something disturbs the surface. If there are lots of interruptions and structures and stuff to stand in the way of the ripples, they don’t propagate outside those limits. But when it’s a wide open body of water, they keep going until they meet other waves or the shores or whatever.
So especially when we talk about pagan communities, witchy communities, the trends which happen are really the mechanism by which change happens. There is no formal, like, board of people, no group of clergy to sit down and render judgment on whatever things people pick up on and start doing. Which is why it’s actually healthy to, you know, engage to some extent with the inevitable discussions that are going to pop up around trends the more popular they become within whatever community we’re in. Community acceptance or rejection is what stands in for formal decisions and guidance in informal groups.
I know there was… I don’t know if this is a thing anymore, I never actually ran in groups where this was a thing I witnessed, but for a while I heard fairly often from people in my local pagan community about especially young, new practitioners using emojis online to try and cast spells. These were, like, complaints and ridicule mostly. Like, all these crazy kids wanting to get into witchcraft, doing stupid emoji spells, isn’t this terrible?
The thing is, if that really was a trend, there’s actually quite a lot of different dynamics that, like… a lot of reasons this might have been a thing. It’s often kind of hard to find guidance in the pagan community especially when you’re young and just starting out and unsure what are good resources and what aren’t. Also, it’s not hard to understand why there’s a desire to do magic with what is familiar and easy to access, unlike all the traditional supplies, so something that’s free and communal is going to be attractive. Also, there’s the impact of social media on the way especially new practitioners understand the reality of magical practice including the goals and such. Because if someone only really has a window into the community through that lens, then performative stuff done for aesthetic and in the interest of getting likes and follows is going to lead to a very particular type of practice when they get into action.
The thing is it’s important for the community and subsets of the community to not just see this and try to ridicule it and dismiss it, but also to acknowledge that there’s a need for resources and guidance for newbies, that there’s interest in modernized and creative practice and not just the traditional stuff, that the more of us who share our practice online without being really transparent about what the reality is behind the scenes the more we skew the nature of modern practice, etc. Like, these aren’t issues of “is this fad dumb or not.” These things happen and the community, whether we are mindful and organized about it or not, is going to fall into discussions about the pros and cons and implications and ramifications and unless the stuff that prompts those discussions does turn out to be a fad and go away, there will be longer term changes that come out of that discourse.
And like I said, this is true for all trends in all groups, even the formal ones, although in those cases it’s often harder to have those discussions and the change comes in the form of tension, pressure, and sometimes eventually splinter groups forming if the motivating dynamics behind trends and the push for change is significant enough.
And that means that at some level, those of us who tend to reject trends and whatever in general, whether we realize it or not, are essentially actively working towards the preservation of the status quo, whatever that happens to be. And it’s very much worth considering where we really stand and what we really want for the groups we’re part of.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.