Move over Hygge, Chaos Magic is here
Witchcraft is having a moment – or a year, really. I first noticed it in November 2015, as a general feeling of despair had settled over New York and the country with Trump’s election, and more and more women started organizing in response. And while the overall movement was (and is) political, with rallies like the Women’s March, suburban political organizing and new leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez charging forth, a growing public turned to more esoteric means for overcoming feelings of powerlessness and rage.
As Michelle Goldberg said in a November 2017 NY Times article, “occultism often gains currency during times of social crisis.” The social crisis that’s spurned this movement didn’t start with Trump, as much as we’d like to scapegoat him. (Witch hunt, anyone?) Rather, it’s been gaining momentum over the past decade, with the 2008 stock market crash and events like the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and the Boston Marathon Bombing of the same year – first sparks that snowballed into the racist violence and mass shootings that today seem routine.
In her 2015 book “Witches of America,” Alex Mar wrote that there were 1 million practicing witches in the United States, a number just slightly smaller than practicing Buddhists and significantly larger than Orthodox Jews (at least according to BuzzFeed). In the two years that Mar spent researching her book, she noticed a visible growth in interest – so much so that an idea that seemed outlandish at the outset was later accused of “riding a trend” by the time of its publication.
The changes that the country has faced in the past decade: an ever widening wealth disparity, political polarization and disenfranchisement, increasingly limited access to healthcare, impending climate disaster, rampant racism and gun violence; all point to a society bereft of stability and autonomy. People whose suffering goes unnoticed, who feel powerless to make any real change in their situation, and who see their environment as chaotic, unpredictable, and basically unsafe are more likely to turn toward unconventional means of regaining their sense of control. Enter the witch; Bruja; Spiritualist; Reiki Healer; Herbalist; Crystal Healer; CBD enthusiast; Tarot Reader; Astrologist.
Occult, spiritual, and generally “alternative” practices have become so normalized as a lifestyle that they’ve engrained themselves into our visual culture. Minimalism is dead. Cold, shining white and chrome just emphasize the bleakness – the comforts we can’t afford or thought we didn’t need. At first we tried the Hygge thing, wrapping ourselves in thick knit blankets and powering on the gas fireplace and crying into our scented candles, but ultimately that was just embracing our powerlessness. This dark, zany maximalism you’re seeing everywhere these days? The trend forecasting group K-Hole called it in 2015: it's Chaos Magic. (K-hole is also the group who in 2013 gave us Normcore, you should definitely check them out.)
Decorating your home in times of social crisis
Find a color palette that matches your wrathful and rage-fueled inner monologue.