When people say we're going to hell, I say "Thanks! Very productive."
August 26, 2019 8:40 AM   Subscribe

How Witchcraft Is Empowering Queer and Trans Young People. NYC's oldest occult store, Enchantments, is still thriving after 37 years. An interview with owner Stacy Rapp, "A Modern-Day Witch Explains How Magic Can Empower Women".

A reminder that there are people who practice witchcraft and occultism on MetaFilter. Please engage in such a way that people don't feel defensive about their practice.
posted by stoneweaver (17 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah, Enchantments. :-) I stopped by there and by another place a couple blocks away a lot when I lived on the Lower East Side.

A college friend who pretty much all-in converted to Wicca had a good observation on this kind of spellcraft, and by extension about any ritual. In a sense, you are speaking in the language of symbol when you do this kind of ritual activity, which she claimed was a way to engage your subconscious and focus its attention towards your purpose. So even if you didn't necessarily believe that it was the god Mizelthorp that made things happen, it still may be worth going through these rituals to cement for your subconscious that "hmm, we just did something pretty elaborate as a way of trying to make this particular thing happen, this must be important. Lemme work on that a bit." It's a sort of intentional meditation.

A lot of the spells also take more than one day to achieve, particularly those candles, so that's another way of focusing your intention on something you want because every day you're like "oh yeah I gotta light that candle". And that makes you pay attention to the fact that "oh yeah I wanted to do this", and that makes it a tiny bit more likely that you'll be thinking "while I"m at it, lemme go do some stuff that will also help", and that's what really does the work.

Positive energy is also a pretty strong code of ethics. It's all about what will be good for you, but without hurting anyone else. Like, if you're facing a situation where one of your co-workers is just being a total jackass, you'd probably be tempted to go get something that would curse them - but you would be discouraged from that, and told that "listen, I know that you may want to get them fired, but at the heart of that all that you really want is for them to leave you alone. So let's focus on getting you protected from them instead." And you're shifted away from "I curse my enemy" to "I am protecting myself". Which achieves the same goal, but in a much more positive way. Or if you go in and you're hoping to get a love candle to attract "that guy Brent at my gym who is sooooo fine," you will be encouraged to expand that to "someone like Brent or someone even better." You don't want to control Brent. You want someone like Brent. (Maybe it is Brent, maybe not.)

My cosmology is a much more universal thing that is a gumbo of everything now, but this is still in there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on August 26, 2019 [35 favorites]


The lead article is about twenty thousand words too short to describe how interesting this phenomenon is. I've been watching lately as some queer friends use tarot as part of their spiritual practice, and it raises a lot of questions that I don't feel comfortable asking, precisely because I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable or feel like they have to defend what they're doing. At the same time, I'm a queer who was involved in witchcraft and occultism of various flavors as a younger person, and still keep a pack of tarot cards in my drawer here to flip through occasionally, but I feel like my interest is much more academic and much less about personal empowerment these days.

All this (waves hands around vaguely) always came in such markedly gendered packaging, and was extremely cishet-focused, so it's a relief to see queer and trans kids making it their own, shaping and adapting things, and that's what I wish there were many more words about. My impression back then as a kid was that witchcraft was for girls, was sensitive, was emotional and about connections to things and people, other forms of occultism were for boys, were detailed, were ceremonial and about parsing out the right way to do things and arguing about them. The division seemed like one more gendered thing to fail at.

I'm also so curious about the role of evil in these practices. There was so much abjuration of evil, when I last explored this stuff. An insistence that what one was doing had nothing to do with the evil mythological figures of witch-and-devil, or that the devil must be understood symbolically as a force of nature rather than Evil Incarnate. But if you grow up queer, you're already marked out as evil by the culture, you're basically born in league with the devil, and it always struck me as sad that there wasn't a better way to leverage that.

Anyway, great topic, and thank you stoneweaver for posting it!
posted by mittens at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2019 [17 favorites]


Is this May Metafilter post on the rise of Astrology in LGBTQ+ circles a Previously?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2019


Queer ex-Catholics doing witchcraft is incredibly up my alley. Thanks for the post!

A friend showed me her cauldron on the weekend, and I'm very jealous because it is just such a solid piece of metal, very satisfying to hold. We didn't have time to do anything, unfortunately, but the future holds great promise.
posted by Acid Communist at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Deep diving into modern day paganism is so amazing, but each source or group can be so dramatically different from another it's sort of wild. There are some amazing friendly queer groups and some that just... Aren't.

I've been lucky in that I have my closest friends through my practice.

For me it was incredibly empowering, coming out of a southern babptist home mixed in with severe abuse where everything about me was always wrong and I had been told how everything was keeping others from godly whatever. I found a space that was very much celebrating not just female empowerment but that everything created and an expression of someone higher and that was something I needed. It also emphasized choices, a choice to be kind and that was something I could do. Evil I do have an explosion for and it's my own that I'd rather not ramble about that here.

Ultimately, I needed permission to be queer and silly and sexual and have hope and be human and witchcraft allowed me to explore that safely and openly.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:17 AM on August 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


Going back to being a witch has maybe literally saved my life the past few years.

And I am noticing, with some amusement, that even my (I'm pretty sure) completely non-pagan friends (primarily those who are not cis men) increasingly casually identify in memes and jokes as witches. This seems fine since they're gonna get accused of it anyway when the dudes with torches come, whether they have any form of practice or not.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


...people say we're going to hell...

Perhaps Hell isn’t so bad. I believe the Raven King has a realm on the other side of Hell which I have heard is agreeably like Yorkshire.
posted by Segundus at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Oh my! I was friends with Stacy in college and she is 100% awesome. I check in on what's happening with Enchantments from time to time, and it's terrific to see the place she's found for herself. thanks for posting this!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:32 PM on August 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm also so curious about the role of evil in these practices. There was so much abjuration of evil, when I last explored this stuff... But if you grow up queer, you're already marked out as evil by the culture, you're basically born in league with the devil, and it always struck me as sad that there wasn't a better way to leverage that.

I've spent some time online hanging out on the periphery of some hoodoo/conjure/rootwork communities. There are a lot of gay men in hoodoo, many of whom are relatively well known as the owners of spiritual supply shops and as professional spiritual workers. Hoodoo does not follow Wicca's threefold law, and allows darker types of workings if it is justified (which is often ascertained by divination or by consulting one's spirits.) Some people's spirits are pretty permissive... lol. Although there are many workers who have a personal code of ethics which includes a statement of what types of workings they will and won't do. Most of the gay men I am aware of are not the ones throwing curses and doing breakup spells with wild abandon, but they do have the option.

Hoodoo is a system of (African-American) folk magic, as opposed to a religion, although much of its imagery is Christian or Bible-based (for example some folks work heavily with the Psalms.) So you get the empowerment of a magical practice, without the goddess element of witchcraft, which may explain some of the appeal.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:57 PM on August 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Just going to leave this here: https://www.reddit.com/r/WitchesVsPatriarchy/

I just rescued yet another frog from indoors. It seemed to not want to get out of my hand even after gentle prodding and instead turned around and climbed back into my palm to gaze at me for a while. It was very cute.

To me paganism is really about healing self and others. It does not attempt to make sense of the chaotic universe but learns to dance with it and listen to it. I am very non-traditional and chaotic, and work can be as simple as listening to nature, or as complex as music, art or dancing. Sometimes - but not often - I write spells into comments and stories. Sometimes I don't realize they were spells until I re-read them years later.

Be well.
posted by loquacious at 8:46 PM on August 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


so that's another way of focusing your intention on something you want because every day you're like "oh yeah I gotta light that candle". And that makes you pay attention to the fact that "oh yeah I wanted to do this", and that makes it a tiny bit more likely that you'll be thinking "while I"m at it, lemme go do some stuff that will also help", and that's what really does the work.
Thank you for this! I've always been uncomfortable with religion of every kind because it feels to me to be actively harmful in terms of opportunity-cost of doing other things that actually help (e.g., sending thoughts and prayers and calling it a day, rather than donating or volunteering or doing activism). The idea of it being a consistent behavioral structure for reminding onesself to actually act makes a lot of sense, and I hope people actually use it that way.
posted by dmd at 5:04 AM on August 27, 2019 [9 favorites]


The idea of it being a consistent behavioral structure for reminding onesself to actually act makes a lot of sense, and I hope people actually use it that way.

Oh, there's similar thinking in all religions, actually. Pray, sure, but also get your hands dirty. It's not like God is going to reach down a giant hand and do stuff for you.

In fact, there's an old joke that pokes fun at that kind of mindset: something about a person who's in an area where there's severe flooding, and they have to climb onto their roof to escape the rising flood. They're praying away, and first a couple of their neighbors row by in a rowboat and offer to carry them to safety, then a National Guard boat comes by. Both times the person waves them off saying "the Lord will save me." The waters rise high enough that they eventually have to climb up and perch on their chimney, but when a helicopter comes to try to rescue them they wave them off too, saying "the Lord will save me." The water eventually rises too high and they drown. When they get to Heaven, they complain to God that "what happened? I prayed to You for help and You let me drown!" God just retorts, "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what else did you want?"

The reason I think there are so many people who think that prayer is all they need to do is kind of the same reason that so many people fall into that kind of social media slactivism, where they share or "like" a post to fight cancer or whatever - it's because laziness is part of the human condition. We all want the easy fix. But we all have to actually put in some work for ourselves.

There are probably plenty of Wiccans who just light their magic Get Me A Job candle and think that's all they need to do. Just like there are many unemployed Catholics who probably pray a novena to St. Catejan (he's patron saint of the unemployed) and think that's it. But both the Wiccan tradition and the Catholic church would tell each of these people that ".....uh, yeah, you do also have to do the legwork of actually applying for jobs, y'know."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on August 27, 2019 [8 favorites]


A sad example of neglecting to put in the mundane work: I know of a spiritual worker, someone who taught about various methods of spiritual protection and taking a cautious approach to magical work due to what they believed were its potential dangers, who accidentally set their house on fire with a candle and perished in the fire because they did not have a working smoke detector in their home. :(
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Great post! Of my four friends, all of whom are gay and/or trans and/or gnc, three of them are pagan. That's a coincidence, but now I'm a gay and trans person getting into paganism, so it's definitely spreading. Three of us have catholic roots and all of us are in therapy. 'Internal therapy' is how I've been contextualizing most of the ritual stuff my friends have shown me, basically the same way as the idea of it as intentional meditation. Definitely when I do tarot for myself, I'm just trying to get clarity on what I think. But the missing step from just meditating on something to using it as a reminder to actually act has made something click into place for me about where I want to take my witchcraft! Plus this from the vice article: It's a supernatural form of self-defense that Hendrix says includes amulets that fight off mis-gendering, rituals that provide protection when walking down the street, and paying honor to queer and trans ancestors who don't have descendants of their own paying homage. I love it.

All this (waves hands around vaguely) always came in such markedly gendered packaging, and was extremely cishet-focused

I'm SO glad I got into it thru my friends because I run into this so much and it's so offputting. I know there's a bit of wicca that apparently attracts terfs, which imo is just the gender essentialism of most of the (waving hands around) taken to its logical end. Trying to look into different creation myths when it kept coming up for me, all of them were hetero man-woman-halves-of-a-whole type deals, which appeals to me as a bigender person honestly but I know it's the same type of thing. And I checked out a few pagan stores in a big city recently and the one that was marked most feminist and gay-friendly was covered in cis woman imagery that made me dysphoric )-:

Also, But if you grow up queer, you're already marked out as evil by the culture, you're basically born in league with the devil, and it always struck me as sad that there wasn't a better way to leverage that.

One of my friends follows Santa Muerte, previously talked about for being popular with "outsiders" from criminals to trans people. The way my friend describes her and her attitude makes her sound not evil or immoral but kind of ... chaotic neutral? Individualistic morality? In a way that it makes sense it would appeal to people already marking their own lifestyles outside of societal norms.
posted by gaybobbie at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


Even beyond the terfy biological essentialists, there's still a lot of cis-centric language embedded in "polarity" metaphors, which bounces me right out. And what do bees, trees, and thunderstorms have to do with masculine or feminine sides?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


There's definitely a lot of that in the more classic traditions, along with the white supremacy that came in the 2000s on the heels of the 90s Wicca revival, which...was in many ways just new marketing for the predation of men, but a lot of us at least jumped off from that point before making our own ways forward. Those of us who avoid that sort of thing will often tiptoe around classicists and the types of elders/principals you find around old occult shops until we're sure we're safe (and safe people tend to lead with that information, which makes it easier some of the time).

It may be confirmation bias, but all the witches I truck with (consume their media, buy stuff, listen to their book/media recs, commune with etc) are non-Wiccan esoterics, chaos witches, take-what-we-like-and-leave-the-rest, social justice covens, etc. There's not a lot of polarity - big on archetypes and symbols, but not the whole duality thing, and lots of Venns in the overall picture are overwhelmingly feminist and queer. (I found the Vice article linked in OP shockingly masc-centered, forgetting I may be in something of a bubble, but then again it's Vice so.)

So, anyway, please don't judge the rest of us on old notions and people who may hold them. It's fine to keep a wary eye out for people who are still into terfy and predatory shit, but that's not The One Way and young* queer people are forging lots of super queer super exciting paths today.

*It really is Gen Z/digital natives mostly doing this leadership work though there's definitely lots of middle-aged newly-re-interested folx like me in the mix, happy to participate.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Inclusive Wicca does exist in the main stream of Wicca, and points out that useful polarities need not be constructed along the male-female axis.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:08 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


« Older They're back—in podcast form!   |   How American Evangelicals Helped Stop Same-Sex... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments