Just a few days after its exclusive interview with Glenn Greenwald, the newly relaunched Newsweek has scored yet another earth-shattering scoop: millennials are turning to witchcraft. And not of the Harry Potter variety — these are older, hipper Brooklynites, juggling magic workshops and Williamsburg séances in between their frenzied day jobs as editors and archivists.
So reports writer Katie J.M. Baker, who chatted with a colorful bevy of tarot readers and magical practice guides and plain-Jane, witchcraft-addled millennials in an attempt to crack the code of what one expert terms an occult revival. And New York's most populous borough has plenty to offer them; a recent New York guide listed the gatherings and businesses and amenities that span north Brooklyn, bearing names like "Moon Church" and "Gnostic Tattoo" and others you'd be forgiven for confusing with a black metal act. These are just some of the reasons they've hopped on the magic bus.
Because the Internet. Really! Much as the web has become synonymous with the future or whatever, it can also accidentally resurge seemingly archaic cultural trends (like, say, paying money for vinyl records). As one Occult Humanities Conference staffer shares, the Internet has placed "ancient practices that were once hard to access at [people's] fingertips." Then there are the séances and "alchemical imagery" that flood Pinterest boards. Hence, women like one freelance editor who "often Googles random ritual instructions" because they "make her feel 'grounded.'" Well! And here we thought those kids were just juicing and having intercourse!
Because it's feminist- and LGBTQ-friendly. Unmoored from the patriarchy ingrained in much mainstream religious life, the occult has become a luring alternative for twenty-somethings like Rebecca Gowns, who tells Baker queer women desire transcendental experiences but "don’t want to be talked down to by priests and pastors." And, unlike in the 1690s, it's a tenable option for women who need not fear being burned at the stake by the state.
Because religion is super "embarrassing." It's hardly news that millennials are way less religious than their elders. But, as one 27-year-old Brooklynite tries to convince Baker, that's not so much due to lack of faith as it is to the fact that religion is "embarrassing" and nihilism is so last year (or 1998, rather):
“It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious,” says Hilary Pollack, a 27-year-old who recently moved to Brooklyn. “But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic. Spirituality is a lot cooler.”
Plus, spirituality, as she calls it, is also far less of a commitment than the whole conventional, non-witchcrafty religious shebang, as Pollack openly admits: "It's hard to say if anyone is actually invested in any of this occult stuff they meddle in." Which—hey!—sounds like another familial millennial stereotype. So basically, the occult is the Snapchat of world religions.
Because "Bushwick" rhymes with "Eastwick" (sort of). It's really just too damn easy. (Yes, finally, there is a "concept hub," or coven, with this name. We're shocked it took nearly 30 years since John Updike's novel for someone to think of it.)
Because... Hocus Pocus?? Ok, maybe not. But with the Buzzfeedification of '90s nostalgia at an feverish high and 2013 inviting plenty of GIF-filled 20-year retrospectives of 1993 culture—including a trip to the movie's filming locations—can't the Bette Midler classic inspire a little bit of occult meddling? Your parents won't recognize the film, but as an AV Club feature today notes, "it was panned by critics but later became a cult favorite among Millennials." Just remove "favorite" from that sentence and see what happens.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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