Today I learned that cosmetic titan Sephora has decided to cash in on upcoming Halloween and the new age trend by introducing what they call a “Starter Witch Kit” which appears to be a happy pastel box with a tarot deck, tumbled rose quartz, bundle of white sage, and nine mini perfumes. I think the idea is to ritually test the perfume samples until you decide which one you like enough to fork over more dollars for the regular size version.
By the time I publish this blog post, Sephora may or may not cave to the wailing twitter hubbub about religious persecution (really, though) and cultural appropriation and pull the item immediately before it even hits the fluorescent-lit shelves.
Edit: As expected, cave they did. Still no word on whether every other manufacturer selling clothing with crosses, rosaries as fashion jewelry, and other assorted Jesus paraphernalia to non-Christians is going to pull their products too.
Now, maybe because I don’t call actually myself a witch, opting instead for the classic “highly spiritual person,” I shouldn’t be allowed to speak on this topic. But my spiritual practice is as important to me as the next witch, but instead of moral outrage, I’m just mildly annoyed and amused by this stunt.
Let’s start by saying that none of Sephora’s innovative genius is new here. Remember a while back when Gwyneth “I have no idea how most of the world lives” Paltrow started selling “Medicine Bags” of “chakra-healing crystals” via Goop for $85? Goop, a “lifestyle brand” selling a special kind of expensive freaking stuff for the affluent to feel more ethereal, has found a way to combine pleasant minimalist esthetics, new age woo, and high-brow spirituality into one yummy profit-turning bag o’ rocks.
Let’s see how many times I can snarkily use quotation marks here.
Another favorite of mine is Nordstrom’s “Bliss Bag,” flawlessly marketed as “a thoughtfully curated luxe pouch that contains an assortment of five healing crystals,” otherwise known as a $52 bag o’ rocks.
But for the type of stylish and wealthy ladies that shop at these retailers, buying witchy stuff there seems a whole lot more inviting than stepping through a plume of incense smoke into a crunchy metaphysical shop playing sitar music surrounded by hippies and actual witches.
Side note: I love shopping at both Nordstorm and my local metaphysical shop, finding that I love but fit perfectly into neither crowd. But I’m an Aquarius and we get our self-congratulating kicks by announcing how different we are than everyone else.
So why are some people in the spiritual community so chafed about this Sephora thing?
Well, for one thing, there’s a stink these days about the sustainability of white sage, a witchy staple for its energetic cleansing properties. Furthermore, being that the use of white sage is a teaching from our Native American cultures, some people think it’s wrong for any non-tribe member to use the stuff. I’m not going there in this article, and instead I will focus my attention on the argument that the thing in generalis an insult to people’s spiritual practices in general.
Honestly though, I agree that this ridiculous “Witch Kit” and rocks: the luxury edition are an affront to people whose spiritual practices revolve around it. I for one have crystals all around my house and use them in my practice daily. And the fact that someone wants to sell me the same crystals I can get for $2 apiece at my metaphysical shop for a kitschy markup is annoying. I certainly am a tarot newbie, but find that my use of the deck allows me to connect to my spirit guides and receive divine guidance. People who don’t fully understand the spiritual and energetic implications of crystals, tarot, sage, whatever it is, and just want the stuff for a pretty flat lay shot on Instagram or to do a love spell….yeeeeesh.
Energy work is the cornerstone of my personal spirituality. Though I stop short at calling my practice or “witchcraft” a religion, as witchcraft is really just an umbrella concept that people of all religions or of no religions can employ. One of my favorite YouTubers is a Christian witch. Some of the other folks that I follow don’t subscribe to any religion but are fulfilled simply by divine connection through the modality of energy work or divination.
But you guys… everyone starts somewhere. And the mainstream high-fiving over this kind of witchy new age stuff just means more people are coming to learn about it and find that it speaks to them. They’re improving their own spiritual life because it’s widely available. I for one got my start circa 2003 with good old Silver RavenWolf. And while some creepy people still think that praying to God via any means other than a Biblical prayer is suddenly “Satanic,” the world is much more open, accepting, and saying “Yo, that’s super cool,” to the type of spiritual practices that had to be kept very under wraps not that many years ago.
Besides the fact that seeing Witch Kits and the like for sale at one’s favorite store might encourage a new spiritual exploration or expansion, I want to touch my little finger on the economic aspect of this issue. Like I said before, it’s laughable to me that these companies are charging this kind of money for these things. It’s also laughable to me that some people do their entire grocery haul at Whole Foods where everything’s expensive. But neither I nor anybody else is the sultan of other people’s perception of value.
If the “luxe” esthetic of a bag of crystals from Nordstrom makes you feel good and like you’re connecting with your highest self, and you don’t care what it costs, then good God, go pay the money and feel good. If you like the chill meditative climate of the metaphysical shop and find that your soul feels cozy there, then go.
The spiritual elitism act doesn’t help anyone find their spiritual path or soul purpose. Just because I don’t see any value in this prepackaged witch kitsch doesn’t mean that it won’t make someone else happy. And just because that person is deriving happiness from that thing in a way that I think isn’t true to its purpose, by all means, it isn’t none of my business what they do. Isn’t the whole point just to be happy?
Witchy stuff being more accessible to other people who could find their lives transformed by it the way I did seems like a brilliant thing in my book. Perhaps they only need to spend money once on the premium version before they start Googling and discover that new age shop or that small online retailer that puts more love and light into their witchy products than any mass producer possibly could. Or maybe they have no interest in going further than just “hey, these are pretty rocks,” in which case I still hope that those items bring them just as much joy.