Ah, the delightful life of consumerism, where nothing is off limits. But should it be? When it comes to religion in America, it seems that Christianity is still king, leaving other religions and/or spiritual practices to become a field ripe for the picking of their symbolism and significant figures or worse, erased entirely from list of things worth protecting. In the last couple of years, there’s been a rise like no other in the marketability of goth culture, and with it witchcraft. Are the two supposed to be “style for sale”, what about creative freedom, and where on earth should those lines be drawn?
Zakkarrii, what does Christianity have to do with witchcraft and Goth?
We’re going to use it as a control of sorts, mostly for perspective concerning the designs being marketed towards people in the age range of 14 to 30. We use that age range because the designs we’re talking about tend to come from brands marketing towards young adults, i.e., DollsKill, Killstar, and Forever 21. Is Christianity really as high on the top as it used to be? Yes and no. I say that because it hasn’t lost its place as one of the most recognizable religions through iconic symbolism, it’s just the gap between it and everything else is closing. Partly, because of fashion. Christian imagery is used everywhere, all the time, without a notable pause in the fervency with which it is produce and purchased. Remembering that this…
has now become this (and if you click on the picture you can see a long list of examples):
might put things into a different perspective. That perspective being, not a single religion is free from being stripped of its most sacred art and becoming a parody. Doesn’t make it right, but that is what is happening.
So should witches and occult practitioners be grateful for the publicity?
Yes and no. Now bear with me here, because I’m probably going to piss someone off. Yes, because awareness is raised in today’s American culture through easily digestible pieces. Simple designs, easily understood hashtags, and appealing to a mass crowd are a part of that. Remember when it was pretty much impossible to live a conventional life and not be Christian? Religious persecution is a thing that echoes loudly in our history, but because of so many people (and this is the microscopic, bite size version of this history, mind you) being open about their religious practices and still being contributing citizens of this nation, religious persecution made less and less sense. (Economically, socially, politically. It’s still echoing today, but it’s becoming more unlikely you’re going to burn at the stake, literally or metaphorically with every passing day). Yes, because big companies openly producing and labeling “witchy” garb and accessories signifies it’s less controversial to be openly non-Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. This part is also a no, and I’ll elaborate on that in second. This yes is just about numbers. There’s enough people showing an interest in purchasing those kinds of designs for whatever reason. For some, the #bitchcraft tank top is the first step in self-discovery, and I don’t mean that mockingly. Yes, because now it’s a little easier to find products you actually want without having to make it yourself. Need a Bast pendant? How about an adorable purse for all your charms? It could go so nicely with your cross heavy collar (which I actually do love).
No, because not all publicity is good publicity. The designs coming out aren’t necessarily respectful. They don’t contribute to someone, proudly displaying the design in question, getting a job anywhere else but in retail and being taking as seriously as someone without it.They’re gimmicky, trendy. Trendy is important because trends fade and the tolerance you see now may not be the same tolerance you see five years from now. Not saying it will happening, but it is something to keep in mind. No, because if it does spark a discussion, it’s not going to be about religious acceptance and the benefits someone gets from their path (and that’s a conversation our culture might need to have) , but whether or not this pentagram top goes cute with these rune adorned shoes. No, because while it (and it being the brands and merchandise they produce) uses religious and spiritual imagery and symbolism, it’s more because it looks cool and evokes a fanciful story, and less about supporting a community by marketing towards them.
This is terrible, how do we get them to stop exploiting our culture/practice?
You…kind of can’t and you kind of can. Can’t because that’s business. If there’s an audience with disposable income, someone is going to make shit for that audience. It’s not great, and I don’t support it in any way, but that is what happens. People vote with money and numbers in this country. You can not buy the merchandise in question. You can fight it if you’re willing to be open about why you don’t like what you see and why you don’t want other people supporting it. You can take advantage of the trend and create things to counteract the negative repercussions of such marketing. You can stay true to your faith and what you practice through all this bullshit.
So I can sell dresses with runes on it and it’s okay because I’m a witch?
If you make a product that is respectful of your religion/practice and actually means something to you, I think you’re okay. People make things all the time in genuine support of their community and their faith. The lines that need to be drawn are the ones you draw for yourself with your faith.
What if I think something is really cool, and I am a practitioner of that faith? I can buy it without guilt right?
I’ll be honest. I’ve been struggling with this forever. I love some of the designs people are coming out with because they do indeed look cool. But if I know the thing I’m buying does not respect the culture it’s borrowing from I don’t buy it. For example, I certainly won’t buy it if the brand’s logo is woven heavily into the design. If I really need a bag with runes on it, I can paint it myself. I can craft like a boss without compromising my spiritual integrity (which is really just respect for all religions) for a friggin’ (overpriced) sweater. If you’re not of the faith in question, and you really like that design, I think you’re old enough to make that decision for yourself.
What about all the baby bats proclaiming they’re Wiccan from every corner of the earth?
No one is born a perfect practitioner of their faith. And a teenager armed with a book about Wicca is still….a teenager. Real talk, I have no problem with someone being curious about something they saw in a store, googling it and beginning a personal journey. If you go into a religion with respect and some level of openness , boss. If you leave because it’s run its course in your life, great. Whatever. Different religions have different attitudes about coming and going but the truth is, it happens. It’s going to be okay and I wish you nothing but positive experiences. With goth and witchcraft, that is what is going to happen. The path between goth and witchcraft is a natural one. Short version, supernatural themes come up frequently in gothic literature, since like the dawn of the genre. What is the most supernatural thing a baby bat can be interested in our Christian normative society, where having a religion is kind of a big deal? Witchcraft, honey. If you find someone being disrespectful, say something. If they are just doing their baby bat thing, at worse treat it with general indifference. If they stick around, hurray. If they don’t, now you have that information and can make a choice about your relationship with them.
Selling and buying spells on Etsy, yay or nay?
I think if you’re looking for a spell on Etsy, that comes from a practice heavily encouraging of the DIY route, the answer to that question is obvious. If you’re selling stuff to make a spell, that is your personal decision. If you’re not taking responsibility, such as selling to a child and that child gets sick, and avoiding the consequences of your decisions, like not making sure your customer is an adult who explicitly knows not to eat herbs from essentially strangers, then we have a problem.
So what’s your point? Is it good or bad?
It’s a not so great thing that has the potential to draw people can make a good thing. I think we’re approaching the tail end of the fad now, but there’s still time to shift the tides. (There’s always time). You can take from the production numbers that there is an audience here. You can create things you actually approve of to combat the negative repercussions of such marketing. You can have the discussions these things may spark. Be the fan for the flames.
Did I miss something? Have your own two cents to add? Leave a comment or a link to a post (full link and title, please thanks) down below. For more on living the strange life, follow the blog by “Joining the Exploration Party” at the top of this page. For a different perspective, follow me on Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Instagram .
Until next time,
Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.