Why Witchcraft Is on the Rise
Americans’ interest in spell-casting tends to wax as instability rises and trust in establishment ideas plummets.
Juliet diaz said she was having trouble not listening to my thoughts. “Sorry, I kind of read into your head a little bit,” she told me when, for the third time that August afternoon, she answered one of my (admittedly not unpredictable) questions about her witchcraft seconds before I’d had a chance to ask it. She was drinking a homemade “grounding” tea in her apartment in a converted Victorian home in Jersey City, New Jersey, under a dream catcher and within sight of what appeared to be a human skull. We were surrounded by nearly 400 houseplants, the earthy smell of incense, and, according to Diaz, several of my ancestral spirit guides, who had followed me in. “You actually have a nun,” Diaz informed me. “I don’t know where she comes from, and I’m not going to ask her.”
Diaz describes herself as a seer capable of reading auras and connecting with “the other side”; a plant whisperer who can communicate with her succulents; and one in a long line of healers in her family, which traces its roots to Cuba and the indigenous Taíno people, who settled in parts of the Caribbean. She is also a professional witch: Diaz sells anointing oils and “intention infused” body products in her online store, instructs more than 8,900 witches enrolled in her online school, and leads witchy workshops that promise to leave attendees “feeling magical af!” In 2018, Diaz, the author of the best-selling book Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within, earned more than half a million dollars from her magic work and was named Best Witch—yes, there are rankings—by Spirit Guides Magazine.
Now 38 years old, Diaz remembers that when she was growing up, her family’s spellwork felt taboo. But over the past few years, witchcraft, long viewed with suspicion and even hostility, has transmuted into a mainstream phenomenon. The coven is the new squad: There are sea witches, city witches, cottage witches, kitchen witches, and influencer witches, who share recipes for moon water or dreamy photos of altars bathed in candlelight. There are witches living in Winnipeg and Indiana, San Francisco and Dubai; hosting moon rituals in Manhattan’s public parks and selling $11.99 hangover cures that “adjust the vibration of alcohol so that it doesn’t add extra density and energetic ‘weight’ to your aura.” A 2014 Pew Research Center report suggested that the United States’ adult population of pagans and Wiccans was about 730,000—on par with the number of Unitarians. But Wicca represents just one among many approaches to witchery, and not all witches consider themselves pagan or Wiccan. These days, Diaz told me, “everyone calls themselves witches.”