In this Trumpified era of ‘witch hunts’ and offence and indignation, it seems appropriate that even something as simple as a ‘kit’ for creating a personal ritual could turn into a political debate. The ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of someone’s personal practice and therefore connection with the spiritual is no one else’s business, except (so it seems) when you intend to make a profit off of it. The kit pictured above is available at Amazon.com.
When I began my degree in Nursing ten years ago, there was a saying that came to mind when I learned about the recent uproar over Sephora and their announcement that they were selling a starter kit for beginner witches. It’s common knowledge in the profession that Nurses Eat Their Young and until I actually had graduated and began working on a unit, I had no real concept of what that saying meant. As a New Nurse I soon realized just how much I didn’t know about nursing and how the ‘old’ nurses of the ward viewed my much younger recent graduates. I experienced very little difficulty fitting in to my workplace mostly because I was 43 when I graduated with a BScN in Nursing and I had been viewed through the entirety of my schooling and upon graduation as having a knowledge that my younger counterparts seemingly lacked. The truth was that I had comparatively less time for study and reading during my schooling because I had an ill child at home, so most of what I’d absorbed was from attending lectures rather than pouring over the books. My instructors treated me at times with a form of reverse ageism that meant they often overlooked my mistakes and floundering and gave me credit for having what they called “life experience”. True, that I made a great intuitive nurse, who readily asked questions of my peers and superiors and it helped immensely to be hired onto a busy ward with nurses of all ages all struggling towards the same goal – excellent patient care. But I also noticed in those early years that some of the young (some as old as my daughters are now) nurses were taken to task by some of the ‘old RN’s’ who made no bones about broadcasting their displeasure over some “rookie” mistake. Many tears were shed over the stress felt by my colleagues who just wanted to do a good job and save some lives. Rather than educate and guide, some of the older nurses stated they didn’t have time to do anyone else’s job for them and that mistakes in this line of work were simply not allowed.
Not all units are this harsh on newcomers and new grads, and that is because they carry a teamwork philosophy that filters down from above. The management of some of the best units I’ve worked on had a way of highlighting our struggles such that it unified us instead of divided us. Learning was made fun and all ideas were embraced as coming from a place of enthusiasm and were encouraged on a daily basis. This kind of leadership encouraged us to collaborate and problem solve in a way that made a 12 hour shift enjoyable and invigorating and our patients reaped the benefits of a positive work environment. One of the units I first worked on is now setting the bar for excellence in collaborative patient care..
For me, the practice of Nursing is not unlike the practice of Witchcraft, and Sephora’s recent announcement to sell Witch Starter Kits and PinRose’s later posting of an apology and retraction of the kits from Sephora’s product lineup illustrate why I see it that way.
To recap, Sephora had advertised a smallish box containing a fragrance, a Tarot deck, a tumbled pink quartz stone and a bundle of white sage. The ‘kit’ was produced by PinRose, a company that specializes in fragrances that are affordable and fun and frankly the kind of thing that I think appeals to the younger, trendier crowd. Reactions to the announcement by Sephora (on social media sites) ranged from mildly antagonistic to outright vitriol against profiting from selling an all-in-one product for the beginner witch. Protectionism and the concept of Witchcraft as a Religion were among the themes that arose in some comment threads. Others took offence to the inclusion of sage bundles in the kit. In response to the backlash, PinRose posted a response to their site that addressed specific concerns and stated it would not be selling the kit. In general, people either liked or disliked the colors, the idea of someones previously sold Tarot artwork tweaked in pastel colors and repackaged, and the sage and crystal included with the deck and fragrance.
I understand that many people were offended that this ‘kit’ somehow cheapened what is, for many witches, a sacred way of being. Many well established and highly respected witches from all backgrounds wanted to share their thoughts on the matter. And while I respect those hereditary and well learned witches for their adherence, observation and preservation of a tradition that is deep with significance and reverence, I can’t help but feel a pang of pity for the young, or newbie witch whose first footstep on the path to Wicce, might have started with a “cheesy” and “lame” attempt at profiting off of what many view as their religion. Having come from a Christian and Mormon experience, I know the battle for the “right religion” still rages on, not only between the major religions, but also from within Christianity itself. Young people are under spiritual duress when they are being told what they should and shouldn’t believe, and the innate curiosity that is absolutely healthy and necessary to walking their path unscathed is beaten down by doctrine and self-righteousness. In essence we cannot trust our young people (or any new convert) to think for themselves. We do not allow the unfolding of the natural law of the Universe to push someone through the door of uncertainty to a place that feels right, even if it is temporary. We do not trust that someone could evolve, grow and learn from something frivolous, tacky, fun, inappropriate, disrespectful…and yes…pastel.
My question is this:
Have we lost a huge opportunity to reach a new generation of Tarotists, witches and shamans through teaching, acceptance and community? Have we, in essence, slapped a child’s hand for daring to reach for a cookie that might satiate their immature appetite? Have we put a bad taste in the newbie’s mouth so that they stop becoming seekers in favour of becoming knowers?
Like Nursing, Witchcraft (and all that it encompasses), contains a foundation of knowledge that reaches far back in time, but is continually growing, expanding and incorporating new information and “best-practice”. As nurses, we research and implement the best conclusions of that research into our daily practice, but we are under no illusion that in 20, 10, or even next year, these best-practices will still be what Nurses should be doing for our patients. Witchcraft practitioners should not hold so tightly to the ‘old way’ of doing things that they cannot absorb fresh and new ideas.
In this bloggers opinion, Newcomers to any base of knowledge need the discerning eye of the elders around them to help point them in the right direction, to accept them for not knowing where to start and to be ready and willing to receive them even though their knowledge may not conform to an established view. Like Nursing, Witchcraft has suffered under the spectre of a hierarchal and male dominated society that views women who are healers and keepers of creation as a threat to that hierarchy and the power and control wielded over women. The patriarchal society we live in demands that we conform, and yet we strive continuously to find our voice. Witchcraft, Paganism, Heathenism, Goddess worship, Wicca and the like encourage women to find their authentic selves and live a life better than the one lived by their ancestors. But what message do we send when we are in agreement (even silently) with the sentiments expressed by this article posted on Fast Company’s website:
Sephora is cashing in on the burgeoning witch economy.
Glossy reports that the perfume company Pinrose will sell a “Starter Witch Kit” for the little wannabe wiccan in your life. The nine-piece set, which will retail for $42, includes fragrances as well as various paraphernalia like tarot cards, bad-vibe clearing sage, and a rose quartz crystal. Basically everything necessary for the ultimate slumber party introduction to the wonderful world of witchcraft as practiced by the modern Goop reader.
Truly the only thing to add to the mix is a picture of patron saint Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a bespoke ouija board made from sustainable wood, and a coven of like-minded girls eager to try out the latest
Do we set ourselves backwards in time by dictating how initiates (especially a generation of young women?) come into the fold? It seems that we have failed to see opportunity in all it’s pastel glory and sent a clear message that knowledge is only valid when it comes from those older and wiser and reliable and reputable sources and not from a cosmetics company.
If Witches and Wiccans continue to ‘eat their young’ like the old ward Nurses I was warned about, it can only be to the detriment of any curious, and possibly young seekers who feel their calling to a spiritual practice that cannot be found in the confines of church. Whatever way someone chooses to seek their inner truth is a personal path that should be celebrated and encouraged and it is my belief that there are many ways that someone will come to find their personal path…we just have to allow it.