Retailers are already rolling out Halloween products, and Sephora is no exception. In the age of Instagram, more and more people are creating elaborate costumes – especially with makeup. Sephora can cash in on the holiday, and it planned to sell a “witch starter kit” this year as part of the marketing effort.
This should be entirely unremarkable, but of course we are living in the dumbest timeline, and somebody got mad. This time, it’s the Wiccans.
Apparently selling mysticism-themed perfume samples with tarot cards, sage, and a rose quartz crystal amounts to cultural appropriation, instead of just a garden-variety gimmick.
The Wiccans feel threatened. And maybe they’re right to feel that way. They don’t have a monopoly on making someone a witch, because you can’t make someone a witch. Actually practicing Wicca gets you no more mystical powers than spritzing on some perfume you bought at Sephora.
Wicca as a religion started in the late 1930s, when a British civil servant named Gerald Gardner returned from working abroad. He decided to combine a bunch of pagan beliefs together, write them down, and sell it – and he used his writings to create a coven with him at the center. It’s not a far cry from L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, or Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP.
It’s never pleasant to see your religion mocked, and I don’t doubt that some of the Wiccans are true believers. But the record shows that Wicca is invented. Its origins aren’t mystical and divine, they’re historical and human.
The practice of “witchcraft” – as today’s Wiccans interpret it – requires using items including crystals, sage, and tarot cards. Pinrose, the maker of the makeup kit, wasn’t all that far from reality: These people really do use these items in their “spells.” Contrary to prayer, which calls on a higher power, “spells” rely on certain objects to deliver a specific result.
If you really think that burning certain leaves and throwing certain spices in a certain direction will accomplish something, that’s your right. Knock yourself out; you have the freedom to practice whatever religion you want. But Wiccans can’t really gatekeep who is a “real” witch, because “real” witches aren’t a thing.
A handful of Wiccans signed a petition to get Sephora to drop the Witch Starter Kit. The manufacturer, Penrose, issued an apology, and now says it will not make or sell the product. As it turns out, self-appointed witches DO have power – just not the occult powers that they claim.