TikTok witches are accusing each other of being toxic, gatekeepers, and misinformation spreaders
WitchTokis a popular TikToksubgenre with 25 billion views on tagged videos.
- The community appears welcoming and inclusive, but there is also infighting.
Last October, a TikToker uploaded a short instructional video in which she claimed to teach a technique to "make someone think of you 24/7." All a person needed to do was follow a few simple steps: Write the name of their unrequited love on a piece of paper three times, fold the paper three times, and put it under their pillow. Having a dream about that person would mean it had worked, she said.
The TikTok, which is one of hundreds on her account teaching followers simple "
People from all over the world with different belief systems use the term witchcraft and self-identify as "witches." Some in the WitchTok community identify as Wicca, which is a modern pagan religion; others follow the vodou religion, a spiritual system that originated in Haiti; and some are practitioners of hoodoo, a set of spiritual practices that evolved from other forms of religion and spiritualism within enslaved African American communities in North America. Other self-identified witches are nondenominational in their spirituality, focusing on tarot or astrological predictions.
The rise in witchcraft content on social media in recent years has culminated in the huge popularity of WitchTok, which is a largely inclusive space, self-described witches told Insider. But this collective attitude also means inexperienced practitioners — often referred to by those in the community as "baby witches" — can be subjected to judgment from other witches who say they're only after money and virality.
While many see TikTok as a place for them to share their history and rituals, some think it is also rife with people who are perpetuating the commercialization of spiritual beliefs and chasing clout and fame, leading to infighting about the intricacies of "spells" and who can and can't cast them, and claims of cultural appropriation.
Some self-identifying witches say other community members are spreading 'misinformation' and appropriating cultures
Three weeks after the love spell was uploaded, a TikToker called Eryn Angellé, who also posts witchcraft-themed videos, filmed a response, referring to the spell as "misinformation."
"Technically she's not wrong," Angellé said. "They won't be able to stop thinking about you because they will be fucking obsessed."
Angellé went on to call out a trend in which inexperienced witches cast "spells" that she argues aren't based on tradition or history.
The love-spell video highlights the tension within the space. Angellé, who has 224,000 followers on TikTok, told Insider she is a hoodoo practitioner. She said she started posting about her beliefs on TikTok at the start of the pandemic, and ended up on WitchTok, where she said she was "very disturbed" by what she found. She said she's mainly concerned about "a lot of misinformation, a lot of misguided people, and just a lot of foolishness in general."
It's not just supposed spells about love — Angellé pointed to the hundreds of videos about weight loss, getting someone to text you back, and making money that one can find on the app.
@imangelle #stitch with @manifex *internally screaming* #vvitchtok #witchtok #pradabucketchallenge #nextinmusic #crafty ♬ Chakra - Fakear
To people like Angellé, those coming to witchcraft from TikTok don't understand the deep history and knowledge that more experienced practitioners might have with the
Laura Kounine, a senior lecturer of early modern history at the University of Sussex who has studied the history of witchcraft, told Insider that in many traditional communities, such as Wicca, "you have to have a lot of training, a lot of learning" to be initiated into the community. "Whereas WitchTok is open access. You don't really need to do much to already be part of this global community," she said.
This "democratization" of witchcraft can also lead to claims of cultural appropriation. Because "witchcraft" refers to so many different worldwide practices and beliefs, there is a complexity to how this manifests. To this day, women are still killed around the world after being accused of witchcraft.
Angellé, who is a Black woman, said that when spells were birthed by her ancestors, it was for protection from the dangers that African American enslaved people faced.
"My upbringing greatly affects how it is that I practice my magic," Angellé said. "So the way I was taught to do things may be vastly different from someone else. Just because it looks good on TikTok does not mean that it's good for you."
'Baby witches' say the criticism is unfair and witchcraft should be for everyone
TikTok user Manifex, who also goes by Nikki, told Insider became interested in witchcraft about six years ago. She posted the controversial "love spell" video, which she knows WitchTok got very angry about.
"Lots of people were trying to say that by doing this it takes another person's free will away and that it was voodoo magic and only African American people can do this stuff," she said, adding that she intended the video to be about manifesting — which is her area of interest — not "magic." She tried explaining herself in a further video, but it didn't get her very far, she said.
She said it's extremely hard to grow your following on TikTok if you "don't capture a person's attention in the first second or two," which is why she tries to make her videos as simple as possible to "keep people's attention while still trying to teach them the basics."
"What I've had to come to learn is there are always going to be people out there that disagree with you and won't like you; especially on social media," she said.
So-called baby witches often accuse their critics of being "gatekeepers" who refuse to give them information about spells that some say were meant to be shared. A WitchToker called witches.with.twitches refers to gatekeepers as "toxic witches" who make up their own rules about who can and cannot call themselves a real witch.
@localhedgewitch too tired of this gatekeeping crap #beginnerwitchtips #babywitchtok #newpractitioners #gatekeepers #fyp #witchtok #hedgewitch #resources #witchcraft #dietywork #spiritualtiktok ♬ original sound - +..:*Dream~Fox*:..+
One self-identified baby witch posted a TikTok asking more experienced witches within the community to help rather than "hating on baby witches for being wrong" and "making them hate witchcraft because of all the toxic behavior."
More experienced community members say they want to help newcomers, but only if they're in it for the right reasons
Sierra Myers has been interested in spirituality from a young age and describes herself as a "psychic medium." She told Insider she started researching different religions and areas of witchcraft about five years ago. She said she got involved in the WitchTok community at the start of 2020 and has built a following of 105,000 since then. She said it's full of some of the "most amazing, knowledgeable, and educational people" she's ever met.
"But the other half is full of money-hungry, uneducated, dramatic, judgemental 'spiritual scammers' which make the community look bad," she said.
Jessica Grey, who started experimenting with her spirituality about three years ago, has over 254,000 followers on TikTok. She told Insider she picked up an interest in witchcraft when moving from Christianity to spirituality, first collecting crystals and making self-love "spell jars," then moving toward what she calls "spell work."
@jessicaagreyy let’s get started #witchtok #babywitchtok #babywitchesoftiktok #witchesoftiktok #beginnerwitchtok #beginnerwitchesoftiktok #spiritualtiktok ♬ Its What I Do by teezeesounds - teezeesounds
The problem with newcomers, she said, is that they use witchcraft as "a trend or aesthetic," which minimizes its importance. These are the people who come to it for "the wrong reasons," she said.
Angellé said she's mostly disappointed with what she calls "misguided information" spreading due to WitchTok's popularity — but she doesn't want these "new witches" to be disheartened. She told Insider she just hopes they practice their beliefs mindfully, aware that it will take many years to develop understanding and experience within the diverse community.
"Don't allow that to discourage you from practicing something that you feel a true pull and draw to," she said. "Just make sure that you're doing it safely, ethically, effectively, and understanding that you are having an impact when you do these things."
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