Far from being a one-off weirdo, Williamson stands for a growing constituency of Americans: urban, somewhat educated, mostly female, youngish, a-religious and spiritually hungry. Ridicule is a normal gut reaction to the high priestess of New Age’s debut on the national political stage, but I think we might be forgetting, for instance, the goats on yoga mats at beer gardens for Yom Kippur. Or the fact that “psychic services” are a $2 billion industry, and that perfectly mainstream department stores now sell “wellness” products.
There is also a growing number of witches in this country today—a trend that reflects the decline of certain religious denominations in combination with spiritual yearning. Contemporary occult practices can be traced back to the 1960s counterculture, but they only picked up in the recent decade.
This kind of pseudo-religiosity often comes with political baggage. There is such a thing as #magicresistance, or wiccans casting “mass spells” on Trump online. Occultists, whose ranks include celebrities like Lana Del Rey, regularly stage ceremonies to hex Trump and various Trump-connected figures, such as the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Twenty years ago they’d have been laughed out of a pretentious night club for such antics, but it appears that contemporary twenty-something hipster urbanites participating in such ceremonies are, for the most part, serious about their paganism.