In the U.S., mainstream interest in witches has occasionally waned but mostly waxed, usually in tandem with the rise of feminism and the plummeting of trust in establishment ideas. In the 19th century, as transcendentalism and the women’s-suffrage movement took hold, witches enjoyed the beginnings of a rebranding—from wicked devil-worshippers to intuitive wisewomen. Woodstock and second-wave feminism were a boon for witches, whose popularity spiked again following the Anita Hill hearings in the ’90s, and again after Donald Trump’s election and alongside the #MeToo movement.
The latest witch renaissance coincides with a growing fascination with astrology, crystals, and tarot, which, like magic, practitioners consider ways to tap into unseen, unconventional sources of power—and which can be especially appealing for people who feel disenfranchised or who have grown weary of trying to enact change by working within the system. (Modern witchcraft has drawn more women than men, as well as many people of color and queer or transgender individuals; a “witch” can be any gender.) “The more frustrated people get, they do often turn to witchcraft, because they’re like, ‘Well, the usual channels are just not working, so let’s see what else is out there,’ ” Grossman told me. “Whenever there are events that really shake the foundations of society”—the American Civil War, turmoil in prerevolutionary Russia, the rise of Weimar Germany, England’s postwar reconstruction—“people absolutely turn towards the occult.” Trump must contend not only with the #Resistance but with the #MagicResistance, which shares guides to hexing corporations, spells to protect reproductive rights, and opportunities to join the 4,900 members of the #BindTrump Facebook group in casting spells to curb the president’s power.