The TikTok school of witchcraft and wizardry

The viral video platform’s witch community practices everything from wry memes to actual spell casting.

In my first attempt at casting a spell I found on TikTok, I stood in front of my kitchen sink with a basil leaf, a pencil, and a lighter. “You’re going to write ‘wealth’ on your dried basil leaf,” Brea Berry instructed me, in a brief video with over 900,000 views. She sat in the driver’s seat of her car as she delivered the tutorial with a cheery, everyday demeanor — the way someone might offer any advice, occult-related or not.

I finished writing on my leaf, and then, as instructed, lit it up. “If it crackles and burns up quickly, that’s a great indication that your spell has gone through,” she said. Sadly, mine did the opposite, and barely stayed lit long enough to burn. It was a rough first attempt, but Brea had plenty more to try: a hex that lets you know when someone’s talking about you behind your back, which includes writing the person’s name on a candle and tying it to your tongue with a string (“you’re gonna look silly,” she noted); an attraction spell which requires the use of menstrual blood; and a spell that uses a cauldron to help you identify your true love.

“Witches are coming out of their broom closets,” Brea, who posts under @witchberryblue, told me via Instagram DMs. Brea has over 120,000 followers, and averages a few thousand views per short clip. She credited TikTok with helping to spread info about her community to those who might not have been able to learn through other avenues. “Younger generations with no ties to witchcraft at all now have experienced practitioners right at their fingertips.”

Many of us likely don’t know anyone who calls themselves a witch, let alone one who has been practicing for years. But there’s an entire community of them on TikTok, giving a glimpse into practices that remain taboo in many parts of the world. Witches who might be geographically isolated — like Brea, who lives in the Bible Belt — can find solace, information, and like-minded creators all over.

If you search for “witchcraft” on TikTok, you’ll find content with varying levels of connection to the actual craft. Some videos, many fittingly scored by Stevie Nicks tracks like “Gypsy,” aim to play up trendy aesthetics — think crystals, candles, dried herbs — rather than offering a substantive look into what magic actually means. Some content creators take their work on the platform much more seriously. “I started posting witchcraft content because I saw a need in the community for teachers,” Vic, who has 20,000 followers on TikTok, said. “I saw so many young and new witches asking for help.” Seeing this led her to make content that includes info on everything from ethically sourcing your crystals to cleansing a sacred space just using sound.

Each of the witches I spoke to expressed a similar desire to provide guidance to the young viewers who regularly flood their comments sections with questions and requests for spells. What made me most curious was why so many young people were seeking them out in the first place. “Millennials and Gen Zers, a lot of people think that they only think about themselves,” Lola Miles, a professional witch with twenty years of experience and 50,000 followers, said when I asked why young people are drawn to her TikTok content — which includes brief explainers on enchanting crystals, creating sigils, and learning to tell when someone’s lying. She was quick to refute the idea that younger generations are shallow, and believed that what’s drawing them to witchcraft is their desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. “If you stop looking at the negative stuff that the media reports, people want to be part of a community and they want to be a good contributor to a community.”

It’s possible that the desire to belong to something greater is perhaps what’s also bringing droves of young people to millennial-friendly churches. Unlike many of those organizations, however, witchcraft doesn’t come with a not-so-hidden underbelly of conservative values and homophobia — it’s a community founded on ideas of empowerment and self-determination. “I had some dark times in life, and while everyone was turning to God, I felt alone,” Paige, a 22-year-old witch who posts magic tips and history, told me. “I needed something that gave me hope, a belief system I could make my own … There’s no rules [in witchcraft] like ‘you can’t be gay,’ ‘you have to worship at this time. [I can] do my own thing without worrying what would potentially happen to my soul.”

Lola explained that the freedom witchcraft allows is a huge draw for young witches like Paige: “You‘re allowed to think outside the box, so I think that‘s very attractive when you come from these religions and these cultures that have been so restrictive,” she said. Instead of investing themselves in organizations and ideas with histories of harm, the online witchcraft community gives them an option that offers a more open-minded experience through which they can individualize their spiritual practice.

“People are enjoying the freedom to choose a path that‘s personal to them,” Caitlin Elizabeth, a witch who’s been practicing for 10 years and has nearly 33,000 followers, said. “[TikTok is] a great place for you to find that everyone learns differently and that [witchcraft is] a very diverse practice.” Each witch brings a unique mix of experience and beliefs to their content, which allows learners to see a variety of perspectives; while Caitlin tends to post lighthearted witchcraft tips in addition to product recommendations for magical use, someone like Brea often posts about darker magic that other accounts might shy away from. “I operate on the principle that information should be free, and all forms of magick studied,” Brea told me.

Witches, who traditionally face backlash from other religions, also experience numerous conflicts within the bounds of their own practice. “The biggest argument I get from witches themselves is about the law of three principle,” Brea said. The rule of three comes from Wicca, and is the idea that any energy you put out will return to you threefold, including negative energy. For Wiccans, this is why curses and “black magick” are generally avoided. Brea, who identifies as a witch and not a Wiccan, sometimes experiences backlash for choosing not to follow the rule.

When I asked Lola if she ever worries what posting witchcraft content might open her up to, she said she sometimes wonders if she’s going to get a death threat from the Christian community (which has happened in the past), or if the criticism is going to come from fellow witches. One video in which she discussed her feelings on the concept of “natural-born witches” (i.e., whether someone can be “born” with magical abilities or only learns through study) created a significant stir. “It was incredible the level of hatred I got from it. Instead of, ‘Oh, I‘m just going to scroll past,’ it was ‘I‘m going to call full out war.’ ”

Even when faced with negativity, what lies at the core of these witches’ practice is the desire to build a more fulfilling and empowered life for themselves and the viewers who find their content. “Witchcraft in and of itself is personal development. It‘s recognizing your own power,” Lola told me. Her mission is to make witchcraft mainstream, using TikTok as one of many avenues to bring what she views as the introspective power of the craft to the masses.

When I stood over the sink with a half-burning leaf, I wasn’t particularly aware of anything powerful happening. But in retrospect, I realized the wealth spell required me to take a moment to reflect on what I really wanted for myself. Whether all of us become bona fide witches or not, there’s certainly value to taking a minute of your time to be intentional about crafting the life and the world you’d like to see. “I‘m so passionate about witchcraft because it helped shaped me into the person I am today,” Vic explained. “It taught me that I am in control of my own destiny, and by taking control of my life, I really learned how to love and appreciate myself.”

Riley Leight is a freelance writer from California.