Sunday, July 30, 2017

How Witchcraft Became A Brand

By Corin Faife

There are many simple rituals practiced in the house that Katie Karpetz shares with her husband in Edmonton, Alberta, from yoga to herbalism to candle magic. In the morning, she often waits for inspiration to strike before posting a photo or found image to her Instagram feed, and the mood captured will go on to determine her activities for the day.

Running her online store, The Witchery, from her home is a mixture of mundane, structured tasks, and more spontaneous and esoteric work. Sometimes she’s tracking, packing, and sending orders for the many hundreds of items she ships out to her customers in twice-weekly mail batches. Other times, she’s tapping into her own experiences and the knowledge contained in her many books on magic to create new blends of oil or incense with mystical properties ("bring luck in a hurry," "use to draw love to you"), or to cast spells on behalf of clients.

Karpetz is one of many entrepreneurs blending a passion for the occult with an understanding of e-commerce to capture a share of the new economic activity surrounding witchcraft. “What I sell is basically what I’m interested in,” she says. “My business plan was always just, If I like it and no one else wants to buy it, well then I get to keep it!”

It’s a project that has been years in the making, starting as a hobby and slowly developing into a steady source of income. But it’s also something that taps into a trend, which may seem hidden or ubiquitous depending on the circles you frequent: Witchcraft has undeniably become cool again.

Katie Karpetz’s altar at home, featuring an urn with the ashes of a beloved cat.

In the last quarter of 2013, the trend forecasting agency K-Hole published a report that came to define the overriding fashion trend of 2014: normcore. The document argued that young millennials were bored of the advertising industry's doctrine of individualism through brand consumption, and were instead adopting a kind of radical conformity that favored unadorned clothing and knowingly mainstream tastes.

As a movement, “normcore” came and went — apparently there is only so long that the fashion world will entertain the idea of no style being a viable style — and two years later, the tastemakers at K-Hole published another report identifying the new cultural trends they had observed: Conformity was out. In its place?
Chaos magic.

Once again K-Hole was right on the zeitgeist. Individuality was back in, magic was cool, youth brands were making documentaries about covens in Bushwick, and seemingly everyone was carrying crystals. But belief in magic and witchcraft is old, far older than Christianity or any of the Abrahamic religions; it wasn't summoned into being by trend forecasters and it won't die out when the hype is over. So what does it mean in this cultural moment for witchcraft to be be both a spiritual practice and a brand aesthetic?

The range of products now marketed as having some connection to witchcraft and the occult is truly vast, and while physical stores selling occult items have had a modest presence in small towns and big cities across North America for decades, online retail has really allowed the trade in all things witchy to take off.

It’s now possible to sign up for monthly subscription boxes to deliver spiritual items to your door: The owner of one such business, Goddess Provisions, said her customer base has grown from 300 subscribers to almost 6,000 in the last year and a half. But the real gravitational centre of the online witchcraft economy is Etsy, the marketplace that has revolutionized the way handcraft makers of all kinds list and sell their products online.

A search on Etsy returns just over 28,000 results for the query "witchcraft," ranging from laurel wands to animal bones, leather-bound grimoires to tie-dye sigils. Data provided by the company confirmed that interest in witchcraft-related items has grown significantly, with searches up nearly 30% and purchases increasing by nearly 60% based on figures from 2015 to 2017. (In the past Etsy was involved in a small controversy over banning "metaphysical services" from making claims of efficacy, but the company permits the sale of a range of esoteric goods provided no concrete outcome is promised.)
One popular seller in the occult category is Burke & Hare Co., a store selling “darkly inspired” candles and home decorations from a studio in Providence, Rhode Island. The store is a typical part of what could be called the auxiliary industry of occult products: items that are not claimed to be in themselves magical but draw on the general imagery and, according to owner Erica Molitor, are purchased by customers who may well have deeper ties to the lifestyle.

"The witchy, occult community is very close-knit, so I have support from a lot of people in the community and other artists who are doing the same thing," Molitor says. “So although half of my candle line is just about the aesthetic, the reason it does so well is because of the community.”
In just over five years of operation, Molitor has seen her business grow steadily, a sign that she, like many others, has tapped into a market that is booming, and a potential client base that is larger than you might imagine.

In her 2015 book Witches of America, Alex Mar estimates that there are up to 1 million people practising some form of Paganism in the US (which for comparison is only slightly less than the number of Buddhists at 1.2 million). She writes of witches gathering in the deserts of California, the forests of Illinois, apartments in New Orleans, all embodying a wide variety of traditions and lifestyles with deep roots. But Mar's study, which saw her spend time with witches across the country over a number of years, also happened to coincide with a resurgence of interest in witchcraft in popular culture.

"When I started working on [the book], I would talk to people about the project and be met with blank looks," Mar told BuzzFeed News. "Then by the time the book came out, I was being accused of riding a trend. So much had changed in that few years ... There was much more of an appetite for the occult as being a hip thing."

Part of this hipness, Mar says, translated into artists or musicians dabbling with the use of occult symbolism in their work (of which the early 2010s musical genre of “witch house” was a precocious but illustrative example), but it has also become an aesthetic that can lend an air of cool to products targeted at consumers with only a passing interest in the lifestyle.The number of Americans practicing various religions.The number of Americans practicing various religions.

In interviews for this article, buyers, sellers, and practicing witches frequently mentioned a new way they were connecting with one another online: Instagram. Over the past few years the image-sharing app has become a gathering place for younger witches, where tags like #witch (more than 3.7 million posts), #witchy (more than 600,000) and #witchesofinstagram (nearly 700,000) bring a community together around a constellation of imagery, including jewelery, makeup, séance circles, tattoos, astrological charts, herbs, crystals, and lots of vaguely gothic selfies.

It's on Instagram that witchcraft as a spiritual practice and witchcraft as a lifestyle signifier really start to merge. As in any other Instagram community, certain accounts emerge as “influencers,” usually combining a recognizable visual identity with taste-making content and a distinctive voice that followers can relate to, creating a connection that feels personal even as it's transmitted to a large audience. Perhaps the archetype here is Seattle-based Bri Luna aka @thehoodwitch, whose 155,000 followers delight as much in her extravagantly manicured nails as her knowledge of spells and crystals.

Like many Insta-influencers in other fields, The Hoodwitch's carefully curated content is uploaded for free in order to draw attention to a for-profit venture: an online store selling the products pictured in Luna's elegant hands. Some posts feature items directly for sale — divination cards, occult books, tote bags printed with the names of goddesses, and of course the ubiquitous crystals — but far more of them are illustrations, found images, and quotes without any apparent marketing push, helping to build loyalty from an audience that will translate into sales further down the line. It's very much a business model of the social media age, and highlights the fact that — for those who can master the elusive combination of branding, content, and product — witchcraft pays. (The Hoodwitch was approached for comment for this piece but declined.)

Elisabeth Krohn, founder and editor of Sabat — described by Vice as “the magazine for the modern witch” — also knows a thing or two about building a brand around witchcraft. Krohn came up with the idea as a journalism student at the London College of Fashion, inspired by nostalgia for the somewhat kitschy period of pop cultural interest in witchcraft in the ’90s and early ’00s (think Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the sense that there was a desire for a more modern take.

Krohn explained that these trendy representations can serve as an entry point for the cultivation of a more serious interest.
"I realized that a lot of people who are deeper into witchcraft than me first got into it through pop culture references — that's more accepted in the community than I first thought," she said. "In terms of being attracted because of the aesthetic, if someone picks up a pentagram because they think it's a cool symbol, it doesn't mean they won't then learn the meaning behind it, too."

"I think for most [young witches] now, it's a combination of the aesthetic and the search for something spiritual," she added.

Unlike other religions, witchcraft is a loosely defined set of practices with no canonical text at its heart. Some witches are followers of disciplines like Wicca, founded by Gerald Gardner in England in the 1950s, but many others choose an eclectic, self-made path drawn from aspects of Paganism, Wicca, chaos magic, herb lore, or other practices. Tess Giberson, an artist and witch based in Ottawa, is passionate about the DIY aspect of witchcraft, and says that energy and intention are more important for casting spells than expensive equipment. ("You don't need a $150 cauldron to burn herbs," Giberson said in a Facebook chat. "You just need a heat proof dish.")

But Giberson also says that the increasing appetite for occult items has led to problems of cultural appropriation, where incentives are created for mainstream vendors to market products with little respect for their deeper significance. Urban Outfitters, for example, was selling a smudge kit for $39.99 that mimicked Indigenous practices.

"I think it's important to note the correlation between a sparked interest in witchcraft and increased oppression against marginalized folks," Giberson said, pointing to Silvia Federici's feminist history Caliban and the Witch by way of evidence. It's a sentiment that Gordon White, host of the Rune Soup podcast, also echoed in an interview, stating that the current turn towards the occult is unsurprising given the troubled state of the world: Magic has always been a tool of the underdog, less structured than any system of priests and clergy, more resistant to control thanks to its archaic origins and anarchic, individualist spirit.

Surges of interest in witchcraft have happened on a roughly 20-year cycle since the mid-20th century, often corresponding to changing perceptions of women in popular consciousness and new strains of feminist thought. In the 1970s, a boom of interest in the occult throughout the cultural underground dovetailed with a growing recognition of female potency in both creative and sexual terms, and a form of spirituality focused on the Goddess(es) and the divine feminine. Then in the 1990s, movies like The Craft and TV shows like Charmed, Buffy, and of course Sabrina the Teenage Witch tapped into another cultural archetype of the time, portraying witches as women who were independent and quietly powerful, not to mention smarter than the mostly oblivious men in their lives.
We’re now seeing another of those high-water marks, spurred on by the hyperconnected world of social media. It’s no surprise then that another witchcraft renaissance is at hand, and one that makes heavy use of the same media to disseminate text and image representations of the craft in a way that speaks to a new audience of digital natives.

The same media that connects witches to one another also connects the subculture to the world of business, brands, and profit, and it is hard to say exactly how long the modern incarnation of witchcraft can hold out against capitalism's rapacious desire to commodify the authentic symbols of rebellion, or the tendency of trends (by definition) to come and go. But if the pattern of past cycles holds true for the future, it won't be the last time that pop culture rediscovers witchcraft — and in the meantime, as interest waxes and wanes like the moon, the witches will be there, waiting.

Corin Faife is a freelance journalist covering technology and social issues, based in Montreal, Canada.

Monday, July 24, 2017

‘Annabelle: Creation’: FREE Advance Screenings Next Wed. in Chicago, Austin, Columbus, and San Antonio!

Bloody Disgusting
Be one of the first to see the next chapter in The Conjuring universe as Bloody Disgusting invites you to several advanced screenings of Annabelle: Creation this coming Wednesday, July 27th, all taking place @ 7:30 PM.

You will need to RSVP for these FREE screenings, which will be taking place at the following locations:

In Annabelle: Creation, which opens in theaters August 11th:
Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

[Related] We Visited the Gothic Set of Annabelle: Creation

The full cast includes Stephanie Sigman (Spectre), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), Lulu Wilson (Ouija 2), Philippa Anne Coulthard (After the Dark), Grace Fulton (Badland), Lou Lou Safran (The Choice), Samara Lee (The Last Witch Hunter), Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia (TV’s Without a Trace) and Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
Sandberg directed from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle.

‘Wonder Woman’ Becomes Top-Grossing Summer Film as Warner Bros. Crosses $1 Billion Domestically

The Wrap

On the same day Warner Bros. wowed fans with trailers for “Justice League” and “Ready Player One” at Comic-Con, “Wonder Woman” passed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” to become the highest domestic-grossing film of the summer.

In addition, the estimated $50.5 million opening for Christopher Nolan’s WWII film “Dunkirk” has pushed WB past the $1 billion domestic mark for the 17th consecutive year, a streak longer than any other in Hollywood.

“Wonder Woman” grossed an estimated $4.6 million in its eighth weekend in theaters, bringing its domestic total to $389 million. “Wonder Woman” has shown incredible staying power, currently holding a 3.77x multiple after its $103 million opening. With a worldwide total of $779 million, it has already passed the global run of “Suicide Squad” and the domestic run of “Batman v Superman.” When compared to Marvel movies, “Wonder Woman” ranks sixth domestically between the $387.2 million of “GotG Vol. 2” and the $403 million of the original “Spider-Man.”

Meanwhile, the opening for “Dunkirk” has made WB the third studio in 2017 to cross the $1 billion domestic mark, joining Disney and Universal. According to Box Office Mojo, WB stands in third among all studios this year with a 15.2 percent market share. While the studio suffered a bomb with “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which grossed $39.1 million stateside against a $175 million budget, its domestic totals have been lifted thanks to three big hits.

In addition to “Wonder Woman,” “The Lego Batman Movie” won over comic book fans and family audiences with $175.7 million from its February release, while Legendary’s “Kong: Skull Island” beat expectations with $168 million. “Dunkirk” is likely to continue to boost WB’s stateside numbers, as previous Nolan-directed films like “Interstellar” and “Inception” have posted high multiples.

Next on WB’s slate are two horror films from New Line Cinema: “Annabelle: Creation,” which comes out Aug. 11, and a remake of Stephen King’s “It,” due out Sept. 8. Following that is “Blade Runner 2049” in October and the big DC crossover “Justice League” in November.

Little Girl’s Tearful Meeting With Gal Gadot Shows Why ‘Wonder Woman’ Matters

By Ed Mazza

This is why Gal Gadot is a superhero. 
Viral footage from Comic-Con in San Diego showed the star comforting a young fan who was wearing a “Wonder Woman” shirt and cape. 
But the little girl, named Ashley, began to cry when she reached the front of the line. 
She was so happy to meet her that she was tearing up,” her mother, Christine Keller, wrote on Twitter. 
In the footage, Gadot reaches across the table and takes the girl’s hand.
“There’s no reason to cry, all right,” Gadot said. “Here we are together.”
One of Gadot’s “Justice League” co-stars joined in. 
“You’re a warrior,” said Ezra Miller, who plays the Flash in an upcoming film. “Your ability to cry is what makes you such a warrior. Come join the Justice League whenever you get ready.”
Keller, author of “The Adventures of Danica Dreamer,” said the encounter had a big impact on her little girl. 
These characters matter and can have a huge influence on young people,” Keller wrote on her “Danica Dreamer” Facebook page. “What a great role model and genuine, nice person. My daughter will always remember this moment for the rest of her life.”
It wasn’t just Wonder Woman making an impression. The same footage also briefly showed an excited little boy with tears in his eyes as he met Ben Affleck, current star of the “Batman” franchise as well as “Justice League.” 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ryan Murphy reveals title for season seven of American Horror Story which stars Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Billie Lourd and Lena Dunham

Daily Mail
By Heidi Parker

American Horror Story has its title for season seven which debuts in September.
On Thursday creator Ryan Murphy tweeted it out when he was attending the San Diego, California, Comic-Con convention.
The next installment of the FX anthology series will be American Horror Story: Cult. Previous seasons have been titled Murder House (2011), Asylum (2012), Coven (2013), Freak Show (2014), Hotel (2015) and Roanoke (2016).
New: Season seven of American Horror Story will be called Cult, creator Ryan Murphy (pictured in March) tweeted on Thursday
New: Season seven of American Horror Story will be called Cult, creator Ryan Murphy (pictured in March) tweeted on Thursday

His big news announcement: Murphy kept it short and sweet with his tweet
His big news announcement: Murphy kept it short and sweet with his tweet
The next season will star Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Billie Lourd, Billy Eichner, Cheyenne Jackson, Alison Pill and Colton Haynes.
Earlier this week it was announced Lena Dunham of Girls fame would be joining the cast. 
After Ryan tweeted Cult, Paulson tweeted: 'Here we go: AHS7 CULT. Sh-t goes down. Woof.'
Jackson added: '#Scerred.'  
Also at the Comic-Con event a video of scary clowns were seen. They were marching together. The clip was tagged   
New look: Here is the logo and a look at the scary clowns in the new video
New look: Here is the logo and a look at the scary clowns in the new video

Spooky stuff: After Ryan tweeted Cult, Paulson tweeted: 'Here we go: AHS7 CULT. Sh-t goes down. Woof'
Spooky stuff: After Ryan tweeted Cult, Paulson tweeted: 'Here we go: AHS7 CULT. Sh-t goes down. Woof'
American Horror Story: Cult debuts on FX on Tuesday, September 5. 
American Horror Story is an American anthology horror series created and produced by Murphy and Brad Falchuk (who dated Gwyneth Paltrow).
Each season is conceived as a self-contained miniseries, following a disparate set of characters and settings, and a storyline with its own 'beginning, middle, and end.'
 Some plot elements of each season are loosely inspired by true events.
New gig: Earlier this week it was announced Lena Dunham of Girls fame would be joining the cast; seen in May
New gig: Earlier this week it was announced Lena Dunham of Girls fame would be joining the cast; seen in May
More ladies: Billie Lourd, left, is also in the cast with Paulson, right
More ladies: Billie Lourd, left, is also in the cast with Paulson, right
More ladies: Billie Lourd, left, is also in the cast with Paulson, right

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

‘Doctor Who’ And The Sheer Power Of Women-Led Sci-Fi Franchises


Fantasy and sci-fi promise limitless imagination. A litany of white, male franchise leads do not.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Here’s The Plot Of The ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ Sequel

HuffPo: Matthew Jacobs

We’ll finally see Dumbledore and Grindelwald together.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. revealed the plot Monday, in conjunction with the start of production. The still-untitled “Harry Potter” spinoff will revolve around a young Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruiting his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to stop onetime BFF/crush Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) from “gathering more followers to his cause — elevating wizards above all non-magical beings.” In a loyalty-testing mission surrounded by “an increasingly dangerous and divided wizarding world,” Newt reunites with Tina (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and the non-magical baker Jacob (Dan Fogler).
Moving the action from New York to Paris, the 1920s-set sequel will also feature Credence Barebone, the brooding teenager played by Ezra Miller, whose fate is unknown. Zoë Kravitz, seen briefly in a photo in “Fantastic Beasts,” is joining the cast as Leta Lestrange, who had a close relationship with Newt during their time together at Hogwarts. (Her relationship to Bellatrix Lestrange is unclear.) “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Dark Tower” actress Claudia Kim will play a circus performer, while Callum Turner joins the spell-casting as Newt’s brother. Kevin Guthrie is reprising his role as Magical Congress honcho Abernathy. 
David Yates, who directed “Fantastic Beasts” and the final four “Harry Potter” movies, is at the reins again, working off a screenplay written by J.K. Rowling. (Yates is slated to helm all five installments in the “Beasts” franchise.) Filming is taking place at Leavesden, the Warner Bros. studio complex outside London where all the “Potter” movies were shot. 
It’s time to protect your movie-buying funds from those sneaky Nifflers: The next chapter of “Fantastic Beasts” will open in theaters Nov. 16, 2018.