In Depth

Our growing fascination with witchcraft

If you’ve ever fancied dabbling in the occult, you’re in good company as a trend for Wicca is sweeping the UK

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Just as the title "feminist" has its own kind of stigma, the word "witch" brings up connotations of a dark and misleading crone;  a woman shunned from society. We've seen her rise as many fictional characters: the subject is the bread and butter of teenage occult dramas, horror films, plays and fantasy novels. Historically, she's the hysterical woman, the barren outcast and the lonely spinster. (Or, as seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an introverted bisexual teenager with undeveloped magical abilities.)

Not any more, it seems. A growing movement of women are finding empowerment through alternative practices from healing crystals, meditation, Wiccan rituals or divination. No, it's not the 1960s; it's the new wave of female "magick" that is fast becoming the new mode of expression and self-acceptance for a generation of witches across the western world.

Occult bookstores such as Treadwell's in central London are a go-to spot, selling fashion-turns-witchy publications such as Sabat Magazine – "made for the modern witch," says Vice magazine – alongside literary classics such as Clarissa Pinkola Este's Women Who Run with the Wolves.

The movement has even spawned beauty brands such as Damn Rebel Bitches, made by independent perfumer Sarah McCartney and created to encapsulate the feminist spirit of Jacobite women, blending period ingredients such as blood orange, pink peppercorns, malt, clary sage and hazelnut. It's a fragrance that speaks to coven-goers (and feminists) everywhere.

London's Moonlight Goddess Gatherings is one such coven, a group that began life as a kind of spiritual helpdesk manned by its leaders Anoushka Loftus and Zoe Hind to support the powerful women around them. Such is its popularity, Loftus has been able to leave her full-time career as a community manager for a skill-swapping website to devote her time to these monthly workshops.

"The gathering aims to offer women an environment whereby they can feel supported, inspired and empowered to dive deep within to find the treasure and share it with the world," she says. "We come together in an enchanting space on a new moon to inspire, share and support one another in uncovering and unleashing our magick."

Moonlight Goddess Gatherings take place in West London from 7-9pm every new moon, which for the next two months fall on Monday 30 January and Monday 27 February; tickets from £20

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