In March of this year, newly elected New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her birth chart on Twitter with Arther Lipp-Bonewitts
(he describes himself as: Tarot reader, astrologer, angel medium, psychic. At the intersection of Astrology and Sexuality). Burton gives us an explanation:
For an increasing number of left-leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self-care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post-Trump era: pitting the self-identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.
Rather than a mere conversion story towards the occult, Burton points out, progressive millennials have “appropriated the rhetoric, imagery, and rituals of what was once called the “New Age”—from astrology to witchcraft—as both a political and spiritual statement of identity.” It’s a “cosmic counterbalance to Trumpian evangelicalism.” If popular conservatism has used religious rhetoric to accomplish and sustain its power (just consider Jerry Falwell and Robert Jeffress’ “religious” defenses for Trump), then progressives are now doing the same.
Burton gives some background to where this development may have come from:
A full 72 percent of “nones” say they believe in God, or at least some kind of nebulously defined Higher Power; 17 percent say they believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. Suspicious of institutions, authorities, and creeds, this demographic is less likely to attend a house of worship, but more likely to practice the phenomenon Harvard Divinity School researchers Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston have termed “unbundling”: a willingness to effectively “mix and match” spiritual, ritualistic, and religious practices from a range of traditions, divorced from their original institutional context. A member of this “remixed” generation, for example, might attend yoga classes, practice Buddhist meditation, read Tarot cards, cleanse their apartment with sage, and also attend Christmas carol concerts or Shabbat dinners. They might tap into the perceived psychic energy of their surroundings at a boutique fitness studio like SoulCycle, which openly bills itself as a “cult,” and whose charismatic trainers frequently post spiritually tinged motivational mantras like “You were created by a purpose, for a purpose” on SoulCycle’s social media platforms.
In other words, while Wicca as a worldview and religion has a well-structured set of metaphysical assumptions, the “unbundled” millennials do not. Instead they have began to seize the rhetoric for political purposes.
Granted, most millennial denizens of “Witchblr” are more likely to cleanse their homes with sage, say, or practice mindfulness meditation than to cast a curse on Republican lawmakers. But the rhetorical and spiritual popularization of “resistance magic” in the age of Trump reveals the degree to which one of America’s supposedly most “secular” demographics—urbane, progressive millennials—aren’t quite so secular after all.
Followers of Ocasio-Cortez’s star chart, contemporary witch feminists, serious proponents of Satanic feminism, and dabblers in Sephora-accessible Tarot cards alike all share both a hunger for the grounding effects of spiritual presence and a fervent conviction that personal spirituality should resist, rather than renew, the newly waning power of institutional religion.
The secular person may be more spiritual than we think, but their spirituality takes on a different form. In previous ages and societies, spirituality shaped and formed convictions (whether moral or political). But the modern person sees spirituality as an enhancement to their already held convictions. Spirituality is something to use for our their purposes rather than to be shaped and corrected by.