Witch Hunt: Are you New Age, Old Age or Something Else?

feature image via Molly Adams

How’s your Halloween coming along? I just picked out my costume yesterday! By the way, if you didn’t already know, I call the season from September 1st to November 1st “Halloween.” I invite you all to do the same thing.

Are ya’ll checking out the new Blair Witch movie?? I know I am! Watching scary movies in theaters during Halloween is one of my all time favorite things about the fall. It’s so fun to be in a theater and feed off the energy of everyone in there who have all agreed to get scared together and have a great time. Nothing gets me in the mood for Halloween like that. I know the first Blair Witch gets a lot of hate, but I kinda love it and this one looks AMAZING. My brother won an AV Club contest where there were Blair Witch totems hidden throughout Chicago and if you found one, you’d win tickets to a preview of the movie. They said it was great! Look at how cool and scary it looks!

Here’s a question: if you’re a witch, do you consider yourself to be New Agey? I’ve never identified at all with New Age anything, but recently a friend called astrology “new age stuff” and I realized that both astrology and crystals, two things that are huge parts of my witchcraft, are really heavily associated with the New Age movement. So I guess I’m thinking about this now. I guess I always saw my practice as more Old Age spirituality? Like, mine comes from traditions and things passed down through my family and culture, but adapted to today. Is that just what New Age means? Do I have to rethink my whole approach to witchcraft? What do you think about all this.

Let’s move on from that confusing topic and talk about links that I think you witches will love.

I was talking to Jenny Owen Youngs recently and she was like “check out this video from my friend, I think you’ll like it.” And boy howdy, I do. Look at this video! Listen to this song! Great Gay Witchy Content! This is by the artist Tancred, off her album Out of the Garden.

Now, I’m the farthest thing from wealthy and I don’t really see that changing, so I don’t know how much I personally relate to this article about 7 Habits of Wealthy Witchy People, but it’s definitely interesting. Freeform, the network that brings us shows like The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars is developing a new, completely bonkers sounding show. This one takes place in an Alternate America where witches ended their persecution by agreeing to work with the US military, and so now they fight terrorists by using magic? I think this sounds ridiculous but also if it has queer women I’m all over it. Here’s a video about crystal healing dildos you can watch! Finally, one of my all-time favorite witches was profiled by Latina magazine! Luna Merbruja, a witch, performer and writer (who’s written for us) talks about community, healing and magic and was tweeted at by la reina, Gina Rodriguez!

Here on Autostraddle, we’ve got you covered just like always. Beth’s written some super great Fool’s Journey entries. One was about using Tarot cards to guide you in your romantic pursuits, another was about reading Tarot cards at a public (or private) event, and another explores the super incredibly interesting question: What makes a feminist tarot deck? Have you read this super super amazing interview that Audrey did with Mara Wilson, who played child witch Matilda in Matilda? It’s super super amazing. Also for Autostraddle Plus members, you can read Heather’s terrific interview with Riese, who finally read Harry Potter. As always, I’m obsessed with our Queer Horoscopes, and as always, they called me out this month. My favorite Witch, Cecelia, just came out with a new entry into her column, Aesthetic Rising today, check it out. The last thing I want to talk about is Jenny Owen Youngs and Kristin Russo’s new podcast Buffering the Vampire Slayer, where they go through each episode of that tv show about vampires and slayers and, of course, witches, and Jenny sings a song about it. The first real episode just came out!

Playlist: We are the Weirdos, Mister: Songs About Being Weird

Words with Witches

by Rachel


enchant (verb) – literally, to place a person or thing under a spell; in the Middle English usage, could also mean “to delude.” Originating with the Latin incantare, to sing, some dictionaries list it as synonymous with “bewitch,” as some dictionaries may also use the terms enchantment, charm and spell interchangeably. More modern discourse around enchantment often refers to imbuing something with energy, or “intent;” the enchantment can be accomplished with some degree of ceremony, which could include speaking words aloud (harkening back to the word’s root, based in incantation), candles, sigils, other related objects being brought into play, corresponding herbs or crystals; or enchantment could take the form of transferring or infusing an object with personal energy without other fanfare. Wikipedia observes that an enchantment on an item “alters its qualities, generally in a positive way,” and that we can observe this to be true because “an enchantment with negative characteristics is usually instead referred to as a curse.”

My Favorite Witch

by Laura M
A few weeks ago, I was eating dinner and chatting with my girlfriend’s sister about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Suddenly we were both crying. The reason? She shared a rumored alternate ending for Tara and Willow that I’d never heard before. That’s the power of these characters. Fourteen years after the show originally ended, they’re still bringing grown ass women to tears.

At the start of Buffy, Willow Rosenberg is an awkward, introverted high school girl, lacking the confidence to stand up to bullies or pursue a crush. Her source of strength is her brainpower, with Willow making her initial contributions to the Scooby gang via library research and computer hacking. Geekery is the first magic she knows; spellcraft, it seems, a natural extension of that, particularly after the death of her techno-pagan mentor, Jenny Calendar.

Over the course of 7 seasons, we watch Willow grow into a confident, powerful woman, battling evil on a massive scale and literally creating an entire generation of super-powered girls and women. Her coming out was a groundbreaking portrayal in the early 2000s, and one that continued to resonate with me personally as I watched her and came out a decade or so later. Willow does some super fucked up things as she tests the limits of her strength, fights addiction, and struggles to find her moral center. But to this day, her narrative arc is one of the most interesting I’ve seen, and her character is one of my absolute favorites ever.

Practice of the Month

by Raquel

In Austin, where I live, there’s a short radio program on our NPR station called Stardate and its website is insane. It’s a charming filler between All Things Considered and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and it’s a silver lining for me if I ended up staying at work long enough to catch it on my drive home. On it, a soothing woman speaks over a background of ethereal synths, describing for us the movements of the planets and the stars and their astrological interest for that day.

Today I learned that the Moon, the poet’s favorite simile, is moving through our favorite water bear, the Aquarius constellation. Scientists recently discovered a star system in Aquarius that has not one, but THREE earth-sized planets. If a planet turns out to be habitable, usually within a certain distance from its star, it is called an exoplanet. The list of potential expolanets is very short, especially if you limit your search to just these assumed habitable zones. So, scientists are starting to look outside the boundaries—and seeking out exo*moons* as well.


Aquarians are dreamy and loosely artistic in a way that can sometimes stymie a neurotic Virgo rising like me, but this month, I think it would be a good practice for me, and for us all, to sit down and try not to make art. Instead, I will doodle, paint, watercolor, maybe even dance without any thought or consideration to outcome. This is a way to reach a flow state, a deeply enriching and renewing state of mind.

If doubts or criticisms arise, I will let them float through, but give them no dock to take port. This can be hard. I’ve been trying, when my self-judging nature does take hold, to turn those thoughts around on themselves and just be curious about them. “Huh,” I say to myself, “this sucks? Why do you say that? What determines its ‘sucking?’ Why does it matter if it does?” And so on. More often than not, I’ll find that my criticisms dissipate, and I can go back to just being, moving, creating.

Depending on where you live, you may not be able to hear Stardate on your radio, but if the mood strikes you, put it on. Mix a tincture or sip some homegrown herb tea. Close your eyes and dream of the stars. And make something.

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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 548 articles for us.


  1. This was an especially entertaining and informative WH installment, thank you! I’ll be going on those links for some time 🙂

    And Raquel – Aquarians are dreamy and loosely artistic? Well, I’ll take that.

  2. Yay! I was wondering when the next installment of this was coming out.

    I don’t consider myself new agey or old agey. I am not into crystals or astrology, they just don’t do it for me. I’m still trying to work out where I stand and what it all means. Cards are my first love. I just consider myself a little bit witchy.

  3. Do I think witchcraft is New Age? Heavens, no.
    Witchcraft is a practice (old age for some, not necessarily for all), Wicca is a religion (and sometimes practitioners think all witchcraft is Wiccan which… calm down, Gardner), and I always associate the phrase “New Age” with upper-class white women who believe in a bunch of Western assimilated fake buddhism and appropriated hinduism and blame everyone for their own problems by saying they just aren’t positive thinkers. Feel free to not put yourself in that category! I think aesthetic similarity is just misleading, whereas the ethos and practices are quite different.

  4. Yass Mey the most wonderful time of the year, and someday I will finished a Halloween re-write of that entire song.

    Oh Laura you manage to hi-light one of my reasons why Tara’s death was so unnecessary. Willow had growth, such growth. Her bae didn’t need to die for her to give her story more arch, it had an arc.

    Ahem as to the Old Age or New Age question.
    I like you have an attachment to the Virgin born out of my culture and somethings that are handed down sorta, but I don’t feel an attachment to the Church or Christianity (I think you still do right?). Even if some my centering stuff involves particular Latin hymns (sung or chanted) and classical liturgical music.

    Part of my witchiness is instinctual kitchen witching stuff, the another is something vocal and influenced by North Heathenry sorta that I can’t explain in written word.
    The rest is pretty much cleanly galdr, the runes call to me and I GET them in way I’ve never gotten some esoteric magic things.
    I understand alchemical symbols rather well because they’re like chemistry or something with their assignations, but I forget bits easily and need a refresher if I’m going to “draw” them.

    For the most part I don’t deal with astrology/put much stock innit, but um I’m a Gemini and well Odin is possibly my patron. Coincidence of that, mysterious and tricksy communicator my possible patron, paired with the typing of my sign amuses and freaks me out a bit.

    So I guess my practice would likely be assigned as Old Age? :/
    Especially if we’re rounding because rune working is old and vocal craft is older than farming.

    Personally feel like New Age is something people will slap on any witch or witchy people because it’s not a “real religion” whether astrology and crystals are a part of your practice or no.
    Or if your practice seems “really out there” and hippie-ish.

    To be completely honest tho, I may have in the past used New Age derisively with the implication the witch or practitioner appropriates Native culture and is probably a rich boho or bobo.
    Now I’d just say gaddang culture appropriating hippie instead.
    Or something with actual cuss words.

    I really don’t think you have to rethink your whole approach to witchcraft Mey, it’s always been a blend of things new and old.
    You do you.

    • *high five for including Latin chants into your practice* Singing has always been an incredibly spiritual practice for me (I’ve had some of my most spiritual moments singing in a choir) and I love Latin. I took it in high school (straight up because I wanted to be able to translate Harry Potter spells… Ahh, my nascent witching days) and ended up loving how much it felt like learning the “secret keys” to western languages.

      *high five for also being a fellow kitchen witch*

      I’ve never looked into runes before but you’ve piqued my interest as I’ve always had an intuition for signs and symbols. Would you mind sharing some sources for a beginner to explore? Many thanks!

      • I got into Latin (sorta) because of um Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, an exposure to the hymn Stabat Mater as young teen and the rendition was as fragile and sad as I was at the time.
        Then I learned Ave Maria and it’s my go to for the most part, sometimes I do In Paradisum.

        Heh, it IS the key to all the Romance languages.

        *salutes with pestle*

        This an Elder Futhark focused resource: http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/

        Uh you might need this grasp some of the concepts: http://norse-mythology.org/

        And this is a pairing of which runes go with which verse of the Hávamál in an english translation, not sure if Sunny Way has that.


        Eivor Palsdottir is Faroese singer and if you struggle with pronouncing some of them even with the pronunciation guide listen to some her stuff in Faroese with the lyics.
        Like Trollabundin, Min Modir, Nu Brennur Tu Í Maer, Rura Barnid, and Brostnar Borgir.

        Faroese and Icelandic are the closest living languages to Old Norse.

        Oh that reminds me Heyr Mimna Smidur

        Some might point you in the direction Wardruna but uh they may or may not have neo-nazi volkisch type connections. I don’t know if it’s youthful mistake thing or legit continuously held beliefs by one former or current member.

        I do have to warn you there are some seriously hetero-patriarchal often racist wack jobs in Northern Heathenry/ Germanic neo-paganism. They get awful mad when you point out Odin was a seidrmann (which is a queering thing) and therefore not the Yahweh-like patriarchal father figure concerned with social order and laws. That was Tyr.
        So like looking for a group to learn from, discuss or practice with might be risky business in person. Look for Rokkatru or Lokeans.

        Oh and Armanen runes =/= SS
        they adapted them into insignia but they don’t get poison an entire set of runes.

  5. The new age and witchy stuff are competing currents out of 19th and early 20th century occultism. Gardner’s witchcraft draws on the grimoire tradition through ceremonial magic, borrows stuff from freemasonry and then-current archeological theories, feeds off the romantic movement’s attachment to arcadian paganism, and colors itself by association with witch-trial records that connect to European shamanic sabbat beliefs through folk Christianity. The new age is really a continuation of theosophy, with its focus on eclectic recombination of “the wisdom of the east”, gurus, appropriated native american spirituality, Christianity with the serial numbers filed off, and channeled “ascended masters”. They merged up in the 70s in America, because the same people were into both.

  6. New Age comes from the idea of the Age of Aquarius, yeah? I always thought that identifying as New Age meant you were saying “I’m an aquarian and I believe we will see a new era of peace and life in the next 2000 years.” Anyway, I don’t believe in that. I’m a much bigger believe in cycles, and I know a failing empire when I’m living in one.

    Also, I think the New v Old dichotomy is not a good way to think about practices. Most people I’ve seen respect old ways but are also trying to bring those ways into their present moment. We respect what has handed down to us by continuing to build on it. Personally, I like to stay abreast of the newest research, such as the Pop Culture Pagan and Alterhuman tags on tumblr. The challenge is to find practices that I can shred and use for parts while still being anti-appropriative. (Someone mentioned the alchemy symbols earlier and those are amazingly handy.)

  7. “Are ya’ll checking out the new Blair Witch movie??”

    If it’s anything like the first one, probably not. All the camera shakiness made me feel ill. And I didn’t even watch it in the theater, which probably would have been worse. Hopefully, there are other scary movies to watch that aren’t like that? =)

  8. This was so wonderful but I’m mostly writing to third and fourth and fifth the idea that Halloween is from 9/1-11/1 and if you don’t deal with good-byes well then you get an extension until 11/15 or so.

  9. Okay before I read the alternate Tara ending thing I was like “psssh I never cry over stuff like this” BUT THEN I TOTALLY DID. Willow meant so much to uber-closeted high school me. She was the first queer character on tv that I ever saw and realized I could really relate to. Ugh, now I think I need to go start a rewatch of all of btvs, and then of course I’m gonna listen to the podcast.

  10. A big thanks to all the people in this thread for their thoughts on what “new age” is. My mother (upper middle class white woman & bona fide narcissist) is new age and I grew up in a household with a lot of new age beliefs. On the surface, new age beliefs seem pretty rad and like it’s all light and love and angels and crystals, but there is a sinister side to it all. New age cults range from benign to incredibly malignant (my mom is a member of quite a few!), many new age beliefs will have you paying large sums of money on anything from meditation courses, psuedo-ayurvedic counseling, tapes, books, channelings, yagyas, activations, etc, and lots of new age activities involve meditations(/hypnosis/trance & suggestion) that exploit the human psyche and it’s highly suggestible nature when in trance state.

    I’ve seen new age beliefs rob individuals of their creativity, self expression, and individuality. My own mother is a shell of the woman she once was, constantly in a mental battle with herself not to think “negative thoughts” or stress out, while simultaneously having her narcissism fed in cosmic portions as she’s been convinced she knows and obeys her “God-self” and is a light worker who must fulfill the decrees of the ascended masters while living in this 3rd dimensional plane (she told me she’s a dragon in the 6th dimension tho). also everything in her life she’s ever gotten was through The Secret and by attracting it into her life through positive thoughts. It’s definitely not due to my hard working father footing the bill for all her meditation retreats and spiritual snake oils. Definitely not that.

    Amidst all the hogwash and deception, there’s at least once thing clear to me: despite decades and countless dollars, I do not believe my mother has become a more spiritual, enlightened or aware human being. She is the stark opposite.

    it’s been a journey coming to a place where I have thrown off everybody else’s bullshit and found my own spiritual practice. If any queers out there have found their way to witchcraft after exposure to new age teachings (transcendental meditation, the st germain foundation, I AM movement, Abraham-Hicks, what the bleep do we know/Ramtha/any teaching that completely misrepresents what Quantum Physics is, Patricia Cote-Robles, ascended masters, etc etc etc etc) I’d love to chat with you. I’ve been unraveling a lot of my personal narrative and history thru studying some of the cults and beliefs on my mom’s side of the family and it’s illuminated my perspective on my childhood 10000% and helped me understand aspects of my adult personality that have confounded me for years. It’s not all love & light out there, folks.

    • Also! I’d like to mention that meditation and Ayurveda are both wonderful things. They are “old age”, and their “new age” counterparts tend to be counterfeits used to induce trance state in people, control people’s lives, schedules, and when/where/what/how they consume food, and peddle miracle cures that promise eternal youth and perfect health (while actually containing random crud like insect bits. Major side eye to you, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)

  11. I don’t consider myself new agey, but if asked that’s what I’ll say i am. “New age”, after all, sounds a lot better than “witch” to people who don’t know what witchcraft actually is.

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