Living a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle are things that have become more and more important to me the older I get. I went vegan for the ethical and environmental reasons and I have slowly replaced a lot of disposable items in my life with reusable ones. I find myself reaching for unpackaged produce in the grocery store as well as items that come in paper or cans instead of plastic. I never go anywhere without a reusable shopping bag. I only buy cruelty free beauty and home products. I don’t buy from fast fashion brands. I’m trying my best and am always working on being better.
Witchcraft is something that has interested me and that I have studied from a young age. I got my first book about Wicca when I was thirteen. I have been an on and off practitioner for at least fifteen years. Recently I have been back on it and am trying to be more consistent and authentic in my practice. Part of this process has been to dive back into my studying as well as re-collect various tools that I have decluttered over the years. With my heightened interest in sustainability and ethical consumerism, there has been a lot of overlap. As a teenager and in my early twenties, even though I did thrift a lot of my tools, I would have been thrilled to buy any of the mass produced altar supplies. I used to happily stock up on crystals from various shops without ever wondering how they got there. I wasn’t thinking about where my stuff came from and the impact of my purchases on the world. I’m not judging myself for my past behaviors. It wasn’t my fault and I’m not here to condemn those who currently think and behave the way that I used to. Witchcraft and the new age spiritual movement has become highly commercialized. We live in a world where if people can make money off of something, they will, and it doesn’t usually matter what the consequences of that might be.
Two of the main issues I’ve come across with the rise of commercialized new age spirituality is the mining and acquisition of crystals and the illegal harvesting and sale of white sage, a common herb used for cleansing. I’ve done a little bit of research but I’m by no means and expert on either topic. I’ve even bought some new crystals recently, which I’m trying not to feel too bad about now.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the issues surrounding crystal acquisition I found this article from New Republic and this one from The Guardian to be good starting points. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the sale of white sage, this article from United Plant Savers is very helpful.
So why is sustainability and ethical practices in witchcraft so important? Witchcraft, across most beliefs, is about intention. Magic is born from infusing tasks with our intentions and releasing that energy into the universe. Witches talk a lot about cleansing their tools to make sure there is no negative energy attached to them that might interfere with the magic. I think that this has to go further than that. Sometimes the negative energy that can be attached to the tools and supplies we buy can come from inhuman mining or production practices. Can cleansing really be enough for that?
Witches are often advocates for the earth. We hold a lot of reverence for the planet that supports us and witchcraft draws heavily on the love of nature. Can we really talk about loving the earth while supporting industries that are destroying it? For me, the answer is no.
Everyone, of course, has different circumstances. Not everyone can go vegan. Not everyone can afford to live a zero waste lifestyle. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and the blame for that lays squarely with big corporations and the linear economy. Individuals cannot be expected to live perfectly sustainable lives in today’s modern world. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it’s not important to try our best within our means.
When it comes to witchcraft, for those of use that practice, I think it’s within our means to try. As I said, magic is about intention. The tools and supplies is all secondary to intention, which is something I’ve written about before. But most of us do love to have pretty altar decorations, candles, etc, and that’s okay. There are ways to have those things without supporting industries that may be harming the environment or causing human suffering.
Some tips for a more sustainable witchcraft practice:
- Buy your altar supplies secondhand. This is something I have always done because it’s cheaper, but it’s also more sustainable to buy used items than to support the production of new ones. Thrift stores always have candle holders, glassware, jars, and other odds and ends that can be incorporated into your practice.
- Reuse jars from food (salsa, pasta sauce, etc) for your jar spells instead of buying new ones. Reuse things wherever you can.
- You don’t have to buy new books on witchcraft to study. Buy used or borrow from the library.
- Grow your own herbs instead or buy ones that are locally grown.
- Use items that you find outside. I like to collect rocks, sticks, acorns, pinecones, and wildflowers to use in my practice. I think that these kinds of found treasures often have more power and meaning than anything we can buy.
- If you do want to buy new things, try to buy things that are handmade or from artists. I love supporting small handmade businesses.
- Do your research before buying. This isn’t necessarily the easy way, but it’s empowering to know where your things come from.
- If you like to indulge in witchy fashion, don’t buy from fast fashion brands. Secondhand is always better, especially with clothes.
Witchcraft isn’t about the stuff that you have. You don’t have to have tons of crystals or mass produced tools that have pentacles engraved into them. Use what you have. Purchase things mindfully. Be honest about what you really need and the industries you support when you make a purchase. And don’t beat yourself up about not being perfect.
It’s incredibly empowering to be a witch and to take control of your life in that way. But with that power comes responsibility, to yourself and to the earth. Put your beliefs into practice and do all things mindfully.
There’s a saying in the zero waste community that is something along the lines of “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need a lot of people doing zero waste imperfectly” and I think that sentiment applies to sustainable witchcraft as well. We just need as many people as possible to try their best and that’s all we can really ask for.
Some More Reading…