It seems like within the past few years, the mystery boxes and all-in-one kits have surged in popularity. From geek culture to haute cuisine, nearly anything you want can be found in box-able form, ready to be shipped nearly anywhere in the world. It didn’t really seem to be that much of a surprise that a boxes of spirituality would come next.
Over this past weekend, news was released that beauty industry Sephora would begin selling “Starter Witch Kit” which consists of a deck of Tarot cards, a rose quartz crystal, a sage bundle, and some perfume oils.
I’ve seen a lot of negative reactions in regards to this and it got me thinking about what in particular is so off putting. Many metaphysical stores offer various types of starter kits directed at witches; specifically I’ve seen a lot of herbal and altar kits; bundling many items together to help people out who are just beginning their practice. Some Pagan businesses offer subscriptions that follow the Sabbats in order to keep your altar in step with the seasonal holidays. Any well-seasoned Pagan-y person will tell you that you “don’t* have to have many of these things; that you can assemble an altar from everyday objects, that a tree limb taken respectfully from your local park, or even your backyard will make a good wand, etc; as such, there’s a bit of push-back to these boxes and kits, but no where near the amount of negative attention that this Sephora box is receiving.
Of course a huge difference is the above-mentioned kits come from the magickal community; the Sephora/Pinrose box comes from a huge beauty corporation that has no responsibility or obligation to the Pagan community. There won’t be Wiccan or herbalism classes held at your local Sephora, nor will they be sponsoring your local Pagan Pride Day, or any of our festivals for that matter. This box is a flimsy attempt to bring “spirituality” and “wellness” to one of the most superficial markets out there. I see the concept of the box reflecting a larger societal problem of trying to buy your spirituality and sense of well-being rather than actually doing the hard work of trying to achieve it on your own. And honestly, I while I am certainly not a fan of this box, I get why people would and will buy it. This current timeline is bizarre and chaotic, tensions and stakes are incredibly high, For people that don’t have an established spiritual practice, some simple sage, oils and crystals could bring immense relief. In an uncertain world, who wouldn’t be eager to try to learn a divination system, especially with a tarot deck as bubble-gum soft as this one appears to be. From the packaging to the contents, the things in this box are as naive and fluffy bunny as can be. I don’t even really think of what’s in there as witchy; this is New Age-y at best.
So why such backlash over a simple, albeit overpriced, box? I’ve seen some people write that it’s going to bring entities through that the buyer won’t be able to handle. I strongly disagree with this as I feel there is absolutely nothing in there that’s going to take someone with virtually zero knowledge about witchcraft and make said person an instant magnet for any and everything malevolent. I think at worst, someone will feel they wasted their money and at best, perhaps they will begin to take the steps toward to discovering something deeper and more meaningful. After all, there’s plenty of Pagan/witchy folk with sincere beliefs that started this path because of a bad Llewellyn book or a fantastical movie/TV show. I think it’s safe to say most of the box buyers will get bored and will move on to the next thing guaranteed to fill the void.
Another thing I’ve seen people write is that this cheapens and appropriates our spiritual practices, and that it would be just as bad as a Starter Christian Kit, or a Starter Muslim Kit, which I think is a very valid point. Why didn’t Sephora choose Pagan/witch over other religions and spiritual paths? I did a very brief search and found that there are in fact, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish subscription boxes out there and they are relatively easy to find. Why are the Pagans and witches’ culture and identity commercialized by a cosmetic company?
Sephora’s “about” page says the following: “…a leader in global prestige retail, teaching and inspiring clients to play in a world of beauty…Sephora encourages bold choices in beauty – and in life with the purpose of inspiring fearlessness.” Bold, fearless, brazen, sexy and free-spirited are tropes often assigned to Pagans and witches that aren’t assigned to women of other religions. Often, we are sex and body positive, and we wear what we want, unhindered by religious or spiritual taboo, unless directed by the divine on an individual level. I do think it important to note many (not all) of my fellow Pagan and witchy women wear minimal to no makeup.Again, I remind myself that Sephora isn’t marketing to those of us already ensconced in the Pagan/witch lifestyle; instead they are marketing to those without a strong spiritual background that are looking for something more. I sincerely doubt Sephora’s marketing team ever even considered how those that already identify as witch would respond.
I think something else we as a community need to take into consideration is our own internal conflicts and how incidents like these mirror them. There’s a lot of discussion back and forth about what makes a person a “real witch” or “real Pagan.” Solitary practitioner vs. coven member,; in vs. out of the broom closet; hard polytheist vs. soft polytheist; reconstructionist vs. woo, etc.. The freedom of having no central authority telling us how to practice can also be a liability; who among hasn’t felt lost from time to time and uncertain of where to turn for guidance; or felt the prickings of imposter syndrome when you feel the Divine reaching out? I think these insecurities well up when we see items we think of as sacred and dear neutered into a commodity.
All in all, the Sephora box doesn’t anger me that much. I do think it’s in poor taste, but I’m kind of amused by it actually, and am interested in seeing if the religious right-wingers will huff and puff about it; I think they would have more power in getting the product pulled than the Pagan/witch community will. Part of me wants to see if there will be an influx of newbie Pagans and witches devoted to goddesses of beauty and love. Perhaps Aphrodite will reemerge with a legion of devotees; I think I can hear her laughing.