Meet the witches of TikTok

Forget broomsticks and cauldrons… today’s witches are more likely to be winning fans on social media. Natasha Poliszczuk joins the modern coven.

TikTok witches
Getty Images

If you still associate witches with pointy hats and black cats, it’s time to step away from Harry Potter and think again. The modern witch is indistinguishable from you and me, save for a discreet wand hidden somewhere about her person.

‘Witches are just normal people,’ explains Frankie Castanea, aka TikTok sensation Chaotic Witch Aunt (@chaoticwitchaunt). In under two years, Frankie has accrued 1.4 million followers, ranging from teenagers to (mostly) women in their 40s and 50s. ‘We don’t look different, we don’t dress differently, we have normal jobs and we go to the supermarket. It could be that we wake up in the morning and do a banishing ritual to clear away negative energy. Or wear the pentagram [a symbol of faith]. Or cast spells as we cook. But other than that, witches are just like everyone else.’

And on TikTok, or more specifically #WitchTok, witches have found the ideal place to congregate. Unlike other forms of social media – Instagram, for instance, which often focuses on glossy images of polished perfection – TikTok thrives on humour and creativity. It’s no accident users call themselves ‘creators’. #WitchTok – the hashtag where witches gather and share content on the platform – is a space where this traditionally marginalised and historically persecuted group have found a community. Let’s face it: you might well feel like the only witch in the village, but on WitchTok, likeminded people abound. Frankie nods in agreement: ‘I went from more or less keeping my witchcraft practice to myself to finding this whole community of people asking questions and sharing ideas.’

Frankie Castanea
Frankie with grey cat Gato. Image: Instagram

The 23-year-old, who lives in the US, first came to witchcraft aged 16, after asking the universe for a sign when in the throes of an emotional crisis. A blue jay appeared. ‘This was the sign I needed. I started researching the symbolism of the blue jay [which can represent creativity and abundance] and animals in witchcraft, which in turn led to paganism and crystals – and here I am.’

When normal life ground to a halt in March 2020, Frankie started posting witty videos about witchcraft – and watched the views and follower count rise daily. It’s been meteoric: ‘I was getting tens of thousands of views. It just got bigger and bigger and bigger. At 800,000 followers I realised, “This isn’t slowing down” – and then I hit a million.’

It was a case of the right craft, in the right place, at the right time. ‘Suddenly, there were a lot more people on TikTok. They were bored and scared: they felt they had no control over what was happening and the world was a terrible place. They were looking for something. Witchcraft offers the opportunity to take back control; it can change outcomes and influence your life. When I started, I was just trying to be funny, but the humour drew people in and gave me a platform to show them what a witch really looks like – maybe even change their minds about witchcraft.’

TikTok’s format – short, snappy videos, often set to music – is ideal for creators to share snippets of information. ‘The algorithm learns what you want to see and shows you more of it,’ explains Frankie. The video content that does particularly well for Frankie (and by ‘well’ we’re talking about anything from hundreds of thousands to more than a million views) tends to be light-hearted – like a recent series about what it’s like dating a witch. The success of this type of video, where witchcraft and humour collide, is key to understanding WitchTok’s sharp rise in popularity. It’s relatable, approachable and goes some way to normalising witchcraft, which has, even in the recent past, been considered if not taboo, then certainly fringe.

Frankie is considered a celebrity on WitchTok and often gets messages from inexperienced ‘baby witches’ requesting guidance and advice. This online clout, together with a significant presence on YouTube (115k subscribers) and Instagram (74k followers), led to a call from a publisher and from there to the publication of Spells for Change, the how-to guide Frankie would have liked when starting out.

Frankie’s altar
Frankie’s altar, as shared on Instagram. Image: Instagram

Despite the strength of its community, WitchTok is not immune to conflict. Some older practitioners take issue with the younger generation’s tongue-in-cheek, comedic approach while there are occasional spats concerning how witchcraft is defined. Hexes (a negative spell intended to cause misfortune) are common, and there are some witches who – as in every other walk of life – just like ‘pushing buttons and creating a drama’.

Frankie, who has a close-knit group of ‘mutuals’ (friends), shrugs it off. ‘I keep to my corner and protect my energy. I think witchcraft is a very broad term, and every practice is different and personal.

‘There is something that will speak to you, whether you’re a 50-year-old woman using spells as you cook at home, or a 17-year-old boy looking for meaning in life. There’s room for everyone.’

There are different types of witches and ways of practising witchcraft. Green and hedge witches focus on herbalism and nature; kitchen witches incorporate spells into their cooking (witches believe all herbs hold innate properties), and eclectic folk witches like Frankie take elements of different traditions of witchcraft alongside everyday materials to create their own particular brand of ‘magick’. (Witches use the term ‘magick’ to differentiate the practice from the pulling-rabbits-out-of-a-hat/sawing-a-woman-in-half type of performance magic.) Frankie’s own brand of witchcraft is devoted to ‘divination, particularly tarot reading, protection magick, and working and communing with deities [see page below]’.

So does Frankie believe that you have to experience some kind of sign or calling to become a modern witch? ‘Not at all. Anyone can practise witchcraft – the only things you need are a willingness to learn and to make mistakes. Just gather some tools and start researching spells.’

tarot cards
Frankie shares a reading with followers

The most basic tool is the witch’s wand ‘for casting spells and directing energy’. Frankie’s first wand was a stick which was rolled in herbs and consecrated by burning. Wands often include crystals, which have individual meanings in witchcraft. You’ll also need a simple altar to work from. It can be anywhere that feels sacred to you – in Frankie’s case, an ordinary desk.

Simple is also best when it comes to spells, says Frankie, with things like ‘protection of the home’ being a good place to start. Because, be warned: spells can – and do – go awry. Early on, a love spell to strengthen a relationship resulted in Frankie’s then boyfriend becoming obsessive. Suffice to say, he was not happy when Frankie ended the relationship.

Frankie has also fallen foul of the rule that curses should never be cast in your own home. ‘I didn’t protect my space before casting a painful curse, so there was an active curse on my family home for the next four years. Everything that could go wrong, did. My dad lost his job, my sister broke up with her boyfriend, I went through a bad time. We now have rules,’ Frankie adds with a grin. ‘No hexing in the house.’

And WitchTok will always be there to help the beginner. ‘It’s going to keep on growing,’ says Frankie emphatically. ‘I can already see a whole new wave of creators coming to the fore. Who knows? Witches might even go mainstream.’

Know your witch-speak

ANGEL NUMBERS This repeating sequence of three numbers is a way for the spiritual universe to communicate with you – for example, 111 means your dreams are being manifested, while 555 refers to big changes. You can spot them on phone numbers, clocks, car licence plates and many other places.

SHADOW WORK This takes a look at your shadow self (the side that you don’t like, whether it’s a part of your personality, a habit or pattern) and embraces it through rituals, tarot, meditation or therapy.

DEITY This is a god or goddess who comes in and out of your life, depending on what you need at that time. They are different from a patron, which is the deity spirit that will guide you through your journey with witchcraft in the long term.

#BABYWITCH The largest (and youngest) group of witches on TikTok, with 2.3 billion hashtag views, baby witches are new to the practice and still prone to making mistakes due to a lack of experience.

TikTok’s witches to watch

Georgia (@leomoonie), 204,000 followers On top of individual tarot card and birth chart readings, Georgia also entertains her followers by answering random questions from cult divination text The Book of Answers.

leomoonie
@leomoonie

Kiley (@oracleofthemoon), 881,000 followers Equipped with a wand and an altar, Kiley shares all she knows about auras and divination. She also has her own page on Etsy, selling crystals and even a cauldron spell kit.

@oracleofthemoon
@oracleofthemoon

Natalia (@nataliaanio), 216,000 followers Lunar witch Natalia uses her TikTok and YouTube platforms to teach her subscribers everything there is to know about spell jars, crystals and how to harness the power of a full moon.

@nataliaanio
@nataliaanio

Stephanie (@thecelticsbrew), 543,000 followers A witch and psychic who specialises in past life readings, Stephanie has amassed a huge following by answering questions about birthmarks, dreams, soulmates and reincarnation.

@thecelticsbrew
@thecelticsbrew

Too much ‘negative energy’ in your home? Try Frankie’s cleansing spell

  • I like to smoke-cleanse with sandalwood, rosemary or frankincense, and carry the incense stick, wood or herb bundle (where herbs are tied together) around my home to rid it of unnecessary energetic clutter.
  • For this ritual, you can use whatever tool for cleansing you like. I recommend bells, pots to bang together, a cedar or rosemary herb bundle, or sandalwood.
  • Begin by either opening your door or windows. Start at the very top of the house by either lighting your herb bundle or incense, or by beginning to shake your bells. If you live in a one-floor house or flat, simply start in one area. I like to start at a certain point then move clockwise through the house, but you can follow your intuition for this.
  • State your intent, which can be as simple as ‘I cleanse this space of negativity’. Enter the first room on that floor and begin slowly walking around the perimeter of it. You can state your intent over and over, or you can state it only as you enter a new room.
  • Do this for every room on each floor, moving down slowly and stating the intent every time you need to. Make sure you end at the open door or at an open window. If you want, you can thank the energy or spirit for stopping by, and firmly say it may not return again.

Spells for Change: A Guide for Modern Witches by Frankie Castanea is published by Orion Spring, price £12.99. To order a copy for £11.04 until 28 November, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

Additional reporting: Charlotte Vossen