Bennett, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, starts by meditating and selecting a tarot card from a deck on a small wooden table. They call it their “working area.” Other items laid out on it include a labradorite crystal for mind-clearing and enhanced intuition, and a wand made of selenite for its protective quality. There is also a slightly singed bundle of juniper, which Bennett burns to cleanse and protect the work area as they focus on connecting to various energies, gods and goddesses, and more deeply to themself.
Bennett practices witchcraft, part of a panoply of multiple nature-based spiritual practices whose growing popularity can be measured in book sales, social media activity and research. Young Americans in particular are revamping mystical language and ancient rituals for their gender-fluid, write-my-own-rules, insta-worthy world. Like Bennett, many other teens discussing witchcraft these days on social media — the hashtag #witchtok on the youth-oriented site TikTok has 19.4 billion views — are looking for a personalized practice that taps into their own spiritual power and identity and feels authentic.
A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of teens ages 14-18 said “living a religious life” is very important to them, compared to 95 percent who prioritized having enough free time and 93 percent who prioritized career success. But social media, commercial data and expert interviews show a deep interest and openness to the supernatural, varied forms of consciousness and the power of not just gods and goddesses of paganism but also saints, angels and demons of Christianity, Islam and other millennia-old faiths. Many young Americans are spiritual seekers, it’s just that the places they look for awe and higher truths aren’t necessarily institutions or scriptures but increasingly in nature and in themselves.