In ‘The Beauty Myth’, Naomi Wolf explains how institutional misogyny has kept women from realising their full potential, outlining how women have been trained to focus on their image instead of themselves in an effort to protect existing patriarchal power structures. One of the book’s many take aways is that true self-care comes with self-realisation, and that freeing ourselves from curated femininity and rediscovering our power is the only way we can dismantle the power structures that have met every freedom that we have gained with a new chain to keep us controlled. Self-care movements of recent years have seen women aim to take back control of their bodies and minds after centuries of this systemic oppression.
Tarot is self-care.
At the same time the once underground spirituality community has made its way not only into the horoscope section of weekend newspapers, but into the online sphere, granting it more of the legitimacies that come with entering mainstream culture. And the online spirituality community seems to appeal to one group in particular - women.
Looking at the analytics of my Instagram account, I learned that 87% of my audience was made up of women, and that upon further investigation this is reflected not only in the Instagram tarot community but spirituality community in general, on Instagram and elsewhere online. It seemed odd that the audience was so disproportionately female, but it made sense when considering the link between spirituality and self-care. Women, through its emphasis on self-reflection, are using spirituality as an antidote to institutionalised misogyny. There are many reasons that men may not feel the same draw to spirituality, not least because of the perception of the term “witch” as feminine, but if understanding "witchcraft" and spirituality in the context of self-care, in the words of Florence Given, “Men rarely need to ‘make time for themselves’ because they have built-in self-care. It’s called women.”
Many “witchy” Instagram pages focus on self-care as part of daily practise, using tarot readings as prompts to evaluate the self and the life, astrology to consider the interweaving forces of the world and people around them, meditation and astral projection to calm and heal the mind, and even spellwork to focus on energies and how the self can connect to the earth’s natural energy. My personal experience deals mainly with tarot reading, which I know can be incredibly powerful, enabling spiritual and emotional breakthroughs that would be difficult to achieve otherwise, with one woman, after a traumatic break-up, coming to the realisation that maybe, “her life’s journey is not to find love, but to find herself.”
The Witchcraft community offers women the power that has been robbed of them for so many years.
Many see "witchcraft" as self-care in its purest form - not face masks and spa treatments that ultimately fuel the capitalist beauty ideals that chained us in the first place, but actual care for the self. In a world where they have been taught that because they can be anything, they should be everything, women see an opportunity through spiritual practices to evaluate their hectic lives and consider what they want. Wolf discusses desire as an emotion that women are consistently separated from and even denied, so it is striking that modern women seem to connect to spiritual beliefs that focus so wholeheartedly on evaluating and manifesting desires. Where women are taught to accommodate for the desires of others first, the "witchcraft" community offers women the power that has been robbed of them for so many years.
Spirituality focuses on the self rather than the self-image while the beauty myth, as Wolf explains, does the opposite. This distinguishes it from other, more superficial forms of self-care which, while beneficial in some instances, still encourage success through self-image, and ultimately feed into capitalist ideals that serve as one of the pillars holding up the beauty myth. Though spirituality, however, women can prioritise themselves over their self-image, reclaiming the power that the beauty myth has denied them. If its ability to facilitate self-care is fully realised, spirituality could serve as a form of self-reflection for many more women, allowing us to reclaim a power that, according to Wolf, would threaten the societal structures that continue to oppress us.
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