Monday, July 17th - Sunday, July 23rd
Stories from Mashable, The Independent, Broadly, Salon, and Motherboard.
Witches are using social media to sell everything from tarot cards to crystals.
Katie Karpetz is a Canadian bog witch who runs a wildly successful Instagram store selling products marketed to other witches. Vintage amethyst tower wands designed to soothe insomnia. Custom-made "witch bottles" whose recipes are top secret. Karpetz is part of an emerging group of business-oriented witches who frequently use the hashtag #WitchesofInstagram to sell their creations. The hashtag yields over 700,000 results.
“Everyone’s pretty supportive, radical feminists, building each other up, and giving shout outs to each other,” said Christy Patton, founder of the New Orleans School for Esoteric Arts and operator of the witchy-lifestyle Instagram account, @NolaEsoteric. “We buy each other’s products, and we put them on our own Instagram stories.”
The Instagram witches are mostly self-taught through books, art, and the internet. Witchcraft has mostly been a solitary venture, so having such a thriving community is actually quite unique. “We have become really close friends with some really amazing witches on Instagram,” Patton said. “We have friends all over the world.”
The 2016 U.S. presidential election has given a huge boost to the community, with many turning to witchcraft as a way to fight back. “It’s about how we as witches and as women could resist together,” said Josie Campos, who is also a part of @NolaEsoteric. “And that even though we currently have to exist within a capitalist system, we can do it ethically.”
The Instagram witches like magic becoming more mainstream, but they take issue with mainstream retailers diluting the meaning of the products. Urban Outfitters now sells crystals, spell books and tarot cards. Despite the complexities of commercialization, Patton and Campos have a larger vision. They are shaping the future.
“It’s about re-educating the next generation,” Patton said. “All these old, white dudes will be dead in 15 to 20 years, and we have to be able to shape how the world will change. Instagram is just one tool to do that.”
A Soho-based energy healer has become a favorite of the fashion elite.
Under the moniker Mama Medicine, 34-year-old Deborah Hanekamp offers a meticulously curated healing experience out of a Soho studio. Straight out of an Ikea catalogue, the clean white interior drips with hanging plants and Copper-coated accents. Here Hanekamp offers treatments that include aura reading, sound healing, scented oils and shamanistic chanting.
After life running a Brooklyn yoga studio, Hanekamp travelled to Thailand to learn Reiki and crystal healing, and later trained in Peru with a native healer for eight years. Pregnent with her now four-year-old daughter, Hanekamp realized administering Ayahuasca wasn’t her path. She asked the universe for guidance, and it answered.
“I got all the information in a channelled message, which just feels like guidance from a source outside of my own mental chatter,” she explained. “[I got] a channelled message about, ‘Ok you're going to do medicine readings. This is exactly how you do them; This is the exact formula. It's a one-on -one experience, a group experience, and a retreat experience’."
She started right away, and it quickly grew. The popularity of Yoga and spirituality among millennials bolstered her business and let it bypass the “cringey” New-Age trends of yesterday. Hanekamp, like many others, realized that regardless of one’s viewpoint, nearly everyone can appreciate the beauty of selenite. Her Instagram has more than 27,000 followers.
Hanekamp thinks it isn’t just aesthetics driving the boom in spirituality. “Spiritually brings you into connecting to yourself, to others," she said. "It helps you to see you're not so separate from one another. And I think it's something that we are so desperately craving in such a large way right now.”
And she has many happy clients. “It has that element of therapy but it’s not that, it goes deeper than that,’ said Catherine Dash, a freelance writer and prop stylist who also lives in Brooklyn. Ana Meier, a lighting and furniture designer who lives in the city, echoed that sentiment.
“I have more clarity, feel more peaceful, more aligned, and happier. I guess the biggest thing is more of a sense of peace,” said Meier. “People around me notice. They’re like, ‘Oh, you just went to Deborah’.”
An English countess has been revolutionizing psychedelic drug research for decades.
Amanda Fielding, a hippie aristocrat turned drug reformer is a major force behind many of the headline-grabbing studies around the effectiveness of things like psilocybin to treat mental illness and addiction. Now 74 years old, Feilding—whose full title is the Countess of Wemyss and March—is can trace her lineage to the Habsburgs and the illegitimate heirs of Charles II. Using her think tank and NGO, the Beckley Foundation, she sponsored and supported the research from Johns Hopkins.
"I think Amanda's contribution had been enormous," says Professor Celia Morgan, a University of Exeter scientist who has worked with Feilding on studies exploring the side effects of medicinal cannabis and the effects of cannabis on creativity. "She has—with her cadre of scientist collaborators—been instrumental in driving the psychedelic renaissance, which is gaining increasing credibility in psychopharmacology."
Her journey started as a 23-year-old tripping on acid and smoking 20 cigarettes a day. A thought sprang into her head: This is really a disgusting habit. She quit smoking shortly afterwards, and has credited psychedelics with helping her kick the addiction since. "[Psychedelics] just give one the strength to carry out a decision that is common sense," she explains.
Half a century later, her experience is borne out by the evidence. In 2014, Johns Hopkins researchers administered psilocybin to longtime smokers to see if the psychedelic compound, which naturally occurs in magic mushrooms, helped with addiction. The results were staggering: 80 percent of the participants successfully stayed away from cigarettes after six months, compared to the 30 percent success rate of conventional treatments for smoking.
It hasn’t been without an epic struggle however. "Fifty years of shouting into the abyss! I've got a sore throat from the effort," she said. "But I'm quite a fighter. I have a great faith in what I think is true, and this is why I'm staying on in the game." Finally it seems like the tide is turning in her favor.
Steven Bannon admires Mitch Horowitz. President Trump loves “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
“Occult America” author Mitch Horowitz writes that the right wing has long been enamored by New Age mysticism. Ever since Madame H.P. Blavatsky depicted America as the catalyst for a revolution in human potential in her 1888 opus “The Secret Doctrine,” occult themes made their way into American politics. “It is in America that the transformation will take place,” Blavatsky wrote, “and has already silently commenced.”
Generations of occult writers echoed these sentiments, believing America was special among nations and possessed a “secret destiny,” as Manly P. Hall put it, thus marrying esoteric spirituality to patriotic ideals. Henry A. Wallace, a former Republican and mystical seeker who went on to become Franklin Roosevelt’s second vice president was responsible for the eye-and-pyramid surrounded by the Latin maxim “God Smiles on Our New Order of the Ages” becoming part of the dollar.
Ronald Reagan is especially known for his mystical leanings. “You can call it mysticism if you want to,” Reagan told the Conservative Political Action Conference in 1974, “but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
This fascination extends beyond politics. One of Richard Nixon’s confidants was insurance magnate W. Clement Stone, a right-wing activist, benefactor of the famous ESP lab at Duke University, and collaborator to Napoleon Hill, author of the mind-metaphysics classic “Think and Grow Rich.”
So not so surprising then that Stephen K. Bannon called Horowitz to express admiration for “Occult America” and encouragement for Horowitz' more recent “One Simple Idea,” an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life.
And President Trump has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of “positive thinking” from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
On-skin electronics are part of the emerging biointerface frontier.
In a paper published Monday in Nature Nanotechnology, Akihito Miyamoto and colleagues offer an alternative form of ultrathin mesh that directly integrates with the soft surface of the skin. The electronic mesh leaves virtually no mechanical footprint while allowing skin to breathe and sweat as normal. They are essentially temporary tattoos which act as electronic interfaces and can track all sorts of things happening in the human body from heart activity to brain activity.
"Our inflammation-free sensor can be used for continuous monitoring of vital signals under normal, everyday conditions over long periods of time," Miyamoto and colleagues write.
This isn’t the first attempt to make skin-based interfaces. Over the past years, light-based and biochemical sensors have been laminated onto human skin for a variety of purposes, including skin-based displays and electrical, chemical, and physical sensors. What’s new is that this paper describes a substrate free interface, potentially a huge advance.
The mesh is constructed on a basis of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a synthetic water-soluble polymer that's already used in a variety of medical applications. PVA fibers are created through a process called electrospinning, then the fibers are patterned onto a thin layer of gold. The resulting mesh is affixed to the skin and sprayed with water. The PVA dissolves and leaves behind only fine interwoven threads of gold. The result is gas-permeable, doesn't block sweat glands, and stretchable enough to be worn for long periods without discomfort.
While still in early phases, the technology has the potential to make great advances in medical wearables as well as other haptic interfaces.