Interest in spirituality, witchcraft on the rise amid COVID-19, TikTok boom

Some stores and booksellers have seen an increase in sales on spiritual items.

March 07, 2022, 4:19 AM

House of Intuition, a spirituality-based line of stores and services, was built out of "desperation," according to co-founder Marlene Vargas.

She and co-founder Alex Naranjo say they became interested in the topic during some moments of great change -- Vargas had gone through a traumatizing divorce and was questioning her relationship with Catholicism, while Naranjo's family migrated back to Colombia without her and she began to openly embrace her queer identity.

"I think people go to tarot readings or seek something outside of religion when we're really in that vulnerable state," Vargas said. "When somebody came to me and said, 'you should have a Tarot reading,' I would probably never have done that, had everything been fine and dandy in my life. But because everything was falling apart, I was desperate."

Tarot card or oracle card readings to provide guidance and reflection; candle-burning rituals to set intentions and to manifest goals; crystals that radiate energy -- these are just some of the tools they say they learned to use in a time of loss and confusion.

PHOTO: Alex Naranjo and Marlene Vargas of the House of Intuition say that spirituality has played a big role in their personal growth.
Alex Naranjo and Marlene Vargas of the House of Intuition say that spirituality has played a big role in their personal growth.
House of Intuition

Vargas and Naranjo turned it into a business that has continued to grow amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They say people are starting to look for direction through spirituality and witchcraft during this confusing time, just as they were when they first founded the House of Intuition.

"Now I know I don't need anybody but myself. I'm good with my rituals. I can connect with myself even if the church closes down like it did during COVID," Vargas said.

Witchcraft and spirituality practices often focus on the power of one's spirit and on the energy of the universe and planets, practitioners say.

This can range from creating spells using herbs and stones, to learning and charting the movements and positions of the moons.

These kinds of practices appear to be on the rise -- local businesses like Brujas of Brooklyn and even Barnes & Noble also report a drastic rise in requests or purchases of these services and items.

According to Shannon DeVito, the director of books at Barnes and Noble, the size of their self-transformation business grew significantly through 2019, and then more than doubled from 2020 to 2021.

PHOTO: Tarot cards and crystals lay on a witchcraft altar display in an undated stock image.
Tarot cards and crystals lay on a witchcraft altar display in an undated stock image.
STOCK IMAGE/Romolotavani/Getty Images

"Younger audiences and teens are also now discovering tarot decks, manifestation, witchcraft, and crystals (oftentimes with the help of viral readings on TikTok paired with plentiful time at home)," DeVito told ABC News in a statement.

TikTok currently has over 30 billion views on the #astrology tag and roughly 20 billion views on the #tarot tag.

DeVito said that readers are quickly becoming experts in their crafts, seeking information on tarot cards, oracle decks, books, and kits in their stores.

"Self-transformation, in a lot of ways, is a form of self-care (which is an area also seeing exponential growth)," DeVito added.

Naranjo added, "I don't believe that it's a fad. The newer generation is already on that they are our new teachers … It's definitely a beautiful time for all of us to see and witness."

Brujas of Brooklyn, founded by two Afro-Dominican sisters who double as college professors, have also reported an increase in engagement, and are embracing the excitement and interest around witchcraft.

Co-founder Grisela Rodriguez-Solomon said her identity is central to her brand, to the movement, and to her teachings as a gender studies professor who discusses the decolonization of witchcraft.

PHOTO: Griselda Rodriguez-Solomon, of the Brujas of Brooklyn, is pictured in an undated photo.
Griselda Rodriguez-Solomon, of the Brujas of Brooklyn, is pictured in an undated photo. Rodriguez-Solomon says that practicing witchcraft connects her to her Afro-Latina identity.
Thais Aquino Photography

"These practices of tapping into supernatural powers of engaging with elements were very much demonized and ostracized," she said.

She added, "My sister and I and so many other women, especially of color, are reclaiming these identities because we're in need of healing but also … we're reclaiming things that we were taught were anti-white, anti-European, anti-capitalist and my ancestors were shamed for it."

The women of the Brujas of Brooklyn and House of Intuition say they have seen a lot of new faces, and they urge newcomers to learn the respect and honor the craft and those who have practiced it before them.

"This journey is a very intuitive one, and it's about understanding that this tarot card or this bundle of sage or this crystal that you're eyeing, it has an energy," Rodriguez-Solomon said. "It has a history, and it's about trying to respect that history."

Energy and instinct play a big role in embracing spirituality, they say. If something doesn't feel right or doesn't resonate -- like a reading or a spell -- it's not a burden you're obligated to carry, the sisters say.

Spirituality is a journey, they say.

"I'm happy this movement, if you will, is going mainstream because that means more people are becoming well," Rodriguez-Solomon said. "They're really taking their own power back by healing themselves."

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