Unfaltering self-awareness can be a challenge to achieve, especially in this era of information, where switching biases, beliefs, and influences can become an almost daily occurrence. Exposure to cancel-culture and picture-perfect influencer lifestyles can warn of the more detrimental effects of mob mentality, and even identity crisis, on any social media user. With the overwhelm of identities placing themselves front and center constantly in new media, the pressure to find ourselves in the crowd persists now more than ever.
To combat such dilemmas, the concept of self-care has emerged as a necessity in digital hygiene, among other niche practices of wellness. It encourages individuals to grow an awareness over their own needs, wants, and flaws; from realizing when to say “no” to certain situations and irrational commitments, to validating one’s needs for ordinary pleasures. It could mean anything as simple as taking time off of one’s phone, or as grand as preparing a day of pampering for oneself. Self-care means anything you deem suitable to your own needs. And while it may be hard to pinpoint the multitude of methods “self-care” today entails, what remains is its emphasis on the individual’s journey to creating their best self — and in recent times, this is wholly meant in a spiritual sense.
CROSSING SPIRITUALITY WITH SELF-CARE
Initially lumped into variations of “self-help”, “spirituality”, or “new age”; self-care’s recent prevalence has moved beyond untouched “self-improvement” bookstore aisles, now headlining sponsored Instagram post captions, personal blog features, and community webinars and workshops for otherwise obscure-sounding activities (dream journaling? soap making? money manifesting? etc.). Astrologers, energy healers, tarot readers, and witches are a lot more mainstream now than some might think, practicing easily digestible versions of their otherwise esoteric crafts that adhere to this generation’s needs for self-care.
Alchemy, divination, and astrology are some such mystic practices whose occultist origins hark back to the 18th-19th centuries, which then influenced the far-out “New Age” culture of the 60s-80s that consequently included more asian practices such as Buddhism and Hinduism. However, modern mysticism of the 2010s-20s has since evolved into an eclectic umbrella term for almost any type of belief outside of organized religion. Pinterest predicts an interest in modern mysticism in 2021, according to their analytics observing a 100% search increase in “protection crystals”, a 105% search increase in “manifestation techniques”, as well as a significant number of new searches for bath or “cleansing” related rituals and recipes. Modern mystics nowadays pick and choose from a vast array of non-religious beliefs and practices that resonate with their individual spiritual journey, including mainstay spiritual practices like yoga, breathwork and meditation. Some may adopt traditional nature-centered, or “pagan” rituals with which to connect to their pre-colonial heritage, while some others might simply light a candle every now and then and write out their manifestations.
Given that most themes use such esoteric terms, the whole spectrum of mystic self care practices can be overwhelming to behold. Even so, more new practitioners continue to be found every day, creating their own variations of such crafts spanning from the elaborate and arcane to the mundane and practical. Connecting them are their qualities for inspiring intuition and inner knowing. And despite not promising instant or tangible results, what also continues to invite this generation into modern mysticism is its accessibility online, and the appeal of creating or incorporating personal rituals anyone can turn into something that is completely their own.
MAGIC IN ITS MANY FORMS
The eras that mark the steady development of this mystic branch of self-care seemingly blend into each other, expanding its timeline to form more of a map that spans multiple cultures and philosophies; from exclusive occult pseudosciences, to hippie new age philosophies, to self-empowerment literature, to self-care rituals. But to roughly trace mystic self-care’s emergence in the mainstream since the “New Age”, spiritual self-help authors made popular in the 2000s come to mind; such as The Power of Now author Eckhart Tolle whose secular-ish approach to spirituality first brought the concept of conscious living or “mindfulness” to more skeptic western readers. “Spirit Junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein introduced meditation, goal manifestation, and positive affirmation practices made for the daily worker to combat daily struggles including stress, finances, and dating. Another prominent spiritual self-help figure is Deepak Chopra, well-known for his work in promoting alternative medicine, focusing on holistic wellness between body, mind, and spirit. While these notable figures made their start in print and publishing, today, their modern philosophies continue to reach new minds through social media and their own mobile apps.
More niche spiritual practices have begun to gain wider reach with the help of modern technology and social media. Astrology, tarot reading, crystal healing, spell casting, energy cleansing and other similarly outlandish-sounding practices have recently found new homes on digital platforms like Youtube and Instagram. The Gem Goddess and Lavendaire are both well known on Youtube for their individual-centered, mystic-inspired content. While Leanna Palmer of The Gem Goddess creates informative and entertaining metaphysical videos spanning astrology, manifestation (otherwise known as the Law of Attraction), tarot reading, and crystals; Aileen Xu of Lavendaire blends her dabblings in metaphysical practices with practical self-care themes such as journalling, mental health talks, business and financing, and productivity.
The steady looming presence of horoscopes and zodiac memes nestled in our pop culture can be attributed to for creating this sort of gateway into other related mystic arts, such as tarot and oracle reading — especially now that tarot-scopes almost regularly accompany these astro posts. Brigit Esselmont of Biddy Tarot first worked on her tarot education curriculum from 1999 until its mainstream success in the 2010s, pioneering her intuitive entrepreneurship, straying away from the books and encouraging practitioners to look inward. This opened up a new wave of tarot and oracle readers working online, that saw beyond the 500 year old art’s fortune-telling origins and saw its intuitive and practical use, especially in the realm of self-care.
Translated into the digital medium, whether on Youtube, Instagram, or in blogs, these mystic practices are shared by a diverse melting pot of creators. Crystal grid making and tarot deck designing for example, have largely grown into Instagrammable artwork on their own. Neo Tarot: A Fresh Approach to Self-care, Healing and Empowerment by tarot reader and reiki (energy) healer Jerico Mandybur is a tarot deck that features a diverse set of characters set in abstract yet approachable scenes in trendy color schemes, encouraging a fresh and modern style of tarot reading that allows new practitioners to empathize with the cards, without straying too far away from their traditional symbolisms. Crystal expert Katie-Jane Wright of &Crystals works with and teaches of the natural earth-made energy of crystals, creating elaborate grids that use the unique energies of various crystals to target specific trouble spots and intentions in the self or in space. She might use a combination of cool colored crystals like amethyst and lapis lazuli in a grid to improve intuition and communication, while she would use pastel pink crystals like rose quartz and kunzite to inspire compassion and self-love.
In a way, these practices that rely on inanimate charms and objects to elicit a change in one’s reality allude to a sense of “magic”. Step in, Paganism, which includes the aforementioned crafts — explored in the broad practice of witchcraft — as well as western pre-Christian religions like Wicca. To be Pagan is to have a sense of individuality, and a curiosity as well as deep respect for the universe and nature. They adhere to the cycles of the earth, such as the seasons and moon cycles, and connect this to their own spiritual growth through the use of almost all mystic practices mentioned in this article; divination, manifestation or spellwork, meditation, astrology, and rituals. And in the context of self-care, the term “neopaganism” was born from this rise of more mystic practitioners, looking to incorporate little forms of witchcraft in their own self-care rituals.
Peering into #WitchesOfInstagram, you’ll find a mix of both witchy aesthetics and tips for self care. Bri Luna of The Hoodwitch offers just that, with her aim to make witchcraft more accessible, whether for individual self-love rituals and manifestation techniques or for collective healing from the political and social climate; as well as regular horoscopes and tarotscopes as a given. Through big digital platforms like hers, more people have found themselves in witchy practices and pagan values, creating a more open and vibrant digital space from which individuality, collective healing, and self-love can freely spring forth.
Mystic influencer and renowned contemporary astrologer Chani Nicholas once said that “Science and astrology don’t cancel each other out. We can believe that nature is speaking to us in some kind of way — which is what astrology is — and we can also believe in ice caps melting and needing to work out our greed, our consumption, and our severe imbalance with nature.” The same can be said for every pagan or mystic practice. Especially now, modern mysticism has evolved past their initial image of being a collective of new age-y pseudo-cultures detached from reality. In fact, they uphold complete awareness and healing, for the environment, for the self, and the relationships that fall in between; in accessible art like tarot or astrology. It is as much about the outer aesthetic as it is about the inner work. And the best part about embarking on your own mystic adventure, is that technically no rules are applied — just you and your intention with which to fill in the blanks. Who are you, and what do you believe in?