For the Love of Crystals: The Stars and the Rise of a Modern Feminist Mysticism

by Briana Pegado

Scroll through Instagram and you may notice a wave of accounts run by women spreading a message of self-love through yoga, conscious eating, and general healing through feeling all of the feels.

This onslaught of the Instagram self-love club has been perpetuated by poets like Rupi Kaur (@rupikaur), Nayyriah Waheed (@nayyriah.waheed), and Nikita Gill (@nikita_gill), who have risen to prominence and mainstream pontification in the last two years. But dig a little deeper and there is something else going on underneath the surface or behind the veil. A resurgence of mysticism, astrology, witchcraft, and healing modalities has been born – and it’s being served directly to our smartphones through the likes of weekly horoscope updates and inspirational quotes promoting podcasts, blogs, websites and healing products. Each of the influencers among this genre has their own angle – and they deliver their message with a feminist punch.

These are the first few weeks following Samhuinn (pronounced Sow-ann) otherwise known as the witch’s new year or pagan Summer’s end. These poets, astrologers and mystics all celebrated Samhuinn with an acknowledgment of its traditional roots, but with a modern twist – emphasising the power of feminine energy, and giving their community of followers food for thought with reminders that this time of year is ripe for embracing the feminine energy that is present in all of us.

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this movement cannot be ignored. It is powerful in its softness and beauty, fierce in its insights into collective feeling

Astrologers like Chani Nicholas (@chaninicholas) and Jessica Lanyadoo (@jessica_lanyadoo), who are both based in the United States and self-identify as queer women of colour, have inherently political messages. As the political situation has developed in the US with the midterm election results revealed on 7 November 2018, these astrologers, along with the likes of @thenuminous and @spiritdaughter, encouraged their community to vote. @thenuminous discussed her healing journey away from alcohol and into sober curiosity in her work, while the likes of @thehoodwitch sells crystals while highlighting women of colour who are Wiccan or modern day witches. Bri Luna is another woman of colour who has revolutionised how we view witchcraft and the occult through her blog, website, social media, workshops and business. What is new or purely modern about these influencers is that they embed social justice and activism into their messages about their spiritual practice. The two come hand in hand, as their identity as women of colour or other self-identifiers is fundamental to their spirituality, mysticism and beliefs.

@spiritdaughter sells new moon books and posts beautifully written, poignant and stunningly curated Instagram posts on the movement of the stars. Her astrology moves away from the horoscope and birth chart work often associated with astrology by giving her community an insight into Moon cycles, nodes, retrogrades and the bigger picture of the planets’ movements in relation to their impact on us mere mortals. Spiritdaughter is part of a movement of astrologers that are allowing their followers to engage with astrology on a deeper level as an ancient practice, philosophy and school of thought – rather than just a nice tool to predict whether or not you will walk into a puddle on a Thursday or whether you should ask out your crush. This is a modern and mature astrology that audiences in earlier decades were not quite ready, evolved or mature enough to engage with. Modern astrologers delve deeper, showing a respect and reverence for this ancient practice which they expect us to show in return.  

On the less astrological side and within the healing space, women are claiming the narrative of their healing journey and encouraging self-compassion, equanimity and self-care. Danielle Doby (@danielledoby), formerly of I Am Her Tribe, built a community to lift up other women, reminding them of their power and capacity for love. Her journey of recovery from sexual assault and violence, depression and anxiety, alcohol abuse and low self-esteem is well documented alongside her poetry. Her writings are beautifully crafted musings on strength, softness and self-efficacy. Another writer, Alex Elle (@alex_elle), runs the #todayiaffirm series and, like Danielle Doby, has published a book, this time a journal on self-care.

The common thread here is that all of these influencers are based in the US, run businesses, and are selling their products and services. These very facts flag up a number of potential issues, including how their work is intrinsically linked with capitalism. Their products and services, by nature of being sold, are complicit with and coexist within structures heavily embedded in the patriarchy – like the advertising, beauty and health industries that have oppressed women for centuries. These healers, mystics and astrologers are businesswomen; are they in practice feeding the demand for their products by existing within a system that makes women feel less than, insecure and empty? In essence, there is nothing wrong with their work, especially given that it supports, nurtures, helps and holds so many people – collectively, these figures reach close to a million. However, the question must be asked ... how does the rise in popularity of these figures and the work they promote influence how these traditions are being consumed?

Look to the shelves at Urban Outfitters, and all of the poets mentioned above have their volumes, anthologies and poetry sitting on the shelf for sale. Palo Santo, sage, and crystal kits are on the rise. Similarly, in stores like Urban Outfitters the witchy and mystical is being sold in the form of merchandise like t-shirts, toiletries and homeware items. Healing work, energy healing, the occult and mystical now permeate mainstream culture in ways it did not before – particularly in the digital sphere, but increasingly in modern conversation and dialogue. Articles have been written about millennials’ interest in astrology and its rise in popularity. There are many factors that are contributing to this need for astrology, crystals, cards and healing. The uncertainty of modern times and distrust in institutions make these mediums even more attractive. Like the age-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, this work is becoming more accessible to the modern seeker, but increasingly through the powers of economic levers, this work is becoming more accessible because it is in high demand.

The economics and digital media aside, whatever is causing this shift – a change in societal expectations and views, third wave feminism, a shift in collective consciousness, collective evolution, or the emergence of the divine feminine – this movement cannot be ignored. It is powerful in its softness and beauty, fierce in its insights into collective feeling, and loving in its ability to create space for community, healing and self-love. All hints suggest that this movement is only at its start. It is influencing society because of its impact on our psyches and how it provides women, femmes, genderqueer and male allies alike the tools to grow, evolve and help us live in better harmony.


Follow Briana on Twitter @briana_pegado and Instagram @brianapegado.