Paganism. The Left Hand Path. The Right Hand Path. Wicca. The occult. It goes by many names, but whatever term is used, witchiness is en vogue right now. From Sephora selling beginner "Witch Kits" to Lana del Ray announcing that she tried to hex President Trump, this magical trend is part feminist empowerment movement, part goth aesthetic, and part commodified consumerism.
But despite the trend, these often misunderstood practices have much deeper roots than mere fashion statements. San Diego’s history of mystical movements is no exception. From documented Kumeyaay plant healing to Mexican brujería (translation: “witchcraft”), San Diego’s multicultural region is a melting pot of beliefs that transcend one name.
To outsiders, these practices are often lumped together under a singular preconception, but these alternative factions can vary from practitioner to practitioner with no universal canon.
Brujitxs Del Barrio, a “radical womxn collective” in Barrio Logan, challenges these mistaken beliefs by promoting education and healing specifically for marginalized communities. The goal of the collective is to “hold space, bring healing and empowerment to our communities.”
The small shop offers “teas, herbal medicine, art, jewelry, clothing and more,” according to co-owner/brujitx Hanah. They also run a healing room called Magia del Barrio, where patrons can receive energy healing, massage, tarot readings, and more.
When asking the three owners (identified as Angelana, Hanah and Irene) what misconceptions they have faced since opening six months ago, Angelana responded: “[People think] that we do ‘dark’ magic, cast spells and curses. If you're not a white supremacist, for the patriarchy, a rapist, racist, anti-black, colorist, ableist, fatphobic, homophobic, transphobic, any phobia that impedes on human rights, cruel to animals or an evil person, then you don't have to worry about us hexing you!”
Brujitxs Del Barrio is one of only a handful of metaphysical businesses operating in San Diego. Tree of Life in Ocean Beach opened on Santa Monica Avenue in 2006. Sanxtuary, a "minimalist magic" shop and sanctuary, plans to offer classes and an esoteric product line in early 2019 focusing on a “darker, streamlined aesthetic” that the founders felt San Diego currently lacks. In the meantime, they’re hosting a “Witchy Hour,” complete with tarot and astrology readings, every third Wednesday at the Til-Two Club.
Aquarian Soul (described as “the original gemstone infused apothecary) is a San Diego-based web store that combines “science and spirit to bring you products imbued with crystal energy and plant medicine.” Ally Sands launched the current version of Aquarian Soul in 2013 and has first-hand experience with the “appreciation versus appropriation” discussion regarding the recent rise in witchy products.
White sage, often used in sage smudge wands, is a plant long cultivated by indigenous communities for use during sacred rituals. Sage wands are also one of the most common icons in contemporary magic today, even being sold at Urban Outfitters. The plant, however, is an at-risk species, so some energy and wellness purveyors, including Sands, choose not to sell them.
“[People] have the mindset of taking, without giving back,” said Sands. She stressed that there’s nothing wrong with being interested in ritual practices, but cautions would-be witches to research the history of what’s come before them — the entire history.
“There is nothing wrong with learning and being interested in these other beautiful cultures, but it’s another to come from a privileged standpoint and to pick apart what you like and discard what doesn’t serve you,” she said. “I think that is one of the main issues with white sage. We are taking parts of someone else’s ritual practices and making it something completely different. We are robbing people of their identity and profiting from it.”
Education and respect is crucial in the scene, especially in a place like San Diego where cultures often overlap. Another local group, Sacred Healing Collective, aims to share “knowledge and practices from those before us” in order to include those genuinely interested in learning about the history of these types of rituals and how to do so with the proper mindset. Walking that line requires an open mind and a pure heart — the building blocks of witchcraft.
Brujitxs del Barrio, 2185 Logan Ave., #18, Barrio Logan, instagram.com/brujitxsdelbarrio
Tree of Life, 4870 Santa Monica Avd., Ocean Beach, 619.223.3970, treeoflifestore.com
Aquarian Soul, shopaquariansoul.com
Upcoming mystical events
A $5 cover includes a raffle ticket and access to tarot & astrology readings, tacos by Chicano Soul Food, and magickal libations.
When: 6-10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17
Where: Til-Two Club, 4746 El Cajon Blvd., City Heights
University Heights eatery Madison on Park will transform into a “gypsy den” with macabre-inspired cocktails and personal tarot readings by Gypsy Destini. Tickets are $33.
When: 7-11 p.m., Monday, Oct.22
Where: Madison on Park, 4622 Park Blvd., University Heights
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS ART SHOW & COMMUNITY ALTAR
A traditional Mexican weekend-long community celebration to honor departed friends and family.
When: Saturday, Oct. 27
Where: Chicano Art Gallery, 2117 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan
SAMHAIN RITUAL & CELEBRATION
Local diviner John Hijatt will lead a ritual to honor those who have crossed over. $5 entry, open to the public.
When: 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28
Where: Tree of Life, 4870 Santa Monica Ave. Suite 1A, Ocean Beach
ALL HALLOWS EVE MAGICKAL MASQUERADE BALL
A private Samhain ritual followed by a public masquerade ball. Costumes encouraged. Ticket prices vary.
When: 7-11 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30
Where: Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, 3925 Ohio St., North Park
Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based writer whose work has been featured in BeerAdvocate, VICE, Playboy, Thrillist, and many more. Follow her on Instagram at @thedelightedbite.