This week the internet BLEW UP when news got out that make-up brand Sephora would be selling “Starter Witch Kits” made by a perfume company called Pinrose.
The kit would have included the Tarot deck pictured here, a bundle of white sage, a piece of rose quartz, and a set of sample perfumes from their existing lines. It was definitely a way of marketing and selling their sample sizes by selling it like a beauty witchcraft kit. Before you get angry OR elated, the kit has already been pulled, and Pinrose was apologetic on their website.
The witch kit made a lot of people mad (and a lot of people were also excited or didn’t care!) for a lot of good reasons like cultural appropriation and whitewashing of indigenous spirituality and capitalist jerks exploiting spirituality to sell perfume. Some people were also mad for reasons I consider… not so legit. Things like buying a pink and pastel witch kit from the mall makes you a fake witch or poser, that people shouldn’t be “dabbling” in witchcraft, or that the beauty industry has no place in witchcraft. Yikes.
There’s a lot to unpack and a whole lot of feels with this one. I’ve had this idea for a while to do a series on the blog about ethically shopping for witchy tools and materials, and this seemed like a good time to start and a good place to start – at the beginning.
Discovering witchcraft and cultivating an interest in it is a very personal and varied experience. Some find their true calling, others don’t. Some get teased, bullied, prejudiced against or even shunned by their families (even now!). Outside of North America, witches are still executed and jailed for magical beliefs. Some new witches live in a place with a wealth of incredible local witch shops, events, clubs, covens and comrades to help fuel their witchy discovery… some witches live in towns where the local Wal-mart literally put every other store out of business so their only options are there and online. Some new witches have lots of money to spend on witch tools and books, some witches have no money period. Likewise, some witches love STUFF, and a lot of witches don’t care about it or use it. Everyone’s different.
(There’s also people like me that need to have a full witch-themed life right down to tacky socks and underwear with witches and black cats and use a literal cauldron for cooking. I’m insufferable.)
So let’s talk about the things you absolutely need to make or buy before you can start practicing witchcraft or calling yourself a witch:
- Breath in your lungs (or lung aids)
- Blood in your veins
- Electricity in your brain
THAT’S IT. To make it even clearer – there is literally nothing on this planet that you absolutely need to own or buy in order to be a witch, practice witchcraft, or be a spiritual person. That being said, that’s not the only way to practice. If your starter witch kit from the mall with sage and a rose quartz sets your soul alight and opens you up to the magic of the universe or whatever then that’s dope! but a big part of witchcraft and of magic, in general, is that it’s kind of on the fringe. It’s outside of the norm in society because we live in a society that focuses on material wealth and putting our own interests above the needs and feelings and lives of others. Our society does not really focus on spiritual growth or on personal power (outside of financial power) or self-improvement (unless it produces). Witchcraft does that. So, wherever you can, honouring that element of witchcraft by researching ethical practices and tools, demanding more of your witch retailers, and supporting good local businesses will only bring more strong and positive energy to your magical work.
Honestly, I liked the witch kit. I like the tarot deck a lot based on that one photo and the rest of the artist’s line work (which you can find and buy here!), I love sage, and I like using perfume in magic! I make my own magickal perfume blends with essential oils, and even buy pre-made ones from witchy crafters and retailers. BUT. You can absolutely make your own starter witch kit with items that are important and mean something to you, avoid cultural appropriation and support “real” witches.
First of all, witch kits are nothing new. There are so many great ones out there! You can find entire kits for beginners, or for particular spells or holidays, or for those who want to focus on divination or herbs or crystals or whatever! Etsy is a treasure trove of incredible kits to help you get started, as are monthly subscription boxes. Subscription boxes are curated kits that are sent out on a monthly-ish basis and usually have a theme like love magick or a pagan holiday like Beltane or Samhain. Many subscription boxes are made by the companies producing the products in them, but others include items from all sorts of indie witch creators and retailers and give them due credit. That’s an awesome way to get you acquainted with lots of different sellers.
Check out this ultimate list of witchy subscription boxes by Jessica Dimas to see if any are for you. The Goddess Provisions box is absolutely gorgeous. Sabbat Box is probably the OG witch subscription box. It ships out/provides items for each of the pagan sabbat days and curates items from independent and local pagans artisans and sellers.
Spell kits are widely sold by indie witches on Etsy, as well as bigger name sellers, and even your local witch shop might make their own. I’ve personally bought a few witch kits from White Magick Alchemy and had great success!
The cool thing about kits is that they provide everything you need to start working with spells and rituals, and ALWAYS come with instructions and tips on use. You don’t have to go a thousand places, try to figure out what the hell a chime candle is, or which of these 18 different sage bundle varieties or essential oils do I need? You can also start right where you’re interested. There are entire kits dedicated to getting you started just with herbs or just witch divination, others that are more broad like love magick or psychic development, and some sellers make custom kits! If you find a kit you like online, read the whole description and if you have questions about the sources of things like sage, just ask. If you don’t get an answer, maybe they’re not the seller for you. (or it’s on their website somewhere and they’re annoyed. either way)
Making Your Own
Maybe you’re one of the people who saw the witch kit and thought “what an awesome gift for the young person in my life who’s been interested in my practice!”, or how great it would be to be able to share witchcraft with someone who doesn’t know a lot about it in a fun and non-threatening way? Or maybe you liked the idea of a witch kit with a focus on beauty magick! Making a kit for a beginner, or putting together your own first witch tools can be kind of daunting because there’s SO MUCH OUT THERE. So let’s look at the Pinrose kit for inspo and design a kit for a new beauty witch.
Their focus is on the perfumes and they included rose quartz which is a beauty stone, plus white sage and a tarot deck.
You can get your fave commercial perfumes, but why not opt for magickally-made essential oil blends instead? If you have a witch shop in town they no doubt carry Coventry Creations products and their oil blends are beautiful. They’re widely available and reviewed, and they also sell candles witch matching scents and vibes. I have a lot of Oils and Sprays from Beaux Magique here in Ontario and I cannot recommend Rev. Terrie’s blends enough. When I started making oil blends I used Scott Cunningham’s Incenses, Oils, and Brews and I honestly still use a bunch of those recipes because they’re great. (Just make sure you know all of the safety concerns about essential oils before you blend your own!)
Rose quartz is a great choice for a beauty magick kit, but you could also include aquamarine for some mermaid beauty energy, amethyst helps with sleep and overall health, and fluorite is stimulating and quixotic. Perfect for someone who expresses beauty with their mind or in unconventional ways.
If you’d prefer to avoid white sage but love smoke cleansing, try palo santo which I find has a sensual sexy vibe or bundles made from other varieties of sage that include flowers. This one from The Hoodwitch uses Blue Sage and Roses, which is great for beauty magick! If you have a green thumb or live near some good old-fashioned nature, you can make those bundles yourself with cedar, rosemary, lavender, and mugwort (gettin’ REAL witchy!). If you have any indigenous owned spiritual shops, artisans, or art fairs and sales you can no doubt find sage and sweetgrass there and know it’s been ethically harvested and that your money is going to the right people. You can also use stick and cone incense for smoke cleansing and Nag Champa is sold damn-near everywhere. If you have more options and want a beauty angle try jasmine, patchouli, or vanilla.
If you want to include some info about beauty Magick try a copy of Glamour Magic by Deborah Castellano, Magical Fashionista by Tess Whitehurst and Vella Mour – my fave online beauty witch! Vella has an online Beauty Witch Coven, and sells her own magical beauty products like perfume spells and bath potions!
Finally, we come to the tarot deck. I am genuinely disappointed I won’t be able to get that psychedelic-ass tarot deck. Luckily, there are plenty more out there! Most of the tarot decks you find in stores – witch or otherwise – will be made by a large publisher like Llewellyn/Lo Scarabeo, or U.S. Games but there are artists out there who produce and sell amazing tarot decks! Spiral Nature published a great list of some indie tarot decks last year that you can find here. You can also find AMAZING indie tarot and oracle decks… on Instagram. I follow so many accounts that are just for a single deck and yet daily they post pictures of that deck used in more interesting and creative rituals and readings. If you’re looking for a deck that shows that people of any size, shape, colour, ability or background can be gorgeous and interesting check out Christy C. Road’s Next World Tarot. You might also be able to find a (possibly vintage) deck second hand. Some people don’t like this idea, but you’re getting sage or incense for smoke cleansing anyways why not practice on a tarot deck?
Sourcing Your Materials
Here’s the thing about the white sage you buy in metaphysical stores vs sephora- smaller stores are more likely to know where their sage is coming from and care who they get it from. You can absolutely ask. But most of those stores buy their white sage wholesale. Here in Canada, there are a handful of really popular wholesalers that almost every store uses and a lot of that stuff isn’t coming from indigenous practitioners. That shocks people. Those small business run by real witches are still businesses. Unless you outright ask you have no idea where that sage comes from, how they acquired or even if this local shop owner is 10x more evil than a large corporation (yikes. it happens). The truth is, expecting the capitalist businesses we buy stuff from to make all the perfect ethical decisions for us is, sadly, unrealistic. All we can do is our best and try to funnel our money to worthy places.
Educate yourself and new witches about real issues like cultural appropriation – especially in relation to sage and smudge ceremonies. White sage is not endangered. It is at risk of illegal over-harvesting and its habitat is being encroached on by home development. Humans, amirite? Depending on where you live white and other varieties of sage may grow wild all around you. Find out. Find out if there are public places that it grows where you’re allowed to harvest some of it. If you have a nursery in town who sells it buy a plant for your garden or balcony. I think the biggest issue with white sage is the appropriation of native and indigenous spiritual practices by white witches and pagans over the last however many DECADES. There are smudge ceremony drum circles put on by middle age white people every month here and if you go there are no indigenous people there chillin. None. That to me is a red flag. The word “smudge” also means a lot more than just the act of burning sage. Smudging is an entire ceremony. Cleansing with smoke from herbs is a practice almost every religion uses – churches still burn frankincense, don’t they? Smudging is specific to certain indigenous cultures and you shouldn’t really call what you do smudging if it isn’t. Burning sage to cleanse your space or energy is not appropriation, but calling it a smudge ceremony with a drugstore drum cd playing in the background and waving a plastic feather with plastic beads hanging off of it is just not a good look, friend.
For the record, in Pinrose’s statement about the cancellation of their witch kit they had this to say about the sage they planned to use:
“- Per the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Salvia Apiana (White Sage) is not classified as threatened or endangered. The sage that was planned to be used in this kit is sourced from a Green America Gold Certified company. The sage is grown in the wild in California and is sustainably harvested and sold by Native American owned and operated businesses.
– The product did not reference ceremonial smudging or ceremony circles.”
So. There’s that.
Like I said, you absolutely do NOT have to buy anything. No stuff. You don’t need any of it… but if you want the stuff there are lots of ways to get it ethically. If I hadn’t bought a bunch of crappy mall-goth junk from Spencer’s Gifts or Green Earth in my witchy infancy I might not have stuck with it. Until 4 years ago all my books were bought from chain stores or directly from big-name publishers. I buy cheap Halloween garbage that I use in my genuine witch practice all the time. I use herbs I get for 0.99 cents at the grocery store in incense blends and candle dressing for personal use. I’m not ashamed of that. It’s a process. Very few people genuinely make a+ plus decisions fresh out the gate, and a lot of us are broke and suffering in this same garbage capitalist dumpster fire you are and maybe some silly psychedelic witchcraft perfume will make that bearable.
Oliver Hibert’s The Tarot is probably the most psychedelic deck ever and it’s a masterpiece