When Maira Khan’s boyfriend left her last year, she was desperate to win him back. “I knew he was seeing someone else, but I didn’t know how serious it was,” said Ms. Khan, an influencer in Toronto. “I kind of just wanted her gone.”
At a loss, she decided to consult the occult. “The first spell I bought was a cord cutting spell, which for me was about removing a third party,” Ms. Khan, 28, said. She found a witch through TikTok who only required the former couple’s name to perform a candle ritual: tying a length of twine around two candles and letting the wicks burn down until the string is broken by the flames. “She said that it went well,” Ms. Khan said.
It’s a good time to be a witch. Those steeped in the “craft” are part of a $2.3 billion industry in the larger psychic-services universe, a field that includes palm reading (palmistry), tarot cards (cartomancy) and astrology.
People aren’t dialing psychics from the phone book or knocking on witchy storefronts and back rooms for their fortune anymore — supernatural entrepreneurs have set up shop on TikTok and Etsy. There are nearly 36,000 Etsy sellers offering “psychic readings” and related paraphernalia like enchanted candles, apothecary kits, ritual oils and voodoo dolls.
The business of witchcraft is nearly as old as the practice itself. In Europe, “Witchcraft offered women in the Elizabethan period up to the 18th century a good and sometimes lucrative way to make a living,” said Marion Gibson, a professor of Renaissance and magical literatures at the University of Exeter in England, who wrote “Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials.”
Poor people would often visit witches and other “magical people” — like soothsayers and conjurers — in times of sickness or a bad crop year. It was expensive but often cheaper than seeking medicine and doctors or buying new tools.