Why Hipsters May Be Perfect Source for Brooklyn Occult Revival

For several months there have been claims of an occult revival in New York City. Much like America’s evangelical tradition, its metaphysical tradition is in a constant state of revival. The 1960s and 1970s were also regarded as an occult renaissance in New York City and, in fact, the original Dutch settlers likely brought their own magical traditions to Manhattan. However, this is certainly the most stylish occult renaissance to date.

recent article in The Huffington Post profiles seven Brooklyn Tarot readers, each of which features lavish headshots, descriptions of ritual objects, and personal narratives of each diviner’s unfolding relationship with the universe. The website for the Brooklyn occult shop Catland also features glamorous profiles of witches and seers.

Magic is the spiritual tradition where personal charisma matters most. Sociologist Emile Durkheim noted that magicians have clientele rather than a church. A congregation may tolerate a lackluster pastor or a priest who gives dull sermons, but people who get bored with their Tarot reader will simply move on.

More than their magical services, magicians offer their clients the chance to interact with a fascinating personality. Exotic objects and spiritual narratives help clients to feel that they are receiving personalized attention from metaphysical forces, directed at them through the magician.

In this sense, it is not surprising that Brooklyn—commonly associated with Hipsters—is producing compelling magicians. The Hipster’s project of cloaking oneself in an air of aloof mystery and repurposing strange objects into emblems of one’s personal brand is excellent preparation for the magician’s craft.

The real factors behind an occult renaissance may be the Twitter-fication of society, in which everything we say and do is supposedly significant, along with a culture that prizes personal expression and defines “authenticity” as constantly remaining one step ahead of popular trends. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the magician Aleister Crowley said that, “Every man and woman is a star.” This magical utterance is truer now than ever before.

Joseph Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. His forthcoming books include The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle for Catholic Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Religion, Play, and Imagined Worlds (University of California Press, 2015).