When a friend recently tweeted about wearing a crystal in her bra, instead of being weirded out I had a moment of recognition: I, too, can sometimes be found carrying around an amethyst crystal or a quartz in my bag as a good-luck charm. Last year, on holiday on the Isle of Skye, I “recharged” my crystals by cleansing them in the bracing water of the faerie pools – yes, that is their official name – that nestle in the foot of the mountains on the island, and we’re not the only ones dipping our toes into ethereal waters.
It’s not just crystals that people are using to enhance their lives – meditation, yoga and alternative therapies are all more popular than ever. When actress Shailene Woodley mentioned oil pulling in an interview last year – the practice of swilling oil in your mouth – the internet was awash with tips, techniques and thinkpieces on the subject. I have friends who, rather than visit a therapist, will go see a medium or healer to try to get a more holistic approach to mental wellbeing. Journalist Dolly Alderton says: "I burnt sage when I first moved into my house. I just like rituals and it's a ritual I associate with a new home.” She also uses horoscopes to “make sense of ups and downs and unexpected turns in life”; checking her stars helps her find “very deep sense of optimism and hope; that, in the middle of chaos, it may well just be small part of a very big story that's destined for me”.
From marriage and religion to the NHS, the institutions that once seemed secure and constant have been shaken and ours is a generation that faces great uncertainty. Psychotherapist Rebecca McCann says: “I think the world is portrayed as a scary place and people want to find some form of control.” She lists some of the reasons for finding a new spirituality “to find answers, to belong, to understand and to find peace. If the stars say something, or a medium says something will happen then they feel they can take charge.”
From marriage and religion to the NHS, the institutions that once seemed secure and constant have been shaken. Spirituality gives some answers
The most recent wave of feminism has made room for women’s voices and female narratives – and that also just so happens to include a bit of magic. Astrologer Shelley von Strunckel looks to the stars to explain the change in gender politics: “The matter of the Aquarian Age and the shift in feminine power is genuine – it’s about women claiming all their rights; remember, only 100 years ago, women still didn’t have the vote, had no access to birth control and couldn’t make their own income or look after their resources.”
Mention Mercury retrograde to anyone who works online and you’ll either get a knowing nod or an eye roll. This is when Mercury – the planet of communication, travel and contracts – appears to go backwards in the zodiac. This planetary alignment is blamed for all sorts of woes and misunderstandings, and mentions regularly crop up on social media, evidenced by this sample tweet: “I could write a young adult novel about this past Mercury retrograde, tbh. I've never had so many ex-boyfriends resurface out of NOWHERE.” Stylist and blogger Navaz Batliwalla describes Mercury retrograde as a “disaster”: “Working at the speed I do, it’s a real pain when people don’t get back to you, emails go missing and all my tech decides to stop working properly.” She isn’t ruled by astrology but says, “It’s nice to have something to blame when things aren’t going to plan.”
What was once a niche interest, or something slightly embarrassing to admit to, is now talked about without shame. Journalist Dan Jones says, "Friends or colleagues having the odd crystal or tarot deck lying around is second nature and I tend to see a lump of rose quartz in most creative offices I visit as a freelancer.” He describes the “Urban Outfitters generation”, who are honing in on all things mystical, explaining: “It’s not such a huge leap from a SoulCycle class and mindfulness meditation app to getting your chakras cleansed or a past life revealed – or wearing a Pamela Love pendant to a festival.”
Womenswear editor at trend forecaster WGSN – who use more down-to-earth methods to see into the future – Laura Yiannakou says that this renewed interest is part of a bigger trend of looking inwards: "Societal shifts, including religious flight, workplace stress and technological ennui, are driving consumers towards deep introspection." Yiannakou cites the "Fitster" as part of this tribe of nu-Age people, a breed of hipster that totes their NutriBullet as a status symbol and knows their Maca powder from their Lucuma, but God forbid they should be labelled as a hippy.
Fashion, ever the cultural barometer, has also been moving in magical circles. Yiannakou cites Meadham Kirchhoff’s collaboration with Topshop last year which included “pentagram star logos and embellishments with pointy velvet buckled shoes and an unexpected multicolour palette”. Looking ahead, Yiannakou describes autumn’s “elemental” trend: "multicolour prints that mirror weathered erosion, and adventurous oversized hand-knits that look like they've been grown in the wild". Victoria Beckham places rose quartz and black tourmaline backstage at her fashion shows and has said: “If I told you my backstage rituals, and was honest, you would think I was a little weird. I carry my crystals with me, which some people might think as odd, but it works for us." Navaz Batliwalla says that it’s the ephemeral nature of fashion that makes it so receptive to spiritual interests: “Fashion creatives are very intuitive and they like to listen to their moods. I think that’s why we’re affected by such intangible things.”
Mention Mercury retrograde to anyone who works online and you’ll either get a knowing nod or an eye roll. This planetary alignment is blamed for all sorts of woes and misunderstandings
Finding your enlightenment doesn’t mean going to a traditional hippy shop; these days, you’re more likely to tap into it online or on your phone. Headspace is just one of the popular meditation and mindfulness apps that people are using to get a bit of peace. You can so easily squeeze in a bit of meditation on a break at work, at home or even on the bus. Bri Luna is the founder of The Hoodwitch, an online destination which is typical of the new breed of mystical retailers. With over 19,500 followers, her Instagram is hugely popular and showcases cool crystals, rituals guides and sage smudging sticks, alongside her trademark colourful manicures. She started The Hoodwitch – a play on the phrase “hood rich” – in 2012 “as a reference to the curanderas and the wise women in the neighbourhood botanicas that I grew up in. Botanicas are stores that carry ritual goods (herbs, candles, crystals) in Latino neighbourhoods.” She describes these women as “real healers” and “the shoulders to cry on – they could give you a recipe to clear up your colds, bring love into your life, or protect your flower garden.” With more than 1.8 million images tagged with “crystal” on Instagram, it’s the perfect place to go for a bite-size piece of wisdom or inspiration.
Some people are even expanding their consciousness into their sex lives. The excellently named Chakrubs, make beautiful crystal dildos out of white jade, rose quartz and onyx. Founder Vanessa Cuccia felt a need for a product in “a world where sex is simultaneously commodified and stigmatised”. Even if you don’t buy into the healing properties of crystals, they’re a damn sight more chic than your average sex toy. Cuccia says: “I think people are excited by the prospect of revisiting and recontextualising these practices in a way that allows them, with their more modern and therefore more educated and more sceptical minds, to rediscover the value in them.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Bri Luna: “Women are starting to openly embracing their magic, creativity, sexuality and power. We're tired of the old stories, and we are exploring and developing our intuition which has been buried and suppressed for many generations now.” She see this as a wider movement that is “becoming more consciously aware of the foods we eat, taking proper care of our minds, bodies and spirits”. A lot of these rituals and practices are just an extension of self-care – what’s the difference between going to a yoga class or carrying around a crystal in your bra, if it brings the same peace of mind? Modern life is changing at a fast pace and, as Dolly Alderton puts it, mysticism and spirituality are “our way of trying to find something bigger than a life of just shopping, working and fucking”.