Hexes, Penis Thievery, and a Stonehenge Rave: The Year in Witchcraft

As we prepare to cast a binding spell on Donald Trump's entire transition team, we look back on some of our best witch-related stories from 2016.

by Callie Beusman
Dec 29 2016, 9:24pm

Historically, there have been a lot of seemingly unsavory things associated with witches: Witches have been said to commune orgiastically with the devil, to wield unspeakable and dark power, to threaten the very foundations of heteropatriarchy, and to generally terrify children. These are all things that resonate deeply with us at Broadly.

As a truly dark power stirs in the US, we look back on some of our most glorious witch stories of 2016.

Illustration by Jennifer Kahn

How a Grave-Robbing Controversy Tore an Online Witch Community Apart

In December of 2015, in an online Queer Witch Collective, a magic user casually offered to ship some human bones they had found in a New Orleans cemetery to other members of the group. The ensuing fallout shook Tumblr to its core, resulted in endless discourse about traditional practices, appropriation, and privilege, became the year's most bizarre meme, and resulted in a criminal investigation into the alleged grave-robbing witch. A year after the controversy, we looked back at the infamous "Boneghazi."

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge: 12 Hours at the World's Biggest Pagan Party

Every year on the summer solstice, Stonehenge is opened to the public, who descend upon the venerated stones for an all-night celebration, culminating in the sunrise, on the longest (and arguably most mystical) day of the year. We went this year and embedded among the crowd, which contained a strange mix of druids and drug-addled teenagers. Most importantly, we met the Merlin of England, to whom I may now be married, though I can't be certain.

Illustration by Shawna X

Witch Trials: There Is Nothing Magical About Being a Pagan in Prison

William Rouser has been waging a decades-long battle over his right to practice Wicca in prison. He's not alone: Across the country, other incarcerated witches are fighting for recognition so that they can pray to the Old Gods and/or the Goddess as they please.

Image via Wikipedia

Witches Allegedly Stole Penises and Kept Them as Pets in the Middle Ages

According to ancient lore, witches used to keep pilfered penises in baskets and feat them oats and other nutritious grains. You can tell this myth was invented by men because the vast majority of women would want a friendlier, more interesting animal companion.

Illustration by Vivian Shih

Sex Magic: How to Cast Spells with Your Orgasms

A comprehensive look at sex magic, a centuries-old practice in which one harnesses the power of the orgasm for spiritual manifestation, from its roots in a semi-mythical Tibetan kingdom, to its dubious association with infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, to its modern-day associations with feminism and sex-positivity.

Photo courtesy of Janea Watkins

'Go and Reclaim Your Tools': Meet the Woman Behind Black Witch University

For Lakeesha Harris, being a black witch is about reclaiming ancestral knowledge about witchcraft and using it to fight deep-rooted, systemic oppression. This is why she founded Black Witch University, which will open its doors on 2017's spring equinox.

Casting Curses and Love Spells with the Most Powerful Witches in Romania

Witchcraft is thriving in Romania, and even politicians fear its power. We met one of the most respected and powerful witches in the country to cast some spells, brew some potions, and celebrate the solstice. (Unnervingly, she predicted a Third World War.)

Hundreds of Witches Just Hexed Stanford Rapist Brock Turner

Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, may have evaded justice among mortals, but witches across the country attempted to make him reckon with the supernatural.

year in review
year in review 2016
Broadly Witchcraft
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