Why we’re obsessed with astrology and the occult

The occult, witchcraft, mysticism, pagkukulam. Oftentimes I wonder why there are so many ways to refer to magic. Maybe we need to keep finding similar words with less negative connotations. Maybe we just need the right moniker.

We keep exploring new mediums, too. Magic is no longer a simple party trick.

Astrology is meme-ified: crystal shops are popping up everywhere, tarot card decks are available at bookstores. Just get on social media and you’ll find many young “magicians” dabbling in various crafts, even offering services.

Case in point: Monch the Mystic. By day, she’s a psychology major at Ateneo. By night—or in between breaks at school—she’s an astrologer. You can find her column in Rappler. Then you have Apple Nocom, a certified tarot reader and mental health advocate. She learned from the esoteric community Mysterium Philippines. And then there’s me, a self-professed witchcraft rookie with a growing collection of healing crystals. I source from Instagram shops and a mystic shop on some Australian mountain range.

And if there’s one thing that ties our practices together, it’s our contemporary approach to magic.

Is magic the new religion?

We’ve been taught at an early age to fear magic—but not in the way that we fear god. We were taught that spells and fortune tellers were sinful. But we grew up. We learned to think for ourselves, to see that maybe it’s not so much sinning as it is deviating from the norm. And that’s not a bad thing.

“Learning tarot was on my bucket list as a child,” Apple Nocom says. “But since it was frowned upon in my very Catholic community, I never really thought about putting it into action.”

You probably know someone who was banned from reading Harry Potter or witch comics for religious reasons. Yet we all shared ghost stories during lunch breaks or sneaked in zodiac books to school and passed them under our desks.
“My school was very religious to the point that they considered astrology a sin,” Monch says. “I began to feel restricted and resentful towards the institution for its unnecessary rules. Astrology was my liberation.”

More and more millennials identify as spiritual, if not agnostic or atheist or non-practicing. Personally, I’m part of a couple of witchcraft Facebook groups and I see women listing down Wicca and Witch as their religion.

There aren’t as many restrictions anymore. Or at least, there aren’t as many extreme consequences to the outré. It’s 2018, after all. You say “witch” or “magic” and people will probably think of their favorite fantasy book. A few centuries earlier, there’d have been torches and pitchforks involved.

We’ve redefined the witch hunt as public and online shaming, but I digress. The term these days doesn’t apply much to our unique ways of realizing our belief systems.

We live in the age of (mystical) information

For us three, our practices heightened as we came of age. Coincidentally—or perhaps written in the stars—each of our journeys began in 2016.

Apple became involved with Mysterium Philippines, where her friend was a tarot reader. She began cartomancy with a regular deck of playing cards before buying the beginner’s Rider-Waite and then taking Mysterium’s professional tarot course.

Meanwhile, Monch charged her way into an online astrology apprenticeship program hosted by astrologer Debra Silverman. She squeezed webinars and sessions into her school breaks and free time.

In the same year, I chanced upon several local online shops selling crystals. I bought a rose quartz pendulum, an amethyst stone, and black obsidian. My collection of stones increased to seven, a lucky number I haven’t broken.
I want to connect the age of information, the rise of digitalization, and the advent of social media with heightening our esoteric interests. Notice, for each of us, our learning began with a click.

“When I was self-studying, all of my research came from online resources,” Apple agrees. “Most if not all of my clients also come from online posts, so I can’t imagine doing this without social media.”

Monch also credits the cosmos. “We’re at the age of Aquarius now.” Quite fittingly, technology and astrology are ruled by the humanitarian, intellectually driven Aquarius.

She explains how the past 50 years have been in transition from the age of Pisces. “The motto of Pisces is ‘I believe.’ You attach yourself to someone or something you believe in, then use that to guide you in life. Now, however, the motto of Aquarius is ‘I know.’”

“The basis of all my esoteric beliefs is vibrational energy: Everything in the universe is just vibrating matter, which explains how we’re all connected.”

Our generation is defined by our individuality, by our need to be different, to be something. So we intellectualize our pursuits. We find scientific or pseudo-scientific explanations for the supernatural and spiritual.

“Astrology was seen as applied astronomy,” says Monch. “A horoscope is a mingling together of sun sign, ascendant sign, planetary aspects, qualities, decans, houses, etc. Each variable indicates a layer of complexity. Astrology is characterized as a scattershot theory of human personality.”

“The basis of all my esoteric beliefs is vibrational energy: Everything in the universe is just vibrating matter, which explains how we’re all connected,” Apple explains. The same thing applies, she says, to crystals and their special frequencies. “Tarot cards tune in to the energy of a person and their question, and converts these into visible answers.”

Sometimes I think that we’re traumatized by our current violent political reality. So we escape; we find new ways of approaching the world so it’s not all bleak. We find that magic still exists, and it doesn’t come in a fix-all spell or potion. It comes from our sense of individuality and our interaction with the energies that make up the world we live in, no matter how flawed.

“We’re also a very intuitive generation so energy-based practices make sense to us even if we don’t fully understand why.”

It takes time to realize we don’t have to go through it alone, though. And no matter how logically we interpret the stars, card spreads, or the buzzing of stones, we need a little intuition, too. We need to find a space where we can trust, not only in ourselves, but in the beyond.

“We want to believe that […] there’s something less tangible to explain what we’re experiencing, while still retaining control of our lives,” Apple says. “We’re also a very intuitive generation so energy-based practices make sense to us even if we don’t fully understand why.”

Perhaps we’re plagued by the times. We live in a time where enlightened liberal thinking, technological advances, and mental health awareness are at an all-time high. We see and try to accept the flaws of institutions. There’s uncertainty about the future. Fate fluctuates and moves so fast. There’s so much information, so much change, so much anxiety.
Magic uses a language we’re free to interpret in our own way. Magic steps in to take us above the superficial—to trust in something beyond our individual existence. To connect to the unseen world that we’ve been separated from. It teaches us to find who we are and what all of this means.

My healing stones teach me every day to be kind, if not at least calm. Our energies move outward and affect the people around us more than we think.

Astrology taught Monch how to actively listen. “In relation to psychology, it has taught me unconditional positive regard: to suspend judgment and continue practicing empathy.”

For Apple and her tarot cards, she realizes her power. “You can consult the fates all you like, but your destiny isn’t written by anyone except yourself.”

We try to make sense of this new age

Sometimes I think that we’re traumatized by our current violent political reality. So we escape; we find new ways of approaching the world so it’s not all bleak. We find that magic still exists, and it doesn’t come in a fix-all spell or potion. It comes from our sense of individuality and our interaction with the energies that make up the world we live in, no matter how flawed.

It takes time to realize we don’t have to go through it alone, though. And no matter how logically we interpret the stars, card spreads, or the buzzing of stones, we need a little intuition, too. We need to find a space where we can trust, not only in ourselves, but in the beyond.

“We want to believe that […] there’s something less tangible to explain what we’re experiencing, while still retaining control of our lives,” Apple says. “We’re also a very intuitive generation so energy-based practices make sense to us even if we don’t fully understand why.”

Perhaps we’re plagued by the times. We live in a time where enlightened liberal thinking, technological advances, and mental health awareness are at an all-time high. We see and try to accept the flaws of institutions. There’s uncertainty about the future. Fate fluctuates and moves so fast. There’s so much information, so much change, so much anxiety.

“You can consult the fates all you like, but your destiny isn’t written by anyone except yourself.”

Magic uses a language we’re free to interpret in our own way. Magic steps in to take us above the superficial—to trust in something beyond our individual existence. To connect to the unseen world that we’ve been separated from. It teaches us to find who we are and what all of this means.

My healing stones teach me every day to be kind, if not at least calm. Our energies move outward and affect the people around us more than we think.

Astrology taught Monch how to actively listen. “In relation to psychology, it has taught me unconditional positive regard: to suspend judgment and continue practicing empathy.”

For Apple and her tarot cards, she realizes her power. “You can consult the fates all you like, but your destiny isn’t written by anyone except yourself.”

Sometimes I think that our generation is so drawn to magic because we never got that special letter when we turned 11. There was no owl, no magical world at the back of our wardrobes, no flying kid in green leotards with a sassy pixie. But despite what was missing, we found something else, something that belongs to us—communally and individually.

We turn to magic to find ourselves in times so uncertain.

We create the magic we wished we had for ourselves when we were growing up.

You can book a reading and map out your astrology chart with Monch the Mystic on her site Monchthemystic.com. Visit Applenocom.com to sign up for a tarot reading session. If you’re interested in buying healing crystals, look up @indigo_crystals on Instagram or visit Themalatree.com.

Words by Belle O. Mapa
Art by Sofia Cope

This story was originally published in our 31st issue and has been edited for web. The digital copy of Scout’s 31st issue is accessible here.

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