Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s gambit taps into the way in which progressive millennials have appropriated the rhetoric, imagery, and rituals of what was once called the “New Age”—from astrology to witchcraft—as both a political and spiritual statement of identity.
Back in March 2019, an elected government representative shared something personal about her spiritual identity. Not a preferred Bible verse or a conversion story. Rather, progressive New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her birth-time with a self-described psychic and astrologer, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, who in turn shared her entire birth chart with what can only be described as Astrology Twitter.
Astrology Twitter went wild. So did the mainstream media, with outlets from Vox to The Cutto Allure speculating about what Ocasio-Cortez’s astrological chart could tell us about her fitness for political office. “AOC’s Aries Moon indicates that she’s emotionally fed by a certain amount of independence, self-determination, and spontaneity,” concluded Allure’s Jeanna Kadlec. “But that independence always finds a way home.” Meanwhile, Lipp-Bonewits told The Cut’s Madeleine Aggeler that the stars predicted that Ocasio-Cortez’s “career in politics is likely to last the rest of her life.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to share her birth-time with Lipp-Bonewits might be an unprecedented move for a political figure—Hillary Clinton famously avoided the question,sparking years of debate among astrologers. But it was also a canny one. Twenty-nine percent of Americans say they believe in astrology, according to a 2018 Pew poll, while just 22 percent of Americans call themselves mainline Protestants.
More importantly, however, AOC’s gambit taps into the way in which progressive millennials have appropriated the rhetoric, imagery, and rituals of what was once called the “New Age”—from astrology to witchcraft—as both a political and spiritual statement of identity.
For an increasing number of left-leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self-care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post-Trump era: pitting the self-identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.
There’s the coven of Brooklyn witches who publicly hexed then-Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh to the acclamation of the thousands-strong “Magic Resistance”—anti-Trump witches (among them: pop singer Lana del Rey) who used at-home folk magic to “bind” the president in the months following his inauguration. There are organizations like The Satanic Temple —newly featured in Penny Lane’s 2019 documentary Hail Satan—a “nontheistic religion” and activist group that uses its religious status to demand for its black-robe-clad members the same protections afforded to Christians in the hopes of highlighting the ridiculousness of faith-based exceptions (Satanic prayer in schools, say). There are dozens of Trump-era how-to spellbooks that blend folk magic with activist practice: the 2018 anthology The New Arcadia: A Witch’s Handbook to Magical Resistance; Michael Hughes’s 2018 Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change; David Salisbury’s 2019 Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance (Includes Spells for Social Justice, Civil Rights, the Environment, and More); and Sarah Lyons’s forthcoming Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism. There are hundreds of thousands of users of witch-popular blogging platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, which at the moment boasts 8.5 million photographs hashtagged “#witch.”