Ancient practices like astrology and tarot card readings have gone mainstream over the last few years, shifting the cultural conversation around spirituality and the occult. Everyone knows their star sign, Kanye West is now preaching the gospel at Sunday Service, the Los Angeles streetwear scene is formed of Advisory Board Crystals and Online Ceramics, and GmbH put an Evil Eye at the focus of its SS20 collection. Seemingly, we’re entering a new spiritual age with a pop edge — but why now?
In 2020, the cultural landscape is changing rapidly. Podcasters could be the next movie stars, professional gamers sit on the front row at fashion week, and content doesn’t necessarily come from publishers. Instead, it comes from individuals — teenagers who are filming short videos in their parent’s bathrooms and going viral on TikTok. We’re more “connected” than ever, and we can achieve fame and success from our very own bedrooms. Paradoxically, recent articles suggest that much of the millennial/Gen Z condition is far lonelier and less adjusted than ever before.
The proliferation of technology and social media has accelerated the current cycles of new trends, products, and apps to such break-neck speeds that we probably have collective cultural whiplash. Maybe it’s rooted in our lack of spiritual grounding to our digital habitats.
Alex Kazemi is a witch, writer, pop artist, and cultural commentator, described by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis as “my favorite millennial provocateur.” In his career, Kazemi has harnessed his spiritual craft of magick to work with the likes of his hero Marilyn Manson, overcome addiction, and (according to Kazemi) “bend reality to [his] will.”
When Kazemi writes about magick, he refers to a kind of hyper-focused intention — something he elaborates on in his new book, Pop Magick. It sits somewhere between non-fiction, self-help book, and celebrity encounter confessional, and explores how to harness an untapped spirituality to unlock our greater potential.
Below, we speak to Kazemi about his thoughts on the state of pop culture, the spiritual poverty of a generation, TikTok, and how occult practices will take center stage in the next few years.
Why does magick appeal to the millennial and Gen Z generations so much?
Because it’s a non-dogmatic and non-discriminatory spiritual system. I think the reason it’s blown up in the past few years is people want to feel a sense of power over their lives in a cultural climate of chaos.
Like, I cannot imagine being a 13-year-old today with a TikTok account. It’s so much sensory information — what we’re being taught from a very young age, everything we’re being socialized to value, from things like instant gratification and monetizing ourselves. I think magick is like, “Wait, wow. I can connect to something past this material world, the physical plane.” We’re in a spiritual poverty, and I think this is a way to try to reconcile our relationship with the spiritual without rules.
Why do you think we’re in a “spiritual poverty”?
We live in a culture that facilitates and encourages us to disconnect from the essence of our true selves, a culture that tells us that we are empty, so we need to reach out of ourselves to transient pleasures that are never fulfilling. We do not feel more connected because of social media culture or hook-up culture — we are more disconnected. Young artists don’t feel as motivated to create, because we are constantly inundated with the highlight reels of the people who have already done all the work.
I think Billie Eilish’s archetype represents a suffering that youthful people feel collectively, and I think people are identifying with her. I’m not saying she’s Kurt Cobain, but she’s a publicly depressed figure who talks about being suicidal on TV — you know what I mean?
When did you first start practicing magick? What was the turning point where you were like, “this works for me”?
I started practicing Magick when I was 21. I realized Magick was real was when I did a ritual with a black candle to manifest Marilyn Manson into my life, and for him to somehow help me or collaborate with me. So, I did that spell, and within 2 weeks and by some strange “coincidence” — it’s not coincidence, it’s magick — someone I knew had met him at a party and gave me his number, and then I did a spell to get him to text me back, and he did. I did all of this from a very young, desperate, needy, powerless place, but it was a part of my spiritual and soul evolution.
The book places magick firmly in the 21st century — can you explain how branding is essentially a form of magick?
Logos are sigils. Sigils are magickal symbols that can be charged to hypnotize you, or control you to respond to them in a certain way. If we are constantly inundated with a logo, we will then think about it — it’ll be in our subconscious mind — that goes for any type of visual stimuli, a notification, an app logo — and once this image has been seeded into our subconscious mind, then it’ll start to exist in our reality more and more.We will then start to obey the logo: “Well, I keep seeing celebrities wearing Off-White™. I’m inundated with Off-White™. Wait. Should I buy Off-White™?”
You’ve been hyper-aware of the pop culture cycle over the last five years. Where do you see it going next?
I hope that we don’t go in the direction of where Grimes is — the idea of becoming transhumanists, and A.I. and that stuff. I would hope that there is a rebellion against everything, and I would hope that, in the next five years, it becomes cool to be counterculture and leave social media, and to try to be more culturally interrogative about what we’re consuming rather than blindly appreciating something without questioning it.
What else? I think TikTok stars will probably be on the cover of magazines. Conan Gray will probably be as famous as… not Taylor Swift, but maybe Billie, in the next three years. Maybe, Orville Peck will be played on mainstream radio. Hollywood wants to put anything where the money is — remember what they did with the Vine kids and the YouTubers? Shawn Mendes was a Vine kid. I think we’re going to see more narcissism and more ego at a very young age than we’ve ever seen before, and we’re going to see it all documented.
Who should read ‘Pop Magick’?
It’s kind of for anyone who has felt different — I don’t mean that in an “it gets better” kind of way, I mean in the way of people operating from their unconscious trauma of feeling different, and then alchemizing that into throw-away Reddit accounts, or rage. There are more productive ways to release this type of energy, and hopefully this book will bring them a sense of hope that you can go from not needing to belong to feeling connected.
How do you think music, film, fashion, and media will reflect the presence of magick in our current culture?
There is something strange about Hollywood’s relationship with magick. I’ve never watched [Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina] and I never will, but I know that it’s about worshipping Satan as an entity, and it glamorizes — or encourages — a darker magick and aesthetics of negativity.I think that’s a great indication of how our culture chooses to show us the more negative things, because those things are more salacious; it even happens with the occult and magick.
By 2030, I’m sure Jeremy Scott will have an entire occult-magick Moschino collection, and maybe streetwear brands will start to push for that as well. The biggest problem in our culture today is that there is such an emphasis on aesthetics, and treating everything like an Instagram fashion shoot. If magick does gain a presence in all sectors of culture in the next decade, I would really hope that people will actually be practicing it, and become more powerful with the tools talked about in arenas like my book.
You can buy Pop Magick here