This article has three distinct sections. The first is the story of what inspired the rest — tips for distinguishing real practitioners of astrology, witchcraft, and spirituality from self-serving charlatans taking advantage of the mounting witch-strology renaissance. And lastly, recommendations for how professionals (or aspiring professionals) can navigate related ethical considerations.
The Curious (and Common) Case of Audrey Kitching
The Twitterverse has been buzzing this week about the self-professed “Artist, Crystal Healer, and Energy Alchemist” Audrey Kitching, a name I had never heard until this article by Nayomi Reghay of the Daily Dot exposed her for fraudulent business practices, plagiarism of lesser known practitioners, and abuse, manipulation, and non-payment of her employees.
The business she runs is called Crystal Cactus, where she sells jewelry she buys in bulk from China, claims she personally hand made each piece “with magic”, and marks up by more than 1,300%.
She also sells candles which she alleges are similarly hand poured, but the much more likely scenario is that they’re also cheaply purchased in bulk, and that the top was melted so she could stick some crystals and herbs on top to justify selling an otherwise generic-ass tealight for $5.55.
Adding further insult to injury for the customers who think they’re paying for a product imbued with not only real magic, but hers specifically, she probably didn’t even do that herself. An underpaid employee she treats like shit did.
All of this hits close to home…
- As someone who actually does the incredibly demanding work of ritually handcrafting and pouring what I offer my clients.
- As someone who has studied and practiced astrology, witchcraft, and magic for 15 years, and brings that experience to bear in my work.
- As someone who holds myself to a high moral standard of integrity, and expects the same from others who put themselves on a spiritual pedestal, responsible for the leadership of their social media flock and paying clients.
Her reaction to all of this is telling, in that she hasn’t taken any responsibility for or ownership of her behavior, or even feigned an apology for being caught red handed, all the while subliminally telling her followers to forgive her, with zero indication she intends to right her wrongs.
Her play has been to wait out the storm by acting as unbothered as possible, not alerting any supporters who haven’t already heard, and gaslighting her audience with self-serving Trump-style deflection and distraction in the form of generic spiritual advice designed to cover her own tracks.
The insinuation is that anyone who takes issue with her fraud, plagiarism, and abuse is nothing but a “low vibrational” hater who doesn’t see or appreciate all the awesome “light” she’s putting out into the world, coming for her because they’re afraid of the “truth”. In fact, it’s her who is afraid because the truth is now coming to light. Gotta love the irony!
Because being unfairly hated on and misunderstood are universal human experiences every reader can relate to, and because half the current self-care advice is about erecting boundaries between ourselves and “negative” or toxic people and ideas, keeping it moving, and ignoring that which doesn’t serve our personal interests, she’s presenting her total lack of accountability as a sign of of her advanced spiritual evolution. Cue Exorcist projectile vomit gif.
Not a bad game plan for a person who is master manipulator and committed fraudster. Tale as old as time, in fact.
It’s probably clear by this point that I’m disgusted by Audrey Kitching, but she’s one of many people engaged in similar practices. I don’t hate her personally, I hate what people like her represent, and the real harm they do —
- How they give witchcraft, astrology, and spirituality a bad name
- How they mislead vulnerable people who trust them, and
- How they build their bullshit brands on the backs of genuine practitioners struggling every day to gain recognition and compensation for their hard work and real wisdom
Audrey is but one of many influencers who found themselves a niche in the women’s lifestyle space, catering specifically to the rising interest in spiritual, magical, and astrological content and aesthetics.
Red Flags and Signs of Authenticity
There is a gold rush in this industry right now, which has long drawn charlatans anyway. It’s becoming increasingly important to take a critical eye to the people purporting to be experts in astrology, occultism, and witchcraft, so without further ado, here are some things to take into consideration.
Intermission: Update on Audrey Kitching 2/4/2019
In the wake of her fraud, manipulation, plagiarism, and abuse coming to light, Audrey Kitching was tagged many times as people circulated this post on Twitter and Instagram, which she clearly read.
She has since started incorporating aspects of the following advice to better disguise herself, including posting more process photos wherein she claims to be crafting her own products, less modeling images, and using language and topics she lifted directly from this site. Thanks for the endorsement!
Initially, she had told her followers astrology had lost its value, before pivoting into more fruitful territory by launching a zodiac line of bullshit products.
She has still not admitted to any wrongdoing, pulled any of her fraudulent Chinese products, or changed any of her business practices; she is simply co-opting better manipulative technologies to feign authenticity as she continues peddling $2 Chinese crap for a 1400% markup with zero magical value, and zero integrity.
But back to the subject at hand…
Person vs. Offering
Is the main focus of their promotion the PERSON’S image, or that of their products and processes? People monetize their followings by shilling product, and amass them for that exact purpose.
In the early days it was mostly 3rd party advertisers who were paying people to hawk product, but because it’s so easy to slap a self-branded label on any generic good these days, influencers have found that establishing their own enterprises can make them more money in the long-term.
That doesn’t mean the product can’t be good, or is automatically bad, but it is a consideration. Either way, a celebrity or influencer is a distraction from the product’s efficacy.
Consider a KarJenner (or similar prototype) posting a sexy Instagram pic promoting “flat tummy” diarrhea tea.
The real tea is: the focus isn’t on the tea, which the poster has likely never even tasted. It’s on their own picture perfect aspirational image. You’re buying into THEM. Whether or not the product works, was created to a high standard, or anything else about it becomes an after thought (if even).
Models as Gurus + The Appropriation of Wisdom
If your spiritual guru has a model’s instagram, she’s most likely a one-time aspiring model who found herself an easy niche in the trending spiritual-witch-strology pop cultural universe.
She probably even has a genuine interest in these topics! More and more people do every day, especially women…
But she’s probably ALSO ripping off legitimate practitioners who’ve been studying for years by recycling their ideas and content, passing it off as her own.
This is becoming SO COMMON, because it’s easy with the amount of free content people with small followings circulate to take knowledge that isn’t yours, regurgitate and rebrand it — as Kitching LITERALLY did buying jewelry from China and claiming she hand-made it, and as people she stole content from reported in the exposé.
People like this treat astrological insight, advice for practicing witchcraft, and self-help tips as if they’re just another commodity. A shade of lipstick they can name as their own and turn for profit, rather than serious — even sacred — pursuits people spend years pouring blood, sweat, and tears into, whose original works are worth crediting by name. Worth recognizing, and worth paying for.
Note: I’m not saying beautiful women can’t be wise, intelligent or create high quality work. I don’t exactly break mirrors.
What I am saying is: if someone’s brand focus is more on their identity and their image than what it is they do or offer, it’s another red flag.
When you’re being sold to in this way, ask if you truly want the item or service the person is selling, or if the real desire is an attempt to become more like them — closer to them, even — by buying into their lifestyle.
Other things to consider:
- Does this person have a track record of interest and intersection with whatever their subject was before it became popular?
- Did they spend time studying a topic before branding themselves as an instant expert?
- Do they publish content or create things that showcase original thinking and skill, outside what they post on social media?
It’s very easy to appropriate other people’s posts and present them as your own.
Offering vs. Process
If someone claims that their products are handcrafted but you see no photographic or video evidence of their creation process, both on their socials and their websites, it’s another red flag.
Companies who use sweatshops only show us pictures of the final product, well lit and perfectly staged, NOT the conditions under which they were created, or the process of it being made.
People who create truly bespoke, handcrafted items under specific conditions will SHOW YOU those conditions, because it adds value to their product, and because it’s content gold an age of mass manufacture.
Kitching claimed her products were hand-made but never posted a picture showing that process. If someone creates stuff, they’ll show you.
Excessive Platitudes + Self-Serving, Feel Good Messaging
High quality spiritual, astrological, and magical advice should challenge and activate your brain, not only the heart and/ or ego. Remixing keywords about “light”, “boundaries”, and “self-love” doesn’t an *enlightened* one make.
Popular spiritual and moral language has been used as a red-herring to distract from self-dealing and profiteering since time immemorial, whether by the Church or charlatans. Bad people co-opt “good” language and messaging to distract from their bad deeds every 👏single 👏day.
It’s tremendously easy to virtue signal through language without saying anything specific or even knowing what you’re talking about. It’s easy to offer up spiritual and self-help platitudes that will apply to lots of people and “ring true” for them, with or without a helpful intention.
As a certified Ericksonian hypnotist and someone who studied neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) for years, let me tell you — some people are specialists in how to say things, rather than whatever it is they’re talking about. Kitching is a prime example, and so is Trump.
Learn to see through linguistic manipulation so you can differentiate between what someone is saying, versus how they’re saying it. People, companies, and politicians use these manipulative tactics to market all the time (which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, if they’re not using it to bad ends), but regardless — everyone should know enough about these techniques to understand when they’re being exposed to them, even just defensively.
Spiritual Junk Food
In regards to co-opting the language of spirituality, astrology, and self-help without spiritual or helpful intentions, it does a tremendous disservice to those who explore those themes with authenticity in their work.
People who don’t know about the subject at hand have a hard time telling the difference between someone who is good at what they do over someone who’s not, because all they see are the same words and topics in play and make the reasonable assumption that the other person has not only more knowledge, but genuine knowledge (and good intentions).
It’s also a tremendous disservice to people’s followers and clients, who are being led to believe they’ll grow wiser, stronger, and healthier being fed on a diet of that person’s advice, when in reality they’re consuming the equivalent of GMO based junk food of the esoteric variety.
Their followers and clients are paying a premium price for what they think is grass fed beef, and being served factory farmed bullshit instead.
And newsflash, the followers and clients are also the cattle in this metaphor, grazing on the bad information they’re being served in the factory feed lot that is their social media feed in preparation for financial slaughter.
Astrological + Magical Claims
If someone says their products were created under certain astrological influences or on certain elections, a picture of the chart or details of the creation date, place, and time should also be posted.
It’s getting more and more popular for people to make these claims as the worlds of magic and astrology are colliding, and it’s a way of adding a higher value to a product.
It’s also VERY easy to lie about.
Even if you as a consumer can’t read the astrological chart and don’t know what those details mean, it shows that the seller is accountable to their peers and those who DO. It shows they stand behind their work, and is an indication of authenticity.
If someone says that they created something on an “auspicious election”, but they aren’t forthcoming about what that election actually was, they’re probably A. not a serious enough astrologer to be trusted to know it was, in fact, “auspicious”, or B. lying. And it’s a red flag.
Similarly to the point above about showcasing the creation of hand-made items, if someone says they ritually crafted something, look for photographic or video evidence of the alleged working to show that was in fact the case.
If a person sells things but doesn’t have Testimonials readily available, it’s a red flag. There was no way to tell through Kitching’s website whether or not the items worked, because it was ONLY sales copy. Some people post fake Testimonials, sure, but that’s a separate issue.
Good, reliable practitioners will have real people recommending and reinforcing their products and services, if and because they WORK. They will also have the support and friendship of other good, reliable, experienced practitioners, whose endorsements matter.
Big Follower Counts
Don’t take a big following alone as evidence someone is good at what they do. Stupidity and simplicity are more popular than intelligence and nuance.
This is especially the case if someone is good looking, because media of hot people is the most popular thing on the internet.
Any astrologer or magician worth their salt will tell you the most popular people in their field are rarely the ones doing the best work. Now some people BECOME famous for the quality of their work, of course, that wasn’t the case with Kitching.
A lot of people leverage big followings or big names into instant enterprises, which was exactly what Kitching did. If you take a large platform and use it to say and sell trendy things, you’ll only get bigger.
Consider for a moment Kylie Jenner’s makeup empire, and the laughable contention that she’s a self-made woman. If having the fastest makeup empire to hit one billion dollars was a race, everyone else took off at the starting line while a private jet dropped her off one 6-inch, well heeled step from the finish.
It doesn’t mean her makeup or business practices are the best. It means the more money you have and the bigger name you possess to start out with, the easier life is. The very definition of privilege.
Back to the subject at hand — look to the people who generated their followings from the ground up, FOR the quality of their work, because it’s exceptional. Not built their “work” around a pre-existing following.
Best Practices for Influencers + Professionals
If you find yourself in a position of influence, or are trying to build a following in this sphere, here are some thoughts on best ethical practices.
For consumers, look to these traits as an indication of high moral conduct. If you notice someone clearly ripping off or taking uncredited inspiration from someone else, consider bringing it to their attention in the comments. It may be a synchronicity, or they could be doing it unconsciously, or attention should be brought to their unprofessional behavior.
Credit Where Credit is Due
If you read other people’s works and find inspiration in them, give them credit! Your followers will appreciate being given leads to other high quality work, because their desire to consume what interests them far exceeds your personal ability to be their one and only source of information.
This is ESPECIALLY the case when you’re inspired by people with smaller followings than you. The first influencer who did me this kindness was The Voluptuous Witch, so thanks and appreciation to her!
Consider how helpful it would have been when you were starting out to be given a nod from someone more established. It costs the larger influencer absolutely nothing, but can make a world of difference for those working toward their own come ups. It’s kind, and it’s worth approximately 1,000 Good Karmas.
Likewise, be very mindful about accidentally ripping your influences off. We’re all shaped by the ideas, images, and words we consume, so great care should be taken not to disrespect the hard work others have done by blindly re-appropriating it as our own, especially if we’re denying them public credit and acknowledgment.
Things can get muddy here because we’re all exchanging ideas whose time has come, we live in the era of constant cross contamination, and none of us invented what it is we practice.
That being said, audit your own reactions to “good” content. If you see someone’s post talking about something and it inspires you, your first instinct should not be to turn around and present those ideas as your own.
It’s very easy to reference another post or person as an inspiration and gateway to then bring your own perspectives to the table.
And you’ll appreciate others doing the same for you!
I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t even realize when they’re ripping off someone else’s work. Keep in mind that a lot of us are sole proprietors, not big corporations. You’re taking food off someone else’s table and credit from their legacy when you co-opt their original ideas or approach and present it as your own. There is a fine line between modeling excellence, and aping or thieving from it.
If you have a hard time differentiating between what ideas are inborn and what media you consume or appreciate, consider taking a break from exposing yourself it. Unfollow those influences for a while, and see what happens to your own voice and perspective. It’s a worthwhile exercise, especially for those just starting out, developing their own brands.
Don’t Pretend to Be a Specialist in What You’re Not
If someone asks about a topic that isn’t your specialty, especially if it’s trending, consider saying something along the lines of “I also find that interesting but don’t have a lot of experience with it. X will have a better answer for you!”.
If you learned something from someone else, especially if it’s newer information or you know for a fact someone else is more knowledgeable on that topic, make a referral. You can even answer the question to the best of your ability! But cite your sources.
Don’t turn your back on the people who taught you. Be a proud representative of your knowledge-lineage and sphere of fellow practitioners. Because you’d want them to do the same for you.
Don’t Make Untrue Claims. Create Original Work
Though this should go without saying.
Thank you for coming to my overlong Ted Talk!