Sacred Spaces and the Use of Abject Objects in Contemporary Witchcraft After the Rise of the Anthropocene



Published Oct 11, 2021
Elizabeth Campbell


Since the turn of the century, the concept of a human geological age has become widespread. The rise of ‘the Anthropocene’ in the popular cultural consciousness has manifested itself in artworks, music, and casual conversation. This case-study of one ecofeminist witch writing in the 1980s—Starhawk; and two witches working in urban areas in the 2020s—Sabrina Scott and Alice Tarbuck—illustrates the way that, in this subculture of non-Wiccan, neo-Pagan witchcraft, the impact of the concept of the Anthropocene has been revealed in changing habits in spellcraft and choice of sacred space.

Starhawk’s spellcraft focusses on natural objects and spaces and recommends the removal of trash from the ecosystem. Conversely, rather than eschewing artificial and discarded objects (so-called “abject objects”) the witchcraft of recent years, particularly that of Sabrina Scott and Alice Tarbuck, shows a radical embrace of trash, pollution, and abjection in both spellcraft and sacred spaces. This is illustrative of Anthropocene environmental thinking—that we cannot erase the human effect on the ecosystem and must therefore work alongside our waste. The Anthropocene consciousness expressed by contemporary witches includes belief in a flat ontology, inter-species conversation, and vital materiality. This case study may be illustrative of a more general trend in which Anthropocene consciousness influences practical changes in spiritual practice, a hypothesis which I believe bears further investigation.

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Anthropocene, Witchcraft, Ecology, Environmentalism, Vitalism, Neo-pagan