Several novice witches have hexed the Moon, CNET reported. The TikTok witch community—colloquially known as WitchTok—have condemned the act, reassuring the public that the Moon is fine. Historically, non-practitioners’ belief in witchcraft stemmed from delusions, ending in deaths.
According to CNET, the social media platform TikTok has a niche interest witching community, commonly known as WitchTok. The CNET article went on to say that a small group of novice witches tried to put a hex on the Moon, angering other witches on WitchTok.
“On any other day, WitchTok centers mainly on witchcraft, manifestation, worship of various deities, and astrology, celebrating all things magical via joke-based content and wholesome tips,” the article said. “A small, anonymous contingent of beginner—or “baby”—witches claim they have […] hexed the Moon.”
The article also went on to cite general frustration from many in the witch community who pointed out that the Moon is a central part of witchcraft and considered sacred, and thus hexing it is wrong.
“Cultural and social belief has power, so if people are convinced that the apparent hexing may have an affect on their lives, it very well might,” the article said. “Not because their deities are angered or the Moon is mad, but because of self-fulfilling prophecy and confirmation bias.”
Witchcraft has an unfortunate past with social belief, as the public used to suffer from mass delusions in which they believed witches were evil, often resulting in persecution and death.
Delusions can happen individually or in a group of people. The fear of the unknown that accompanies them often leads to panic. However, even mass delusions break down into many different types. One kind are called symbolic community scares.
“These tend to wax and wane over years [and] can entire countries, even continents,” said Dr. Steven Novella, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. “They often involve fears of a moral or existential threat, so these are deriving from some cultural fear that is held by many people in a broad culture or community.”
Dr. Novella gave the fear of immigration as an example. He said that fear of immigration stems from a fear that unregulated immigration will allow “unsavory or perhaps criminal” segments into a population. People with these fears may believe that the safety or the very make-up of their society is in danger.
However, the best example of a symbolic community scare, Dr. Novella said, were literal witch hunts. The Salem witch trials of 1692 resulted in 19 executions. In Europe, between 1470 and 1750, witch hunts resulted in over 100,000 trials and as many as 60,000 executions.
Witch hunts employed various defining tactics.
“One is that accusation is equaled to guilt,” he said. “There is the reliance upon so-called spectral evidence. The name derives from a literal type of evidence that was given at many witch trials where the witness had a dream or a vision, perhaps of the accused consorting with the devil, and their vision was accepted as if it were eyewitness testimony.”
Dr. Novella said that magical beliefs and ad-hoc reasoning also came into play in witch trials because they explain unusual events through magic which is then assigned to the accused. For example, if a farmer’s crops rotted rapidly, they may blame an accused witch and come up with the reasoning afterward.
Social outcasts were often targeted simply for being different, and torture was often used to coerce false confessions from them. These confessions were taken as truth, reaffirming the mass delusion.
Today, society’s view of self-proclaimed witches isn’t always respectful, but it’s far less volatile than in previous centuries. Most of the reaction to the baby witch Moon hex has come from within the WitchTok community rather than from without.
Dr. Steven Novella contributed to this article. Dr. Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his MD from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University.