Welcome to W's Witch Week, a celebration of all things witchy. In the days leading up to Halloween, we'll be boiling up a wicked brew of all things occult, from pop culture's favorite new witches to the real women practicing Wicca today.
On YouTube, you will find many genres of content creators, who produce their videos for hundreds of thousands of followers. In just a few quick clicks, you could run into a plethora of beauty vloggers who give makeup tutorials, bored teens who provide long-winded “storytime” updates on their lives, or multiple styles of ASMR videos that tingle the ears and trigger a physical response in the viewer. But YouTube is also a growing platform that offers a community for people who consider themselves to be witches.
It may not seem immediately apparent that one could even practice witchcraft online rather than solely in-person, but for witches like Jessica Alexandria, sharing intel about the witch community on social media can be of the utmost importance. Alexandria is known in the YouTube community as “Behati,” a name she chose for herself, and multiple times a week she teaches "candle magick," conducts astrological or tarot readings, and gives tutorials for how to set intentions and watch things manifest as a result of visualizing those intentions.
With videos that can reach up to 40 minutes long (and a growing audience expressing their gratitude for the length and detailed nature of her videos in the comments section), Alexandria serves up a little bit of everything on her channel, even some beauty tutorials that one might find have much in common with the how-to guides provided by non-witch YouTubers. She also owns an apothecary, where she sells essential oils and herbs, conducts readings IRL, and shares her astrological forecasts on her blog, Behati Life. Here, Alexandria talks about everything you wanted to know about being a witch who practices in the digital space, common misconceptions about the culture, and how to tell if you may be a witch.
Where are you located?
I was located in Philadelphia and my apothecary is still there, but I just recently moved to New Orleans two weeks ago. I’m building my space here, so I’m going to be bouncing back and forth between Philly and New Orleans. I love Philadelphia. Philly has been home to me for a long time, for about five years, but I always gravitated towards New Orleans for my own reasons, and since I got here I have not thought about Philly once.
Would you say New Orleans is an epicenter for the type of work that you do?
It really is. That’s one thing that I noticed. I felt like in Philly I had hit my cap, my ceiling of what I can learn or do. Then I came to New Orleans and all of these things started magically manifesting themselves and falling together. I don’t know why I would expect anything less. I started realizing also that there’s so much more for me to grow and learn and experience, not only in my background and my history with my ancestors and family, but with other cultures as well. It’s been a happy transition.
when did you realize you identified as a witch?
Well, I always knew that I was different growing up. I felt uncomfortable the majority of the time. I don’t think there was an exact moment where I was like, “Okay, I’m a witch,” until I started looking at being connected with female empowerment groups, and women who were interested in the new age and developing their own personal power. I saw them identifying as witches and was shocked by how proud they were, because at the time I was Christian and had a Christian influence on my life that kind of stopped me from looking at witches in a positive light. When I saw these women and healers identifying as witches, and their morals and their practices nearing my own, then I slowly came out of the broom closet.
Is it possible to learn how to be a witch or is being a witch just something that is inherent in a person?
I think that it depends on how you define "witch." Most people—especially women—are natural healers, and are intuitive and gifted. The thing is that they’re born and raised in a society that wants to diminish their gift for whatever reason. Some people have a natural ability to understand mathematics and science, and others are naturally good at artistic endeavors and creative expression or creative outlets; we all have different strengths and weaknesses or varying levels of how good we are at something. There are a lot of people who have natural intuitive or psychic gifts, or natural healing gifts, but because they are not raised in an environment to support their gifts, they’ll never really be able to grow them or express them. I think that there are people who can be taught to grow within that, because they’re in a space where it’s fine or normal. So their natural god-given gifts are developed over time, and then there are people who are natural born witches who are stifled and suppressed, and never get to express that, or end up feeling incomplete, depressed, or anxious, or being drawn to weird things because they never find their place or their footing. It’s a really vulnerable but powerful position, I think. You’ll see that a lot. Any types of sensitive people are always the ones who get picked on because they’re different, but they have so much power behind them.
How did you decide to bring your intel to the digital realm? And how does it differ from practicing or having group meetings with other witches in person?
This is a controversial answer, but I’m going to say it because I never hold anything back. There are more of us coming out now, so it’s not as tough as when I first started, but the people who were outwardly speaking that they were witches were not the most normal. From my experiences, my group, my community, and people that were in my environment physically, they were not the people that I would hang out with, and I’m a normal person. I mean “normal.” What is normal? But I was a teenager, a normal, everyday person. I’m just a witch. A lot of these people were older and on another level. I learned a lot from them, but they were different.
When I went on the Internet—and I use the Internet to connect with others or at least put my voice out there—I think what ended up happening was I connected with varying types of people. I was able to be like, “Oh, you’re cool, I wouldn’t normally hang out with you, but this is fine.” That’s the beauty of the Internet and the digital environment—you can connect with so many, and no one really has to show their face. Granted, I show my face on YouTube like three times a week and even more so on my Instagram, but that’s because I choose to do that. Many of my tribe—that’s what I call them—are very passionate, growing every day, but are hiding that they are practicing their rituals and beliefs. Hidden from their husbands, from their wives, because if they say to their partner, “I’m a witch, I believe in this,” their partner will abandon them, or their family will abandon them. That’s a very real risk. The beauty of the Internet and the digital age that we live in is that you can choose to be as much a part of it visually as you want, and at the same time you can hide and learn, and call yourself a different name while still being involved.
There has been an influx of witches in popular culture, with the new Sabrina series on Netflix, the return of Charmed, and even Suspiria in theaters. Has there been a representation of witches and the occult in pop culture that you feel accurately reflects the way witches are in real life?
No. If they are, it’s not in the way that we would expect. So, when you’re dealing with American Horror Story’s portrayal of witches and voodoo, it’s so theatrical and evil and intense, or it’s playful, light, silly, pastel, glitter. You go from one to the other. I haven’t seen the Sabrina remake, and one of my friends in the community is actually connected to it, and I’d like to see that out of interest in watching her and supporting her, but also how the show is going to portray witches and witchcraft. That’ll be up for debate. Any time you see a character on TV or the Internet stepping into a space of power and setting intentions, and then watching something manifest because they set intention, whether we realize it or not, that is witchcraft. That is an example of what witchcraft looks like. Just how you could find that character in so many ways is exactly how you could find witches in so many different ways. It could be a random person lighting a candle and praying, writing an intention, or going for a walk to clear their mind—all of those small things are a form of witchcraft. If we could look at a regular character who doesn’t actively put their hands out and throw a lightning bolt from their fingertips, if we can open our minds to think that maybe witchcraft is more than that, because that’s theatrical, then you have an actual representation of a witch doing what they do.
Online, there has also been a rise in astrology content—including horoscopes and memes—and a lot of people seem to be really into learning more about that right now.
Astrology is so much involved. I was just talking to my sister about this last night. I actually lost family when I came out publicly as a witch. Just yesterday my sister and I reconnected to talk about my spirituality. She’s Christian, and one of my best friends until it came out that I was a witch and she was like, “I don’t understand and I don’t want to have this conversation. I’m uncomfortable.” Anyway, all of that to say we were just talking about astrology yesterday and when it comes to astrology, astrology is timing. The influence of certain things that impact us here on earth in ways that a lot of people don’t even realize, because people like to stay at a superficial level. The planets impact us and it comes as perfect timing. I truly believe that the spirit, meaning a higher power—whether you call it god or goddess, masculine or feminine, him or her, it doesn’t matter—I believe that when we’re born, we come in with perfect timing, in alignment with our souls and our destinies and our fate. The stars align in order to open for you to come into this world, and all of that comes from this higher energy, this higher, all-loving power. When your born into this world, your map of the stars, the time you are born is perfect and divine and acts as a compass to direct you in your life of when to do things or not to do things. Some type of insight to help navigate your physical presence while you’re here on earth.
How do you use astrological readings in your work?
As far as me and my ritual, and my craft—outside of the fact that I’m an astrologer and constantly pulling charts for myself, my friends, and my clients—my ritual will reflect what is energetically going on in the cosmos. I believe in the planets influencing us on so many levels. Accidents increase during the full moon, people die or experience trauma close to their birth time. Why is that? Because of the solar return, the start of a new year. Everything happens on a timetable. When people die and they’ve just had a birthday, it’s not crazy. The cycle of life falls in alignment with the entire zodiac, and that’s what I teach my students and my tribe. I’m going to do more teaching and education because people need to know that timing is everything. If there is tension in the skies, we don’t have to fall victim to that. If we know how to work with it, we can make it work for us, not against us. Nothing should ever take away our personal power. In the astrology world, people talk about Mercury retrograde making you lose your mind and going crazy. No, you’re allowing it to take your personal power when there is so much that can be gained from Mercury retrograde, but you’re not informed because witches have been hiding in the shadows, sharing our practices with our children and hoping that they will pass that onto the next generation, but we can’t because we’ll get demonized or hung or lose or jobs or our partners and families stop calling us all because we love our practice.
You’ve said before on your channel, "If you don't know what you're doing don't fuck with it." What is your biggest piece of advice for those looking to learn more about the occult or practice witchcraft?
My biggest piece of advice is to never box yourself in, and to honor your feelings. Whatever your religious or cultural background is that could hinder or support you, honor your feelings, honor your heart, honor what you’re being curiously led to. You can do no wrong, there is nothing wrong with asking questions. The more questions you ask, the better. There’s something big pulling you every day, something wise, all-knowing, loving that is pulling you every single day and it is always communicating through to you, through your heart, and it will guide you exactly where you need to go whether it be witchcraft or anything else. Honor your voice, your intuition. When it comes to connecting, the best way is the Internet. See what other people are doing, saying. Don’t be scared of it, and don’t have any expectations of what it has to look like or what you have to do because you don’t have to do anything. You just do what feels right for you, and if you do what feels right for you you’re doing everything right, as long as you’re not hurting anybody. That’s a big witchcraft principle.