Spellbanned: Etsy Policy Change Invokes Ire of Witches

While you still buy plenty of "The Craft" related handicraft on Etsy, actual spells, curses and hexes are now verboten by the online marketplace. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

Etsy, the best place on the Internet in which to purchase original artwork by Rosie O’Donnell and Halloween costumes for your cat , is no longer the witch-friendly shopping destination that it once was.

Following in the spell-banishing footsteps of fellow online marketplace eBay, the Brooklyn-based bazaar o’ twee, which celebrated its tenth birthday this month and went public earlier this year, has announced it will no longer permit the sale of “metaphysical services” — that is, no hexes, no incantations, no potions and certainly no curses. Technically, Etsy sellers can still hawk the metaphysical, both tangible and non-tangible, but cannot promise — or even suggest — that said services and wares will actual do anything.

The sale of handcrafted witchy-poo paraphernalia such as Stevie Nicks prayer candles and Nancy Downs stud earrings is still permissible. Evil spirit-banishing smudge sticks, astrological charts and tarot cards also appear to be unaffected by the policy change.

Reads the newly instituted policy: “Any metaphysical service that promises or suggests it will effect a physical change (e.g., weight loss) or other outcome (e.g., love, revenge).”

Etsy sellers who fails to comply will receive a warning, although some sellers have companied that their virtual storefronts have been abruptly shuttered without any sort of prior heads-up about the policy change.

As reported by Motherboard, the community of metaphysical Etsy sellers is rather significant in size; while many have been successfully peddling love potions and the like on Etsy for years, others more recently found refuge at a (formerly) more accepting Etsy after eBay put the kibosh on necromancy in 2012.

Although the phrase “Etsy witch hunt” has been a touch overused ever since news of the policy changes broke last week, it’s also appropriate as many sellers impacted by the policy change feel unfairly singled out.

Victoria Zasikowsk, a Welsh magik practitioner and proprietress of Etsy’s now-suspended The Enchanted Land shop, explains to Motherboard in an email: “Shop owners like myself discovered ‘Shop Suspension’ notification emails in our inboxes. Huge numbers of sellers there have been affected, and will continue to be affected... Swathes of us have now had our sales and shop views tank, and there is great distress in the metaphysical community.”

She goes on to explain that “no product or service that even remotely suggests or claims to have some kind of effect in a person's life is permitted. Things like distant healing, spell cast candles, enchanted jewellery, spell kits, spirit conjuring, crystals or oils or other items attaching any kind of metaphysical properties are prohibited.”

Ashley Coulton, who sold a wide variety of “enchanted spirit goods” through a once-bustling Etsy storefront, has started an online petition imploring the $1.8 billion company to retool and/or reverse its new policy. Thus far, her petition has garnered upwards of 6,000 signatures.

She tells the Washington Post: “I do worry about the effect this will have on my business ... I do believe the actions of Etsy are in fact, discriminatory toward Wiccan and Pagan faiths.”

A Wiccan ritual alter
'I bind you Etsy from doing harm, harm against others and harm against yourself.'. (Photo: Verbena Stevens/flickr)

Portland, Oregon-based Iyá Ekundayo, described by the Post as a “Brazilian priestess who sells traditional medicines and cowrie divinations,” echoes Coulton’s sentiments: “It [is] a Witch Hunt. They went after people supposedly offering tangible and intangible items and services [promising] end results, but steered away from anything in the Christian and Judaism sections.”

She adds: “Most people (Etsy) are woefully ignorant of world geography and belief systems. This is the USA, and there will be no hocus pocus.”

Well, there will be a little hocus pocus.

Etsy, which as been deluged with complaints from sellers and customers alike, defends its actions and insists that the ban has nothing to do with intolerance. Rather, the company claims that it is trying to protect its more guileless customers — and garden-variety suckers — from being duped by online snake oil salesmen who prey on shoppers that might turn to Etsy in search of a “cure” for whatever ails them.

Etsy spokeswoman Sarah Cohen explains in a statement provided to the Post: “Etsy strongly believes in freedom of thought, expression, and religion, and we will never institute a policy that discriminates against sellers for their religious beliefs or practices.”

Noting that Etsy has long forbid the sale of services of any sort, Cohen adds that the policy was instituted to “protect our community from business practices that prey upon vulnerable and desperate shoppers — such as those seeking a treatment for cancer or infertility, or those with self-esteem issues who are seeking a spell for weight loss or beauty enhancement.”

To some, the more confusing-than-not policy doesn't come as much of a surprise.

As noted by Bust, Etsy, as to not run afoul with the FDA, severed ties with some sellers earlier this year for making health claims about handcrafted soaps and beauty products. And any respectful, publicly traded company that sells earrings made from cat fur certainly wouldn't have anything to do with bogus werewolf spells. But it’s also an incredibly difficult — and, yes, insensitive — move that lends itself to sweeping inconsistencies. The outrage is more than justified.

In the meantime, many e-commerce-savvy witches impacted by the ban have moved to more tolerant marketplaces or started their own standalone online shops.

Via [Motherboard], [Washington Post] via [Time]