Etsy “Witch Hunt”

So I never got around, the first time everyone started flipping out about Etsy, to posting about it. After all, I don’t purchase on Etsy, and I don’t sell there. But this article (see here) kind of has me wanting to post.

See, this author is comparing Etsy’s TOS as a “witch hunt” a la Salem, Massachusetts. This is problematic for multiple reasons.


Starting first off – the fact is that Etsy just changed their terms to state that services are not permitted (i.e. prayers, spells), because you cannot guarantee a spell’s success. Objects (such as rosaries, pendants, pendulums, etc) are allowed. Those are a solid item that one can guarantee the quality of. The uproar about “banning esoteric items” is all a load of hoopla.

And this whole witch hunt hysteria is a load of crap. Etsy has an obligation to ensure, from a business standpoint, that the items sold on their site are able to be guaranteed. If they allow people to sell prayers or spells, then they are putting themselves into a position of having to account for customers who are not happy with the failure or lack of results from services. Physical items can be guaranteed and accounted for – either they look and function like what is advertised, or they do not. That is easy to account for.


 

Then the whole “it’s just like Salem all over again” whining. That one insults me as a historian.

Salem had no witches. It had small-town mentality, gossip, financial gain and societal pressures and prejudices. It was people utilizing their prejudices, raising, religion and financial situations to fling out at neighbors and at other citizens of the city. As to what set the children off originally, no one can definitively say. But for sure, the adults and judges all acted out of a multitude of reasons. Religion possibly one of the less important, considering how financial means and financial concerns were extremely important in many “witch trials” throughout the world in the early modern period.

A major example – (I cannot find the original article I read, but if I find it, I’ll add the link) a witch trial in Germany was started after a woman inherited a popular, wealthy business either from husband or father. She ran it well and prosperously. Her neighbor (a man in the same business who was doing less prosperously) reported her a witch, she got tried and executed. They got her land, business, and property. Remember – common was that if you reported a witch and they were convicted, you seized control of most, if not all of their assets. Financial gain was a huge reason that many were accused of witchcraft. Then there were also those who accused due to feuds or dislike of their neighbors. That also happened quite a bit – humans are human after all. Also, I would like to mention that overwhelmingly it was widows or unmarried women who were accused. Those who did not fit traditional gender roles. They were most likely to be accused.

There was no underground “witch” movement in early modern Europe. There are those who followed superstitions, or used old folk remedies and the like. But those people were mostly Christian (if not all). They would be insulted and horrified to be called witch by people trying to co-opt their deaths into propaganda for modern practices and beliefs. Because those people of 400-600 years ago were not pagans or polytheists or witches or Wiccans. They were regular citizens who followed the Church teachings, went to church and tried to get by. If they went to the local wise woman/man or used remedies, they were no different than anyone else of the time.


 

And now back to Etsy. Because I’m a big fan of hard facts, here is a screenshot from the Etsy Sellers Manual (Seller’s Page):

Etsy 1As you can see, it says services “are not allowed to be sold on Etsy”.

So far, no mention of targeting pagans or witches…

And here is the reasoning why (web page here):

Etsy 2So this is pretty straight forward. It lays out what is and is not allowed as terms of “services” provided. A service like graphic design is allowed – because it produces a tangible item (i.e. a PDF/JPG of the designed image for example). A service like metaphysical items are not allowed, because they are advertising a result (i.e. spell, prayer, etc) that could be intangible. These are things that are suggesting they will effect change or some intangible result.

“Any metaphysical service”…that’s not saying pagan. There are a lot of spiritual services that fall under that broad umbrella that are not pagan. “That promises or suggests” results. Again – nothing that says it only applies to witches and pagans. This is just the same as a service for prayer to God to get XX result. It is not saying “no witchcraft service can be done”. No. Nowhere in the rules and reasoning does it say “witchcraft”. It defines metaphysical – those things that are not physical themselves. So again, Etsy is not targeting a specific group.

So what Etsy was doing was pretty simple – they are ensuring that what is on their website produces a tangible result of some sort. Whether a physical item, JPG/PDF/image, or an object that helps you to DIY something (like a booklet on how to build __).


 

That means this whole “Etsy witch hunt” is a load of crap.

Etsy just decided to crack down on those who are violating their terms by selling services that do not meet the guidelines. They cannot help it if a majority of the people who are “affected” by this change are pagans. If you weren’t following the rules, and you were caught selling services, then you deserve to have your shop shut down. There are other platforms out there to sell your magical/metaphysical services. Etsy chooses their rules, and they have to be honored.

And nowhere does Etsy say they are targeting a specific group. If some Christian seller was on Etsy selling prayers to do something (i.e. prayers to God to get a job), they would be shut down, just like a pagan selling spells to make an interview go your way. Etsy is not choosing to discriminate against one group – they just wrote out in bold what services were no longer allowed.

And the article I linked at the beginning – the reason I am writing this post. Their whole glee about this “witch hunt” ban against pagans being gone. Well, two fold. One – they’re wrong. The ban on services are still there. Two – it was never a witch hunt. There was never a witch hunt by Etsy. And to claim so is just rude on multiple levels.

So really – don’t be idiots. Don’t try to sell things that are prohibited by the TOS that you agreed to by opening your store. Don’t try to claim that Etsy is persecuting you for your “religious beliefs”, when it clearly states that any such service would be against the rules. And if you get caught, at least own up that you screwed up and its your own fault. After all, if you’re going to break the rules, you have to own up to the consequences you reap.

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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

8 thoughts on “Etsy “Witch Hunt”

  1. Yes, this whole “Etsy is persecuting Pagans” thing is extremely ridiculous and stupid. I first heard about it on someone else’s blog and thought, “No way, that can’t be happening.” Then I read Etsy’s public statements on the matter and saw that no, it clearly wasn’t happening. The people who were freaking out about this were acting as if they don’t know how to read.

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  2. **Cough**Cough**Ahem It has been my experience with the so-called “neo-pagan/Wiccan” community that these people generally are under educated (saying this nicely) and do tend to fly off the handle at the least bit of misinformation. Their reading skills are not the best, either. High School guidance counselors probably took a quiet breath when they were allowed to graduate. Why, they believe in pink unicorns! (my latest foray into snark)

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  3. I don’t agree with the analogy, however, why some people were “freaking out” about this is because shops were closed with no warning and no recourse. While I have no problem shutting down spell shops, they also closed down Tarot card readers and did so without warning. At the same time Etsy had provided a recent upgrade with a search section for “spells.” The whole thing was ass-backwards and that is what people were protesting – but yes, I agree people’s arguments was done in hyperbole and needed to address the actual circumstances of the shut down.

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  4. Oh and the Tarot card shops did provide a written reading PDF so yes they provided something physical. Meanwhile, Etsy allows people to sell Rosary and prayer requests… as long as they are Christian of course! They also notified the Big Shops of what they were going to do (under the table) and allowed them to remain. I can think of five pagan oriented shops off the top of my head who offer the same materials (spells, metaphysical gemstones offering “results”, illegal animal parts) who were allowed to stay (and did not have similar listings shut down) because they brought Etsy big bucks.

    So yeah, this situation is far more in depth then you realize… but since you admit you don’t shop or have a shop at Etsy you may not be aware of all the ramifications of this issue. And NO, I do not agree with the “witchhunt” analogy. Nor do I want to see spells, spell candles, spell powders etc.. on Etsy.

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    1. Rosaries are a tangible item. That’s why those are allowed.

      As for allowing Christian prayers…they don’t. One of my friends had her shop shut down for offering prayer service.

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  5. Personally, I think a pay-for-prayer service is not very pious. I think we should do our own praying and develop relationships with our gods and our ancestors. I do know that certain churches do say Memorial Masses for the Dead which the families pay for. You can even have one said at St. Peter’s in Rome. Depending on your tradition, there are special festival days for the dead. I am Hellenic and most of my maternal ancestors were Slavic. Therefore, I go to the graveyard here and offer libations during the liminal period between winter solstice and the new year. I also celebrate Anthesteria (early spring) and Genesios (early autumn). Please, don’t be THAT lazy.

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    1. Some of my distant family are evangelical Christians – their churches offer up prayers for injured/dying/dead. You put the names up on streamers and the whole church prays for them. Their church doesn’t ask anyone to pay. But, donations are encouraged (pretty strongly I might add).

      In a context like that, I see nothing wrong with prayers costing money. I see nothing wrong with a tangible result (rosary, altar item, herbs, witches’ bottle, etc) costing money. I understand why Etsy has cracked down on services. It’s too hard to monitor the quality of services. It’s damned near impossible for them to ensure that a service is what was promised for with payment. Myself personally, I do my own prayers. But if I wanted assistance, I would expect to compensate for the work and effort put in to assisting me.

      I just don’t understand everyone’s outrage at Etsy. They have had it in their terms that services are not allowed. Just because they finally decided to crack down on people for breaking the terms of use, and people are upset. That’s why I wrote this. I was mystified that people are shocked that a website would enforce their own rules.

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  6. Emily — In my experience, so-called “high” protestant churches and possibly the middle-of-the road as well list the folks who are ill for whom they are especially praying that week. No one “pays” for this. Every week for Sunday services, however, usually a family will buy the flowers and dedicate them in memory of loved ones.
    I agree with you about being mystified over the fact of people being shocked.
    P.S. In the event that the temples were still open, we could always arrange with the priest and haruspex to do a proper sacrifice and have the liver read. They would send the pictures of the lamb or kid so we would be sure it was perfect. We then could properly arrange ourselves at the right time. It could be done.

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