The spellbinding tale of very modern YouTube witch Harmony Nice

Harmony Nice (C) Orion Books

Harmony Nice (C) Orion Books - Credit: Orion Books

Witches are coming out of the broom closet, away from fairytales and are working their magic on social media – and their followers are spellbound. Norfolk 21-year-old Harmony Nice has written a guidebook for would-be witches hoping to jump on the broomstick.

Harmony Nice's book - Wicca: A Modern Guide to Witchcraft and Magick (C) Orion Books

Harmony Nice's book - Wicca: A Modern Guide to Witchcraft and Magick (C) Orion Books - Credit: Orion Books

Witches are coming out of the broom closet, away from fairytales and are working their magic on social media – and their followers are spellbound. Norfolk 21-year-old Harmony Nice has written a guidebook for would-be witches hoping to jump on the broomstick.

What a difference a few centuries make: rewind a few hundred years and publically admitting that you practiced magic(k) was an effective death sentence.

Our ancestors believed that witches were part of a demonic conspiracy and that they had been armed with powers from Satan in order to destroy the human race and bring forth the inherently wicked reign of the dark lord himself.

Fast forward to today, and thankfully it's a wholly different story: today, countless women and men proudly identify as witches – in 2011, the population census revealed that 56,620 people in the UK said they were pagans and it is thought that paganism, and its many branches, is the fastest-growing religion in the country today.

Harmony Nice, 21, who lives in Norfolk, is at the heart of a growing community of modern-day Wiccans who practice natural magic to improve their own lives and the world around them. Through ritual, meditation, embracing nature and spell-casting, Harmony believes she has found a way to increase her creativity, confidence and self-worth, helping her cast off the shadow of some dark periods of depression.

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'To me, Wicca will always be about experiencing the earth, working with what you can find and practicing the craft for its true meaning,' says Harmony, who calls herself an eclectic solitary Wiccan and began practicing her craft when she was 17.

Her YouTube channel has more than 450,000 subscribers, her videos have been watched more than 21.5 million times and she has just published a book: Wicca: A Modern Guide to Witchcraft and Magick. She is one of a growing number of Generation Zs looking elsewhere for spiritual sustenance.

It began, for Harmony, when she discovered that her great-grandmother Hilda was, in her great-grandaughter's words, a half-German witch.

'She made fur coats, would give people who had annoyed her headaches by putting spells on them and would use ouija boards to contact the spirit world, so not the kind of witch that I am, but my interest in learning more about her definitely kick-started things,' she said.

(I ask at this point if Harmony is ever even slightly tempted to give people headaches via witchcraft, you know, really annoying people who deserve it, but she reminds me of the Wiccan tenet that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, positive or negative, it will be returned three-fold. Swiz)

'I think I was about 14 at this point and although I'd watched Buffy and Charmed, it was about all I knew about witchcraft, so I started to learn more. I read lots about the different kinds of witchcraft and started to learn to read tarot cards. It was around this time that I started to practice some form of witchcraft although I didn't really have much of a clue what I was doing.'

When Harmony's grandmother Yvonne passed away, the shock of her loss combined with a multitude of teenage issues triggered a period of depression which cast a shadow over her for several years and led to episodes of self-harm and anxiety.

'It took me a long time to get through that dark period and I am convinced that discovering Wicca was key to helping me to recover. I found a book in a second-hand shop in Norwich by Scott Cunningham called Living Wicca and I started to look into what it was about,' said Harmony.

'In addition to the therapy I was having, learning about Wicca and the way it could benefit my self-worth was massively beneficial. It promotes equality in all and has brought me many benefits: acceptance, kindness and self-love.

'I think it's quite a peaceful, mindful way to live, looking to the seasons to guide you in your life. As a Wiccan, you can be declared as a witch, but lots of people prefer to be called a Wiccan.'

So while the evil spells and pointed hats may not make an appearance, the magic definitely does: albeit called magick, to differentiate it from the kind of magic practiced at end of pier shows with bunny rabbits, wands and top hats.

On her YouTube channel, which began as a place to post make-up and hair tutorials, Harmony has a series called Enchanted Endeavours, where she delves into the Wiccan World, helping viewers to learn about tarot cards, crystals, spell-casting and rituals.

She also speaks candidly about her mental health struggles, her tattoos and a range of topics that will chime in with a younger audience. She also has an Instagram account with 300,000 followers and answers questions on Snapchat daily.

'There will always be people who tune in because they like the witch aesthetic and the idea of practicing rather than the reality, but this is my life and what I do and it is real. In fact, I sometimes struggle with how much I share on social media in case it gets in the way of my own journey,' said Harmony, who admits that her online life is 'a full-time job'.

'Most of my followers are around my age and they understand what I am going through and we go through it together. It's a community.'

Despite the social media community, Harmony is not part of a coven, preferring to walk her path alone – albeit with a few hundred thousand fans in her footsteps. 'I'm glad to get the conversation going about Wicca and I really do put my heart and soul into everything I share while also being careful to keep some things private and special and just for me. But I find that I incorporate my practice into so many daily rituals without even thinking,' said Harmony.

'If I'm cooking for someone, I might add in some special ingredients which will make them feel happy. If I can't sleep, I'll make a quick herbal remedy. I meditate often and read my tarot cards – it's just part of my life. People think of witchcraft and immediately think of evil, but it's nothing like that for me, quite the opposite. It's a beautiful, positive thing to do.'

* Wicca: A Modern Guide to Witchcraft and Magick by Harmony Nice, is published by Orion Books for £12.99.

What is Wicca?

* Wicca is a contemporary Pagan movemebt which was developed in England during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant.

* Wiccan is a pagan, nature-based religion which involves practicing witchcraft as part of the faith.

* Wiccans follow the eight Sabbats and 12 Esbats (which are celebrations of the full moon) and carry out rituals and spells at specific times related to the phases of the moon.

* Morality, according to the Wiccan faith, is summed up by the Wiccan Rede: 'An' it harm none, do what ye will', which means that as long as you don't harm anyone, do as you wish.

How to celebrate Yule as a Wiccan

• Yule, or the winter solstice, is the shortest day and longest night of the year and is celebrated from December 20 to 24.

• The celebration is based on the fact that from this moment on, days will become longer and lighter – Wiccans believe it is a time of renewal and welcome rituals which have been observed for centuries, such as lighting fires and bringing greenery into the home.

• Harmony suggests burning pine in a cauldron, using crystals such as bloodstone, clear quartz, emerald, garnet and citrine and burning cinnamon, cedar wood, pine or frankincense-scented incense.

• Traditionally, pine trees would be brought into the home and decorated them with food to offer to wandering spirits. Today's Christmas trees hark back to this pagan ritual.

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