On July 18 2020, a rumor began spreading on “WitchTok” (a TikTok witch community) that a group of “baby witches” endeavored to “hex the moon” and “hex the fae,” setting off moral panics and fevered discussions online. We take a look at the rumors.
‘Hexing the Moon’ and ‘Hexing the Fae,’ the Rumor
Rumors about a group effort to place a hex on both the moon (as in, the astronomical body orbiting Earth) and the fae (fairies, for example) began spreading on TikTok’s WitchTok, primarily among users condemning the alleged behavior.
It didn’t take long for the rumor to spread to other platforms, including:
- Facebook groups;
- Facebook posts;
- 4Chan’s /x/.
In nearly all versions, the discourse about the rumor consisted of opposition to any plans to “hex the moon” or “hex the fae.”
What’s a Hex?
Typically, a “hex” is a spell or working designed to cause harm, malice, or impose a restriction on a person or thing.
WitchTok is the name for the witchcraft-centric portion of TikTok, a social network centered around the sharing of videos. As noted in other posts, WitchTok is busy enough to cause massive, otherwise inexplicable engagement trends on the subjects it addresses:
Who Are ‘the Fae’?
In folklore, particularly (but not exclusively) folklore from Celtic cultures, “the fae” are known by many names: fair folk, faeries (or fairies), or Tuatha Dé Danann. The fae are purported supernatural beings, known for their mischievous nature, risky bargains, and supposed ability to cause tremendously inconvenient or tragic circumstances for humans who anger them.
The word “fairy” is now generally associated with benign characters — but there was a time in reasonably recent history when fear of the fae was significant and the risks posed to humans by them were thought to be severe:
In parts of England and Britain, it was believed that if a baby was ill, chances were good that it was not a human infant at all, but a changeling left by the Fae. If left exposed on a hillside, the Fae could come reclaim it. William Butler Yeats relates a Welsh version of this story in his tale The Stolen Child. Parents of a new baby could keep their child safe from abduction by the Fae by using one of several simple charms: a wreath of oak and ivy kept faeries out of the house, as did iron or salt placed across the door step. Also, the father’s shirt draped over the cradle keeps the Fae from stealing a child.
In Celtic folklore and beyond, stories about “the fae” can often represent cultural fears of “the other” interwoven with collective memories and storytelling, as Welsh poet and scholar William John Gruffydd pointed out in a 1950 lecture at the National Museum of Wales, one of a series that was later published as Folklore and Myth in the Mabinogion:
The stories current in Wales about the Tylwyth Teg fall into three well-defined classes which owe their origin to three different sources; in other words the Tylwyth Teg like many more politically important nations is composed of at least three different ‘racial’ elements. The first two may be regarded as forming together the main body of the Tylwyth Teg, and the third element is perhaps an alien immigration in later times. The first element is derived from mythology, whether at one remove or more it is unnecessary here to decide; the second element is derived from history, not indeed recorded history, but the imaginatively distorted recollection of the folk. Shelley speaks of Time as ‘like a many-coloured dome of glass staining the white radiance of eternity’; his great phrase may be justly applied to humbler things. Time also stains with its own colours the white radiance of historical facts.
The three elements are:
1.) The Welsh Annwfn (the Other-world of gods and heroes.) I cannot give here a precise definition of what Annwfn meant to our ancestors. Sometimes it is regarded as the Land of the Dead, something like the Greek Hades, presided over by ‘dark’ divinities; sometimes it is the Land of Youth and Promise, Tír na nÓg, the home of bliss and harmony; sometimes it is a mysterious border country, menacing the land of the living, the actual world. As we shall see, a great part of the Four Branches is concerned with the affairs of Annwfn and its lords.
2.) The second element is a folk recollection of an aboriginal people living in inaccessible parts of the countryside, having no contact with the dominant race, and living in fear and suspicion of them.
3.) The third element which seems distinct from the first two, may for the sake of convenience be called by a name borrowed from our Cornish brothers, –the Pixies. Whether these are part of the Welsh folk tradition or have been introduced later through England from Teutonic folklore I am unable to decide. They comprise the mischievous, puckish and irresponsible portion of the fairy population of Wales. Whatever their origin and at whatever period they joined the men of Annfwn and the men of the moorland solitudes they are definitely authenticated in Welsh folklore.
According to some scholarly interpretations, fairies and fairy tales can even be used as proxies for introducing new ideas into cultures and societies:
Technological inventions, in particular, enabled the fairy tale to expand in various cultural domains, even on the Internet. Like the whale, the fairy tale adapted itself and was transformed by both common nonliterate people and upper-class literate people from a simple, brief tale with vital information; it grew, became enormous, and disseminated information that contributed to the cultural evolution of specific groups. In fact it continues to grow—embracing, if not swallowing, all types of genres, art forms, and cultural institutions, and adjusting itself to new environments through the human disposition to re-create relevant narratives, and via technologies that make its diffusion easier and more effective. The only difference between the whale and fairy tale is that the tale is not alive and does not propel itself. It needs humans—and yet at times, it does seem as though a vibrant fairy tale can attract listeners and readers and latch on to their brains and become a living memetic force in cultural evolution.
So What Did the Baby Witches Do?
And so these motifs and themes worked their way online. Discourse about the rumor intensified late on July 18 2020 into the following day. A post on 4Chan’s paranormal board /x/ appeared on the night of July 18 2020, beginning:
Apparently, teen witches on Tik Tok are “hexing the moon” & Artemis meanwhile Reddit is freaking out.
Of that statement, at least one thing was demonstrably true — Reddit was, indeed, freaking out. Posts began popping up across the site seeking information about the purported plans. On r/Drama:
And on r/Witch:
And even r/OutOfTheLoop, a self-explanatory subreddit unrelated to the occult:
A July 19 2020 Twitter thread by @heyyadoraa was perhaps the most organized discussion about “baby witches” deciding to “hex the moon” and “hex the fae”:
But Now What?
Last we looked, the moon was still there and there was no uprising of annoyed supernatural beings.
That said, there is another element of the discussion that we found intriguing from a folklore perspective. Thousands on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok decried the purported plot among baby witches to “hex the moon” or “hex the fae.”
In that discourse, almost none of it contained any firsthand information from any individual person claiming to have engaged in any such rite or ritual. Readers clearly heard about and reacted to rumors that there were efforts to “hex the moon,” but no one managed to grab any citation or proof. Claims to the contrary from after July 18 2020 likely represented attempts to ride the coattails of the viral rumor, turning it into a fairy story of its own.
Around July 18 2020, WitchTok and occult groups across social media were awash in a rumor “baby witches” endeavored to “hex the moon” or “hex the fae.” Innumerable posts about the rumor appeared, but we were unable to find any credible evidence the rumor stemmed from any actual stated intent or organized efforts to cause anything but a lively discussion bordering on a moral panic — but with deep folkloric roots.