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Digital witchcraft: the rise of the virtual coven

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Technology has driven witchcraft from the fringes, right into our Instagram feeds

If you’ve seen tarot, crystals or meditation pop up on your TikTok ‘for you page,’ it’s likely that you’ve stumbled across #witchtok. As interest in traditional religion dwindles, young women are using this space to reclaim their spirituality.

The unexpected rise of #witchtok

The ‘witchtok’ hashtag has racked up a total of over 11 billion views since it kicked off on TikTok in 2019. Since then, the community has established an impressive following on other social platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

https://www.tiktok.com/@witchtokboy/video/6967155116147215621?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6968266470396872193

So what is witchcraft, and why is it so popular online?

David Garland from Pagan Awareness Network says anyone can do witchcraft. He says it’s a craft you can develop with practice, much like knitting.

“Witchcraft is the act of invoking change using your environment.”

David Garland, Pagan Awareness Network

Garland says the Pagan community should embrace #witchtok. “If it makes people think and consider spiritual alternatives, then it’s not a bad thing,” he said.

Spirituality without the rules

The interest in witchcraft driven by #witchtok comes at a time where young people are increasingly turning away from traditional religion.

Danae Moon Thorpe, owner of Spellbox and self-proclaimed witch says many young people are drawn to the community’s founding ideas of empowerment and self-determination. 

“We live in a world that’s increasingly turning away from spirituality,” she says.

“Religion often brings dogma and rules. This is like a philosophy, a way of connecting. It’s a way of being. And it’s different for everyone.”

Danae Moon Thorpe

Rise of the wellness industry

Another reason for the sudden interest in digital witchcraft might even be the rise of the wellness industry.

Wellness is a $700 billion industry and expected to grow to nearly a trillion by 2021.

To me, self care is being real. And being authentic. Often, we lose ourselves so witchcraft is always about connecting with nature and others,” says Danae Moon.

The feminist reclamation

There’s a reason the new witches are primarily young women – experts say witchcraft can be a profoundly feminist practice.

“The major religions of the world are patriarchal and worship men,” says Skye Alexander, author of more than two dozen books on spirituality, including The Modern Guide to Witchcraft. 

“This stimulates an interest in goddess-based spirituality, where it’s all about feminine energy and power.”

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

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Tech

Russian spies release tape of secret German meeting held on WebEx

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A clandestine meeting among top German military officials has been thrust into the spotlight following the leak of a 38-minute audio tape, revealing discussions about potentially supplying Ukraine with Germany’s formidable Taurus missiles.

The tape, posted online by the head of Russian state-run broadcaster RT, has ignited controversy, unveiled sensitive Western strategies, and heightened tensions between Germany and its NATO allies.

Senior German officials have acknowledged the authenticity of the recording, which captures Air Force Commander Gen. Ingo Gerhartz and his aides deliberating over the logistics of supplying Taurus missiles to Ukraine.

The meeting, held on the WebEx platform, reportedly touched upon the possibility of Ukraine utilizing these missiles to target Russian assets, including the strategically vital Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea.

Russian espionage

The leak has not only sparked outrage in Germany but also raised concerns over the country’s susceptibility to Russian espionage.

This incident comes on the heels of the arrest of a senior officer in Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service on charges of spying for Moscow.

Despite Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s reluctance to provide Taurus missiles to Ukraine, discussions within the leaked recording revealed considerations on training Ukrainian personnel to operate the sophisticated weapon system independently. However, with the leak now public, analysts speculate that the likelihood of Germany delivering the missiles has diminished.

Russian officials swiftly condemned Germany for discussing potential attacks on Russian targets, issuing veiled threats of retaliation should Berlin escalate its involvement in the conflict.

Chancellor Scholz vowed a thorough investigation into the leak, acknowledging its seriousness and the imperative of swift action.

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Tech

Lawyers seeking $6 billion fee from Elon Musk

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The legal team responsible for voiding Elon Musk’s mammoth $56 billion compensation package is now seeking an unprecedented $6 billion in legal fees.

The three law firms involved justified their request in a filing with the Court of Chancery in Delaware, citing the monumental effort and risk involved in challenging Musk’s compensation package, which was deemed excessive by a Delaware judge in January.

“We recognise that the requested fee is unprecedented in terms of absolute size,” the firms stated, adding that the fee equates to an astronomical hourly rate of $288,888.

Musk swiftly condemned the request as “criminal,” taking to his platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to express outrage: “The lawyers who did nothing but damage Tesla want $6 billion.”

Neither Tesla nor Musk’s attorney have responded to requests for comment.

Pay packet

The legal battle stems from a lawsuit filed by shareholder Richard Tornetta in 2018, which led to the nullification of Musk’s lucrative pay package.

The electric vehicle manufacturer could be on the hook for the hefty fee as it stands to benefit from the return of Musk’s compensation, which includes a staggering 266 million shares.

“This structure has the benefit of linking the award directly to the benefit created and avoids taking even one cent from the Tesla balance sheet to pay fees,” the lawyers argued, emphasising that the fee would be tax-deductible to Tesla.

Judge Kathaleen McCormick, overseeing the case, had previously described Musk’s pay as “unfathomable” in her ruling.

However, Tesla may contest the fee, given a similar fee request in a separate case concerning pay for its directors.

Legal compensation

The proposed fee, if granted, would set a new record in legal compensation, surpassing even the $688 million awarded to attorneys in a 2008 securities fraud case involving Enron Corp.

As the Delaware Supreme Court weighs an appeal regarding a $267 million fee in a case involving Dell Technologies, the issue of attorney compensation in high-stakes litigation continues to be a subject of debate.

Critics argue that as settlements and judgments increase in size, attorneys should receive a declining percentage to prevent overcompensation.

The legal team behind the Musk case contends that their requested fee represents around 11% of the judgment.

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Tech

Google CEO condemns AI blunders in staff memo

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In response to recent controversies surrounding Google’s artificial intelligence blunders, CEO Sundar Pichai issued a memo to employees, addressing the company’s missteps and outlining plans for improvement.

The memo comes after Google faced criticism for flaws in its Gemini image-generation feature, leading to the tool being taken offline for further testing. Pichai described the issues as “problematic” and acknowledged that they “have offended our users and shown bias,” according to reports first surfaced by Semafor.

The Gemini image generator, introduced earlier this month as part of Google’s main group of AI models, allows users to input prompts to create images.

However, users discovered historical inaccuracies in the generated images, prompting widespread backlash online.

Consequently, Google removed the feature last week, stating its intention to relaunch it after addressing the issues.

Google Gemini

Pichai expressed regret over the offensive responses produced by the AI system, emphasising that such behavior is “completely unacceptable.”

He emphasised the challenges of developing AI technology, acknowledging that perfection is elusive, particularly in the nascent stages of the industry’s evolution.

Nevertheless, Pichai stressed that Google recognizes the high standards expected of them.

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