Cats have often been seen as symbols of magic and protection, especially for those who are practicing witchcraft. That’s why when customers walk into Twisted Twigs, they may be greeted by any one — or all — of the store’s eight roaming feline companions.
Since summer 2017, Twisted Twigs has sold crystals, handmade oils, dried herbs, incense and other homemade apothecary items to their customers. The metaphysical shop is nestled among residential houses on Main Street in Anderson, Indiana, and is owned and operated by two witches: Brytneigh Burgess and Kinsley Elsten.
After meeting each other in ninth grade at Highland High School in Anderson, Burgess and Elsten had the idea of creating a business together. It wasn’t until several years later the pair decided to stop talking about their idea and bring it to life.
“We had talked about it for a long time,” Burgess said. “We just pulled what resources we had together, and it was a very humble beginning.”
Twisted Twigs not only offers a unique in-store shopping experience, but a website allowing customers to ship products directly to their front steps. The pair said while most of their online orders are shipping across the U.S., the few international orders they’ve received have been “exciting” milestones for their business.
Witchcraft and the use of crystals is experiencing a rise in popularity across the country. In 2008, Trinity College in Connecticut found that there were around 340,000 people who practiced witchcraft. Thirteen years later, research from Brandeis University suggests there are an estimated 1.5 million practicing witches in the U.S. as of 2021.
Both Burgess and Elsten take pride in their “non-denominational” shop.
“I am a practicing witch and use whatever resources I can to help myself,” Burgess said. “I just don’t subscribe to any religion.I don’t use deities, but I’m all about [other] people using that.”
Spirituality plays a large role in both Burgess’ and Elsten’s lives and is something that connects them and subsequently diversifies them, they said. They explained the importance of practicing their craft in ways that work personally, rather than trying to do something that worked for someone else.
“I feel like it’s a spiritual experience, connecting with people and energy and that type of thing,” Elsten said. “I do believe in God, and people kind of look at me weird, even in the store. I’m a firm believer that witchcraft is 100 percent how you want to take it. [Brytneigh’ s path] is not the same as my path.”
Success in Spirituality
Burgess and Elsten purchased their current location at 3504 Main St. in Anderson in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which initially caused a problem since they weren’t able to process online orders at the time.
“We were open for a month or two before we actually moved here, and then we had to shut down for two to four months [due to the mandate],” Elsten said.
Despite the pandemic, the co-owners said they were fortunate enough to thrive in the unprecedented conditions. Although the pair did not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program — a loan backed by the Small Business Administration that helped businesses keep workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — since their shop was so small, many people were beginning to understand the importance of shopping locally.
“In the very beginning of 2020, we had to close down because it was mandatory,” Burgess said. “But there was still this big [push] to shop locally, so I feel like we got really lucky because people really did adhere to that. We were actually busier with online orders than when we had been open.”
Since then, the shop has seen consistent levels of in-person traffic.
The co-owners said certain items in their store gain popularity due to social media trends. Burgess said customers will often visit the shop for specific crystals they’ve seen online.
The Twisted Twigs owners also have a TikTok account they use to advertise their business. Social media apps like TikTok are a popular choice for some practicing witches to share their work with others, and videos using the hashtag “#witchtok” on the app have more than 20 billion views, according to 2021 USA Today research.
When it comes to their social media presence, though, Burgess said she and Elsten tread lightly.
“It’s so easy to get yourself in trouble when you’ve intended not to offend anyone or cause any harm,” Burgess said. “People get canceled, and they like to gatekeep, which is such a big thing now.”
Elsten said other TikTok users have commented on their videos, claiming they aren’t practicing their craft correctly.
“You have to follow your own path,” Burgess said.. “You have to figure out what you feel comfortable with and what you feel good doing,.” Burgess said. “Just because you saw somebody do a spell to look cool or seem to have a cool outcome on TikTok, that does not mean that you should try it at home.”
However, they said they are thankful for the app, claiming they don’t know where they would be without social media.
Staying Close to Home
Burgess and Elsten said many people often have preconceived notions about witches and witchcraft if they are unfamiliar with the practice.Burgess said that is something she noticed around their community and even in their shop.
“People will then stumble upon our Facebook page or Instagram page and they’ll say, ‘Well, that doesn’t look so bad,’ or ‘Wow, that's really pretty,’ or ‘Oh, my God, there’s cats!’” Burgess said. “Then they can become more comfortable rather than thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s that witch place down the road.’”
Burgess said witchcraft’s rise in popularity through online and social media platforms may help resolve some of the negative connotations surrounding their practice while allowing their community to grow.
The pair said while they’ve had a small amount of demand for opening a second location, the logistics of expanding their business would create several challenges.
“[Having a small business] is an up and a down,” Burgess said. “We’ve had people tell us all the time, you know, ‘We could use one of these in Florida,’ or ‘We could use one of these wherever we are,’ but we’re both control freaks.[A second location] would mean one of two things: that Kinsley and I would have to separate, or that we would have to relinquish most of the control to another person and trust that they would treat it the same way that we do.”
Twisted Twigs plans to remain exclusively in Anderson where their business is already well-established and known throughout the community. With customers traveling from far and visiting from near, the owners feel confident about staying in the location they know is loved.
Contact Grace Duerksen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gracie_duerk.