In light of Taylor Swift’s new album The Tortured Poets Department, journalist Heather Tomlinson explores where the accusations of witchcraft have come from and whether they are legitimate

As her new album is released, long-standing Christian debates over the faith and beliefs of megastar Taylor Swift heat up. So is the squeaky-clean singer a Christian, as she has previously stated or is there something much darker going on? And what repels people more from the Church – hysterical claims from Christians about satanic worship, or the “witchcraft” itself? 

Although she has made repeated references to witchcraft and the occult in recent years, in 2020, Taylor Swift explicitly said she is a Christian in Netflix documentary Miss Americana. In the context of condemning a local Republican politician, she said: “Those aren’t Tennessee Christian values. I live in Tennessee. I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.” She also aligned herself with a number of progressive causes and against Trump, telling The Guardian in 2020, “obviously, I am pro choice”. 

Interpreters of her lyrics argue that she may have had a childhood faith that has been damaged or lost through difficulties she has experienced. 

However, many Christians are concerned that her beliefs have taken a darker turn due to occult references in her music videos and concert performances. 

On Swift’s own personal twitter account, she celebrated her birthday in 2020 with a “dancing witch version” of her song Willow, where she made explicit the meaning of the hooded figures dancing in the official video, although the lyrics seemed to be about romance. 

A few days later she said of the remix: “Witches be like, ‘Sometimes I just want to listen to music while pining away/sulking/staring out a window.’ It’s me. I’m witches.” 

There have been various other accusations in the depths of social media, such as the moon and the golden thread in the music video being occult imagery. 

Swift has openly discussed her interest in the practice of numerology, which some Christians argue is cause for concern, while last year she praised fans for “casting spells”. The Daily Wire cited a number of strange events that have fuelled rumours of supernatural activity, such as lightening strikes at the same time as Swift’s performance of certain lyrics, including “F*** the patriarchy,” and other spooky coincidences. 

Swift jokingly acknowledged the accusations of witchcraft on X (formerly known as Twitter) when she captioned a video of a concert with “Never beating the sorcery allegations,” suggesting she does not take the subject too seriously. 

Decades of “panic”? 

Christian concern about witchcraft, Satanism and the occult in the mainstream media is nothing new, especially in the music industry. Once it was claims of satanic messages when vinyl records play backwards. Today, many dismiss such concerns as due to overactive imaginations and the hysteria of the “satanic panic” in the 1980s, when many outlandish claims of ritual abuse were made.  

However, some artists openly stated their music did have occult motives. Dave Mustaine, founder and lead singer of the band Megadeth, once dabbled in black magic, but renounced it after becoming a born again Christian. He now refuses to play the band’s song ‘The Conjuring’ due to witchcraft associated with the lyrics.  

Some artists explicitly promoted Satanism, such as Marilyn Manson, though it’s not clear whether him and bands like Black Sabbath were trying to be edgy or genuinely worship darkness. It is noteworthy that many 70s, 80s and 90s rock stars who once caused grave concern for Christians have now converted themselves – including Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, as well as Alice Cooper, Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson, Bob Dylan, and Korn’s Brian Welch.

More recently, there has been increased concern about cultural movements that seem innocuous but have the accidental effect of encouraging people into the occult, especially children, such as the Harry Potter books and films. Then there is the proliferation of conspiracies about the “illuminati” – the belief there is a powerful group of devil worshippers who communicate through coded messages and influence the world for evil, especially in the entertainment industries. 

Christians and Taylor Swift

Such concerns seem far removed from Taylor Swift and her squeaky clean image, yet some Christians are issuing grave warnings about listening or promoting her music, especially those who used to be involved in the occult themselves. 

Jenn Nizza, who is a former psychic, spoke on Premier Unbelievable recently about her concerns that Swift is promoting the occult. “She involves herself in witchcraft blatantly…she pushes out new age ideology, she blasphemes our Lord Jesus Christ, she completely goes against everything Jesus stands for and I think that [supporting her] is extremely dangerous.”  

Nizza cites Swift’s political positions, being pro LGBTQ+ and abortion, for example, as further evidence of negative influence. 

Another former New Ager who is now a Christian, Doreen Virtue, also expressed concerns about the Willow video. “She may not think she is a witch, she may not think she is engaged with witchcraft,” said Virtue. “But she is doing one thing for certain, she is glorifying witchcraft…how do I know this? Because I used to be engaged in activities just like this. I’m very concerned for Taylor Swift’s soul, but most of all I’m concerned for her fans.”

It’s argued that music has the power to influence people for good or ill, whatever the motivations of its performers. “Swift could easily lead fans into an occult world of spells and numerology,” warns writer Kate Orson for Premier Christianity. “A catchy song on the radio may appear spiritually benign, but we must be careful in a culture where so many musicians follow occult belief systems. Music is a powerful emotional force, even spiritual at times.”

Swift’s social media activity prompted US Republican politician Kandiss Taylor, who said she used to be a fan, to call for Swift to repent on X: “I know you’ve claimed to love Jesus. I know you claimed to be a Christian. Now, you’ve not only drifted and backslid. You’re celebrating witchcraft. You’re influencing innocent minds to be enticed with the dark side of spirituality.”

US Priest and exorcist Father Dan Reehil told online magazine ChurchPOP last year that young people at the concert could be in danger:  

“She is an incredibly talented and influential artist. And so the demons will take deep note of what she’s doing and how she’s doing it and who she’s influencing. Even if her intent was not to practice any witchcraft or do any of the incantations, she is probably attracting a lot of demons to her concerts. That’s where the problem can lie because then you have these little girls who, you know, literally sort of worship her, who are now putting themselves in a position where they could be attacked by demonic forces.”

Kory Yeshua, a former rapper who posts Christian comment on social media, criticised a concert performance and the official music video for the song ‘Willow’ and other work. “In her video her and her witch coven go into the woods circle around a fire and cast spells, introducing millions of her young followers to the occult,” he said on TikTok. “So she’s pushing the occult, getting her fans open to the idea of witchcraft, and of course mocking Christians…in her video ‘you need to calm down’.”

Pastor Tony Wood took exception to Time Magazine making her its ‘Person of the Year’ last year and describing her as a light in the darkness, but mainly due to concerns that description is only appropriate for Jesus.

Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s described the new album as “garbage”, not for spiritual reasons but that it inspires narcissistic attitudes in young people. “I just want to vomit…you didn’t suffer, stop pretending that you’ve experienced real suffering because you dated a bunch of guys you didn’t marry,” he said on a YouTube video. “Stop being such a whiny pain in the ass.”

He goes on to bewail “17-year-old girls who are being taught to act like frivolous ridiculous emotionally self-involved puerile brats like this”.

vs Christian Swifties

However Swift has plenty of Christian fans who are much more positive. Youth pastor Martin Saunders argued that “vapours of Christian faith remain” in some of Swift’s lyrics and behaviour and “she also espouses countercultural (and Christian) values like kindness and humility”.

Meanwhile, in the Unbelievable debate, horror author and pastor Peter Laws proposed that the devil might indeed be working through the Swift controversies, not through occult music – but by putting people off the Church due to its criticisms of Swift rather than caring more about social justice: 

“I’ve got no problem with Taylor Swift, but I’m not personally going to fall for all of these conspiracy theories that she’s part of some like global satanic agenda, because I just don’t see actual evidence for that, but I do see evidence for ignoring genuine suffering in the world. There’s certainly no proper evidence that Taylor Swift is an actual witch and is following Satanism or anything like that. There are consequences for our hyper-sensitive rhetoric on this topic and that is alienating a generation of people who enjoy Taylor Swift’s music.” 

There are some similarities in this debate with the divide in the Church over Halloween. In the UK, many evangelical churches try to counter the festival with ‘light parties’ and strongly disagree with celebrating it or taking part by dressing up as witches and ghosts. Yet in the US, it is widely celebrated, even though it has a larger percentage of practising Christians. 

Should it matter how popular a behaviour is, for the Church to condemn or avoid it? Laws thinks so: “What I struggle with though is when Christians take what is essentially a matter of personal taste and then force it on the rest of society, when the rest of society on the whole are quite happy to consume Taylor Swift or scary movies or whatever.”

There are many Christians who think careful consumption of Swift’s music is acceptable, or even a good thing. Sam Brown from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity spoke on Premier Christian Radio recently about “worshipping alongside Taylor Swift” when listening to one of her covers of a Christmas carol.  

“Like many a country music star who comes through in her early years, there’s a real Christian influence to a lot of what Taylor Swift released in the late 2000s,” he said. He does however, say that if a child becomes a ‘Swiftie’, it’s time to discuss how to practice “cultural discernment” and encourage “engaging wisely with culture”. That includes warning about making Taylor Swift an idol, though he does not believe that she does not cast spells or summon demons. 

Of course, even having such debates could be perceived as irrational by people outside the Church. Megastars and mainstream media have always been treated with caution by Christians, and Taylor Swift is no exception. But the potential dangers that both sides warn of seem important enough to have more debate and proceed with caution. 


Heather Tomlinson is a freelance journalist. You can find her on twitter @HeatherTomli or through her blog