After two big health challenges lead to a career change, Kim Mackay leaned into her inner witch and launched the company Wicken, which sells beautiful and empowering jewellery that helps people who want to lean into their own inner witch! She talks to Emma Clifton about why catastrophe can be such a strong catalyst for change and why being happy in yourself and your work is the new success story.
Welcome to our Joy Mentors series. Over the next few months, Capsule will be profiling people we consider joy mentors – people who are not only examples of a shining light but use that light to help others as well.
For a lot of people, a big life change or rethink occurs after some sort of catalyst leads to a bright, beaming spotlight shining down on our lives, disturbing our daily hamster wheel of ‘go, go, go’ and making us take a good, hard look at ourselves. Kim Mackay has been there – after one massive health battle in 2012, she sold her hairdressing business to recover. But it was after her second health battle in 2015, after two potentially fatal blood clots worked their way through her body on a long-haul flight, that the idea for Wicken slowly took hold. Six years later, she’s watching as a global catalyst is giving people that same life spotlight. One way or another, Covid-19 has changed everyone’s lives. And when you’re in the business of selling jewellery that people tend seek out when they’re in the middle of a personal transformation? Well, you see the effects of that, pretty quickly.
“Almost everyone you come across is looking for another way or they’re now starting something they’ve been thinking about for a while,” Kim says, seated in the back room of her Ponsonby store. “It happened again just today –“ she waves her hand in the direction of the front door – “people who were in fast-paced jobs, living in Auckland, who have now packed up and moved to the Coramandel, and haven’t looked back. It’s a whole rethink, for a lot of people.”
“Whether it’s because of Covid or it was coming anyway, I don’t know. But I think Covid has probably fast-tracked a lot of things and thrown a lot of people into different and difficult situations, where they’ve had to stop and think, ‘Well, what now? What am I doing and how can I do it differently?’”
The rise of Covid-19 as a global catastrophe either created or coincided with the breakdown of a lot of the traditional power structures and belief systems and for a lot of us, changed our definition of success. “If you’re doing something and you’re making heaps of money, but you’re miserable, what are you doing? To be happy and passionate about what you’re doing, that is success. To be happy in what you’re doing, that’s the success that you need.”
A lot of the pieces of the Wicken range are about rebirth – the Phoenix Nest ring, made out of moldavite, known as ‘the stone of transformation.’ The Crystal Ball ring is about showing the path ahead. There are charm bracelets and bat pendants and star and moon earrings. But there’s an extra element to the jewellery that makes it a cult favourite and that element is magic. Kim is a witch – she’s identified as one since she was younger and is only becoming more vocal in that identity as she gets older.
“There are many ways of being a witch or a pagan or a wiccan, but the one thing I stick to is that there are no rules about any of them,” she says. “You can get wiccans who are witches, witches who are wiccans… I identify more as a witch, because that’s where my inner guidance comes from. As a witch, I relate to nature as my entire grounding – that’s where I get my energy from, that’s how it all comes together for me.”
Like the people downsizing from Auckland to Coromandel, Kim is also giving serious thought to getting back into nature in a permanent way. “Being a witch in the forest – I’m seriously excited about getting a piece of land and building a little witch hut,” she laughs. “Nature is where the concepts of Wicca come from and then the witch is the empowerment of self and how you actually project that power, either for yourself or for other people.” It can be particularly exciting for women, because it’s about personal empowerment and also collective power. It’s also, of course, about reclaiming a word that has been used against ‘bad’ women for centuries. One of Wicken’s most popular pieces is a name-plate necklace that reads, simply, “Witch”, in the same font that an entire generation of women associate with the Carrie necklace from Sex and the City.
Has it been a bestseller? Oh, you bet, Kim says. “The funny thing is, I only brought it out in 2019 but I started the range in 2016 and that necklace would have been one of the first pieces to come out, but I couldn’t quite do it. It was quite a big step to say, ‘I’m going to wear it,’ but then…” she pauses, and laughs. “Do you know what the music does, in this store?” she gestures up at the speaker sitting in the ceiling and I tune into the fact that “Must be the season of the witch,” by Donovan is playing over our heads. “Oh, that cracks me up every time. There’s something about this back room – there’s gotta be 400 songs on that playlist. Anyway, yes – when the necklace came out, people were like ‘Oh, that’s me!’ and then the moment they put it on, it was like ‘here I am. I’m out!’ It’s just fantastic.”
Kim and her eldest son, Mitchell, both work in the shop and put a very friendly face on a world that can be as intimidating as it is intriguing. Both have beaming smiles and welcoming vibes – and the fact that the store itself is part froufrou, part fairy-light den, is also obviously very helpful. When I ask if they think there’s been an increase in interest in magic and witches in the mainstream, both let out an emphatic “Oh, yes.” Before Kim opened the Wicken shop on Ponsonby road, she was a regular at the Greenhithe Healing Haven markets and so had a loyal customer base from there. But she says now, there are so many more people who are new to the mystical world but deeply curious about it. “You’ll see it when they come in because they’ll have been looking in the window for ages. We want to make the process very easy and comfortable: ‘Ask away. You’re here because you’ve been drawn into here and that’s all good.’”
Part of the rise in interest in witches, witchcraft and all things magical have come from social media, which Kim says is a mixed blessing. It gives them information, sure, but not only is a lot of it misinformation, it also creates high expectations that can lead to people feeling ‘lost,’ when it doesn’t work out the way they think it’s going to. “That’s not how this works – it’s got to come from an independent, solitary beginning and then it grows in whatever way you want to take it.”
The last few years have been so full of turbulence, on a such a global scale, that Kim thinks we’re only now starting to see the ripple effects of change that are going to keep coming and keep getting stronger. “When something big happens to someone, it always takes time and now something big has happened to the whole world,” she says. “That’s why people are looking for alternative options – ‘what else can I do to get better, to feel better?’ and it’s the same for me, no matter what crap is going on in my life, I’ll come into the store and just exhale. You’ve got to have your environment right.”
A lifelong battle with endometriosis is coming to a head, again, for Kim; a massive surgery a few years ago has sadly not been the last of the debilitating disease, but she’s confident that once she’s recovered, things will get better and stay better. It’s mirrored in the collection she’ll be releasing once she’s healed. A lesson from this new life has been to not rush or force anything, to trust in the timing and that everything is unfolding the way it should. It has not been an easy journey but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been the right one. “I’ve found that owning and embracing who I am as a woman and a witch, and sharing that with people every day, is how I can, in some way, show others how to do the same,” she says. “The new success is having peace of mind and enjoyment in what you’re doing in life. It’s our wish that anyone that comes into our store leaves feeling better and happier about themselves or their situation.”