In 2020, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic changed the way many Americans worked, as companies closed their doors to limit workplace contamination. The uncertainty around Covid-19 caused people to seek hope in religion and spirituality, resulting in industry growth. For many Black women, like Shontel Anestasia, the current spiritual boom is not only a way to connect to one's higher self, but also a means of making money.
Anestasia, owner of the Urban Gurvi Mama shop, founded her business in 2017 to cultivate a safe space for women on their spiritual journey. She says she witnessed people seeking to "go back to their roots" at the start of the pandemic.
"For the last two years, there has been a surge of people wanting to go back to their roots. Last year, I did just as well being self-employed at my shop as I did working in corporate America," she says.
From candles and crystals to metaphysical practices like tarot readings, the spiritual wellness industry saw significant growth. The psychic business, for example, reached 2.2 billion dollars in 2019. This number is expected to grow to 2.4 billion by 2026.
Furthermore, the number of psychic service businesses in the US is anticipated to grow from 93,939 to almost 100,000 over the next five years, according to IbisWorld.
Shantrelle Lewis is one of the many Black women who found their entrepreneurial niche in traditional African spirituality. The Lucumi Sango Priest and Co-Founder of SHOPPE BLACK used her decades of research on African Traditional Religions to establish the BEAUCOUP HOODOO ATRs Book Club.
"The resurgence of spirituality has created a market for people to want to purchase supplies that will allow them to create prosperity, to promote health, to bring in love and to bring in all the good things that they want to attract to themselves by supporting people that look just like them," she says.
According to Kiana Cox, a research associate at the Pew Research Center, though most Black Americans identify as Christian, they have a wide array of spiritual practices and beliefs that go beyond Christianity.
Pew's "Faith Among Black Americans" report asked survey participants 3 questions: Have you prayed at an altar or shrine? Have you consulted a divine or reader? And do you burn candles, incense, or sage as part of your religious or spiritual practice?
Twenty percent of Black Americans say they've prayed at an altar/shrine, while 12% say they've consulted a reader and used candles, incense, or sage.
"About 30% of Black people say that they believe prayers to their ancestors can protect them," Cox says. "So we have that aspect. And about 40% of Black people say that they believe in reincarnation. So even though they're not affiliated with African religions, some of these practices and beliefs that we might associate with non-Christian religions are there."
For some Black women who were already in the spirituality space before Covid, the pandemic helped boost revenue.
Angele, better known as the Hoodoo Hussy, started her business, Hoodoo Hussy Conjure Enterprises, in 2017 while being a full-time educator. She handcrafts her "spirit medicines" by combining her knowledge of the Earth and African-American traditional religion, offering products such as spiritual bath, cleansing smoke and manifestation oils.
The self-proclaimed "root worker" has been able to use the money she's earned during the pandemic to support her business' upkeep.
"This is not something that's is going to cover all of my costs right now. Money that I made during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 was used to up my game and reinvest in my business," she says. "Even though I'm about to celebrate 5 years of the business, I'm still setting the foundation for growth."
The ability to make your culture your capital is something many Black women cherish, and they hope this new spiritual awakening opens the eyes of the generations to come.
"I'm very big on leaving a legacy behind and finishing what my grandma started. So being in this place I'm in right now gives me a strong sense of purpose," Anestasia says. "When I'm not here anymore, I hope my kids will be doing this."