Bitter Brew: Why The Hoodwitch Should Hex Starbucks

Written by Katherine de Vos Devine of Cauldron Arts Incubator

Starbucks recently introduced a “Crystal Ball Frappuccino,” presumably hoping for a sequel to its wildly successful Unicorn Frappuccino.

Here is Starbucks’ Crystal Ball Frappuccino Instagram post from March 22, 2018:

This Starbucks ad is clearly based on the distinctive images produced by Bri Luna, aka The Hoodwitch, for her web site, social media, and various collaborations.

Bri Luna is a distinctive witch. Her look, style, writing, and images do not fit popular stereotypes about what witches look like, what they wear, or how they act. Luna troubles the definition of “witch” and expands it to be more broadly inclusive. She’s intersectional and inspirational.

But Luna was not remunerated, consulted, or in any way involved in the production of the Starbucks ad. Understandably, Luna was pissed, as were her Instagram followers and fans.

Granted, most witchy imagery isn’t distinctive enough to merit this level of outrage. The stereotypical witch aesthetic is culturally pervasive – and thus ineligible for copyright protection – at this point in time. But black brujas with witchtips, a predilection for saturated colors, a penchant for glitter, and love of neon haven’t exactly reached critical mass on the internet or in the popular imagination. If Starbucks had gone with a black cloth, silver jewelry, and a milk-white hand, I’d probably be on their side

But they didn’t.

If I say “crystal ball,” you’re likely to think “witch” or “fortune teller.”


If I say “witch,” you may think green skin, hooked nose, pointy hat, enjoys the company of flying monkeys.


If born after 1975, pale skin, black-clad, silver jewelry, dark lipstick, and a scowl may come to mind.


If you’re into millennial witchcraft, you may also think Free People, tarot apps, and palo santo perfume.


You probably don’t think:


or this: 


It’s hard to call anything or anyone “original” in the twenty-first century, but Luna is one of the few people I laud with that accolade. Luna has greatly expanded what it means to be a witch. (So have lots of other witches, in lots of different ways, but that’s a different post.)

Yet, witchcraft remains a fairly small community, its internal aesthetic debates are not known to the broader public, and the singularity of Luna’s imagery is not likely to register with most Starbucks customers.

Thus, prospective Crystal Ball Frappuccino buyers aren’t likely to see the Starbucks ad above and think, “Hey, that looks like Bri!” They’re likely to think, “Oooo, that’s looks magical, fresh, colorful, sweet, and kind of badass.” But “magical, fresh, colorful, sweet, and [totally] badass” is Luna’s brand, her imagery, her vibe. And it’s highly distinct from other magical practitioners.

And that’s why Starbucks’ behavior sucks.

Ripping off an artist’s images to sell corporate coffee is poor form.

Riffing on witchcraft to sell corporate coffee is worthy of an eye roll, but this is not the first time that mysticism has unwittingly served capitalism.

Jacking an African-American-Mexican bruja’s photographs, concepts, and style, which have greatly changed how the witchcraft community sees its members, but are mostly unknown to the broader public…that’s a multi-pronged abuse I can’t dismiss.

Legally, it’s tough. Hypothetically, were Luna to sue Starbucks, a court would look at specific similarities between the Starbucks image and Luna’s images. There are plenty. Thus, most courts would consider “substantial similarity” and “total concept and feel” –  a doctrine developed for situations such as this one.

When considering total concept and feel, a judge is invited to consider both “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” elements.

“Extrinsic” elements are defined as “the type of artwork involved, the materials used, the subject matter, and the setting for the subject.” [Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald’s Corp., 970 F.2d 106 (9th Cir., 1977)] But…“Obviously, no principle can be stated as to when an imitator has gone beyond copying the ‘idea,’ and has borrowed its ‘expression.’ Decisions must therefore inevitably be ad hoc.” [Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald’s Corp., 970 F.2d 106 (9th Cir., 1977), citing Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2 Cir. 1960)] Translating this legalese: things can get fuzzy.

“Intrinsic” elements concern the judgment of “an ordinary person” when the expression of the works are compared. The comments on Starbucks’ Instagram post are divided, and suggest that witches see too much similarity, while non-witches don’t see a problem. Thus, we’re left with a question: who is the ordinary person? Someone familiar with Luna’s imagery or someone who is not? (Get nerdy about the identity of the “ordinary person” with me in the comments – it’s definitely an open question.)

I’m sure another lawyer could argue that the elements in each image are so simple that “total concept and feel” doesn’t apply. Or that the ordinary person is a non-witchy type who wouldn’t see Luna’s imagery as distinctive. But I think the Starbucks image clearly bites Luna’s style, in a way that might rise to the level of infringement. (And, before you ask, fair use absolutely does not apply here, as the Starbucks image has no purpose consistent with fair use.)

As you can see, the legal answer is a bit messy. But, ethically, it’s pretty straightforward.

Starbucks, a multinational corporation, decided to mimic imagery from an independent artist who belongs to numerous minority groups – African-American, Latina, witch – and seemed to think she wouldn’t fight back, that her fans wouldn’t notice, and that consumers wouldn’t care. (Given my interactions on Instagram, 1 out of 3 of my assumptions seem to be correct: Becky just wants her Frappuccino.) This is an abuse of power and this is wrong.

Starbucks most likely paid someone to source and create imagery for the ad. If they liked Luna’s work so much, they should have asked her to direct the project, take the photographs, or style the ad. At minimum, Starbucks should have credited Luna as the inspiration for the Instagram spot. And it’s all much worse because Luna actually lives in Seattle and has a robust online presence. She isn’t hard to find.

Finally, Starbucks posted the ad to Instagram, one of Luna’s primary modes of interaction, with no credit. Even a nod – “Inspired by @thehoodwitch” – would have gone a long way towards mollifying Luna’s fans (if not Luna herself). However, they would never do this, because it could weaken Starbucks’ position should Luna sue them for infringement. Which, frankly, should make you more suspicious than anything I’ve said so far.

As I’ve discussed before, there is aware appropriation and there is sterile appropriation. (The terms are Jaron Lanier’s and if you haven’t read his book, go do that right now.) Aware appropriation uses pre-existing material in ways that enliven the images or information, creating a new lens for the viewer or reader. It takes thought, feeling, and effort to be an aware appropriator. Sterile appropriation, on the other hand, repurposes pre-existing material in ways that are flat, serve only the appropriator, and have no intelligent effect on the audience’s engagement with the pre-existing material. Corporations almost always engage in sterile appropriation, but with a modicum of effort, entities like Starbucks can use their colossal influence in more positive ways.

It starts, as you might imagine, with crediting – and paying – artists like Bri Luna.


Love Notes From The Universe: An Interview With Diego "Yung Pueblo" Perez


There are few Instagram accounts that speak directly to our souls with daily insight and often timely Universal words of wisdom. Diego Perez also known as “Yung Pueblo” has one of them. Diego offers beautiful short poems and messages that feel as if they were left behind for you via sticky note by a divine guardian angel.  Diego is a thought provoker, wordsmith, and a conduit of such positive energy that just radiates from his work! We are  thrilled that he just so happens to have a book coming out later this year. In this interview we will discuss life, spirit, and the power of social media.


THW: Hi Diego, Can you tell our readers a bit about the man behind their favorite motivational memes?

YP: Well, I currently live in NYC, I am 29 years old, I was originally born in Guayaquil Ecuador. I write under the name Yung Pueblo for two reasons, one because Pueblo is a word used in Guayaquil in reference to the masses of economically impoverished people, so it always reminds me of my roots and where I come from, two Yung Pueblo literally means young people which always reminds me of something that I believe deeply, which is that humanity as a whole is very young, we have a lot of growing up to do, we are collectively still learning how to be kind to one another, how to clean up after ourselves, how to share, and how to not fight one another – things that I am hoping we will learn how to do well in the next 100 years.



THW: What inspired you to start writing these extremely powerful messages on instagram? Did you use any other media platforms prior to this? How has this changed your writing style, if at all.


YP: I started organizing and being a part of the activist world back when I was 15 years old, ever since then I was always obsessed with the idea of liberation, I wanted to know what it meant, how to attain it, and how to maintain it. From nonprofit organizing to radical organizing, I have worked with a few different groups over the years and often we were successful, but still something was missing, greed continued to drive global harm and internally I was still rife with misery, this made me keep searching. When I was 24 I did my first 10 day Vipassana mediation course which shook the foundations of everything I believed in, my experience meditating showed me that liberation needs to be internally realized to a certain extent before we can recreate the world into a place where we can all live materially well without harming one another to do so; it showed me that everyone needs to be liberated, the oppressed and the oppressors. It taught me three particularly important lessons, one is that when we harm another we harm ourselves, that when we heal ourselves we are actually healing the world, and that the chaos in our world stems from the internal chaos and misery that human beings are quietly experiencing inside of themselves every day. We are all in need of healing and that healing can only come from our own efforts, because no one can liberate us but ourselves. Moving forward I continued meditating and organizing simultaneously, and then one day my intuition clearly told me to share what I understand in the form of writing, that even though what I understand may change overtime I need to share it now so that people know that it is possible to come out of misery and deeply heal themselves, because it is the transformation of the individual that holds the secrets to truly transforming the world into something better. I took a break from organizing to focus on writing and pretty quickly I noticed that Instagram was a good fit. I started off by writing short pieces and essays or just simple thoughts as captions under the pictures I would share, but then I saw that I would be better off just taking the main ideas of what I wanted to share and placing them in a clean and readable image, that’s when it all really took off and the words started spreading widely. My writing style is definitely still evolving.


THW: I’ve read that you are currently working on a book, can you share with our readers what it’s about and when we can expect it’s release?

YP: The book is entitled “Inward” and it will be a compilation of my best work over the past 3 years. It will be a mixture of poems, quotes, and essays. I’m currently putting it all together and hope to have it out this year, I don’t want to say exactly when, but it will be out soon. It’s been quite a journey putting this together.


THW: What books are you currently reading? Can you share a few titles that have inspired/changed your life?


YP: I love books so much, thank you for asking, I’m going to go in on this question if you don’t mind. Right now I am currently reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari and “Demanding the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.


Some titles that have profoundly inspired me are:

“Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur

“What Buddhism is” by Sayagyi U Ba Khin

“Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny” by Robert Wright

“Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teaching of Lao Tzu” translated by Brian Walker

“Great Disciples of the Buddha” edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi

“Krishnamurti to Himself” by Jiddu Krishnmurti

“The Dhammapada” translated by Ananda Maitreya & Rose Kramer

“The Bhagavad Gita” translated by Eknath Easwaran

“Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda

“The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin

“On Disobedience” by Erich Fromm

“The Rebirth of History” by Alain Badiou

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse

I know that’s a lot of titles, but they all really had a deep impact in how I understand myself and the world.


THW: Who/What inspires YOU?

YP: Two ideas really drive my inspiration, one is the possibility of complete freedom from misery as an individual and the second is humanity coming together to recreate the world into the beautiful and loving place that it can be.

The stories and teachings of Gautama the Buddha and his disciples, teachers in my Vipassana meditation tradition like Ledi Sayadaw,  Sayagyi U Ba Khin, and S.N. Goenka, all really inspire me too. My family and friends really inspire me to work hard and be better as well.


THW: What do you hope to accomplish with your messages?

YP: I hope people understand that they can truly heal themselves of their inner burdens and actually build inner peace, that this isn’t something mythical or impossible, that this is real and that many people are doing it all around the world right now using different healing techniques. It is not easy, but it is definitely the most rewarding journey that we can embark on.

More so, I want to help people understand that growing their happiness, building their inner peace, and reclaiming their power are all essential things that not only heal humanity as a whole, but will ultimately help us establish a more peaceful and harmless world. Your inner peace will literally become the foundation for a future global peace. Healing ourselves will not only help us live with less misery, but it will give us a new clarity that we can use to transform the world.


THW: Social media can be a pretty awful place when it comes to plagiarism for writers, especially when sharing your meme-style motivational messages.. How do you tolerate seeing your work copied or stolen and not credited?


YP: It’s a great lesson, I do my best to not worry about it. If I’m too attached to it, it will just continue happening. Some people definitely take my name out from under pieces and then post them on their pages, but what good will it do me to be upset over it? Plus, I doubt that most people have any malicious intention when they do it. Gratefully, the vast majority do give me credit for the work I put out by linking my Instagram page underneath in the caption and tagging me in the picture, I certainly appreciate that.


What matters most is that the message gets out there. If you really think about it, “I” doesn’t exist, so is it really “my” work? Often, when I write, it more so feels like the message is coming through me as opposed to from me. I think plagiarism and copyright laws are a bit odd, no one has ever created anything completely by themselves, we are always building on each other’s work, it is all really a collective effort. Also, since words are just interpretations of how we feel, two people can write similar words but the feeling, meaning, and experience behind them can be completely different. I’m not saying that we should all go and plagiarize, we should try our best to create our own work and credit each other, but if it does happen accidentally we shouldn’t lose our peace over it.


 THW: What are some of words of wisdom that you would share with our readers on how to cultivate more mindfulness in their daily lives?


YP: Mindfulness is essentially being aware of the present moment, which is critically important in for our personal development. But what matters is how will you be aware of the present moment, what tool will you use to increase your awareness?

My advice to people is to find a healing technique that gives you real results, one that challenges you, but does not overwhelm you. There is a great variety of techniques out there, different types of meditations, yoga practices, energy healing techniques, and so much more that can really give us tangible benefits in our lives. What matters is that we find one that suits us and that we use it consistently.


THW:  Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?


YP: I’m planning an event in Los Angeles this summer, which I’m really excited about, the details will be set soon. I will be reading a piece of my manuscript and giving a talk about the patterns in our subconscious that impact our behavior. I did a similar event this past March in NYC at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, so many people came out that we filled the venue, it was really a great time.

I’m currently working on a video with one of the best directors and videographers in NYC, Lindsey TJ Hall, you can find him on Instagram under @guynamedlindsey. We knew that the message was getting out to people who read, but we wanted to make something new to try and reach people who are more musically and visually inclined. The video will be about self love and its growth into unconditional love, it should be out sometime this summer.

Read more of Diego's Work by following him on instagram @Yung_Pueblo

In Rainbows: The Lisa Frank Tarot!

Visual artist Ariel Hart has made all of our childhood dreams come true this week with the official (unofficial) Lisa Frank Tarot deck. Ariel designed 22 vibrant cards featuring Lisa Frank's most popular magical friends as the major archetypes of the tarot.  Our favorites include: Hollywood Bear decked out in his infamous top hat &  stunna shades! Rainbow Cheetah, and of course Art school Panda!


Lisa Frank's visual imagery has always been the epitome of modern mysticism, which is why we feel this deck has been long overdue. If you've never had the pleasure of zoning out in a math class to her majestic dreamscapes where rainbow cheetahs applied your lipstick, or that you could take a ballet class with three beautiful bunnies now is your chance. The best part about this project? The cards are 100% DIY & FREE! Check HERE for link.  Enjoy!

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

Ariel Hart

"The Fridas" by Spencer Tunick

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”

― Frida Kahlo

  • The beautiful photo that you see above was taken by world renowned photographer Spencer Tunick at Frida Kahlo's home "Casa Azul". Yesterday, this image was originally posted to our Instagram account, where well over 3,000 women& men were inspired by the power and beauty of Spencer's image and Frida's words. The image was removed from our account, even after we made the proper edits to cover up each woman's exposed breasts to fit the "moral" guidelines which are implemented rigidly on images (including art), breastfeeding, or anything showcasing women's bodies in a manner that isn't overtly sexualized. Social media sites such as Instagram have gone so far as to evenban words like "Goddess" (but have kept "God). Their explanation being that the "high volumes of nude content" under the tag "Goddess" were against policy. The backlash to the ban was something they were not prepared for and eventually The #Goddess tag was restored. However, these blatant acts to suppress the female form are still taking place, and our post was the perfect example of that. Wake up people, THE HUMAN BODY IS NOT SHOCKING!