Photographer Guy Coombes and makeup artist Kiekie Stanners took a trip to Crystal Mountain in Tāmaki Makaurau’s Swanson for some colour and cosmic inspiration, creating beauty looks inspired by nature’s healing stones. Mairātea Mohi explores Gen Z’s new approach to a very old spirituality.
Standing in a crystal shop, letting my fingers dance along the ridges of stalagmite, a woman bursts through the doors. Slightly middle-aged and talkative, she was using this cold Thursday afternoon to find an external answer to an internal fire. Fingering through pendants and amulets she asks the violently quiet room, “does this one work for anger?” She announces she’s trying to soothe a great sorrow and grief in her heart. The shop attendant, now by her side, recommends obsidian, rose quartz and some other hard to pronounce minerals.
Trusting in the recommendation the woman leaves just as fast as she entered, the only difference: a new charm around her neck. While brief, I had assessed a few things from the encounter:
• Her eyes were puffy (it was hard to say if this was due to crying or flu season).
• The speciality groceries she carried implied she had been walking a while.
• I was entirely jealous at her show of vulnerability.
This public display of emotion made me realise how little I was doing to honour my own feelings. Inspired, I also asked the attendant for some crystal recommendations. He seemed to pick up on my own anxious aura, advising me to not overthink it and just choose.
The first stone to catch my attention was a small piece of banded calcite. The sign indicated it would aid in positivity and creativity. I laughed at the irony.
Three dollars later and I was now waiting for my bus home. Letting the wind whip my face, Tāwhirimatea open palm smacked me out of jealousy and encouraged me to begin my own journey of emotional introspection. My first consultant - the Internet.
It seems my phone was another party to the shop encounter because the next week my TikTok was filled with tarot readings, guided meditation and astrology memes.
Overwhelmed by the onslaught of information, I decided to assemble some local help. Talking to Annabelle Parata Vaughan, the current culture editor and horoscope writer at student magazine Critic Te Arohi, she says that younger people today are much more comfortable holding space for self-contemplation.
“As young people, we're always changing and evolving. I think astrology is an interesting tool of reflection, and looking at where you are, where you stand and where you're going.”
Distinguishing spirituality from religion, she led me to realise that no 20-something-year-old needs to find her connection to a higher power in a church pew. Growing up in a whānau where nan practised astrology and mum visited psychics, Vaughan has always had an open mind to the occult. These beliefs seem to be a growing school of thought, as Stats NZ reported that nearly half (48.2%) of the population disclosed no religious affiliation in 2018.
With that number expected to rise, our generation is in a unique position negotiating the relationship to self, soul and society. On TikTok online spiritualism has been marketed as a tool of self-care, but Vaughan seemed hesitant when I asked her if she agreed.
“I'm a bit weird about that whole kind of discourse, just because I think it has become so commoditised. Self-care is often shown as bubble baths, facemasks and buying expensive health drinks. But it isn’t just indulging in the nice things, it sometimes means doing hard things because you know it’ll be good in the long term. Getting to bed early, finishing that assignment…”
Preferring to see spirituality as a form of self reflection and introspection, she accepts it for what it is: “A way to understand the status of yourself that you can't really grapple with.”
In the West, the industrialisation and repackaging of spirituality has been extremely profitable. In an interview with Vox, Shreena Gandhi, an academic who researches yoga and its history of appropriation said, “The thing about the spiritual ‘East’ or the ‘Orient’ is that there’s a history of Westerners cherry-picking customs, traditions, and practices to serve their needs, that they can tie to a particular political agenda”.
Practices such as yoga, gua sha, essential oil therapy and Buddhism have been sold as ‘exotic’ tools of wellness. A quick fix to the spiritual and emotional void that came with living one’s life to the fullest materialistic potential.
While the intermingling of culture and practices are unavoidable in our globalised community, there is a conversation around authentic understanding and consumption to be had. Misappropriating forms of philosophical, metaphysical, and traditional thought systems to deal with the petty frustrations of daily life is pretty distasteful. Fortunately Gen Z-ers are approaching spirituality with an open mind and a sense of empathy and compassion.
I, like a lot of people in my generation, are breaking cycles of trauma and abuse. For many, spirituality has been the opportunity to heal ourselves and our community. While I don’t have a solid conclusion to my campaign of introspection what I’ve come to realise is that this path of soul searching is a never ending journey. Understanding that everything starts and ends with me, I have become much more mindful of the energy I’m exerting and receiving while working to be a better me.
Self-love is a lot like growing a flower. Set your foundations in aroha, shower it in kind words and you’ll soon see results.
BLACK MIRROR: Line your upper lash line using Loreal Infallible Grip Vinyl Liquid Liner in Black, $21, followed by several coats of Rose Inc Ultra-Black Mascara, $51, for inky editorial lashes. Don't be shy. Photo / Guy Coombes
MOLTEN MAGIC: Try a multi-liner look by starting with a thicker line of Make Up For Ever Color Ink Liquid Eyeliner in Copper Lava, $42, then drawing a thinner line over top using Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Snow, $44. Finish with Gucci Rouge De Beauté Brillant Lip Colour in Linnet Stone, $84 on the lips, eyelids and cheeks. Photo / Guy Coombes
INTENSE AMETHYST: Create hazy violet eyes by blending RMS beauty Eye Lights Cream Eyeshadow in Moondust and Aurora, $51 each. Paint lips in a bold deep crimson using Gucci Rouge À Lèvres Voile Lipstick in Love Before Breakfast, $84. Photo / Guy Coombes
HOT HONEY: Get crafty with TAG face paint in Regular Yellow, $15, and Flower Beauty Forever Wear Eyeliner in Onyx, $7. Blend blend blend. Finish with Glow Recipe Plum Plum Gloss Balm, $35, pressed over the eyelids and lips. Photo / Guy Coombes