Etsy Loses its Magic

Etsy appears to be on a literal witch hunt, prohibiting the sale of magic items and shutting down stores that are in violation of this policy. At first it appeared to be just an attempt to eliminate the sale of services. This makes sense since Etsy is supposed to be all about the sale of hand crafted and vintage goods. However, Etsy has gone beyond this:

“Any metaphysical service that promises or suggests it will effect a physical change (e.g., weight loss) or other outcome (e.g., love, revenge) is not allowed, even if it delivers a tangible item.”

This is obviously problematic. What is a metaphysical object? There’s an incredible number of embroidered Christian prayers that promise blessings. Are these now banned? If these are permitted but a love spell is prohibited, does Etsy really want to be in the business of promoting religious intolerance? What of things that are clearly for entertainment purposes, like a kit of garlic and holy water to protect against vampires? By their terms, such a thing should not be allowed. The use of the word “suggests” is especially troublesome. It means that Etsy has grounds to remove an item even if you use the disclaimer, “for entertainment purposes only.” Of course everyone is going to put that on their items now, because of that rule, therefore you’re still “suggesting” that the product will effect a physical change.

Is there really a clear boundary between what is metaphysical and what isn’t? Richard Prince recently sold prints that he’d made by blatantly stealing work from other’s Instagram feeds for $90,000 a pop. These were prints that anyone could have made, but the Touch of Richard Prince endowed them with metaphysical properties that gave them value in the eyes of the art establishment. The cosmetic industry is based on the idea that it is possible to make yourself look more beautiful. However, beauty is a social construct, a metaphysical concept, so are all cosmetics now prohibited on Etsy as well?

Full disclosure: our Adventure Awaits store sells magic items on Etsy. They are based on fairy tales and folklore. We have magic beans that you can trade for a cow, or plant to climb a beanstalk to the giant’s castle in the clouds, inspired obviously by the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. We have protection spells and love potions that are from American folklore collected by Harry Middleton Hayatt in the 1930s. To me these are less about metaphysics and more about connecting with our cultural heritage. A fan art homage to our creative past. We’re just starting to grow our business and were planning on investing a lot of energy into making that happen on Etsy. However, I’m now wondering if pretty much everything we create isn’t in violation of Etsy’s policy. That’s a HUGE problem, Etsy! A rule needs to be clear and easy to follow. This one creates doubt and uncertainty and leads me to believe that Etsy isn’t really worth investing any time and effort into as a creator. If creators aren’t investing in Etsy, investors will follow suit now that Etsy is a publicly traded company.

Meanwhile, Etsy has much bigger problems than metaphysics. There’s a huge flood of mass produced goods from China being passed off as handmade items. Flagrant copyright violations are going unpunished. These things are devaluing the Etsy brand far more than metaphysical objects are. Deal with your real problems, Etsy, before taking on your metaphysical ones!