'I was tired of God being dead': How one woman was drawn to witchcraft
From the historic Salem witch trials to the teens in The Craft and Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, witches have long cast a spell on Hollywood's imagination – but they're not just figments of our imagination.
People who practice witchcraft are everywhere. Just ask Diana Helmuth.
Who is she? Helmuth is a writer and aspiring witch.
What's going on? In the midst of COVID lockdowns, Helmuth decided to spend a year as a practicing witch, consulting primary sources and talking to witches who had been practicing a long time.
What's she saying? Helmuth spoke with All Things Considered about her foray into modern witchcraft.
On why she began her journey in the first place, despite being skeptical of religion and spirituality:
During COVID and, I think in general, as I got older, [I was drawn to] the idea of a self-directed religion that promised me a way to have some control over the universe.
I think increasingly we find ourselves facing things that really affect us deeply that we have very little control over: climate change, housing prices, health insurance bills, pandemics, who's going to become the president. And here's this religion — this spirituality — that says, "You can have an effect on these things that feel so much bigger than you. You just need a couple of candles and some willpower."
If I'm being really honest, I was tired of God being dead. I didn't want to feel like I didn't care about the divine anymore. I wanted to admit to myself that I did care, that I did want to feel held by the divine, but getting through the shame of that is something that is interrogated throughout the book. Like, why was that so hard for me to admit?
On a moment in her witchcraft journey where everything finally clicked:
It took me until month seven before I tried to make a connection with the goddess, who is a central figure in almost every form of witchcraft. Whether or not she's a real deity up in the sky or she's a metaphor for the interconnectedness of everything on Earth, there's this idea of a goddess. And I was hesitant around it because I didn't want to feel like I was playing make-believe. Again, this goes back to just being so afraid of feeling stupid. So I go, and I set up this ritual to try and talk to a particular goddess. And I'm by myself in my office in Oakland. I'm sitting in front of an altar that I've made out of a cardboard box. I have a stranger's playlist going on Spotify. My cat is on the other side of the door staring at me, and after about an hour, something happened. I just suddenly felt flooded with bliss. And after that experience, it became very difficult for me to continue to make fun of this part of myself that wanted to be connected with the divine. Shame just wasn't involved.
On finding her own way to practice witchcraft:
I felt I found a correct way to practice witchcraft for myself, but I — to be honest — still don't feel 100% sure about it. And something I have accepted is maybe that's the point. So I dabbled with a lot of these subcultures within witchcraft or that overlap with witchcraft, like astrology and tarot. And there are things where I'm just like, this just isn't for me.
There was one thing that really stuck with me, which were my tarot cards, which I was not expecting. My tarot cards scare me. Like, I don't like to look at them for too long. I have learned that I don't always want to ask them a question because I don't necessarily want the answer because it's not always fun, you know? Sometimes, it's terrifying. Sometimes, you don't want to look at yourself in the mirror that hard.
So, what now?
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