At a pivotal time in her life—the COVID-19 skies are clearing, her writing career is taking off and her longtime partner is making noise about moving back to his beloved Pacific Northwest—Diana Helmuth embarks on a year spent learning to craft spells, perform rituals, celebrate neo-pagan sabbats and commune with ancestors and goddesses. “I’m a skeptic at heart,” she confesses in The Witching Year: A Memoir of Earnest Fumbling Through Modern Witchcraft. “I’m sure I’d be a great atheist, if I didn’t find atheism about as comforting as a blanket of upturned tacks.” But the thing is, she writes, “I am also really tired of God being dead.”
In that, Helmuth is likely in good company with other millennials who have watched the rug get pulled out from under them too many times and would like to feel safe, secure and empowered, thank you very much. Her account is funny, sympathetic and seemingly right on time. As she points out, many of us are seeking spiritual guidance in a time of climate change, social unrest and general uncertainty. A sturdy belief system might seem like a very liberating thing.
Her story is buttressed by rigorous inquiry; she consults all the literature she can find on Wicca, brujeria and pretty much anything that will give her a handle on the fascinating, if tangled, history behind modern witchcraft. While it doesn’t take long at all for Helmuth to have intense spiritual experiences and find herself on a path to greater self-knowledge, she remains ready with questions, always interrogating what she’s told and observed alongside what she thinks and feels. Along the way, she never stops making us laugh. If you’re witchcraft-curious in the least, do not miss this delightful, thoughtful book.