“I Spent A Week Becoming a Witch and the Results Were Worrying”

Whew Lads!

This article is already generating quite a bit of chatter in the Paganosphere, through which it has crossed my radar. Now, when I first read the title, I thought “this is gonna be a 700 Club story, isn’t it”. Commentary suggests otherwise but I thought it would be fun to go through this one bit by bit as a live reaction of sorts.

Intro

It’s the new year. I could have given up booze and bacon, or embarked on a punishing new fitness regime. But these seemed too harsh for the drab days of January and besides, I had more ambitious plans for personal transformation. Namely, to turn myself into a witch.

Ceri Radford

That’s it. That’s the opening paragraph. I was right, “Whew Lads” indeed.

At this opening of a scary new decade, we’re in the midst of a resurgent interest in all things mystic, superstitious or more than a little bit woo.

Pretty sure there’s a reason for that, but we’ll deal with that some other time. This is where I start picking up on the cynical tone detected by other reviewers, as clearly to Radford, this is just a cultural trend driven by market forces, and nothing more. (My Gods would like a word with you, Ms. Radford.)

“astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s”. And its cousin in dogged resistance to logic, specifically witchcraft, is also having something of a moment

The quote is from The New Yorker, but her tag at the end, “its cousin in dogged resistance to logic”. I…I can’t even. Behold as I am unable to even. I must, I must.

I picked up a copy of the newly published The Modern Witch’s Guide to Happiness by Luna Bailey and set my cynical self a New Year, New Me challenge. 

A’s for honesty, I suppose. Though I’ll be honest that book sounds tempting. (I must not, my pocketbook is counting on me.)

Monday

Right. This witching business. One of the things I need, along with a suspension of belief in the scientific underpinnings of the universe, is an altar.

Off to a banging start, I see. (In seriousness, I’m not sure how well people who believe science and magic are incompatible fully understand either science, magic, or the universe, because I’m not well versed in The Science, but the lack of understanding in the universe is there 100%.)

By the end of the day, though, [my altar] has been joined by a light smattering of cat hair and my four-year-old’s lego T rex. Is the universe trying to tell me something?

The sarcasm has come on thick.

Tuesday

Crystal-shopping time: no self-respecting witch in this new age of Aquarius would be without these ubiquitous lumps of pretty rock. I take myself to a gift shop. The book informs me that I should allow myself to be drawn to the crystal that has meaning for me. I position myself in front of a stand of crystal bracelets. Will it be the pastel-pink rose quartz, with qualities of “love, peace and tenderness” apparently laced into its silicon and oxygen atoms; or the “playful” inky-black bornite? I close my eyes, then open them. I found myself uncannily drawn to something, after all. It’s the price tag. Ten quid! I am propelled out of the shop by unseen forces.

Crystals are not absolutely necessary. Helpful, but not necessary. Which you would have picked up on, I suppose, by reading the book as anything other than a Wine Aunt.

Wednesday (Oh Gods!)

Finally, some advice I can wholeheartedly embrace: five tips for making simple connections with nature, from touching leaves to noticing sights and sounds.

This is it. This is paganism (basically).

We’re not going to be able to keep this, are we?

I don’t believe it offered me protection through the winter months, as the book claims; I just like the feel of it.

Ahh, good, something DOES make her happy.

I suspect a large part of the appeal of witchcraft today is the emphasis it places on slowing down, switching off from your phone and taking notice of the natural world.

Once again she’s onto something. This is like the only “day” of hers where I don’t feel like I’m suffering through consumerist nonsense and like she has a modicum of understanding.

We’re not going to be able to hang onto this, are we?

Thursday

Magic. Here we go. (So far, I want to note, no mention of the divine, not even in the above nature section. Though nature is shockingly close to godliness.)

None of the “magick” incantations listed involve putting a pox on my enemies, which will be a relief to the landlord who has failed to fix my broken boiler; they’re all perky personal growth exercises.

Oof.

“Pesky personal growth exercises.” I have once again lost the ability to even.

Next to “tax return” I put “knee-jerk scoffing cynicism”. I would have set it on fire but I was too cynical to waste a match.

We almost had her!

Friday

Tarot. We are going. To read tarot. Something tells me a complicated system like that is not for someone who is not only an obvious beginner, but also a careless individual who doesn’t REALLY feel the call or believe in any of this other than as a commercial fad. I wonder how this will go.

I don’t have an actual set of cards, but witchcraft has a relaxed, homespun kind of vibe so I improvise. I raid my daughter’s toy drawer, find a set of sea-creature playing cards, and get reading.

Playing cards. Just use. A fucking. Deck. Of playing cards.

As a personal aside I have serious problems with parents going through their kids things for personal gain. Children have every right to privacy as adults do, and that doesn’t go away because of the blood connection. I’m sorry you’re such a shit mom, Ceri Radford.

And there we have it: confirmation bias. You go looking for a pattern, and you will find it, even in a pack of deeply non-mystic marine-animal cards bought to entertain a small child on a rainy holiday in France.

I take it that’s how messages from the Divine work, too, huh, Radford? All confirmation bias, all the time. I don’t usually hex but I am oh, so tempted.

It’s part of the reason we’re all such credulous suckers, still seduced by superstition at a time when we have the technology to make a space probe orbit Saturn.

Saturn. Screams.

Don’t believe me?

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Saturday and Sunday

it’s hard not to snort coffee through your nostrils when you read that water that has had rose quartz soaking in it can be given to soothe traumatised animals.

Um, what the fuck?

witchcraft is no less irrational than any other religion and many of its practices are in fact a fairly reasonable response to the major challenges of our time. Rediscovering nature, reclaiming the sexist trope of the witch as a symbol of female empowerment, switching off from the constant thrum of social media and consumerism: what’s not to like?

A) Witchcraft is a practice, not a religion. B) That isn’t all there is to it. Talk to actual practitioners, if they’ll even listen to you at this juncture, and you’ll see. C) The only thing you’re onto is turning off your hot-damn twitter feed.

(Gods this is painful.)

No matter how many spells we cast to ask the universe for help, the universe isn’t listening.

MY GODS WOULD LIKE A WORD WITH YOU RADFORD!

the recent zest for the mystic is part of a worrying backlash against the enlightenment values that have driven human progress.

I long for release in the sweet embrace of death.

Bet she doesn’t think climate change is real, either.

Conclusion

That hurt. That physically hurt. Was it a bad idea to read it right before going to work? Well, worse things have happened to me.

The chief problem is Radford didn’t take it seriously from the get-go. She admitted her cynicism and went ahead anyway, and didn’t actually suspend that cynicism during the course of the challenge. Which maybe counts as cheating. The only thing she seemed to get was spending time in nature, which is how one generally reaches the Otherworldly. If she did more of that, maybe she would understand.

(Also she needs to not be a shit mom.)

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