Well, here I go again.
I used to be a pagan, back in my teens up until I was about 22. I was a true believer. I fully believed in gods and goddesses, and that I could summon magic to create change in the universe.
Well, I say “fully,” but there was always a seed of a doubt in my head that the supernatural was just fake. It had always been there, even when I was being indoctrinated as a Christian in childhood. Perhaps it helped that my sister never believed in any of it, and wasn’t afraid to say so.
That seed sprouted and bloomed during my twenties. As I matured, and started working, thoughts of witchcraft and deities became just abstract concepts in my mind, and then I came upon the YouTube skeptic community. At the time, it wasn’t the absolute cesspool it became in the last 5 years, and I found it very enlightening. I realised that there was no reason to believe in anything that I couldn’t find convincing evidence of. I learned to think critically, and to see religion and new age woo as lies to control the masses and make money.
I was quite a big fan of Matt Dillahunty, who, on The Atheist Experience, would push back on any spiritual belief and ritual as harmful to both individuals and to society.
But the allure of the Atheist movement on YouTube fell away as they turned away from criticising Christianity to outright bashing on feminism, social justice, transgender, and of course Islam. To even tolerate the existence of Islam was unacceptable, and if you were a feminist, well, basically you were Hitler.
Of course, Matt Dillahunty didn’t participate in this shitlordery, but the mystique around him did eventually break for me, when he said some pretty rubbish things about the issue of another atheist celebrity being accused of sexual harassment. Now, I view him as an okay atheist community leader, all things considered, but I’m not fawning over the guy.
And then the Trump presidency happened, and Nazis started multiplying all over the internet. Some of them were religious, some of them were not. Their white supremacy and fashy thought was the new enemy.
So, I was a moderate atheist, who was happy to coexist with leftists, regardless of their religion – right wingers being way more toxic to society than any sufficiently liberal religious person. I realised that while religion certainly plays a factor in oppression, it’s conservatism and fascism that are the true problems in society, and religion is just the excuse a lot of people use to take away rights of people they don’t like and keep society at a point where they’re on top, looking down on everyone else.
Fighting for justice and activism kept me busy, but I was desperately empty inside.
Battling depression for years and seeing countries all over the world being pulled in by hard right nationalism left me in a terrible state.
At the same time, the new reboots of Charmed and Sabrinaappeared on the small screen. I watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and after digesting the series, started feeling a great longing.
While the series leaves a bit to be desired in their representation of witchcraft, the aesthetics and the rituals depicted reminded me of how amazing I used to feel when working magic. Whether magic was real or not didn’t matter to the effect it had on me. Feelings of connection to nature, having energy surging through me, the feeling of being able to do something about things I had no real way of changing.
Compare that with the hopelessness I felt, wishing every day that an asteroid would just smash into the earth and wipe out humanity like it did the dinosaurs. No karma to punish bad people, no ability to change the horrible things that were happening except desperate tweets and barely watched YouTube videos.
Finally, I started googling things like “atheist witchcraft” and “doing witchcraft even though you don’t believe in it.”
I came across Humanistic Paganism, a movement that seems to be exactly what I was looking for. And furthermore, it links up so well with the way my psychologist described my anxiety disorder, i.e. the primitive, irrational brain taking over in times of panic, and having many detrimental effects on the body.
Magic changes my mindset; my mindset changes my probabilities of successfully manifesting my will in my life. It works by reconciling the rational and the irrational parts of myself.Take a protection charm for instance. A braid of garlic, a bag of herbs or a piece of metal, in and of itself, doesn’t protect me from anything. But if I use it as a protection charm, it reminds my rational brain to be vigilant, which helps me avoid avoidable danger. But it also appeases my irrational side by acting as if the piece of metal or bag of herbs will protect me from unavoidable danger. My irrational side is an heirloom from some hairy caveman who screeched and ran when he heard the “angry” thunderstorm. That irrational side is where uncontrollable emotional breakdowns come from. With magic, I gave that irrational side a more productive job to do so that I don’t have to simply repress it. That way all of me can work towards the same goal.
As soon as I read it, I knew it was time to break out the pentacle again.
So, now I’m an atheist witch that doesn’t believe in magic, but I do believe in the therapeutic power of witchcraft. And so, I’m going to practice witchcraft as if I believe it, all the while knowing that its primary purpose is satiating that part of my mind that hungers for meaning and miracles.
Already, I am feeling a renewed sense of purpose and control of my destiny. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a fake place, as long as it keeps the depressive nihilism away.
Natalie Kirk is qualified and experienced in animation, design and 3D art. She’s spent almost her entire adult life studying to acquire skills in digital media, learning and creating as she goes.
She’s also an intersex spokesperson and activist, having appeared in the media for this purpose over the past ten years. She’s passionate about human rights and social justice.
I’m a bit agnostic as to my beliefs regarding deities, but this sums up my view of Witchcraft and magick personally. I tend to focus on candle magick, or other forms of mental/internally focused magick, because that’s what I believe I can control the most.
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Thank you – this was a lovely read and absolutely made my day.
Excellent article! I agree with your rational/ irrational mind balance. I try to make all of my decisions with logical thought but I still like to hold my crystal for comfort.
Thanks for your post. You also summarised the decline and fall of the internet very well over these last five years. I was a new thought clergy, and had resonated muchly with Native American and Pagan indigenous wisdom traditions before moving Down Under. I do miss having those aspects in my life and I, too, am bringing back whatever works. Going out into the mountains for a few days this week.
I agree with Mary about the rational/irrational mind balance. When I leave the house to drive to where ever, I always take the two fingers of my right hand and “draw” three times, a circle around the car for “protection”. I realized a long time ago that the “circle” isn’t going to “protect” me, but it is a reminder to me to PAY ATTENTION. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid three accidents that could’ve, should’ve killed me. ::shrugs:: Whatever works I guess! 🙂