The Witching Year by Diane Helmuth

Review by Tony Hoffart

A year into COVID lockdown, Diana Helmuth wants something more. She is skeptical of religion, both organized and disorganized but she wants to believe in something. So she decides to dive into the world of modern paganism and witchcraft and document her journey.  

During this journey, Diana wrestles with the issue of belief and skepticism in magic. Despite this, she fully commits to spell work in nearly all of its various forms. And she describes her experiences with it with the sort of earnest honesty that it can’t come off as anything but authentic. She discusses whether authenticity comes from having a historical lineage of customs and rituals or if such a thing is necessary in modern witchcraft. She explores the cultural appropriation issue of should a white American witch practice Brujeria or Voodoo? She also explores the authentic pleasure in going to Scotland and experiencing a pagan celebration that is rooted in her own ethnicity.

Helmuth’s storytelling is intimate and also deeply informative. One could read the book purely to get information about how to begin one’s own journey of discovering witchcraft and you would have in the Witching Year a great guidebook. But she describes her personal experiences and wishes in such a way that you can’t help but root for her in the hopes she finds what she’s looking for. I feel like her journey reflected what I’ve been looking for in my own spiritual journey. A feeling of inner peace, a community to share values with, and a focus for self discipline and personal growth.  

That’s ultimately what the book is; a spiritual journey. It’s because of that purpose that it resonates with the reader. The witchcraft part just makes it fun.