“Are you a bewitching person? Welcome to the show where magic is real!” To a gripping American podcast, presented by thirty-something “teacher in magical practice” Pam Grossman, who, with unexpectedly sunny intensity, interviews “other witches” over 36 very long episodes. Hoodoo practitioners. Vodoun princesses. “Radical feminist anti-capitalists” struggling to stick out their jobs at high-end hair salons. Makers of “sacred smudges”. How to find slippery elm in Bolingbrook, Illinois. It’s all here!
I confess that after weeks of listening I remain unclear about what a witch actually is, but the subject is evidently titanic. “San Francisco bay is a hub of pagan activity,” Pam nods, opening an episode with a little lecture about tapping into the energy of one’s pets and manifesting magic via interior design (ie get better lamps). Now and again she will segue into what you realise is actually an ad for Burial Ground Jewellery or dark violet lunar-dagger lip balm (offer code “WITCH”). All in a super-reasonable, meticulously scripted tone, which she will occasionally and deliciously shake herself out of – as when someone read a “full length ecstatic poem about interfacing with the divine” that ended “from the river of moth-dust we float on at night” and Pam blurted, darkly, “Shit. I want that on my tombstone.”
Covens are a big subject. “I need to find other witches!” keened a listener via email. “I reach out at metaphysical shops!” Pam advised she post an actual ad in an actual occult store – but choose her area. Apparently Ohio has the highest concentration of “Wiccan or witch-identifying people”. Some episodes are devoted to the correct witch terminology, and there’s an increasing bowing and scraping and being overly respectful of others. A whiff of totalitarianism. “I was criticised for lower-casing a w for Wiccan,” confessed Pam, adding quickly, “but I was so grateful she did!” Poor Pam. Some weeks she’s like Dante, obsessively distinguishing between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, perhaps suspecting our craze for identification is a manifestation not to do with religion or nationalism, but with an absence of both – a terrible crisis in each. Last week: “maintaining the childlike wonder of summer”. It was complicated.
The Witch Wave podcast
This article appears in the 03 Jul 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The Corbyn delusion