“People were murdered for it for so long,” Melinda Lee Holm tells me, when I ask her about the history of witchcraft — a term, she says, that was first used to condemn people legally for practicing their traditional magic and spiritual rituals. "There's an inherent heaviness to the term of which I don't think most people are aware."
She doesn't use "witchcraft" to describe the work she does for this reason — historically it has been delegitimized at best, hunted and persecuted at worst. And despite the social media popularity and consumer-driven approach to all things considered "woo-woo" or "witchy"— traditions of magick, divination, and spell-casting are ancient and deeply rooted. The skepticism and cliché people assign to it are byproducts of a very old prejudice. Holm is a Priestess of Tarot, and calls her work magick, the "k" at the end differentiating it as a practical practice, rather than a method of illusion.
Personally, I came to Holm to try magick on a few of my issues, and she was recommended by a woman, a witch, I met at a writing tutor volunteer training.
I've tried many things when it comes to healing or personal problem solving, but never have I been guided to cast a spell. The idea always appealed to me because of how inherently empowering it seemed. My understanding of a spell is that you identify your problem, then go through a particular set of tasks, or expressions of intention, as a petition to get help from some greater forces.
But really, magick is not something I know much about yet.
"Magic(k) and spell-casting are, at their core, simply working in collaboration with the natural and spiritual worlds to make changes," Holm tells Bustle. She likens certain aspects of it to religious ritual. Prayer is a form of spell-casting or incantation, she says. It's all about saying words with a the intention of causing change in your life or environment.
”[Magick] is rooted in this human lineage of collaborating with the Earth and the heavens to create your life," Holm says. As far as how it works, Holm says she isn't totally sure. Just that she knows it does.
My original plan was to go to Holm to attack one of two areas with the help of spells: First, my struggles with intimacy, and second, needing to make more cash. Romance and finance are, as Holm says, the big ones when it comes to seeking magickal intervention.
But when I knocked on the door of Holm's extremely purple house, I had no real plan. I was at a loss, in large part because I just moved to LA— and while pleased to be in a new place — I was mostly sleeping on my aunt's couch. After living in the same apartment in New York for seven years, searching for a new home in a new city had me feeling like a hatching baby crow. To add to that, I was going through a difficult time emotionally.
But Holm was not shaken by my overarching befuddlement. Her demeanor was kind and grounded. She also had a small poofy dog, and an exceptional Carvaggio-esque portrait of her and her partner hanging on the wall. Her home was her office, and it felt well-lived in, special, safe. The round table we sat down at had a tarot deck already spread out. There were gems, candles, mirrors, and trinkets all around. She got out her tarot deck.
"Let's just start with a lay of the land spread," Holm says. I told her I was nervous about what we might find, that perhaps I had made some wrong moves in coming here, and the cards would show doom in the coming days.
"Here’s the thing about reading tarot," Holm says. "I don't predict the future. I read it to guide people with where they are right now."
The cards represent the current state of things, and she interprets them in accordance with their traditional symbolic meanings. From there, she gives actionable spells and tools that can help with whatever comes up.
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