This was not supposed to happen. I was never supposed to espouse magic, occult, sorcery, superstitious garbage, woo-woo shit. But here I am, a formerly rabid atheist without the common decency to simply become a born-again Christian. Here I am, interviewing occult people on my Youtube channel, Witches & Wine. Here I am, actually DOING magic.
I remember, at five year old, being utterly unimpressed by spirits. At the very subatomic level of my bone marrow, I was convinced that God-fearing adults were insane weirdos. As my Catholic grandmother squirted holy water around my bedroom, my toddler brain thought I would be better cheered to see a cute dog pissing on the walls instead.
Dieu est mort.
If little girls could get tattoos, that’s what I would have emblazoned on my skin.
Vive the scientific method.
Vive evidence-based assertions.
Vive the five senses.
But that bedrock of “I don’t believe” was obviously on a conflux of earthquake fault lines.
Because I’m pretty deep in magic now.
My first toe-dip into magic actually came about via Buddhism. Despite growing up in a Christian family, I’ve always been fascinated with Buddhist philosophy, to the point where it caused cognitive dissonance with my spiritual skepticism. My school binder was not covered in sparkly stickers – instead, I pasted on the Four Noble Truths.
Reincarnation is a huge part of Buddhist belief, yet is scoffed at by most atheist – Christopher Hitchens famously said that when we die, we’re like a TV that simply turns off. And yet, the idea that energy can’t be created or destroyed, it french-kissed me into a daze. If I am energy, then when I die, where do I go?
I found myself wandering into the New Age section of bookstores and looking at Dr. Brian Weiss‘ works, and other books about past lives and past-life hypnosis. I liked how it seemed rooted in psychology, how it had the patina of a Ph.D and a solid medical practice.
One early afternoon, I lay down on the carpeted floor of my pre-teen room. The walls were bare, there was no decoration to speak of, except piles of books, half-read then discarded when my cheek would turn to the window, slowly oozing with visceral memories that felt like me, but not me.
I lay on the carpet and closed my eyes, silently going through a memorized hypnosis script.
“Imagine yourself going through a rainbow…and each rainbow color brings you an even deeper level of peace. Start at red…then orange…then yellow…then….”
Then the breath was sucker punched from me.
As if I had been thrown into an icy pond, strapped in a pair of cement shoes.
And I saw.
And I panicked.
And then I resurfaced, the Arctic bite of reality feeling like needles in my throat.
By the time I was in high school, I was doubling down on not just atheism, but also materialism. And by materialism, I don’t mean cash money hoes. I mean materialism as in matter and science.
Forget New Age, I had moved onto physics, books like “Hyperspace” and “The God Particle.” I couldn’t fully comprehend the science, and yet it made sense to me, much like a Monet painting. So I went around my school, wrinkling my nose at the other Korean-Americans in their Bible study groups, or the greasy-haired NOW members who were pseudo-Wiccan. To admit this now is both hilarious and cringe-worthy because there is nothing more sanctimonious than a person who swears by a book or philosophy they can’t explain cogently to their dentist.
By then, I had almost forgotten about past lives.
Until I came across a book about angels. The cover was a classical painting of a female angel who looked like she could moonlight as a Jane Austen heroine. I could’t resist.
Hours later, it was late night and I had finished reading the whole book. Drivel, absolute drivel, I concluded. Angels as energy? Angels as sovereign entities?
I turned off my bedside lamp and after laying down on my pillow, said aloud, “If angels are real, speak to me now.”
Barely a second later, I heard.
The voice didn’t ring inside my head. No, it breathed one word, right into my left ear. High-pitched but clear. Like someone kneeling by me, trying to wake me up.
About 2 years ago, I had a disastrous Tinder fuckboy experience.
It started out spectacularly – in the taxi going to the love motel, he kissed my neck and cleavage with lips that felt like steamed rose petals. After 6 hours entwined, he took me to the subway station and I thought “I’m marrying him.”
Three months later, I was 20lbs thinner because I would spend hours walking around Seoul, trying to evade the shadow of yet another love lost. I would binge-watch Youtube videos, looking for even 10 minutes of relief.
I found it in a video of Grant Morrison, talking about sigils.
“Don’t just fucking listen!” he admonished the crowd. “Do it!”
If Grant Morrison could bring his comics into real life by drawing sigils on his chest right before activating them by bungee jumping…then what’s stopping me from making a modest request of a few hundred dollars?
So that weekend, I took a black sharpie marker and drew two sigils on the back of my hand. Then went with two friend on the T Express, the world’s fourth tallest, sixth longest, and ninth fastest wooden rollercoaster.
As the roller coaster cars pulled up into the platform, I saw a girl the next row over blanche. Her knees actually looked a bit wobbly.
“Come on!” my friends smiled at me as they scrambled into their seats. “This is gonna be so scary!”
The wobbly-kneed girl tugged on her boyfriend’s jacket and they both stepped out of line. I almost left the line too. But the sigils on my hand were smacking their lips, voices shrill:
Aren’t you curious to see if this works? Hmmm? Hmmmmm?
So I got in the goddamn roller coaster. I pushed the safety guard against my hip bone so tight that I had a bruise for weeks.
My body plunged down, down, baby. And I stared at those sigils while my uvula boogie-woogied in terror.
What happened after, I recount here:
I don’t believe in magic.
Belief is fuzzy.
Belief is full of sound and fury, easily smacked into sullen silence when confronted with the immediacy of this mundane world.
I don’t care if 11:11 is an “angel” number. Did seeing the numbers 11:11 make my hair more luscious? Fill me with all sorts of positive juju that made me a rich bitch? Or did I continue eating a bag of Doritos and watching low-quality porn?
Did doing a Jupiter ritual increase my bank account in significant ways? Did calling upon a demon smite my enemies hard?
All I have are a few qualitative data points and low tolerance for weak-ass results.
Surprisingly, results from magic thus far excite me enough to encourage more experimentation.
But atheism still lives in my spine. Maybe this is my fate, to have “one foot in sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never” as Shakespeare once wrote. Too out there for the average atheist, too skeptical for the average witch.
To my fellow atheists: I do magic because it works.
To my fellow witches: when it doesn’t work anymore, I will no longer do magic.
In the meantime, I’m choking on the smoke. And where there is smoke, there is fire.
Let’s find that fire together, fam.