Paulo Coelho Dances with Angels

The author of 'The Alchemist' talks about embracing the feminine face of God, the pope, and where his soul goes when he dances.

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How did you decide to write about a witch?

First, I was thinking about [elaborating] on the feminine side of God. Something that we don’t pay a lot of attention, at least in our civilization. The major religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, they deny somehow that God has a feminine face. However, if you go to the holy texts, you see there is this feminine presence. Second, I [wanted to] connect this subject with the visible reality, meaning what’s around us. Everything for me is sacred, beginning with earth, but also going to things made by man. 

Finally, "The Witch of Portobello" is about people who dare to take some steps towards an unconventional spiritual path. And they are immediately labeled as witches--and well, witch is a word full of prejudices. The book is about that.  A witch was a person who never complied with the established rules, and always tried to dare and to go beyond and to celebrate life, and to love and to have joy and pleasure while doing this.

In the book a character says, “All women are witches.” Do you mean that as a positive thing?

Yeah, absolutely. Yes, yes, yes. All women have a perception much more developed than men. So all women somehow, being repressed for so many millennia, they ended up by developing this sixth sense and contemplation and love. And this is something that we have a hard time to accept as part of our society. We try to see reality as just a physical thing and that it does not go beyond that. But what we have to do, women included, is to develop more this feminine side, meaning intuition, meaning being open to a new perception of reality which, in general, women are much more open to.


Why do you think many people are so threatened by the feminine face of God?

Because that demands that we accept more love as the only guidance in your life. And we don’t do that because we are afraid to suffer. We're going to lose control. We’re going to be dragged to a path that we don’t know.

Why is love so hard for most of us to accept?

Why Love Is Worth the Risk

Because it implies suffering. You know that. And well, first, love is the most important emotion in life. And second, it is also the one that is wild, that can take us to heaven or hell. I’m not saying that love always takes you to heaven. Your life can become a nightmare. But that said, it is worth taking the risk.

There’s always a tension, in your books between losing the spiritual path in romantic human love. Is that how you see it?

Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. Which is not something to fear.

But it seems like your characters fear that quite a bit.

Yeah, because we as human beings, we do fear that. But at the end of the day--well, just relax and enjoy it because life’s like this.

And in this book music is a big factor. Do you dance?


Dancing with the Angels
I do. When I’m dancing I’m not thinking about anything. I am here. I am totally there. You know? And the feeling is a sensation of being away from myself. My soul dances with the angels and my body dances with my wife.

What kind of music do you dance to?

Dancing to Today's Music

Well, my generation, we used to just--classic rock and roll. When you go to a nightclub you don’t hear this anymore. So, you just hear bang-bang, boom-boom, and I dance to this. I don’t know who’s singing. I don’t know who is performing. I just go there and I dance, because I think this is important to be emotionally well balanced. To lose control through a dance from time to time, at least once a week.

When you’re at home and you put on music --?

That is a totally different thing, yes. Because, for example, I cannot write and hear a song or music at the same time. Because then music is so strong that I will stop writing and start to listen to the music. So I cannot hear music like muzak, you know? Like this music that is always playing. No, no. Music for me, it demands full concentration.

In your work you often point to contradictions between the church’s rules and the Bible’s teachings. Do you have anything to say about a hypocrisy there?

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Interview by Valerie Reiss
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