Magical Lives

♥ Magical Lives appear in Alphabetical Order  ♥

Laurie Cabot
by Charlotte Bennardo
“I return to the earth my wisdom and I call myself Witch!” So said Laurie Cabot after being anointed with oil, dubbed with a sword, and then impaling the sword in the earth, according to author Rosemary Ellen Guiley in her book, Witches and Witchcraft. At 16, she was initiated into the Craft. She beseeched the Goddess and God to help her realize her dream of teaching witchcraft as a science.

Born on March 6, 1933, in Wewoka, Oklahoma, Cabot displayed psychic abilities at six by discussing information she reportedly picked up through extrasensory perception. Because her father was a believer in science and did not accept the concept of a devil, Laurie learned an appreciation for science herself. After a move to Boston at 14 with her mother, she began studying comparative religions. While frequenting the public library, she met a woman who guided her away from Christianity toward other religions. Declaring herself a witch, she introduced Laurie to other witches who instructed her in the Craft. They initiated her, sending her forward on her journey of discovery.

This famous picture shows Laurie walking through the misty streets of Salem.

Laurie has two daughters; Jody was born in 1963, and Penny who was born in 1965. Around this time, Britain’s Sybil Leek had come out as a witch and garnered worldwide attention to the Craft. Leek wrote her bestselling book, “Diary of a Witch” and moved to the United States. Some have speculated that this might have sparked Laurie to action...

In the 1970s, Laurie started wearing the black robes and pentacle associated with witches, along with dramatic black eye makeup which Cabot insists is an ancient tradition. She was declaring her path. The town of Salem, although known for its witch history, was not understanding. Some residents, and even other witches, accused her of commercial exploitation and grandstanding, saying it was silly for her to believe “in all that.”

In this image from Boston.com, Laurie mixes up a potion.

She created the annual Witches’ Ball in 1973 to celebrate Samhain. Today it draws people from the world over. Also during this time, she was actively seeking to be declared the "Official Witch of Salem." The mayor at the time thought it was ‘improper’ and felt it would be a sort of publicity stunt for personal gain that would ‘demean’ the town’s historical reputation. However, in 1977 Governor Michael Dukakis, in recognition of her extensive work with dyslexic children, named Laurie Cabot The Official Witch of Salem.

Laurie opened several stores devoted to the Craft. Her daughter runs The Cat, The Crow and The Crown which Laurie turned over to her. It has become a popular tourist stop. The 1980s saw Laurie expand her range with the publication of her first book, Practical Magic: A Salem Witch’s Handbook. She also founded the Witches’ League of Public Awareness; an organization that is both media watchdog and civil rights proponent for witchcraft.

This picture from the Boston Globe shows Laurie in front of her shop, the Cat, The Crow and The Crown. You can still visit her first shop, Crow Haven Corner if you go to Salem today.

Laurie was dragged into the spotlight during the 1987 mayoral race after the incumbent, Anthony DeSalvo, made insulting remarks about witches and witchcraft. Another candidate, her friend Robert Gauthier, was accused of being a warlock (which, Cabot argues, is incorrect and derogatory; it means ‘oathbreaker’ in Scottish, having been forced upon males accused of being witches during the Inquisition). Cabot, says author Rosemary Guiley, “jumped into the race” to fight for civil rights and the misconceptions about witches. Her campaign received national attention but she later withdrew, citing book and business commitments. She served on the Chamber of Commerce executive board.

Through these events in her life, Cabot was perfecting what she calls The Cabot Tradition, which is a ‘pre-Gardnerian’ system incorporating her belief in science and “practical magic which adheres to the Wiccan Rede: Do what you will and harm none, and the Threefold Law of Return--everything one does returns threefold.” Witchcraft, she says, is never to be used to cause harm or destruction.

The Power of the Witch, one of Laurie's books.

Her most recent undertaking was the creation of Project Witches Protection, an anti-defamation organization which seeks to advocate on behalf of witches. She urges all witches to “fight for their religious freedom” and not to “hide.” After Practical Magic she wrote several more books; The Power the Witch and Love Magic (both with Tom Cowan), Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition (with Jean Mills and Karen Bagnard) and The Witch in Every Woman; Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create and Empower (with Jean Mills). Her website, www.lauriecabot.com, offers a glimpse of not only Laurie, but her daughters and friends, personal essays, calls for action, details on classes, workshops, Sabbats, readings and a list of “Do’s and Don’t’s” (i.e. Witches wear black because it “absorbs light information and helps witches be more receptive to psychic impressions and energies.”). It also offers glimpses and snips of her thoughts on political affairs, personal history and other concerns. Throughout her life, Laurie Cabot has been educating people, fighting for witches’ civil rights, defining her Craft and pushing for public acceptance of Witchcraft. This month (March), she will celebrate her 76th birthday and a life of service, study and sharing. Bright Blessings, Laurie!


Scott Cunningham
by Charlotte Bennardo
He left too soon.

However, before his untimely death at the age of 36, Scott Cunningham had written some of the most influential books on Magic and Wicca of his generation. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Scott and his family moved to San Diego where he made his permanent home. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author of The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, says he was introduced to Wicca through a book his mother bought, The Supernatural by D. Hill and P. Williams. After viewing a TV movie, and meeting a classmate practicing the Craft, he made it a point to learn as much as he could. By the time he finished two years of college, he had published more books than his professors, and dropped out to write full time.

As a writer, Scott used clear, simplistic language to explain the spirituality he felt and shared with the Goddesses and Gods through the earth and others. When he was a child, he displayed a fascination with plants, minerals, and gemstones, and many of his books reflect his interests and beliefs: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, The Magical Household, Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic, The Truth About Witchcraft Today, Divination of Beginners, Spell Crafts: Creating Magical Objects, and Magical Aromatherapy: the Power of Scent. And these are just a few of the things he's written!

Scott believed that Wicca was a neo-pagan (or “new”) spirituality, established in the 20th century, and not a continuation of ancient religious beliefs. He felt that even if today’s Wicca exhibits many aspects of the older Pagan Path, modern witches and seekers should forget about some of the historical and mythological connections, or “trappings,” as he called them.

It all came down to this, said Scott: the purpose of religion is to “…facilitate human contact with the Goddess and God.” He did not believe in secrecy, complicated rituals, or that traditional Wiccan initiation and formal practice were necessary. He wanted people to read as much as they could, throw out what didn’t feel right, and embrace their path.

Some feel that Cunningham’s “find your own way” philosophy weakens traditional Craft. Some even label his work as “fluffy” or “Disneyesque” because he wrote in a positive, affirming manner. He did not address the dark side, or the reality of death and evil. This, his critics say, makes his approach to Wicca overly simplistic. But this probably would not have bothered Scott; he encouraged the idea that only three things are required for successful magic: need, emotion and knowledge, and those are available to everyone.

He left us too soon, but he left behind a treasury of words, concepts and ideas!


Bethanne Darr
Interview by Katharine Clark and Natalie Zaman
A few years ago while leafing through the pages of Pan Gaia Magazine, Katharine Clark came across an ad for an interesting website--Wyrd Sisters. After visiting the website and being impressed with the crafts she saw, Katharine contacted Bethanne about creating some dolls.

The arrival of "Samhain Queen"--who bore a marked resemblance to Katharine's grandmother (and elder)--told us that we had found someone with a truly special gift. Sometimes magical lives are lived quietly; there are folks out there--maybe a neighbor, maybe a friend--that are doing extraordinary things. Keep your eyes open, you never know who or what you'll discover! While Wyrd Sisters is now defunct, Bethanne still crafts dolls magical tools and more between theater and tribal dance. Katharine and Natalie caught Bethanne between projects to talk about her work (please be aware that the use of Beth's initials are in no way an indicator of the nature of her personality or the quality of her work!)...

Broomstix: Describe your process (ie: someone wants a doll, or you get inspired--what happens next...) 

BAD: More often than not, someone contacts me about creating a doll. I've done surprisingly few dolls that haven't been commissioned pieces. Honestly, I haven't really done that many dolls at all! I definitely consider myself a beginning doll maker. If I'm working with someone to create a piece, I like to learn what ideas she has, including what features or characteristics she wants to give the doll. I try to incorporate those when I can. I believe the client and I create the doll together--along with the Muse, of course! 

Samhain Queen
Broomstix: When you're making a doll for someone, you seem to intuitively be able to connect with them to produce something both moving an unique. How do you make this connection? Is it something that just happened, or something you've been practicing for a while? 

BAD: Honestly, this hasn't been something I've consciously cultivated, but it does seem to happen from time to time. I suppose it's been most successful when I've been able to get out of my own way and to trust my instincts rather than second guessing myself or rationalizing myself out of things. I simply aim to quiet my mind and spirit, then see what arises. I truly believe the Goddess as Muse, granter of inspiration guides this process--although She can sure be fickle! 

Broomstix: What kinds of materials do you use? 

BAD: My primary sculpting material is called Paperclay. It's a great air-dry clay made from volcanic ash, wood pulp and other non-toxic materials. It's lots of fun to play with! To dress the dolls, I like to use pretty much whatever strikes my fancy! The remnant bins at the fabric stores are great to dig through, and so are closets at home; clothes that have been outgrown or are too shabby for people to wear anymore yield up great doll costumes! Ribbon is always lovely--lots and lots of it! Yarn, too. Leaves, sticks, moss--it's all fun to try. Lately, I've really taken to tearing and shredding up fabric and ribbon when I create the costume. I like the wild, messy look it gives, and it helps distract from the fact that I can't really sew at all! "Apprentice" (and she came with accessories!) 

Broomstix: Did you ever have any formal training? 

BAD: No. I've learned about doll making from books, Nature, and lots and LOTS of trial and error! 

Broomstix: When did you make your first doll and what was it? 

BAD: I made my first doll maybe ten years ago. She's called "Earth Dreamer" and I still have her. She's what I would call a "Spirit Doll"-- much less realistic than some of my recent pieces, more primitive. She hangs in my studio and tries to remind me to let my creativity flow, to be free and open to inspiration. Sometimes I listen. ;-) 

Earth Dreamer

Broomstix: Any advice for young crafters who are trying to hone or develop this ability? 

BAD: Do you mean the intuitive part? Or the creative/crafting part? They're not that different, really. Be open. Pray if you feel inclined. It has been interesting for me when I make a ritual out of art-making, calling on the elements to lend their creative powers to my work and asking the Mother to bless it. It's one way to sacralize our lives, I think, to make all we do a prayer, an offering, a celebration, a spell. Also, be KIND to yourself! Be patient. Mistakes happen--do they ever!--but it's all right. Keep working. Keep trying. Be open to the discoveries and lessons that only mistakes can teach you. 

Broomstix: Are there any other types of creative work/crafting that you do? 

BAD: Oh, plenty! In the past, I've made a variety of sacred tools, from obsidian athames and scrying mirrors, to wands, scepters, runes, jewelry, faery crowns and more. I've just returned to crafting ceremonial rattles, having fallen in love with gourds again. I think some gourd dolls are in the works, too! 

Reunited

Broomstix: How would you describe your path (spiritual) and how did you get there? 

BAD: I suppose these days I might describe myself as an increasingly eclectic, witch-priestess with a decidedly Dianic bent. I've recently discovered the term "Goddessian" and I like that very much, so I suppose I can add it to the string of hyphenated terms. :-) Recently, my practice has become more and more Goddess-centered, more spontaneous and intuitive, and less tradition-bound. I do come from a more traditional background, however, having received my Gardnerian 3rd Degree in 2001. I am fascinated by religion and enjoy learning about the many different wisdom traditions throughout human experience. 

Broomstix: What would you say has been the most magical experience in your life (so far!)? 

BAD: Oh dear! Is it too cliche to say the birth of my son? Falling in love with my husband over and over again? Watching the Mourning Cloak butterfly emerge from its cocoon the other day? I'm a just a simple country witch, really. :-) 

Crone Song

Broomstix: What is your favorite Sabbat and why, and what do you do to celebrate? 

BAD: Ooo, another toughie! Yule, probably, because it's such a lovely family time. We have a party with family, friends, and food. Even though our kids are big now, we still like to run through the house and turn off all the lights, return to the Circle, light the Cauldron, and then run through the house again, turning on all the lights and welcoming back the Sun. I also love the Spring Equinox very much, because Spring is my most favorite season. I love the promise of new green things!


Raven Grimassi
Interview by Natalie Zaman

Strega means "witch" in Italian--and the name that comes to mind when it comes to the Craft in the Italian sense, is Raven Grimassi. The author of many books on Wicca and Witchcraft (not just Italian-style!), Raven is also the directing elder of the Arician tradition, and together with his wife Stephanie Taylor founded the College of the Crossroads--a mystery tradition school that works to preserve ancient paths (Stephanie also co-wrote The Well Worn Path and the Hidden Path!). Add to that a huge research project, and a cross country move and you have one very busy, very magical person, but I was able to catch up to Raven and ask him a few questions about where he's been, and where he's going... 

NZ I have always loved the name Raven (not to mention the bird). I read that this is your pen name—how did you come to choose it? 

RG I have always been attracted to ravens since I can remember. This increased when I began to study the occult and found the bird held a significant role there. Later I had the opportunity to work with injured ravens and became fascinated with them. The lore of ravens and their trickster nature appealed to my own sense of humor, and so I eventually took on the name of raven. I also had some training with an American Indian group, and they gave me the name "Laughing Crow" without knowing my name as Raven. I found that confirming. 

NZ You're a first generation Italian-American (I'm second-generation, my mom's parents were from Italy—hopefully I got the generation thing right!), so this next “set” of questions is close to my heart:) You studied Italian folk magic and customs from a young age—was this in the family, or something you did on your own? If the former—can you tell us about a fond memory you have about learning at the hands of a family member? If the latter, what inspired you to find out more about this path? 

RG In family traditions people grow up learning "the things we do" without any real label. I learned various things from various family members. My relatives from Italy visited in the summers and I learned a variety of things about the Old Religion from them. These visits were always special to me, and I also learned more things about Italian culture this way as well. A conversation on any topic almost always led to talks on old lore and the revelation of some old technique of folk magic. 

NZ A good deal of the available information on Wicca and paganism is Celtic. What makes the Italian practice of the Craft different? 

RG There are more similarities than differences, and certainly the seeds of southern European witchcraft were influential in the development of Wicca. The popular Charge of the Goddess, for example, begins with a verse from Charles Leland's work on Italian witchcraft, which is the Aradia material. In general, Italian witchcraft involves an emphasis on the veneration of ancestral spirits and upon a variety of nature spirits. There is no "Wiccan Rede" in old Italian witchcraft, but there is a rule against harming the innocent. Innocent is defined as someone who does not provoke the witch. When someone provokes a witch, then he or she loses the protection of being an innocent.

NZ Any suggestions for how our readers—especially those with Italian or European roots—can incorporate (for lack of a better way of saying it, and please, pardon the pun) an “Italian Flavor” into their practice? 

RG I think that an emphasis on southern European deities will help along with the incorporation of guardian spirits such as the Lare (spirits of people related to us by blood). At the core, I feel that all Craft traditions are simply the cultural expression of the same beliefs and practices. So there are few true differences when all the dust settles. 

NZ When Broomstix was an e-zine we explored direction and location as a theme. You took a new direction with a a big move a few years ago when you moved from west to east. What inspired the change? What do you miss most about California? What do you love the most about your new home, Massachusetts? 

RG One of the reasons I moved to New England was to be able to live the seasons of the Wheel of the Year. In California, from a ritual perspective, you have to imagine the seasons more than you actually experience them. Surprisingly I don't miss California at all, but I do miss family and friends. I love the look and feel of New England. There is a vibrancy of the life force here that I never felt in California, at least not in such a tangible way. One of the primary reasons for moving to New England was the closer proximity to the annual events we are often invited to, and so in that sense it was a business inspired move. 

NZ The Well Worn Path, and The Hidden Path are among my favorite divination/oracle decks: What inspired these projects? Was it a challenge to produce them as a group effort (you, Stephanie Taylor and Mickie Mueller)? I love that both decks can stand alone, but that they can also be brought together—was that the vision from the beginning, or was it something that evolved? Will there be future additions to this system? 

RG The idea for the decks grew from a feeling that we (our community) could benefit from a system more rooted in Pagan themes. The Tarot is, in essence, a system based on Western ceremonial magic and Hebraic mysticism. As such we felt something was missing in terms of pre-Christian European spirituality. So instead of trying to make yet another "Witchy Tarot' or "Pagani Tarot" we set about the task of developing a system rooted in Pagan European themes. Originally we designed an 80 card deck, but the Publisher asked that it be reduced to 40 cards. So we separated out what we call the 40 foundational cards (in terms of teachings concepts) and those became the Well Worn Path. Later on, the Publisher wanted the other 40 cards, and so those became the Hidden Path (consisting of the 40 mystical concepts). The two decks have the same back design, are the same size, and are by the same artist, and so the continuity and compatibility are there. Therefore the decks can be shuffled together to make one deck (which was our original intent). 

NZ Any new books and/or projects in the works? 

RG Oh, I always have something in the works. I just submitted a proposal for a work tentatively titled 'Old World Witchcraft" which is about the commonality of European traditions. It is part history and folkoric and part Grimoire (note--this book is now available!). I am also just one chapter away from completing a compilation of the writings of Charles Leland in the subject of Witchcraft. I add commentaries and expand on his writings. (Charles Godfrey Leland was an American writer and scholar who did a great deal of research on folkways and folk lore. He wrote Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, a classic read for people on a pagan path.) * Since I first conducted this interview, Raven has had several books published--have a look at them HERE.

NZ We ask this of everyone we interview—what is your favorite sabbat and why? What do you do to celebrate? 

RG I will assume that my answer is the most common one - Samhain. In my own tradition we have an emphasis on ancestral veneration. Witches have always been associated with communicating with the dead, and so this season in particular is very meaningful and intimate. 

This is true--everyone loves Samhain! Discover more about Raven and his many projects:

Stregheria ~ A site devoted to the Italian Craft. 
Raven's Loft ~ Raven and Stephanie's online shop.
Raven's Author Site ~ www.ravengrimassi.net

You can also follow Raven on FACEBOOK and TWITTER


Get ready to soar!

Judy Harrow
by Katharine Clark
"I’ve had more adventures than I ever dreamed possible for a girl from the Bronx,” says Judy Harrow, looking back over a lifetime as a Wiccan.

Judy came to the Craft as an adult. In 1976, through pagan friends, she went to her first Pagan Way meeting in Manhattan. (Pagan Way was a type of introductory gathering at the time. Interested folks usually found their way to it via friends who were already involved.) After being initiated as a Gardnerian priestess in 1977, she became a High Priestess of that tradition in 1980. (There are various traditions of Wicca. The Gardnerian tradition was established by Gerald Gardner in England and was the first major British tradition to make its way to America. Many Gardnerian covens today can trace their roots back to Ray Buckland when he resided in New York. Visit Magical Lives from Midsummer 2007 for more about Ray Buckland.).

The study group she was running at the time developed into Proteus Coven, which still exists today. Judy also founded the New York Area Coven Leaders’ Peer Support Group, had a radio program on WBAI New York, and authored several books, including “Wicca Covens: How To Start and Organize Your Own.” Judy was the first Wiccan clergy recognized and registered in the City of New York in 1985, breaking the ground for others.

Judy Harrow and Katharine Clark
 A professional counselor, Judy’s passion was bringing the secular and spiritual worlds of counseling together. She wished the professional world to get to know Pagans as a people of faith, and the Pagan/Wiccan world to adopt some of the basic concepts of counseling when dealing with covens or groups. As she pointed out, other religions train their clergy in more than ritual. We need the same support information for our coven leaders and elders, of all traditions.With this end mission in mind, Judy chaired the Pastoral Counseling Department of Cherry Hill Seminary, an educational group dedicated to training Pagans in all aspects of public ministry.

Judy also wanted people to see that Pagans and Wiccans are not a breed apart from other folks, but real people with real jobs, contributing to their communities. Many of Judy’s daughter covens (those that have developed from her own in NJ) and their leaders have gone on to fill vital public service roles, as well as assisting the Pagan community. One even played a part in the government’s acceptance of the pentagram as a military grave marker.

I first met Judy in the early 80’s through author Rosemary Edghill. Although we came from very different traditions, at a time when folks were very protective of their roots and lineage, she was an open, accepting and enlightened individual, who took her spiritual path to heart without loosing the essential element of joy. When I told her I could not imagine being a “city witch” (she lived in NYC at the time), she sent me a ritual she had performed in Central Park, where she cast the Circle in soap bubbles. She remained that same person, a mix of academic scholar and instinctive witch, still working for the betterment of her fellow Pagans.

Hail and Farewell, Judy Harrow. We shall miss you.


Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith
by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman, photo of William Gillette painting by Natalie Zaman, all other images from wikimedia commons

As the card is flipped over, it reveals a familiar image: a young man in a medieval costume walking off a cliff. A little white dog barks at his heels. The picture is drawn in bright colors. It's The Fool--the card of new beginnings--one of the 78 images of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck.

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was first published in 1909

The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is the world’s most popular and well recognized deck of divination cards. How did it get such a big name? Rider was the name of the British company that first published the deck. Waite is the last name of Arthur Waite, whose idea it was to do a new and artistic Tarot deck. And Smith is Pamela Colman Smith--the artist and designer, a very interesting person that most folks know little about...

Pamela Colman Smith around 1912

Corinne Pamela Colman Smith was born in a suburb of London on February 16, 1878. Her parents were American: her father was a merchant, and her mother was an amateur actress. Sadly, Pamela's mother died when she was ten years old. Both of her parents loved and had deep family connections to art, writing, and the theater (Pamela is is related to Joel Chandler Harris who wrote the Br'er Rabbit Stories, and William Gillette who brought Sherlock Holmes to the stage). Because her father was often away traveling for his job, he sent her to live with Ellen Terry--a famous British actress. For the next five years, Pamela spent a great deal of time at the Lyceum Theater--managed by Dracula author Bram Stoker!--in London. She already had the art bug embedded in her DNA, but her time spent at the Lyceum got her really interested in costume and set design. Among her friends, she became known as Pixie.

When she was about 15, Pixie returned to the United States, to Brooklyn, to live with her father. Once in New York, she attended the Pratt Institute for Art. Here she was able to design the costumes and theater sets she'd been surrounded by in England--but there was more to Pratt than just art. The philosophy of the school was to educate the "whole person." This meant that teachers at the school passed on more than just painting, drawing and sculpting skills. At Pratt, Pixie learned that there was a spiritual aspect to art; that line and color and imagery stirred the senses and the soul--a lesson she would put to good use in later years.

A watercolor of William Gillette, painted by Pixie ♥

Pixie found her biggest fan in her father who introduced her to people and promoted her work. At just 19 years old, she had her first gallery show (an art show where only her paintings were displayed). Her watercolor-style drawings appealed to many people, and soon, she was in demand as an illustrator. She created images to go with sheet music and fairy tales,and she even wrote and illustrated many of her own stories and books--influenced by her travels with her father to Jamaica. 

Jamaican culture influenced Pixie's work--in fact, she had Jamaican ancestors.

Her work caught the attention of Irish writer William Butler Yeats. This was a turning point for Pixie--not only because she would illustrate some of his works, but because it was through him that she discovered the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She joined this magical order, which accepted women on an equal basis as men before such things were done. Members believed in a philosophy based upon Qabalah, astrology, Tarot divination, and geomancy (tapping into the divine by tossing handfuls of rocks, soil or sand and interpreting the resulting patterns). It was through the Golden Dawn that Pamela Colman Smith met Arthur Waite.

Waite was in the process of trying to revive interest in the Tarot and commissioned her to illustrate a deck of Tarot cards. He wanted it to appeal to the art world. While he is credited with the basic design of the Major Arcana (face cards), Pixie completely designed the images for the Minor Arcana (number) cards. It took her approximately six months to complete all 78 illustrations. For inspiration, she tapped into her experiences at Pratt, in the theater and traveling, but she also looked at other decks that were already in use: the 18th century French Tarot of Marseilles and the 15th century Italian Sola Busca Tarot.

The Rosy Cross of the Golden Dawn. What do all the symbols mean?

Pixie Smith never saw huge commercial success as a writer, illustrator or artist (she got many rejections--just like J.K. Rowling!). However, the enduring popularity of her Tarot deck is a testament to her artistic skills and understanding of divination--countless Tarot artists have based their decks on her illustrations.

What can you learn from the life of Pamela Colman--Pixie--Smith? Before she worked on her now famous Tarot deck, she wrote and illustrated folktales of Annancy the spider. Pixie's own life was like a spider's web--the people she met were like threads connecting together; they broadened her experience. Do what you love, pursue your dreams, and keep your eyes open for new friends--you don't know where they'll take you!

Starhawk
Interview by Katharine Clark
Photo by Lisa Levart
She’s part of the “Old Vanguard” of Paganism, a tireless worker for a better earth, and a prolific writer. Ever since the publication of her book The Spiral Dance, Starhawk has written fiction and non-fiction about activism, ecology, and the Craft. At the debut of the publication of her first children’s book, she took a moment to chat with me, and answer a few questions. 

KC: Your name is synonymous with your various books and eco-based projects. Could you tell our readers if there was a special meaning behind choosing the name "Starhawk"? 

S: My name came from a dream I had at a very formative moment in my life, about a hawk who turned into a wise old woman and told me I was under her protection. The Star came from the Star in the Tarot cards which represents hope and creativity—that’s always been my favorite card. I took the name on as my Craft name, and it stuck. Now I use it for most everything except my bank account, my passport and my criminal record. However, I’ve been completely stymied by Facebook who refuse to let me sign up as Starhawk—they keep asking for my ‘real’ name. 

KC: Everyone comes to The Craft from different angles and backgrounds. What initially drew you to Witchcraft? 

S: I first met Witches at the Renaissance Faire in L.A.--I had a Tarot booth with my friend Becky behind the Witches’ booth---we were about fifteen at the time and had started reading cards maybe a week before. A couple of years later I was doing an anthropology project for my first courses at U.C.L.A. and met the same folks, who came and talked to us about the Goddess. I was enthralled by the idea of a female deity, a very new concept to me, and also that they said nature was sacred, which fit my own experience. And that sexuality was sacred, I said, “Yes! This is the religion for me!” And that women could take leadership roles—in the Jewish tradition that I was raised in, at that time, there weren’t yet any women rabbis, cantors, or anything other than maybe a Hebrew School teacher. 

KC: From the time you wrote your much celebrated book Spiral Dance to the present, has your spiritual path changed radically? How would you describe it now? 

S: I would say my spiritual path has stayed pretty consistent over the years, kind of remarkable considering The Spiral Dance will have its 30th anniversary this year. Of course, I was about two years old when I wrote it! But I would say that when I was first involved in Goddess spirituality, the most important aspect for me was the empowerment I felt by seeing the Goddess as female and that female power could be beneficent, to use Carol Christ’s terms. Now, I’m probably more focused on the Goddess as representing our sacred connection to nature and the natural world.


KC: You've worked for years in the arena of feminist religion. What advice could you share, with both our young female and male readers, based on your experiences? 

S: My best piece of advice would be this: figure out at an early age what’s sacred to you--sacred in the sense that it’s what you most care about, what you don’t want to see spoiled or compromised, what you would take a stand for, and what you draw hope and renewal from. Then put your best energies at its service. Let that be your guide in deciding what to study, what work to do, what projects to take on, how to live. I guarantee that your life will be interesting, exciting and fulfilling. You may not be rich, but you’ll have your needs met and you’ll have the sense of making a real contribution to the world. And you’ll never be bored. 

KC: What things about today's Craft do you find encouraging, and what do you find disturbing? 

S: I find it encouraging that the Craft is growing, that there seems to be a new interest and hunger among younger women, that I have some old friends like Z Budapest and Selena Fox whom I saw recently at Pantheacon and after thirty or more years, we’re still speaking and supporting one another. I find it disturbing when people practice the Craft and seem mostly focused on the costumes and don’t get outside, get their hands in the dirt, and get in touch with actual nature. 

KC: Could you tell us a bit about your "Reclaiming" Tradition? 

S: Reclaiming began in 1979 or ’80 when some of us who were veterans of the ‘60s antiwar activism and early ‘70s feminism got together and decided to practice the Craft in a way that made room for our social conscience and embraced political activism. We also were egalitarian and collective in our practice--we had no ‘high priestess’ but made decisions together. Reclaiming has grown and spread and now embraces a whole network of groups around the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia--there’s even Reclaiming Witches in Brazil and Israel. We consider it a tradition of the Craft--and the three legs of the Reclaiming Cauldron are deep magic, healing, and activism. We have a set of Principles of Unity which can be found on the Reclaiming website, www.reclaiming.org. Our groups offer classes, rituals, and weeklong intensives, “Witchcamps.” Our style of ritual is improvisational, eclectic, organic, ecstatic, creative and flexible. I made a video of our Spiral Dance ritual which is up on YouTube, it’s called The Spiral Dance ritual and it will give you a flavor of what we do. 

KC: You've been called a "permaculture activist." Could you give our young readers a simple definition of "permaculture" and how they can get involved? 

S: Permaculture is a global movement and an ecological design system, started by two Australians in the ‘70s: Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. They asked the question, “Could we create human systems that function like a forest does, with minimal inputs of energy, where one thing’s waste becomes another thing’s food.’ Permaculture has three simple ethics: Care for the earth, Care for people, and Share the surplus. It has many principles and practices which can be applied to growing food or to creating organizations or planning cities—it’s not just organic gardening. I think of it as the practical application of the idea that the earth is sacred. I teach permaculture design courses--there’s a globally recognized 72 hour curriculum that gives you a certificate and we cover all of it and more in our Earth Activist Training, which also include a grounding in earth-based spirituality and a focus on organizing and activism. www.earthactivisttraining.org.

KC: We hear you are a big Harry Potter fan. What do you find of value, in these books, for our Pagan kids? 

S: The Harry Potter books are great stories. They’re fun, the characters are well drawn, they grow more complex as the series goes on, and they are just brilliant pieces of imagination. They take us into that magical world we all long for. Plus they are also great, sly satires on a lot of the aspects of the adult world that are oppressive to kids and grownups, too. The Order of the Phoenix, I thought was a perfect attack on control, fascism, and corrupt media, without ever seeming preachy.


KC: We' Moon published your first book for children, The Last Wild Witch. What inspired you to delve into children's literature? 

S: I wrote The Last Wild Witch because I was mad! I was on a tour in Canada, I stayed at someone’s house and read her kids’ books and one was some story about an evil Witch, and I just got angry. I thought, “Where are there positive books about Witches?” The next day I was on Cortes Island in British Columbia sitting on the beach and the story just wrote itself. That was about twenty years ago. But I could never find a publisher for it. For some reason Harper, my main publisher, was not interested. A couple of years ago, two women from Mother Tongue Ink, who publish the We'Moon calendars, were taking an Earth Activist Training and we got to talking and they decided to publish it, and so here it is! 

KC: Would you like to share a bit about the book's theme? 

S: “Once there was a perfect town where there was a rule for everything and a right way to do everything, and everyone always obeyed the rules…except sometimes. For on the edge of the town lived the last Wild Witch….” So the story is about how she brews her magic brews and when the wind is right, some of the wildness gets into the children and they don’t behave. So the grownups decided to destroy the Witch—and the story is about how the children succeed in thwarting them and getting them to accept at least a bit of the wild. It’s beautifully illustrated by a wonderful young artist, Lindy Kehoe, that Mother Tongue Ink found and I think every Witch will want one for her children and grandchildren and to keep beside the composting toilets for a quick inspirational read. 

KC: We know you have "witch camp" for adults. If you continue your writings/teachings for children, might we see a "witchlet" camp some day? 

S: Reclaiming has about twelve Witch Camps and many of them are now open to families and kids. Bay Area Reclaiming also sponsors a Witchlets in the Woods camp each summer that is a wonderful family camp. This year George Franklin and other Reclaiming teachers are also doing a Teen Earth Magic course--and there’s also other stuff happening in other communities. The Reclaiming website, reclaiming.org, will have links to all of these. I no longer teach all the Witch Camps--we just have so many great teachers and organizers that some years ago I became aware that it was time for me to step back and let others step up. And they’ve taken the work in wonderful new directions. 

KC: Out of all your achievements, what gives you the most satisfaction? 

S: It’s hard to pick one—I get one kind of satisfaction from writing, a different sort from teaching or organizing or gardening or doing ritual. I’m a lucky person—I get to do a lot of exciting and satisfying things with my life. 

KC: Finally, the question we put to everyone: What is your favorite Sabbat, and why? 

S: Oh, I’d have to say Samhain—we always organize our big Spiral Dance around then, and I love the scale of it, the music and the spectacle and circus aspects—we’re the only religious tradition I know of that has trapeze artists and stiltwalkers as part of the ritual. And then we have a smaller, more intimate gathering to honor the ancestors and do deep magic. And then comes Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, which in San Francisco is a huge procession of all kinds of people and costumes around the Mission, my neighborhood, ending in a park where people create fabulous altars. I love it!

The Enchanted World of Amy Zerner and Monte Farber
by Natalie Zaman, photos by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber
When he was just fourteen years old, Monte Farber dreamed that he would meet a girl with purple hair who would change his life. About ten years later when he met Amy Zerner, he realized that his dream--along with countless others since then--had come true. 

♥ Amy and Monte ♥

In the thirty years since that first meeting, Amy and Monte have been enchanting the world with their special brand of magic to accomplish what they see as their mission--helping people to access and use their psychic and intuitive abilities. How do they do it? Through oracles--special tools that are used to tap into the divine (God) for answers and guidance.

 "Intuition is a muscle, and can be made stronger from being properly exercised," says Monte. In other words, we all have this ability, but we just don't use it (or believe we even have it to use). Amy said that both she and Monte do daily exercises to stay psychically "in shape" and, Monte adds, "as you keep exercising your psychic muscle, the stronger it will get and you'll trust it more." But Amy and Monte don't just use oracles for their psychic work-outs, they create them.

An award-winning artist, Amy creates collage tapestries. Some are made for specific people either as wall hangings or beautiful coats (singer Patti LaBelle has one of these, as do Oprah, Martha Stewart. Dame Elizabeth Taylor collected Amy’s work!). Others can be found in children's books, like Zen ABC and the Dream Quilt, which Amy created with her mom Jesse. Amy says that, "my mother had always read me fairy tales as a child, as did her mother to her, and that greatly influenced my work and my life."

Some of Amy and Monte's books and oracles...

And then there are those that become oracles. Guided by her knowledge of astrology, (when she creates a piece for a specific person, she asks for their birth information to do their natal chart--a map of the planets and stars for the date, time and place of the person's birth) the Tarot, alchemy, Goddesses, culture, and most importantly, her intuition, Amy sits amongst piles and piles of scraps, images and beads and, piece by piece, paints a picture in fabric--you can get an idea of the many details, textures, materials and symbols by looking at the cover of The Enchanted Tarot:


Oracles, like the Enchanted Tarot, The Chakra Meditation Kit or their Enchanted Spell Board, require several tapestries, so the process can be quite long. Monte writes the interpretations for Amy's images. Together they've created many oracles; some are books, some are decks of cards, and others look like games. One thing is certain though. If you ask any of them a question with a clear and focused mind, you'll get an answer that you can use. That is the key to using oracles successfully, says Monte. "You have to believe that you're going to get advice that you can consider and use, not just be entertained by the pretty pictures assembling before your eyes."

 

So listen to your dreams and trust your intuition--an enchanted world awaits you!

To experience Amy and Monte's work, visit their website, The Enchanted World (www.theenchantedworld.com) with your parents and give one of their oracles a spin for free! You can also visit www.MonteFarber.com and www.AmyZerner.com to see more of their creations.






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