Friday, November 14, 2014

Article Number: 9894


Associated Press Writer

SALEM, Mass. (AP) -- Her eyes are heavy with black makeup. Her

dresses are flowing caftans of a satiny black material. And her

explosion of long black hair covers her shoulders and much of her


Laurie Cabot is a witch, if there were any doubt, and is more

than proud to tell you so.

A visitor to her house may be told of the jeers and threats she

endured over the years for her unconventional appearance and her

beliefs in the pagan witch religion, Wicca. Passing motorists would

shout to her children that she should be burned.

"When I divorced for the second time, I decided to live my life

totally as a witch and I didn't care what people thought," she

said, her fingers flashing 14 gold and silver rings. "And because

I began wearing traditional witch clothing, I had to make a living

as a witch."

Now she is a local celebrity, cashing in on her notoriety and

serving as a defender of others who share her beliefs.

Gov. Michael S. Dukakis proclaimed her Salem's "official

witch" in 1975 for carrying out civic good works. And lately she

has spent much of her time rallying protesters against the state

film bureau which secured the filming in Massachusetts of John

Updike's novel, "The Witches of Eastwick."

Ms. Cabot denounced the book as "anti-women, anti-Christian and


Despite an appearance that seems to confirm the broom-flying

stereotype, she asserts in a soft but insistent voice that witches

are not followers of the devil but rather decent, law-abiding

people you would want, and already may have, as neighbors.

Witches believe, she asserts, "Do as you will and harm none."

Pictures of witches as green-faced crones anger her and she

tells of marching into shops to rip up Halloween decorations. She

helped launch the Witches' League for Public Awareness in June to

protect her community's battered image.

In Salem, a historic town of 38,000 residents famous for its

17th century witch trials and where witchcraft now thrives as a

cottage industry, Laurie Cabot claims there are numerous practicing

witches. Throughout the United States, her "guesstimate" is

several millions.

The twice divorced, 53-year-old witch lives with her two

daughters, five cats and 22 Teddy bears in an outwardly

undistinguished New England frame "salt box" on a quiet lane down

from A Pig in the Eye pub. She holds court around a broad table

with legs made from the curving roots of a tree.

"They are very quiet people who don't disturb anyone," said a

neighbor, Kevin O'Neil, a former embalmer who is now an autopsy

technician for Boston's medical examiner.

Her hard times, except for a recent attack by followers of

political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, appear behind her.

The Anaheim, Calif.-born former night club dancer is branching

out beyond her herb and potion shop, tarot card readings and

lectures on psychic powers. She's negotiating her entry into the

home video market with hopes to become the Jane Fonda of at-home

Ć witchcraft instruction, she said.

Ms. Cabot teaches Witchcraft I, II, and III and other courses in

Salem and travels to New York City frequently to counsel Wall

Street investors at $200 for 30 minutes of her advice on what to

buy and sell, she said. She hopes to profit from a book she is

completing, "The Salem Witches' Handbook." But she accepts no

payment for treating people through what she calls her psychic


"I don't charge for healing but I do charge for everything

else," she smiled. Some patients come on their own, others are

referred to her by area doctors, she said.

One whose name she gave, Salem skin specialist Dr. John von

Weiss, told The Associated Press that he sent Laurie Cabot "six to

10" people suffering from warts since the growths were known to

disappear through the power of suggestion.

"I had gotten a follow-up on a few people and it was good,"

Dr. von Weiss said of the witch's wart removal record.

Despite her success, he stopped referring patients to Ms. Cabot

in the late 1970s.

Asked why, the Salem dermatologist replied: "The occult is a

pecular thing, you know." Then, after a pause, he added, "I don't

really want to give an explanation."

Her high-profile marketing no doubt has created resentment, if

not jealousy, within the witch community.

"She does fit the media stereotype of the witch. But I changed

my perception over the past few years," said Margot Adler, a

reporter for National Public Radio who researched a book about

contemporary witchcraft, "Drawing Down the Moon," and is herself

a practicing witch.

"Within the community, I think she has had a difficult road to

hoe because she has been perceived by some as commercial. She has

had more commercial flare. And anyone who does that in the pagan

community gets that kind of reputation. But we have had to rethink


Laurie Cabot persuaded her, she went on, by saying: "Look we've

been in Salem for years, on the front lines. Now it's perfectly

possible to walk the streets in a robe and pentagram (witchcraft

symbol) and feel perfectly safe."

"She has been fighting for the same things we have -- the

freedom to practice our religion -- Wicca," Ms. Adler added.

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