Friday, November 14, 2014

Article Number: 9894


By BARRY SHLACHTER



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



back.



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



anti-witch."



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



powers.



"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



that."



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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