Occult #14: "Witchcraft Is Rising" in LOOK Magazine

Here, scanned in its entirety is an article titled "Witches Are Rising" by Brian Vachon.  I've never been into witchcraft or satanism myself, but the occult frenzy of the Seventies fascinates me. Enjoy.

The bank check was thumb-tacked to the door of the waiting room. "The Chucch of Satan, Louisville, Ky., sends to Central Church of Satan," the check declared in funereal script, this payment "for 15 souls."

The room was in front of the three-story, solid black, San Fran­cisco headquarters of the First Church of Satan. A coffee table at an ornate black sofa was a tomb­stone with legs. On the mantel, a small stuffed animal-a rat-stared down with an eternally frozen grin. To its right was the severed head of a bald eagle, staring nowhere.

On one wall of bookcases was a small label suggesting that per­sons caught removing any books would have their hands amputated. On the other three walls hung paintings, all depicting death and some un-nice ways of reaching that state, all signed by Anton Szandor LaVey.

After what seemed an intermi­nable marking of time, one of the wall bookcases slowly revealed it­self to be a door, and the large, broad-shouldered, demoniac Anton LaVey glided into the room.

LaVey has been called—to his sheer delight—"America's black pope." As titular head of the First Church of Satan, he has also been called a lot of other things. But principally, LaVey is a witch. He practices the magic of the occult -in his case, black magic.

His church, which claims 10,000 carefully screened members, spe­cializes in ceremonial psycho-dramas designed to eliminate all inhibition; rituals in which naked women are occasionally used as altars, and phallic symbols are shaken toward each point of the compass for benediction.

"There is a demon inside man," LaVey said with his basso at its most profundo. "It must be exer­cised, not exorcised—channeled into ritualized hatred."

This is the black side of witch-craft-"hedonism with control" in LaVey's Satanic church, but grim forays into the occult and the un­known for a growing number of un­organized black witches. In Cali­fornia, police report youths are found carrying ritual bags that con­tain drugs, potions, animal bones and occasionally human fingers. Residents near Western mountain areas have claimed to hear eerie...

...ceremonial chanting at night and on the following days have found skinned cats and beheaded chick­ens lying at abandoned campfire sites. In New York, Black Masses and voodoo rituals are openly ad­vertised in the not-so-underground press. In a small New Jersey town, two high school members of an un­covered Satanist cult were arrested on charges of murder. And all over the country, young zealots wlto have been dubbed "Jesus freaks" say their numbers are only begin­ning to draw even with the practi­tioners of black magic.

LaVey says he does not worship Satan, or even believe in his exis­tence. "But there is a Force—a Godhead or whatever you want to call it. It is a displacement of the energy of human beings that will become a malleable source of ac­tion for the magician-the witch."

If LaVey is the epitome of black witchcraft in America today, he has an apparent total antithesis who is also a very real witch. He is Ray­mond Buckland, Ph.D., a bearded, bookish, British man who lives a comparatively unheralded exis­tence in the quiet suburb of Brent­wood, N.Y. He became one of the country's original, orthodox witches nine years ago. (Up to 20 years ago, and for previous cen­turies, there were no admitted witches anywhere.) Buckland says his religion has traditions that go back to the dawn of man, and he in­sists that it is people like LaVey who give witchcraft a bad name.

Buckland recently quit a white-collar job with an airline to devote his professional life to giving witchcraft a good name, lecturing, writing and—last June-opening the country's first Museum of Witch­craft and Magick, in Bay Shore, Long Island, N.Y. He says the craft is a benign religion which empha­sizes that good and evil are repaid thrice within a person's lifetime, and that ritual and ceremony are used to heal, help and pay homage to the ancient gods and goddesses.

Each month, when the moon is full, several cars park in front of Buckland's modest ranch-style home, and half a dozen couples file into the basement for a meet­ing of the coven—the tiny witch congregation. I asked if I could at­tend a meeting. I couldn't. But Buckland did show me the coven-stead-a small partitioned area in the basement with a nine-foot cir­cle drawn in the center of the floor. He said his wife Rosemary—the high priestess of the coven—con­ducts the rituals, and he and the rest of the members assist-in the nude-chanting the names of the gods and singing ancient hymns.

"It's really a family religion, you see. It brings people together."

Between the extremes of LaVey and Buckland is the medley of new domestic witches—the explorers of the occult, the polytheists and pan­theists whose search for some kind of religious experience has brought them to the craft.

I met a bevy of witches in the,,,

...San Francisco Bay area—as di­verse in practice as they were in background. Roger, a former Shakespearean actor and English teacher, is now the spiritual leader of a commune deep in a redwood forest. He lives in a tree house and specializes in ritualistic healing that his congregation swears by. Audrey, a San Francisco social worker, zealous campaigner for social causes, and a magnificently decorous member of the local Episcopal church, says witchcraft has been passed on in her family for centuries. Judith, a voluptuous young mother, hospital worker and witchcraft instructor at the Or­pheus free university, told me her new religion gave her "a complete sense of peace and beauty."

Another male witch I met ("war­lock," I was told, is a Christian word) is a 30-year-old manuscript editor named Aden who started a coven of his own.

"A few years ago, a bunch of us began what was fundamentally an occult study group. There were 20 of us, and after a while we agreed we should have a real ritual cere­mony—traditional and in the nude. No one really knew how to get it started, but eventually one guy just started taking off his clothes and the rest of us followed. It was really fine—not an orgy at all, but a religious ritual. Most of us came away from it really glowing."

Aden's coven has been holding meetings, or "Esbats," fairly regu­larly on the eve of the full moon ever since. I asked if I could at­tend one, and this time, I could, if I agreed to take the coven oath. He assured me it required only that I be true to my own conscience.

The Esbat took place in Aden's four-room flat, and it seemed to sneak up on me. At first, young men and women seemed to be me­andering into the apartment, smil­ing, greeting each other and intro­ducing themselves to me—cheerful and articulate and fitting no stereo­type of "witch."

Suddenly, or I suppose eventu­ally, someone pulled the blinds across the front windows, some others started disrobing, and in a very short period of time, had I re­mained dressed, I would have been the only one in that condition.

The ceremony started with a cir­cle dance, all of us holding hands and rotating clockwise, then coun­terclockwise, then in a snaking trail around the living room, sing­ing a la-la-de-da-da melody hap­pily, freely and unselfconsciously. Every once in a while in the dance, people would stop and kiss—a quick, unsensuous smack on the lips, which is witches saying hello.

Then the oath was recited—a long litany of incantations to the lady, which contained nothing con­trary to Judeo-Christian tradition but nothing much like it either. Then followed a series of symbolic rituals: the "closing of the circle" with a young girl chanting as she walked behind us with a sword pointed downward, the elevation of a male and female witch to the posts of "priest and priestess," the passing of a cup of wine and the recitation of more ritual rhetoric.

After the ceremony was over— in less than an hour—we sat in a circle and ate cookies and melons and finished the wine.

"This really does give me a mys­tical experience, a feeling of one­ness with the universe," said an uncommonly delectable 16-year-old girl whom I had been carefully not staring at. "This is my religion. For me, it works."

There are no brooms to ride, no pointed black hats to wear or frogs to be turned into princes. For more and more young people, there is just an old, old-time religion com­ing to the surface for the first time in this country. In an anything-goes society and with a new do-it-your­self orthodoxy, white, black and gray witches have the freedom to practice a craft that had been tra­ditionally forbidden.



  1. Plus, Anton played a mean keyboard.

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1EXeurb4lI

  2. I heard LaVey speak in that mondo "documentary" Angeli Bianchi Angeli Neri and the calliope song was right on. His accent is straight carny (or state pen).

  3. So, I wonder what these people are doing today. What do you do after your dalliance with witchcraft ends and the bills still need to be paid?

    Thank you for another interesting post.

  4. I think he cursed the magazine, as LOOK discontinued publishing soon after...