Archives For Lori Bruno

SALEM, Mass — An October court hearing found Christian Day facing allegations of harassment by his former business associate Lori Sforza. Due to the timing, this brewing conflict must have felt like a golden opportunity to someone at the Associated Press (AP). Leading up to Halloween, the “Witch Sues Warlock” angle proved impossible to resist, and the story achieved viral status in short order. What Sforza, who goes by the business name of Lori Bruno, actually wanted was a simple restraining order, claiming that Day had been harassing her online and over the phone.

Downtown Salem [Photo Credit: MO Stevens]

Downtown Salem [Photo Credit: MO Stevens]

Some of Sforza’s more recent allegations surprised Day. After the Oct 28 hearing, “the world’s most famous warlock” told local reporters that he would give $10,000 to anyone who can prove that he made these particular harassing calls to Sforza from an anonymous number. It is this specific allegation that then led a judge to sign the restraining order against Day, forbidding him from any contact with Sforza over the next year.

The Wild Hunt spoke with both of the litigants, as well as a non-legal mediator, to understand how a falling out between former friends could lead to a court hearing.

What both parties agree on is that Sforza worked in one of Day’s shops, performing psychic readings, from 2009-2012. Day charged nothing to Sforza for the use of the space. However, they have quite different recollections as to why this was the case. “He begged me to work in his shop,” said Sforza, while Day maintains, “I was doing her a favor.”

No matter his motivations, their business relationship — which had included plans for a reality television show — ended, and Sforza opened a competing business. That’s apparently when the former close friends allegedly started going at it hammer and tongs, including (if the accusations they each level against the other are true) through proxies and on the internet.

The Complaint for Protection from Harassment, which Sforza signed on September 28, lists abuses she said had been heaped upon her by Day. These abuses included “cartoons depicting me in a vicious way,” ethnic and racial slurs, allegations of organized crime involvement, and “calling me the ‘c’ word.” Sforza is Italian, and identifies herself as an hereditary witch. She told The Wild Hunt that Day had also maligned one of her ancestors.

Day downplays — but does not deny — what he characterizes mostly as “snide comments” about Sforza, and said that the judge agreed that it fell under free speech. However, in an additional affidavit signed on October 13,  Sforza alleges that for the past three years, Day has been “calling my home phone up to 3 times a week from a private number” between 2 and 3 in the morning. The most recent of the calls, which were comprised of threats and obscenities, had occurred on September 29, Sforza wrote in the document.

[Twitter: @LoriBruno]

[Twitter: @LoriBruno]

Sforza’s attorney, Fiore Porreca, said that his client was more concerned with what she called disparaging “cartoons” — memes, really — that had been posted on Facebook. They used publicly-available pictures of her, with captions suggesting she is a liar or not a legitimate practitioner of the Craft. “They were out there for millions to view,” Porreca said.

He went on to explain that the phone calls only came up once he was retained by her, because he recognized that it was important. “My client has never been in court before . . . it’s not like she’s filed a million harassment orders.” Massachusetts law makes these proceedings informal, with no need for an attorney, so she didn’t use one to help her complete the initial paperwork. Once he learned of them, “I told her the calls were an important factor.”

According to Porreco, the judge directed them to file a supplemental affidavit on the day of the hearing, Oct 13. However, the actual hearing was then rescheduled to Oct 28, because Day could not be in Salem on that earlier date.  He now resides in New Orleans.

According to Day’s account of the proceedings, it was the phone calls that ultimately convinced the judge to sign the restraining order. That morning, the warlock’s attorney called in sick. As a result, he had to hire a new one right in the courthouse because no further adjournment would be granted. “All [this new lawyer] was able to do was rebut the plaintiff’s allegations, but not to prepare me to testify,” he said. “In retrospect, I wish I had taken a chance and done so, because the judge said he gave no weight to my side.”  However, he does not think the judge was in error. Day said, “He had 20 television cameras pointed at him, and a little old lady. What was he going to do?”

Regarding what befell Day’s original attorney, Sforza said pointedly, “I certainly did not cast a spell. He had the right to speak, as I did. He did not.”

Day said that he understands that his public persona may make it easier to presume him guilty, but that no evidence was presented. He freely admits to having made “saucy” remarks and said that he even drew an unflattering cartoon of Sforza once. But, Day said that the work shown in court was not his. More importantly, Day said, “Even my haters realize I am not the anonymous-phone-call type.” Calling himself “the Donald Trump of witchcraft,” he acknowledges that he’s “said a thing or two that people don’t like.” That includes an online spat last year that enraged many Pagan bloggers. “I never denied the mistake,” he said. “I own up to things.”

That’s how Witchdoctor Utu sees it. Utu is one of the “hundreds of mutual friends” Day said he and Sforza share. Utu once agreed to mediate between them, because their dispute was causing ripples in the community. He said that “they were inseparable” before the business disagreement. This can be seen in the many, varied public photos and media accounts of the two witches practicing together.

Christian Day

Christian Day [Courtesy Photo]

Over a period of time, Utu recalled speaking to each of them, hearing their specific grievances. He eventually secured an agreement from Day to stop posting about Sforza, which Utu said that Day has honored since July. However, Sforza “was less than cooperative, yelling and screaming” during phone calls which took place over a period of months. “All of these issues she had with him … from years ago.” And not once, Utu said, did Sforza ever mention the late night harassing phone calls. “If she had, I would have done my best to make it stop,” he said. Utu questions why she never mentioned them and never filed any police report about them.

But Sforza has remained steadfast in her position and claims.

Utu added that, he believes Sforza “doesn’t care about collateral damage,” including abuse heaped on people who appear at Day’s events. Utu understands that Day’s outrageous behavior causes him problems, but he said, additionally, “in the end people make [stuff] up about him. He’s the first to admit all his faults.”

There are many unanswered questions about this situation, but it is clear that its genesis is in a personal dispute between two people who, in Witchdoctor Utu’s words, “once loved each other very much.” Because the court action was seeking an order of protection, it was not a “trial” in the normal sense; the rules favor the alleged victim out a sense of caution.

As for how it may have impacted the lucrative Halloween business in Salem, Day himself expressed worry. But also said that his stores and books do better each year, whether the attention on him is negative or not. “Attempts like these never undermine my success,” he said. Nevertheless, he’s hoping to have a new hearing on that restraining order, and unless it comes around on the docket next October, it’s unlikely that his day in court will be picked up by the Associated Press.

wild hunt buttonToday we are starting off with a big thank you to everyone who supported the 2015 Wild Hunt Fall Fundraiser. Whether you donated, shared our link, told people about the service or any other effort, the Wild Hunt team is grateful to each of you.

It came down to the last few hours but we managed not only to reach the goal but to exceed it. While we do not have the final figures at this point, the total raised is pushing $20,000. That number is higher than previous years.Thank you deeply to everyone for making it possible for The Wild Hunt to continue its service with room for new growth.

What can you expect in the coming year? First…more of what you have come to expect. Our columnists will be returning on their regular days to explore and discuss the issues of the day. We currently have a full lineup of weekend writers including, Rhyd Wildermuth, Manny Tejeda-Moreno, Eric Scott, Lisa Roling, Dodie Graham-McKay, Cosette Paneque, Christina Oakley-Harrington, Crystal Blanton, Alley Valkyrie and our newest columnist Heathen Chinese. Both Valkyrie’s and Wildermuth’s columns will continue to be sponsored by Hecate Demeter, who has been supporting their work for over a year. And, new this year, Blanton’s column will be sponsored by CAYA Coven, whose organizers wrote, “In celebration of the wisdom and achievements of Pagan Women of Color, CAYA Coven is proud to sponsor Crystal Blanton’s Wild Hunt column this year.”

Also returning will be our two hard-working weekly journalists: Cara Schulz and Terence P. Ward. They will continue to cover the news as it happens, as well as broader news topics. Additionally, we welcome Yeshe Matthews as our Strategic Planning Director. We are thankful to her for running our 2015 Funding Drive and look forward to her continued work as a member of the Wild Hunt team.

But what about the growth? As always, we welcome news voices and interesting stories for our guest columns. We will continue that tradition and invite writers to submit pitches and stories. We also welcome press releases, letters to the editor and news tips. Outside of that, we will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the year and will announce any exciting changes in that process as they happen.

For now, we are taking a moment to pause hold this space and simply say thank you.

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1272196_1504315986498225_3499266264717747598_o-e1417450132408-500x447In Sept, Niki Whiting announced that Many Gods West (MGW), the Polytheist conference held in Washington State, would be returning. This week Whiting announced the event dates would officially be August 5-7. Additionally, the key address will be delivered by Sarah Anne Lawless, a professional artist, writer, folk herbalist and sole owner of the new shop Fern and Fungi. Whiting said, “[Lawless] approaches polytheism through animism, herbalism, and witchcraft. It will be an interesting contrast to last year’s excellent keynote.” The well-received 2015 address was given by Morpheus Ravenna.

It was also clarified that the MGW conference will be held at a different hotel than last year. Organizers say that it is “bigger and better.” But the location will still be Olympia, Washington, which is located approximately 60 miles south of Seattle. As reported earlier, the opening and closing rituals will be hosted by Rynn Fox of Coru Cathubodua. Registration and tickets go on sale Tuesday of this week. Whiting also added that further details are coming soon. For those interested, follow the Many Gods West Facebook page.

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As reported in several mainstream news sources, psychic witch Lori Sforza, also known as Lori Bruno, was in court this week to request a “protective order” against Christian Day. According to the reports, Sforza has accused Day of repeatedly harassing her via the phone and in social media. Day denies these allegations calling the conflict a “business dispute” gone wrong. Outside of the courtroom, he told reporters that Sforza is lying and has repeatedly called him names in public spaces.

The judge, who was reportedly was “dismayed by the volume of late night calls,” granted Sforza the protective order. But Day has vowed to appeal the decision. And, as stated after the hearing, he offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he had made all of those calls. The local television news was at the hearing and posted a short clip. We are currently working on this story and will have more details in the coming week.

In Other News…

  • Starhawk will be doing a book tour February and March 2016. She will be working through a speakers’ agency called Aid and AbetThe tour will happen just a few weeks after the official release of her new novel City of Refuge. Starhawk said, “If you have connections with an institution that might want me to come, or if you think you might want to organize something in your area, please contact Jen Angel:” Starhawk added that she prefers small bookstores and university settings.
  • The Luna Press has released its 2016 Lunar Calendar “dedicated to the Goddessin her many guises.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of the calendar’s publication. The first one was produced in 1975 and has continued ever since. Today’s edition includes 23 artists, poets, and writers. Publisher Nancy Passmore said, “The art for this year’s 40th cover is about keeping ones’ moon boat afloat …” and was created by Jamie Hogan. Older covers and ordering information are on the publisher’s website.
1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

  • Many people within our communities were interviewed by mainstream media during the October month. In article for Broadly Magazine, Ashley Mortimer, who is a Doreen Valiente Foundation Trustee and Director of the Centre for Pagan Studies was asked to comment on the work of Margaret Murray. The article, titled “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist who Invented Wicca,” discusses Murray’s life, her influence on Gardner and the problematic place her work in Wicca’s history. Mortimer concludes, “It actually does not matter whether, or to what extent, Murray was right or wrong or that Gerald Gardner made it up or not … The system that was developed works for its purpose, which is religious and spiritual development. And that, in itself, is enough.”
  • Wild Hunt columnist Eric O. Scott authored an article for the religion news forum On Faith. This article, titled “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Wicca,” was published on Oct 30. Scott is a second generation Pagan, who was raised in a Wiccan family. He writes, “The Halloween season invites many questions from people outside of Wicca about the nature of our religion. Some of those questions are things that even I didn’t have a good answer for, despite having been involved with Wicca since the day I was born.” Scott goes on to detail ten points about Wicca and its religious culture. The piece is unique in that it not only presents an un-sensationalized view point on Wicca within a mainstream media forum, but it was written by someone who has practiced the religion, as he said, “since the day he was born.”
  • Are you having Halloween withdrawl already? Go to Timeout‘s website and look over the dramatic photography from “Edinburgh’s Celtic Halloween ritual Samhuinn.” The twenty images show the Beltane Fire Society’s re-enactment of traditional rituals. As the report says, “Samhuinn is a riot of tribal drumming, pyrotechnics, body paint and symbolic, often violent street theatre.” The Beltane Fire Society is a “a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.” In 2012, writer Rynn Fox looked at the society and how they create these community rituals.
  • Finally, Pagan singer Misha Penton published her most recent music video, titled “The Captured Goddess.” Penton’s voice is classically trained and, in this video, she is accompanied by a solo piano, a viola, and the music of Dominick DiOrio. The song is inspired by the 1914 Amy Lowell poem of the same name.

That’s it for now! Have a great day!


[Photo Credit: Mark Sardella / Flickr]

SALEM, Ma. — An investigation into a heroin dealing in Salem resulted in the arrest of two men August 7, including Richard Watson, a well-known psychic and member of the Wiccan community living in the self-styled “Witch City.” Reaction to the story was swift. Watson’s church revoked his credentials, and people took to social media to condemn his alleged involvement.

According to the Salem News, police received information about heroin being sold out of Watson’s apartment at 100 Bridge Street, and made some undercover purchases before obtaining a search warrant and raiding the premises. Inside the place, they found Watson and another man, Javier Pena-Abreu, sitting at a table on which there was reportedly a pile of heroin.

Pena-Abreu is no stranger to police encounters, and was free on a $20,000 bail resulting from another heroin-trafficking arrest last year. He invoked his right to remain silent. Watson, on the other hand, cooperated with police by showing them the remainder of the heroin in the apartment, totaling more than two ounces. Police allege that $10-15,000 of the drug was passing through the apartment on a weekly basis.

This was not the first time that Watson, or his apartment, had been touched by less-than-legal activities. In 2007, during the so-called “witch wars” over psychic licenses in Salem, Watson arrived home to discover a grisly scene. As was reported by the Salem News at the time,

Richard Watson said he went back to his Bridge Street apartment on the night of May 26 to a disturbing scene: his roommate, Sharon Graham, dressed in black, surrounded by four young men, also all in black, standing around a jar. Inside that jar was the eye of a raccoon, police say. And in two trash bags in Watson’s refrigerator was the rest of the critter, which had been dismembered.

Graham was one of the people who later pleaded guilty to leaving parts of that raccoon on the steps of two psychic shops. Watson was a witness in that case, and claimed at the time that Graham had pressured him to not testify.

However, this time, it was Watson caught by surprise. He and Pena-Abreu have different recollections of what was happening when they were discovered at a table piled with heroin. Watson has asserted that he was allowing Pena-Abreu to keep the drugs in the apartment as a favor, while not profiting from the dealing whatsoever. Pena-Abreu’s attorney, at the arraignment Monday, claimed his client was only there for a tarot reading, and had no involvement with the heroin. Only Pena-Abreu had money on his person, although it is not clear if it was heroin proceeds or cash for a reading.

Reverend High Priestess Lori Bruno of Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church, where Watson was an ordained minister, issued a statement denouncing the news. She said, in part:

What I cannot stomach is one who would be a purveyor of death to the innocent. Therefore, after the news article I saw today and having also been directly informed about this, I and our clergy counsel have come to the decision to revoke the ministerial credentials of a trusted minister to humanity, Richard Watson. It is with much sadness that I do this, because I trusted Richard Watson to carry on the creed of our people.

I still hope that may be there is no truth in this, but as it stands right now, to protect our people, I have to remove him from clergy status. I hope that he is innocent of this, but should he not be, this revocation will stand.

Heroin is a growing problem in Massachusetts, and nationwide. The supply of the drug has increased since the United States took the Taliban, whose oppressive policies included a near total shutdown of opium poppy cultivation, out of power in Afghanistan. At the same time, drug manufacturers developed stronger and stronger prescription drugs to manage high levels of pain, many of which are opium derivatives themselves. The powerful prescriptions created more dependence among legitimate users, and also wended their way into the black market, increasing addiction.

Attempts to curb prescription drug abuse, together with the now greater supply of heroin, has led to more addictions and more overdose deaths. In 2014, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick declared this to be a public health emergency, with at least 185 suspected heroin deaths in the prior six months and 363 opioid-related deaths in 2011, the most recent year for which figures were available for that broader metric.

Courtesy of Flickr's jimmywayne

Courtesy of Flickr’s jimmywayne

Another Salem witch, Sandra Wright, had a somewhat nuanced reaction to the news. Wright is a third-generation Salem resident who is High Priestess of Elphame coven. Speaking only for herself, she commented to The Wild Hunt, “Wiccan priesthood comes with responsibilities” Wright said:

People of the Priesthood of the Craft of the Wise should possess leadership ability. Not everyone is cut out to lead. . . . and they need to display integrity, wisdom, and most of all, compassion. Compassion is the one that can be hardest to maintain, especially when lines are crossed. So I myself failed to show compassion to Rick Watson when this story broke because I believe that even though he claims he was just allowing others to deal drugs out of his apartment and that he himself was not dealing the drugs, he was allowing people to poison the community he claimed to serve. He was serving as a conduit for an epidemic that has taken lives left and right in this city and the surrounding area. And if he was actually dealing the drugs, he is even more directly responsible for ruining the lives of others, nevermind his own. And for this reason, I find myself hard pressed to offer compassion.

At the same time, Wright said, “my compassion kicks in” as a reaction to the Trinacrian Rose Church removing his credentials … and the local community trying to disavow him as a Wiccan. And, as for the broader community reaction, she observed:

And now everyone … he was close to is scrambling to distance themselves from him, and distance him from Wicca, because they don’t want to be associated with a drug dealer. They are making him a pariah because they don’t want the rest of the world to think that Wicca sanctions this kind of behavior. Of course it doesn’t! No faith of any value would approve of capitalizing on the addicted and afflicted. Anyone who thinks Wicca has anything to do with Rick’s decisions doesn’t understand Wicca. Like the Pensacola murders, the mundane media is trying to sensationalize the story by including the buzzwords they think will rile people up. Well, we are riled.

Another Salem witch and High Priestess, Penny Cabot had only these few words. “I feel that the shameful situation speaks for itself, no words are needed,” she said.

Watson’s bail was set at $50,000, but Pena-Abreu’s was set at ten times that. In addition, his bail in the prior case was revoked, so he won’t be getting out of jail before the September 2 status hearing in any case. We will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.


As the United States faces its worst housing market crisis in history, some are starting to rely on services outside the usual bankers, inspectors, and Realtors in order to ensure they are getting the best deal when buying or selling a home. The Wall Street Journal profiles the rise of spiritual house cleansing services, focusing on Salem, Massachusetts, and local Witches Lori Bruno and Christian Day.

“The foreclosure crisis has helped resurrect an ancient tradition: the house cleansing. Buyers such as Mr. Barletta are turning to witches, psychics, priests and feng shui consultants, among others, to bless or exorcise dwellings. Sellers, too, are adopting the trend to help move a property stuck on the market. […] Mr. Barletta heard about the pair [Bruno and Day] through his real-estate agent after his offer on the home was accepted. “I’m a spiritual person,” he says. “I just wanted to remove the negative energy first.” […] [Salem real-estate agent Janet Andrews] Howcroft attributes recent requests for house blessings in part to the economic picture here. She counted at least eight transactions last year that involved a house cleansing, compared to the occasional request in prior years.”

The WSJ article notes that foreclosures have been booming in Salem, and that house prices are dropping as a result. With the occult an everyday part of Salem’s culture, it makes sense that Witches would be employed. Since house cleansing traditions can be found in most religious faiths, there doesn’t seem to be much of a backlash against this new boom in the practice. The WSJ points out that neither Bruno, nor another local Witch who provides this service charge for it, with Bruno saying she doesn’t “want to live off people’s sadness.” That definitely isn’t a universal attitude among house-cleansers, and many are seeing opportunity for growth in this crisis.

“Elsewhere, others are viewing the rituals as a real business opportunity. Austin, Texas-based feng shui consultant Logynn B. Northrhip is teaming up with Scottsdale, Ariz., real-estate agent Jason Goldberg to offer a package of services to create better vibes in a home, either before sale or after purchase. The two met at a yoga retreat.”

Ever since the current recession hit, there’s been several news outlets who have done some variation of the “psychics do well in hard times” meme. This seems to be the latest permutation. Whether this new (or at least newly lucrative) industry continues once the housing market stabilizes remains to be seen. For now, whether they like it or not, Bruno and Day have become the faces of this trend. No doubt their phones/e-mails are going to be seeing some interesting messages in the weeks ahead.

The Salem Gazette published three Wicca/Witchcraft related stories yesterday, each one revealing different aspects of the practice of Witchcraft in the “Witch City” of Salem, and the different ways that modern Paganism enters the mainstream. The first article concerns a panel discussion taking place tomorrow featuring author/journalist Margot Adler and Pagan activist Jerrie Hildebrand.

“The city of Salem’s No Place for Hate Committee will host a panel discussion on April 12 that will focus on practices within the Wiccan faith and the everyday lifestyles of those practicing paganism. The objective of the event is to inform those in attendance about the religion, lifestyle and culture of those who practice Wicca while also touching on the history and its distinction within the Salem community.”

The talk will be opened by Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, a politician who has enjoyed support from the local Pagan community since she first ran for the office. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held Saturday, April 12 at 7 p.m. on the second floor of Old Town Hall, Derby Square.

The second story concerns the opening of a new Witch-themed shop called “Hex”. The store, co-run by Leanne Marrama and Salem impresario Christian Day, promises an “old-world folk magic” feel and approach.

Christian Day and Leanne Marrama

“A new witch shop in town aims to bring this form of old-world folk magic to Salem’s mostly modern pagan community. Hex: Old World Witchery specializes in voodoo dolls, spellbinding candles and European charms used to ward off evil. Shop owners Christian Day and Leanne Marrama, who both consider themselves clairvoyant, aim not only to supply the community with tools of folk magic, but also to serve as proverbial witch doctors, and practice what they preach…”

The ornately designed store is just the latest project from Christian Day, who has become a commercial force to be reckoned with in Salem. Running a tarot consultancy service, a psychic consultancy service, and a popular Salem festival.

The third and final story is a profile of Lori Bruno, a Strega Witch and folk-magic practitioner, who will be offering her services at Christian Day’s new Hex store.

“At 68, Lori Bruno considers herself a kind of real-life version of the storybook witch strega nona. Upon meeting you for the first time she just might call you little cucinella and invite you over for a cup of tea. She smells of warm clothes that just got out of the dryer, has long dyed black hair tied in a loose knot and wears 13 gold rings on her fingers. From her ears dangle gold ankhs and peace signs. Around her neck hangs an Egyptian scarab beetle. And above her kitchen sink, beside the coffee maker, hangs a large stone pentacle. Bruno comes from a long line of streghe, or Italian witches. Growing up in Brooklyn, her mother, a southern-born Italian, would give psychic readings to her Jewish and Irish neighbors, reading tarot cards or using a glass of water like a crystal ball to tell the future.”

These three stories help illustrate the ways that modern Paganism is slowly entering the mainstream. Through activism and education, through commercial ventures and public events, and through sympathetic journalistic profiles. Modern Paganism has utilized these three overlapping factors to slowly inch us towards acceptance since our emergence. Salem, with its large Pagan population (and Pagan tourist trade), represents a “perfect storm” of these elements.

In addition, the stories show how Witchcraft in Salem encompasses everything from the salacious to the sedate. You have practitioners in pointy hats and yards of black fabric wielding wands and brooms, and you have the more reserved wardrobes and methods of the Witches engaging in discussion with academics and politicians. Both serve a clearly defined purpose inside and outside our communities, and both are equally a part of the modern Pagan movement.