Archives For The Official Witch Shoppe

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LC BookSeventeen years after the release of her last book, Laurie Cabot has returned to the world of publishing with a new title called Laurie Cabot’s Book of Spells and Enchantments. Produced by Copper Cauldron Publishing, her new book details the “nuts and bolts” of spell creation, including some of the recipes, rituals and secrets contained within her own family grimoire. In the book, Cabot also discusses the place of magic in life, a Witch’s apothecary, divine power and her own spell-making tips for both the beginner and lifetime practitioner.

Laurie Cabot is arguably one of the most well-known witches in contemporary American culture, outside of Pagan circles. In the 1970s, Governor Michael Dukakis honored her with the title “The Official Witch of Salem,” a name she accepted proudly.

Throughout much of her magical life, Cabot has owned and operated witchcraft stores in the historic New England town of Salem. Through those stores, she was able to do what she loved most: sharing the beauty, reality and power of Witchcraft. In 1973, Cabot opened her very first store, called The Witch Shoppe, and, as it turned out, it was one of the very first stores of its kind in the United States. At one point, she also owned the well-known Crow Haven Corner and, more recently, The Cat, Crow and Crown, which was eventually renamed The Official Witch Shoppe.

In 2012, at the age of 79 years, Cabot announced that she was finally closing the doors of the Shoppe. She explained to The Boston Globe, “The Witch City has dipped to the point where a brick-and-mortar store is no longer sustainable.” Despite the downward turn in business at its physical location, the store has maintained an online presence to this day.

During the 1990s, Cabot wrote and published four books including, The Power of the Witch (1989), Love Magic (1992), Celebrate the Earth (1994) and The Witch in Every Woman (1997). Writing books became another way for her to share the magic and joy of Witchcraft with new audiences and new seekers. However, after publication of the last book, she turned her attention away from writing to focus on other pursuits and didn’t publish again … until now.

We talked with Laurie Cabot about her new book, the current state of Witchcraft in today’s society and her future projects. At 81 years of age, she was enthusiastic to answer our questions and share her thoughts. Her passion for teaching and for the art of Witchcraft was very evident in her voice as she answered the questions. Please note that the conversation was not recorded and, therefore, will not be presented in a traditional interview format. 

After a 17 year hiatus, why suddenly return to print?

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

When answering this question, Cabot was very candid. She explained that writing books had become very cumbersome. She is not a computer user and, therefore, her books were all written long-hand with paper and pen in the old-fashion way. The task was enormous and, in 1997, she didn’t want to devote the time and energy into producing another one. Then, several years ago, she finally agreed to produce a new spell book because, as she said, “I had a wonderful person who could type as fast as I could talk.”

That person was Christopher Penczak. In the forward of the book he says:

…on a Beltane evening, while discussing the state of publishing, I suggested that she release a spell book because she loved sharing the majick. She agreed, but asked for my help in organizing it, along with her daughter Penny, and thus the seeds of the book you hold now in your hands were planted.

Cabot added that Penczak having his own publishing company, Copper Cauldron Publishing, “made it easy.” After the process was complete, she said, “I could have done three volumes because we have collected and created spells for over 50 years. But I wanted to do something that was easily understandable to all people.” The result of that collaborative work is this new book – a “how to” guide to spell making born from sixty years of Cabot magic.

The book is aimed at a general readership; not only Witches or magical practitioners. Why?

Cabot said, “There’s a little witch in everyone.” She believes that the science of magic is “what is vital” and, as such, “can be used by anyone.” She added, “Quantum physics tells us what we are doing is real.”

In the book’s introduction, Cabot says:

You don’t have to be a Witch to borrow majick. Some think you do, but I say absolutely not. Anyone can use majick. We teach the science and art of Witchcraft separate from religion, so you can be a scientific Witch. You can be an artful Witch too. And you do not have to practice the religion at all.

She went on to describe how she dervived at such a science-focused understanding of Witchcraft. She said that it was the “finding of science” within the spiritual experience that became so important to her development. As a child she had many psychic experiences, after which her father would always say, “There has to be a science behind it.” She said that it was those conversations that “led [her] in search of that.”

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Why the “j” in majick?

In the book, Cabot uses the term “majick” rather than magic or the popular magick. When asked what the spelling difference meant to her, she simply said that a “j” is used in place of a “g” to identify her particular system of Witchcraft with its focus on science. She has been using this spelling for over a decade.

What major observations have you made concerning the changes, beneficial or otherwise, in the practice of Witchcraft today as compared to past decades? 

When answering this question, Cabot focused on the retail experience, which has dominated much of her “majical” life. When she opened The Witch Shoppe in 1973, there were no witches anywhere. She said that the store was the only place where people could find a witch. Now, there are stores everywhere.

She said that, unfortunately, today, “it seems that people open stores to become rich.” She said, “You don’t become rich with one store. It may pay for the mortgage but you won’t be rich.”

Cabot also observed that the focus of modern Witchcraft stores has changed. In opening any store, her intent was always to “help people understand that Witchcraft was real.” She wanted to teach and share her passion. All her products, including incenses, spells, potions and oils, were handmade. She said, “I know the ingredients. I know how to make them real.” The store was an experience for the buyer that she created from her experience as a Witch.

Now, most metaphysical shops get their products from vendors. She laments this system saying, “the spells may not work. They may not have anything to do with the right energy.” This commercialization of the Witchcraft industry saddens her, and she added that people just seem to be “jumping on the band-wagon.” However, Cabot did acknowledge that the increase in stores has significantly helped with the sharing of magical practices, making them more widely accepted.

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

As awareness has grown over the years, Cabot has noticed a recent influx in the number of international students coming to her classes. She said that, just last week, 6 Brazilians flew to Salem in order to attended her Witchcraft 101 class at Salem’s magickal store, Enchanted. In addition, her online classes have been attracting an international audience. She said, “They want to learn the science,” which she thinks is “wonderful.”

What would you say is the most important legacy or message that you would like to leave for future generations, Pagans or not, as the Official Witch of Salem?

Cabot said, “I would like everyone to know that magic is real.” She said that there has been “so much propaganda.” She explained that, as children, we all know in our hearts that magic exists but we are told by adults that it is just imaginary. But it does.

She also wants more people to accept and learn the scientific aspects of magic. She said, “I want it to be used to better the world.” Then she added, “Isn’t that what the world needs right now?  A little magic.”

One would be hard pressed to argue that point.

Now that the book is finished and due to be released in digital and paperback formats later this month, what other projects are on the horizon?

Along with her teaching at Enchanted, Cabot has several new projects in the works. She enthusiastically shared that she is working on her memoirs. Although she does not have a time frame for it’s completion and release, it will be published by Copper Cauldron Publishing with the help of Christopher Penczak.

Cabot is also developing a Tarot Deck, one that she hopes to release in the spring of 2015. She said that it does not have a name yet, but the deck will be focused, as one might expect, on scientific and the numeric spirit in the occult system.

As the conversation ended, Cabot added, “I’m using my time carefully now. I want to make sure that I leave something for people to gain knowledge. I don’t know everything. There are people that know far more.” But what Laurie Cabot does know, she wants to share in ways that will foster a better and deeper understanding of the self, the outside world and of the art of Witchcraft.

On Wednesday the Salem News reported that Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official Witch, would be closing the doors of The Official Witch Shoppe at the end of January, bringing to an end Cabot’s 42-year run of owning and operating Witch-related stores in Salem. The Salem News piece quotes a message sent out by Cabot on January 6th, detailing the reasons why Cabot is stepping back from personally running a retail establishment.

Laurie Cabot

Laurie Cabot

“Here I sit now, reflecting on my life as a Witch, my goals, challenges and successes both in the past and what will be in the future. My goals have changed, my focus must now change to meet those goals and it is to that end that I have decided to gear my focus to our temple, the first ever temple of Witchcraft in Salem, the Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple, what an event! In 1692 people in Salem township were killed in the name of Witchcraft, murdered when there is no evidence to support they were even Witches or knew what Witches were, and now today we have founded our temple in its place! We are working to replace fear and hate with hope, love and majick. My goal is to is to see this temple flourish, I want to see us have a building, a real place where anyone can come and learn about Witchcraft, the science, the art and the religion. A place where you can learn about your Celtic ancestors, our Gods and Goddesses, where we can use majick and cast spells to heal the world.”

Over the years Cabot has run and operated four separate stores:  The Witch Shoppe, opened in 1971, Crow Haven Corner (now under different ownership), The Cat, The Crow and The Crown, and finally,  The Official Witch Shoppe. Cabot and her growing family of initiates and students oversaw Salem’s transformation from sleepy New England city with an infamous history of killing accused witches, to a massive Halloween tourist draw that now boasts a number of occult, Pagan, and Witchcraft-related businesses. During that time, Cabot emerged as a prominent voice for an emerging Pagan movement in the United States, was profiled in National Geographic, appeared in documentaries, on talk-shows (including Oprah!), and wrote a number of popular books on Witchcraft and occult practices.

At news of this shift in focus for Cabot, hundreds of Pagans and Wiccans have expressed their thanks for her work, and wished her well on the planned temple project. Noted author and Temple of Witchcraft co-founder Christopher Penczak, who was a former student of Cabot’s, says that “there was always a special magick to learning magick in her shop.”

“I’ll treasure the time I spent in this shop in the reading room chatting with her and teaching there after hours. I’m sad to see it go, but know it’s part of her evolving work to manifest a physical temple in Salem for the Cabot-Kent Hermetic Temple. With about forty years involved in a shop in Salem, it’s time for a change and I”m glad to see her making that change.”

Green Witch Amy Blackthorn, a frequent visitor to Salem, added “you can always tell what the ‘temperature’ in the Pagan community nationwide” by entering her shop.

“I’ve been following Ms Cabot’s work for 19 years. My husband and I vacation in Salem every quarter, and though I don’t go to Laurie for readings, she is always a dear to talk to. You can always tell what the ‘temperature’ in the Pagan community nationwide by going into ‘The Cat The Crow and the Crown’ because it’ll feature in the shop. No matter what Laurie sets her mind to do, especially with her new Temple, I’m sure she’ll do it in her signature way. Pickering Wharf will be a bit darker for her absence. I’ll raise a Wharf Rat in her name on our next visit.”

While Cabot has been a polarizing figure for some in the Pagan community due to her flamboyance and willingness to embrace publicity, it was also these characteristics that helped slowly mainstream religious Witchcraft, Wicca, and modern Paganism.  For all the black capes, conical hats, and impressive eye makeup, we shouldn’t forget that Laurie Cabot was named Salem’s “Official Witch” by then-Governor Michael Dukakis for her work with special needs children. At Cabot’s root is a willingness to be healer and a teacher, to endure years of scorn and ridicule so that today’s Witches in Salem can largely party with impunity.  As for the future, the 78-year-old has no plans to slow down.

“I will continue to teach; my classes on Witchcraft and Tarot are still very much available as are my physic readings and workshops. The shops phone number will remain the same and continue to operate for more information on classes, workshops and readings as well as online at the shops website which will continue to operate, more information will be provided should the fate of that site change.”

You can follow the progress of the Cabot-Kent Hermetic Temple, here. You can also keep track of Cabot’s work at her official web site. We here at The Wild Hunt wish Ms. Cabot all the best in her future endeavors, and thank her for her ongoing service to our community.