Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Aphrodite and the Craft

 For years now, I have struggled to find a way to balance the two dominant aspects of my spiritual and magical practice -- or rather, how those two pieces are perceived by others. I'm an Aphrodite-Woman (a Priestess, at that), and I am a Witch (and a fairly "loves dead things" type). These work for me. Together -- not as separate ideas. But how? And why am I always keeping them apart in public view?

I discovered myself as a spiritual person, as a magical person, through the Craft -- through Traditional Witchcraft. I was lucky to be right in the thick of 1734-Roebuck-Wyldewood Grove territory when I got my start, hanging out at Raven's Flight in North Hollywood. TLDR: My Craft is not a highly-sanitized neoWiccan eclectic "love-light-roses" sort of confection you might imagine of a person with strong Aphrodite ties. (Actually, if you've read my books on Aphrodite, you know I don't shy away from her dark aspects. She's a fantastic Goddess for helping us confront the Shadow.)

My Craft is Luciferian. It's heretical. And it's baked into my daily life, which is part of why it blends so well with the Aphrodisian gnosis I've had over the years. I live and breathe witchcraft, and Aphrodite showed up for me as part of my Craft training -- or at least during the early stages of it. It was Her standing behind me, empowering me, informing me, guiding me. Her holding up the mirror.

Within Traditional Craft, there are two Great Powers to whom Witches most often give allegiance (or with whom we find ourselves aligned). HIM and HER. 

HE is the Witch Father -- the Folkloric Devil (not to be mistaken for the Theological Devil of the Christians), Robin Goodfellow, the Light-Bringer, the Illuminator, Qayin. So many names and titles! (And I get that I might be seriously freaking some of you out right now, but take a look at what I've written about Him elsewhere for more perspective.) 

SHE is the Witch Mother -- the Queen of Elphame, the Maiden of the Greenwood, the Devil's Bride, Queen of Heaven and of Hell.

For a great many Witches, Hekate is the face of the Witch Mother. And I get that. I respect that. She is that! There's no denying it. 

But ... so is Aphrodite (and Astarte, Ishtar, and Inanna). She is the Morning Star and Evening Star, every bit as much as Lucifer has been. She is Ourania -- "Heavenly." And she has many epithets that link her with death, mourning, darkness, descent, and return -- all emblematic of an Underworld journey. (Her Middle Eastern counterparts, of course, are well-known for their Underworld descent and return, but Aphrodite's associations are obscured. We know she kept a "treasure" there in Persephone's care -- a cask of ointment that conferred deathless, ageless beauty. And we know the rituals and epithets that were documented, which I have written about in Aphrodite's Priestess and Cult of Aphrodite.)

Ishtar/Inanna has, at her core, stories that speak of immense magical power, which the Queen of Heaven gains by charming her (father? brother? uncle? depending on the regional origin of the tale) Enki (after getting him drunk) and convincing him to give her the objects and regalia associated with each type/portion of power/ability. I plan on doing a deeper dive into how Aphrodite's regalia are vestiges of these mes/parsus, at some point. But for now, let me point out that Aphrodite wields some fantastical power, is given objects of incredible power (like her zonai/girdle and that oh-so-famous golden apple), and she is clothed at the hour of her birth in a way that reminds me a great deal of Inanna/Ishtar coming back through the seven gates of the Underworld into the Land of the Living.

All this is to say:

Aphrodite is a Lady of Life and Death. Of Liminality -- between spaces and outside spaces. Of charm and bewitchment in the most classical senses. She is immense and furious as the ocean, and as gentle and soft as a rose petal -- each in turn, and not always when you expect them. For me, hers is the face of Elphame. She is both Light and Dark.

So why work so hard to keep the Craft out of my Aphrodite web-presence (and vice-versa)?

Because for the 20+ years I've been working with her, some people's brains break just a little when I talk about both in the same breath. It happens less on the witchy side, but sometimes it still happens. And a lot of Aphrodisian folks haven't felt ready for conversation. I've gotten a LOT of side-eye from Goddess community and Aphrodite devotees when I mention my blended practice. 

So I have cultivated two brands. "Aphrodite's Priestess"/Laurelei Black and "Blade & Broom"/L. Black. But I want to do a little exploring of the intersection of Aphrodite and Craft, because it is there, and I can't be alone. (I wasn't alone when I started writing about working with her in a strictly spiritual context, so I'm sure I'm not alone now that I'm ready to talk about the magic, too.)

Let me know if this is something you're interested in. Or if you're already embracing Aphrodite in your Craft! 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Tactical Withdrawal ... er, Retreat

My beloved annual Women's Goddess Retreat -- which held its first event in 2009 -- is a sacred pilgrimage for me. An act of cleansing in the holy waters of rebirth. I am washed there at the end of every summer with the saltwater of sanctified tears, blessed by a circle of women who are my Soul's Sisters. If ever there was a year that I needed to get away from the day-to-day stressors and just be among my Sister-Goddesses, 2020 has proven to be that year. And yet, with the cruelest sense of bitter irony, this is the year when joining together at our beloved Camp Midian could have been the most unwise. 

I'm not really up for the Great Mask Debate or the "Maybe We Could Have Spaced Out Far Enough to Be SAFE -- maybe sorta" speculation. Just, no. We gather in August in the Midwest in a shady spot under the trees (so we don't burst into flame or great drenched by downpours) with about 35 of us in a 20'x40' open air pavilion. We spend 3 days and 2 nights there, laughing, crying, singing, and sometimes therapeutically shouting and shrieking. Aerosolized droplets are a thing. Move us anywhere else and nature would overwhelm us (me). Spread us out, and we can't hear each others' quiet confessions, can't feel each others' tender revelations, can't see each others' heartfelt empathy from across the Circle that is our container. And then, what was the point of having risked the contact -- if we didn't make real, true contact?

And honestly, I know we would have flung all barriers aside if we had come together. We would have hugged and held each other. We ached for it. Still ache for it. We're all mourning it, even now. 

BUT! This isn't a post about the retreat that didn't happen! This is a post about the retreat that DID!

We didn't so much retreat into the woods this year, as made a tactical withdrawal -- into bedrooms and offices and sheds and whatever undisturbed nooks or slightly ignored crannies we could find in our homes for a "VR-WGR" (the virtual/online Women's Goddess Retreat). 

Utilizing MS Teams (currently free project management software), we had our traditional Opening, Closing, and Great Goddess Circles, as well as 4 other Goddess Circles (each with their own lessons and activities), and 5 video calls at scheduled intervals to give everyone an opportunity to check in and chat. Some of us chatted and had video calls in the in-between times, too. We even set up virtual merch space.

I needed it. We all needed it. I know others who didn't partake needed it (despite being unable to join for whatever reason), and I plan to make more online retreats available in the future. We all got so much out of the format. Online retreats will never fully replace my own need to dive into the cleansing waters of renewal and rejuvenation that I get from my long-standing local community, nor will it for others who have that strong local bond. But I am so encouraged by the opportunity to bring something of real substance to people looking for the sort of deep work, real connection, and authentic experience that they know must exist but haven't been able to find near them. (This is what I am passionate about, in terms of event creation, you guys!)

So this year, I tactically withdrew to the bedroom my daughter recently vacated and strategically plugged in -- instead of retreating to the woods and completely un-plugging. And it worked! I got what I needed. I am renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

All of Me

Real honesty time. I've had a hard time writing (and actually connecting on social media) since about 2016. There are a few interwoven reasons for that. The still-rippling trauma of my divorce in 2015 and the re-shuffling of priorities the following fall/winter are the big ones that spring to my mind, but the ultimate is that I have felt myself split and isolated. 

I've made no secret about the fact that I have anxiety, and like the character in this Tarot deck (Enchanted Tarot by Farber/Zerner), I have overthought -- and then become paralyzed with inaction over how readers view my brand. My BRANDS -- multiple. How my work will be received. How I can present all of that in a way to attract people who want to hear what I have to share. (And just let me say before I go any further ... blech. I legit HATE the marketing aspects of being an indie writer. The fact that I have to spend ANY time thinking about any of this dulls my shine just a little. I just want to write what moves me, and have it be found by people who would find it useful and moving. But that's not how the algorithms work. So ... marketing.)

When I first started writing and publishing, I was doing so as "Laurelei Black: Aphrodite's Priestess" -- and that is the work that drew readers to me. It was what made me different, special. It was my niche. I presented at festivals on topics related to Love Goddesses, sacred sexuality, and sex magic, and I got heavily involved with Babalon Rising (eventually becoming a Director). Khaire!

But ... I'd been practicing Traditional Witchcraft for  almost ten years already before I ever published about Aphrodite -- and working with Her for most of that time within both Craft and Hellenic models. I'm a Witch, folks, and not a particularly sugar-coated one (however "soccer-mom, Barbie doll" I may present). My path is Luciferian in nature -- as I seek enlightenment, empowerment. Gray path -- neither White, nor Black. Crooked path-- neither entirely Right Hand, nor entirely Left. I work with Spirits -- heavily. 

To that end, I've also published about the Craft, and done plenty of presenting from a Trad Craft model. I even now have a very witchy YouTube channel -- not to mention the glorious Book of Shadows pages I've been writing and selling  ages. (Super good reviews, if you're in the market.)

Never, at any point in my practice, have I left the Crooked Path of the Witch. However, I have agonized over not confusing or turning off one set of readers by over-exposing them to the other side of me. The other brand. The other Laurelei. (I've gone so far as to publish my witchy fiction under a pseudonym -- Delilah Temple -- which I will certainly maintain, just so bots and the very general public can handle it.) I feared that Aphrodisian readers would find Witchy Laurelei too frightening and dark, and Witchy readers would find Aphrodisian Laurelei too light and airy. 

Really, though, the division is stifling, time-consuming, and mostly a product of me reading too fucking much about marketing and branding from Pinterest gurus and Instagram experts (who may only have more followers than me because they paid for them). There are things I like about the visual concepts of "branding," but my personality and my Self are not so cleanly split. Yours aren't either, right? You like more than one thing. You have more than one aesthetic. Same here.

I've chosen a look for my shop (Blade & Broom), and I've chosen a look for my own personal web presence; but the person behind all of it is still me. And I, Laurelei, love both the color pink AND talking to certain demons. I resonate deeply with all the shades of copper verdigris and also have a deep affinity for bone collection. I giggle, scrunch my nose, laugh at my own jokes, go batshit over bunnies, flirt like I'm breathing, and curse a person five different ways for harming my Family. I grow healing herbs and talk to the Dead. I am more than one thing. 

I know what the core of my magic is. Who I am as an eternal being. I don't know that social media gets to have that from me fully, but if I can figure out how to share that -- as a way to connect more authentically with people who genuinely wish to connect in return -- I will do so. Because that remains my hope, really. That's why I write, present, teach.

To Be. To Share. To Connect.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Divorce, Relocation ... Pandemic!

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on?

Seriously, I pretty much abandoned all my blogs when Glaux (Natalie) and I divorced back in 2015, and I feel like I owe my readers an apology. I'm sorry, folks. The road got wonky, and I laid down some of the load for a while. I hope you'll walk along with me as I carry on. 

My husband (Joe -- the other partner in our then-poly triad) and I turned our attentions for a couple of years almost entirely to relocation to another city, grounding ourselves in work and my kids' schooling, and seeing ourselves move from "surviving to thriving." I continued to write -- just not on the blogs (this one and AFW Craft -- which is now an archive, as she and I have gone in slightly different directions with the Tradition and are keeping our work separate). 

What have I been writing? So glad you asked!

Back in 2012, we put out a set of Book of Shadows pages in my Etsy shop that were pulled from writing we had each done for the AFW blog, as well as some staples from grimoire lore.  We led with 100 BoS pages back then -- available in print versions. I've expanded that set to over 630 pages (now available in PDF form) -- all my own writing. I've even gone back and replaced Nat's writing and graphics, which was an agreement we came to after the divorce. Nor am I finished yet! I have a grand total of about 1,100 pages planned. (This was Joe's idea, that Nat initially curated from our combined work, and that I have continued to manifest in BIG ways. I continue to be proud of it -- and grateful for it.)

I also released To Call Ye Forth (Witches' Rune, book 1) since my last post. That was the novel I was working on. It's good (and affordable)! You should totally check it out! 

My grieving process from the divorce has been intense, though, and it has made writing harder than usual for me. Non-fiction has been easier. BoS pages (as well as the Red Thread Academy Foundations course, which I also made available about a year ago) have been easier to complete than baring my soul in fiction.  But really, even writing about the Craft tradition we created together opens wounds and feels intimate and dangerous in a way I have a hard time defining.

Add to these feelings the fact that I have been helping to run a Pagan festival space/community since 2014 (which always presents its own set of intense interpersonal dramas and logistical nightmares), raising teenagers (on graduated 2018, the other is due to graduate 2021), was the president of the PTSA for two years, found my perfect "real-world" career only to have my employer file bankruptcy while I was on vacation in 2018, for which my response was to start my own business doing the same work in 2019 (with stunning success, I might add ... except now there is a pandemic! (And I can't complain too loudly, because my writing and my business  -- and Joe's job -- have given my family a cushion. We're going to be okay, even if my little business doesn't recover from the pandemic.)

But ... it's been a lot. And I let things slip. 

Not my actual practice.

I'm still sorcerous as fuck. I'm still talking and working with Spirits daily. I still move in the Unseen. I just haven't been blogging.

I'm ready, though. I have so much to write, and I'm anxious and angsty about the quality (low/toxic) and quantity (high) of interaction on much of social media. So, I am going to focus my own efforts on creating and sharing. (Not so much THIS from now on. This "let me catch you up" BS. No. I want to share actual substance.)

Hope you're around for the ride, friend. I'm ready to dust this ass off and get back in the saddle. Let's go.

Monday, December 28, 2015

55 Questions to Ask Before Opening a New Event

Event organization is an act of MAGIC!

A friend of mine from the festival community asked me and a few other event organizers what he ought to think about as he plans for a brand new event he is thinking of arranging. I've helped other friends with this, but I'd never made a list of basic questions -- until today.

These are the starting point. You will find others that are particular to your event, your venue, your community, your helpers, your state and its laws, etc.

Start with the venue. Do some fact-finding from your potential locations before you commit so you can get an idea of what your expenses and staffing needs are going to look like. 

1.       What does their fee structure look like?
2.       Do you get any free admissions that you can use for organizing staff or special guests?
3.       Do they handle registrations, or do you need to provide staff, cash to start the till, forms, waivers, etc?
4.       How is parking handled?
5.       Is sanitation included?
6.       Who is doing maintenance of the bathrooms/portajohns?
7.       Who is doing the maintenance for the showers?
8.       Do you need to purchase supplies for bathroom and shower maintenance?
9.       How is trash collection handled?
10.   Is there a fee for a dumpster pick-up?
11.   Is there food available onsite?
12.   If not, can food vendors easily set up?
13.   Are there grills, campfire rings, or a community kitchen for attendees to prepare their own food?
14.   Does the facility charge extra money for vendors?
15.   How many vendors can the site hold?
16.   What are the accommodations for disabled persons? (This includes ramps, handrails, and electricity for assistive devices, just to name a few.)
17.   How are the bonfires handled?
18.   Do they provide staff, or are you expected to bring your own firetenders?
19.   What about security staff and first aid staff?
20.   What are their requirements for people you provide who staff those areas? (special training, certifications, etc)
21.   Do you pay a fee for safety personnel, or are is their fee waived?
22.   What is included in venue’s overnight facilities? (primitive camping, electric and water, cabins?)
23.   What might your attendees need to bring with them?
24.   What do the presentation and performance areas provide in terms of space and equipment?
25.   Do you need to bring additional tents or structures to accommodate your vision?
26.   Are there are features of the venue that might be hazardous?
27.   Are pets allowed by the facility?
28.   Do you want to allow pets?
29.   If so, what are your rules regarding their supervision? (Tags, shots, leashes, poop, behavior)
30.   Are children attending?
31.   Are they allowed to attend with someone who isn’t their parent/guardian?
32.   Do you need wristband or tickets with stubs or badges (some way to identify people)?
33.   Does the facility provide those identifiers, or do you need to arrange printing?

The answers to these questions aren't as obvious as they might appear at first glance. You can't assume that anything is included. Joe and I have been responsible for every aspect of the above questions for Babalon Rising at both of our locations. Midian has a certain level of staff that CAN be available, but they can also bugger off if a festival doesn't need them. Chrysalis Moon, for example, came to Midian with all their own staff -- from gate to maintenance to security to first aid and beyond. We had our own people in the kitchen (because that’s how we run it), some of our firetenders stepped in to cover Midian’s basic requirements for fire safety, and we had a couple of Midian directors onsite to be a resource for the festival organizers. Other facilities may handle things differently, and very little is “standard” in this industry.

If you have an idea for an event, there are probably a few things you already know you need to cover. If you've ever presented or performed at an event, a few other logistical concerns will be evident. I'm going to assume that you're starting from scratch, though. You have a vision and a location. Here's what you need to think of next:

34.    How many and what sort of performances and workshops do you want?
35.   Are you working around a theme or concept?
36.   Is there a flow or feel you want?
37.   Who is communicating that line-up, flow, and culture/atmosphere to the presenters and performers?
38.   Who is communicating those things to the attendees?
39.   Are you providing a printed copy of the schedule?
40.   Are you providing a mobile version of the schedule?
41.   What about maps of the facility highlighting various event locations?
42.   Do any of the presenters or performers require payment?
43.   Do they need you to provide lodging, food, and travel?
44.   Do they have special needs based on their health?
45.   What set-up time, assistance, and equipment do they all need?
46.   Will they have a point of contact once they're at the event?
47.   Do you have someone who can fill in if someone doesn't show? (Someone ALWAYS bails at the last minute.)
48.   If children are attending, do you have activities for them?
49.   Are you providing supervision for the kids, or are their parents solely responsible for their entertainment and safety?
50.   How do you intend to handle children who break the rules of the facility or event?

Most start-up events don't have great methods of receiving feedback from all the stake-holders, but feedback is critical if you intend to hold your event on a recurring basis. It’s better to consider it from the beginning, working it into the fabric of the event, rather than tacking it on as an afterthought after they’ve gone home. 

51.   What can the performers and presenters help you improve?
52.   What did the attendees love and hate in terms of facilities, content, etc?
53.   What did you staff notice working well or working poorly?
54.   What blind-sided you?
55.   What criteria are you using to determine that you were successful?

Most small, first time events consider themselves a rousing success if they stay in the black in the ledger, and that is valid. But maybe you don't care about that. Some folks care more about a particular aspect of the experience. Figure out a way to measure what matters to you.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Call for Beta Readers -- Urban Fantasy (with sneak peek)

I'm finishing up the first draft of To Call Ye Forth, the first installment in the Witches' Rune series; and I need your help!

Synopsis: Summoning a long-dead Witch King to be a real-world lover and protector was easy for Rose and her covenmates. Overcoming a murderous dark coven while dodging a fanatical minister and his rabid congregation may present more of a challenge.

 I am looking for beta-readers for this urban fantasy novel. (It has some paranormal romance features, but the love story isn't the primary focus.)

If you want to beta-read this story for me, please email me I'm looking for readers who are fans of this genre, and I would be doubly excited to have readers who are ALSO writers. I'll be looking for feedback, and I'll provide a questionnaire to help you with that. You'll get a PDF copy to work with.

Now for your sneak peek. I've already posted an excerpt at my NaNoWriMo account that you can read. So, how about something different. This is a full chapter (before the mid-way mark):

There are more Pagan and Witches in Indianapolis than you’d think. Hell, there are more in my little bedroom community than you might guess. I know of at least three, not counting Grace and me. She had met several when she worked at the local library before making the move to give Tarot readings in Indy. A library patron would recognize her triskelion necklace or the Goddess charm on her bracelet and ask in hushed tones if she was like them. A Pagan.
            The code, before our time, had been to ask, “Are you in the family?” If the person in question looked confused and asked which family you meant, you could always play it off like you thought they were a second cousin you had seen at last year’s reunion. If they knowingly said that yes, yes they were in the family, you both knew you’d found a brother or sister witch. Anyone overhearing this exchange thought nothing about it.
            Because witchcraft had come so far into the light of day, into a tentative public acceptance, this custom and the caution it bespoke have been all but lost. Now that we are feeling a little heat again, we are caught midway between the broom closet and the courthouse lawn. Hundreds of us were standing together with local ministers of liberal denominations. Hundreds of us. That was still hundreds less than I saw at our last Pagan Pride Day.
            Most of the time you can’t tell a witch from a Baptist or a Catholic or a Mormon by her clothes. We look like soccer moms and dentists and attorneys and telemarketers because that’s exactly what we are. Well, some of us. Others are a little more non-traditional in both profession and appearance. Psychics, herbalists, midwives, life coaches sporting shawls and fringe and patchwork. A few of the “witches” assembled at the courthouse were wearing pointy hats and cloaks, leaning on tall staffs with crystals on the ends. These folks always made me groan a little. I never knew if they were real adherents of the old ways who were also very flamboyant and silly, or if they were mildly delusional, socially awkward coots who simply reveled in being odd.
            We had the whole spectrum out for the rally. I was making my way from the table of free coffee to where I saw Robin and Evaline. My progress was slow, as friends I normally only saw once or twice a year at Pagan Pride and the annual charity ball said hello and gave me hugs.
Robin and Evaline were in the thick of the crowd, very near a loud woman in her late-fifties who was directing the show. She was holding a sign that read “Harm None.” Two other women about her age were passing signs out to newcomers. I knew the leader from the local shop I use for hard-to-find spell supplies.
            “Alright everyone,” she shouted to the assembled group. “I want to thank all of you for coming out to support the Indy Wiccan Alliance and the Heartland Inter-Faith Ministers Coalition in showing the media and the justice system who we are.”
            There was only one news crew on hand today, it seemed. I guess a plea for peace and reason isn’t as newsworthy as a sensational murder.
            “We are joined by Allison Sheffield of the Covenant of Solitaires, the group to which Sondra Little belongs,” the rally leader explained. “Together, we can show this city, this state, and this country that Wiccans are peaceful, productive, non-violent members of this and every community in the U.S. The central ethical belief in Wicca is the Rede. It says, ‘An it harm none, do what thou wilt.’ A Wiccan wouldn’t murder. A Wiccan doesn’t do harm. Our local police need to look elsewhere for their murderers. Sondra Little is innocent.”
            She started the chant of “harm none” as the assembled crowd pumped their signs in the air. My covenmates, I noticed, did not have signs that echoed the chant, and I knew why. Their sign said, “Free Sondra Little.” I was sign-less.
            Evaline and Robin didn’t have “harm none” signs because most traditional witches find the Wiccan Rede to be a little fluffy. It’s a sweet sentiment, and it serves as a good starting point for evaluating your own ethics. We certainly don’t believe, for example, that an ethical witch would actively seek to harm another person for her own personal gain. But we try to be honest with ourselves about the ramifications of all our actions, both magical and mundane. Someone at my old office got a promotion because I was fired. Does that make that person unethical? No, of course not. What if they prayed really hard to get a promotion just before I got fired? I am most certainly harmed by being unemployed, but it isn’t my replacement’s fault. What if, instead of praying, my replacement had done a spell? Since spells are just active prayers, you can’t claim the magic was any more unethical than the prayer.
            This example is relatively benign, but you can probably see where it would get tricky with things like prosperity spells that take form by grandma dying and leaving you an inheritance. Most witches of my coven’s ilk see the Rede as an attempt to wash a witch’s hands of responsibility for an unexpected outcome. We generally face our responsibilities head-on by doing some divination to see what sort of sacrifice or exchange is needed for the magic at hand.
            All magic comes at a price. Energy moves in waves. There is an ebb and flow to it. A balance. More of something here means less of something there. The universe maintains its own balance, and very often a witch is already in touch with the flow. When she’s not, and she wants to perform a bit of magic that creates a bigger ripple in the pond than was expected, there is a sacrifice to be made. She can make that sacrifice before she does her spell, or the universe can take it from her however it sees fit later. But there is always a price.
            Sounds like sacrifice, yes? You’re right, it is. But here’s the caveat about sacrifice: It isn’t a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something dear to pay it.  You have to feel it. You have to need the thing so badly that you are willing to give up something you value to get it. Your blood is your life force. That is one of the most potent sacrifices you can make. It doesn’t take much, though. A few drops, at most. One drop of blood contains your entire genetic code. You don’t have to spill a bucket. And it has to be yours, given freely. It costs you nothing to spend someone else’s money, nor does a stranger’s blood satisfy the need for sacrifice. Not within witchcraft, at least.
            This is why I was so sure that Sondra Little was innocent. For one thing, she probably believed in the Rede so ardently that she wouldn’t have hurt a fly if it meant winning the lottery. For another, being a witch alone meant that she’d probably never even been taught about the need for sacrifice in the books on Wicca she’d purchased from the local shops. The shopkeepers tend to keep their books and wares as non-threatening to the general public as possible. The idea of sacrifice, especially blood sacrifice, has been so misrepresented through the ages that it just isn’t discussed among non-initiates.
            The final thing that told me Sondra Little was innocent was the nature of the sacrifice itself. Yes, I know that human sacrifice – the offering up of another person’s life, another person’s blood, another human being’s spark – has happened in the past. Yes, I fully understand that the demon being summoned by the woman in the picture is quite pleased with the killing of that poor homeless man. But it isn’t because she sacrificed in the way witches do. No. It is because she has sacrificed her own purity to do this thing. She has stained herself by cruelly taking his life. She has marred her own soul. That is price she is paying. Sondra Little, the mousy pre-school teach cum solitary witch, doesn’t seem at all capable of paying that price.
            Evaline spotted me through the crowd and waved me closer. I’d almost made it to where she and Robin stood when a voice boomed across a loud speaker. Reverend Sewall had arrived on the scene, along with a portable amplifier and microphone, two more news crews, and no less than two hundred of his followers.
            “Indianapolis demands justice,” he shouted. His projected voice drowned out the stunned chanters. “You cannot spread your lies and your filth here. We have seen the harm done by witches in the photos the authorities received. We have felt the harm of witchcraft and magic creeping into our children’s lives, their entertainment. You would have our young people buy into your pagan propaganda and get Harry Potter to waive his magic wand to help them with their troubles instead of falling to their knees in prayer and seeking the aid of Jesus Christ.”
            I blinked. What?
            “The law enforcement personnel of this city have PROOF that it was Sondra Little, a known WITCH, who committed the heinous ritual murder,” Sewall continued, relying more on the passion of his conviction than any rational proof available to the police or anyone else. “Sondra Little and at least two other members of her coven did this, and the good people of Indianapolis won’t sit idly by any longer.”
            One man among the rally participants shouted, “But she was a solitary. She wasn’t in a coven.”
            Sewall didn’t hear him, or pretended not to hear him. He held up a small stack of papers in his gloved hand. “I have here a petition to the lawmakers of this God-fearing state, signed by no less than two-thousand men and women, demanding the outlaw of witchcraft in the state of Indiana. That’s two-thousand Indianapolis Christians, Jews, and Muslims signing in the last three days who want to see the liberal laws protecting witches repealed immediately. We’re going to be working hard to get that number up to 60,000 in the next couple of weeks. That’s just 1% of our population, folks; but it should be enough to get the repeal of witchcraft protections into the hands of our law-makers. And then we will be free from the pernicious ministrations of diviners and necromancers. Free from the spell-casters who would most certainly harm us, if given the chance. ”
            Sewall’s people cheered and shouted.
            “But we aren’t stopping there!” he escalated. “No, we mustn’t stop there.  It isn’t enough to clap the witches into a jail cell for their deceit and devilry. No. Ones like this Miss Little, ones who have committed horrific murder under the auspices of idolatry and hellish intentions, these harlots of the devil must suffer swift and fearful punishment for their crimes. We must not suffer the witch to live.”
            As if in cue, his followers took up the cry “Suffer not the witch!”
            Well, holy shit.