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AL MARTINEZ

Witches Among Angels

July 27, 1993|AL MARTINEZ

Leave it to studio hype to stir comment intended to enhance the box office appeal of a movie currently in release. How well that's done is evidenced by the wild interest in dinosaurs created by publicists for "Jurassic Park," a film in which the script, shudder, is eaten by savage prehistoric monsters.

The media, like good little soldiers, responded to the hype by devoting hours of air time and pages of print to questions like "How would animal activists react to a tyrannosaurus in today's world?" and "Would a brontosaurus be trainable?"

As a result, "Jurassic," at best a movie aimed at the intellectually challenged, will go on to make millions, perhaps billions, in its current form and, no doubt, in its many sequels.

And now we have the Disney movie "Hocus Pocus," the story of three witches who seek eternal youth by sucking the life essence from children, much as the Communists sought our precious bodily fluids in "Dr. Strangelove" 30 years ago.

It is not your typical Disney movie. No liquid-eyed antelopes or perky puppies bounce through this one. The closest we come to animal involvement is the presence of a cat that is squashed flat by a bus. Not a bad idea, but hardly Disney. I clapped.

"Hocus," like "Jurassic," was hyped with great skill, and the airwaves and printwaves are filled with speculation about witchcraft.

This time I am adding to the mounds of verbiage by bringing you a witch of my own, a Valley witch at that. I think I was cursed into doing it.

*

She goes by the name Devi and calls herself a feminist witch. Devi is a priestess in the Coven of the Goddess Inc. (Inc.? Yup.) She is also its public information officer, which gives you a pretty good idea how far they've come in the 300 years since Salem.

I met Devi through the good graces of Barbara Fabricant, who knows every witch, oracle, trans-channeler, past life regressionist, out-of-body day tripper and astral projectionist in L.A.

I'm not sure she's ever taken a trip in an alien space vehicle but probably knows someone who has.

Devi is a robust, high-spirited, good-humored woman of 43, not at all the "ugly and ill-tempered" hag defined as a witch in Webster's Dictionary. She has a degree in the theater arts, works in equity waiver houses and entertains at parties singing and doing stand-up comedy. An L.A. witch to the core.

She entered on the trail of witchcraft in the '60s under the influence of a song by Donovan Leitch called "Season of the Witch," which she sang with great animation in a booth at Lenny's, I mean Denny's, a multicultural eating place in Van Nuys.

Devi became a pagan first, worshiping Diana, whom she calls a feminist goddess but whom the Romans regarded as the virgin goddess of the moon and hunt. Sort of an outdoor goddess. Then she delved into the occult.

It was a short trip down the witchy-poo path to witchcraft, which she considers a kind of altruistic agrarian religion of life and earth, and not a conclave of evil people who drink blood and eat children.

A good Cabernet and some hors d'oeuvres is as far as they'll go.

*

Devi estimates there are about 5,000 witches in L.A. County, not counting television executives. That includes all sexes. Under equal opportunity laws, witchcraft is no longer limited to white, heterosexual crones.

Modern urban witches do not worship the devil, do not concoct magic brews, do not cast spells and do not fly through the air on broomsticks. Some have never even touched a broom, relying on cleaning ladies to keep their homes tidy.

Devi describes their rituals as a lot of singing and dancing, possibly due to the influx of young people into witchcraft. MTV is everywhere.

She dismisses as a lot of damned nonsense the witches in "Hocus" who suck the life out of little Emily and turn her brother into a cat which later, as I said, is flattened by a bus, but reinflates itself, more's the pity.

Witches, Devi assures me, are just like any sweet couple down Daffodil Lane who happen to believe in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, and should not be hanged or burned at the stake because of it.

"The only good thing about the movie," she says, "is that it has given us an opportunity to educate the public about witches. We're good people."

I'm a little disappointed in that. Witches, like the devil, were convenient repositories for evil and now they're gone in a puff of knowledge.

What a terrible day of reckoning it is when, to paraphrase Pogo, we realize we have come face to face with evil and it is only us.

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