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Millennium Fever Casts Its Spell

April 25, 1999|SUSAN HORNIK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Got an ex you want to hex? Want more money for your honey? Then join the masses who are secretly summoning the spirits at Hollywood's Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, said to be the oldest and most respected occult supply shop in the U.S.

And with the pre-dawning of a new millennium, "anything with a metaphysical or spiritual flavor is very popular right now," said George Derby, manager, theologian and master practitioner of Panpipes for the past 20 years. "We are entering a golden age of metaphysics and occult understanding the likes of which we haven't seen since the beginning of this century. People are becoming more open-minded and are starting to look for spiritual answers, unhappy with what is being spoon-fed to them."

Besides a 300-page Web site (http://www.panpipes.com), with more than 3,000 occult titles available, Panpipes carries a classy blend of charms, candles, books and oils. For more serious intentions, customers can request a free private consultation, when they are coached in magic to achieve goals on their own. Panpipes also gives weekly classes in spell crafting, Wicca, ceremonial and candle magic, Santeria, voodoo and cabala that are often led by Derby's latest protege-occultist, Jymie Darling.

"It's not our business to judge what kind of religion you practice. We are here to provide an understanding of all the magical systems and traditions that are out there, as well as supply customers with the tools if they don't know what they need but have a relative idea of what they want."

What is surprising to note is that on a day-to-day basis, where "strange" is the norm, Panpipes customers are from every possible walk of life, including high-ranking business people, homemakers, doctors, teenagers--all practicing every mainstream or alternative religion imaginable.

And what are the most popular subjects being broached? "Sex, love and money, of course!" Derby quipped.

Even Hollywood continues to take notice of the hunger for occult knowledge. Popular television shows like ABC's "Sabrina: The Teenage Witch" (the animated version of this series will debut in the fall as well as a pre-teen spinoff), and the WB's "Charmed" are working their magic on myriad audiences, both here and abroad. It has also been rumored that the success of the Columbia TriStar witchcraft thriller "The Craft" will soon spawn a sequel.

"To this day, 'The Craft' will air on television, and the next day, there will be a huge influx of young people in our store," enthused Derby, who was one of the film's consultants.

Derby said that, over the years, droves of celebrities have secretly high-tailed it to the shop before a much-anticipated audition.

"There has been an amazing number of very well-known names that usually forget us after they've made it. Very few will ever continue to give us some recognition."

But that is not always the case. Few know that Panpipes is now owned by "The Craft" star Fairuza Balk, who once was Derby's key apprentice.

Does magic work? Readers, you decide.

"We have an old joke around here," said Derby. "Someone will come in and tell us that life is great. 'Well, then,' I ask them, 'why are you here?' For the most part, no one will do a whole lot of magic or bow to their knees in prayer if everything is going fine. It is when everything has gone to hell in a handbasket that I see people."

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