r2 Night Editor: Martin Hirschman
January 24, 197Q
brief survey of Ann Arbor occult
as told by a witch to a no vice
RE IS SOMETHING faintly unsettling
out a witch in an orange-flowered robe.
ies are supposed to wear black, just like
cards are supposed to tell fortunes and as-
gy is supposed to improveon psychoanaly-
1 the occult arts carry a similarly exotic
e upon which human curiosity gleefully
es. And when this image is contradicted or
rplayed by a practioner of its art, human
city may be disappointed, but human
ht is greatly advanced.
ie ' Great Witch Gundella, she of the
;e-flowered robe, spoke last week .to more
a hundred sprigs of human curiosity in the
i Quad lounge and effectively stripped the
of romance from her craft.
itchcraft," Gundella explained, "is a re-
. All the demonic ideas about witches real-
scribe the satanists." She held out h'e r
and continued innocently, "I've missed all
indella comes to her withcraft by heritage.
powers lurking in members of the audience, she
demonstrated several exercises for stimulating
clairvoyant, telepathic, and psychokinetic fac-
FOR ANYONE not too skeptical to be interest-
ed, one of the clairvoyant exercises, which
has also been discussed by other sources, fol-
Take a deck of cards, think of one in par-
ticular, and cut the deck into two piles. Take
the pile in which you do not think your card is
and check through it to see if you were right.
Should this be the case (and the odds are about
even if you divide the deck in half) cut the re-
maining pile into two piles and repeat the pro-
cedure. If you get good enough, you may be able
to cut all the way down to your card.
On a more dramatic level, Gundella made a
few anecdotal excursions into the sensational
side of witches' powers.. Challenged to g i v e
"tangible proof of her power," she told of try-
ing to locate a dentist whom she did not know
and whom she had visited only once seven years
before. He was neither in the phone book nor at
his old office.t
"So I concentrated fifteen minutes a day for
TH E GREAT WITCH GUNDELLA
yd .. ....'y:d .nt .sy
HQNE 427 B072
Giindella of the orange-flowered
robe and her calling card
a month and at the enid of one of my concen-
tration periods, he called me - to wish me
Merry Chrihtmas. He did not usually do this and
was not quite sure why he had called."'
Gundella does not w o r k evil spells; the
witches' belief in reincarnation poses the pr-ob-
lem that "whatever evil you do will be done back
to you in some other life." However, she is quite
willing to discuss the methodology of working
" When working a spell, witches like to have
as little on as possible - no shoes or under-
things, just a loose robe. Witches believe clothes
To illustrate a spell which can be worked by
anyone with sufficIent persistence, she brought
a seven knob candle of the sort used for grant-
ing reasonable wishes. Beginning at midnight
on a Sunday, the wisher must burn one knob
of the candle every night for a week and bend
his thoughts to the wish he wants to make.
The wish itself must not contain any "ands,"
and the wisher must be alone when he burns
the candle, must have fasted the requisite num-
ber of hours before the burning, abstained from
sex all week, and must recite a very small in-
cantation each night. On the seventh night, the
candle must be burned all the way down, and
the drippings wrapped in new unbleached mus-
lin, and buried where they will never be found.
"The reason for all the rigamarole," Gun-
della explains, "is that focuses all your powers
of concentration via'the candle so that y o u
make your wish come true."
AND SUCH is the state, superficially speaking
of witchcraft in the present age. The legen-
dary black masses, devil worship, and Rose-
mary's Baby-type stuff can be dumped once and
for all on the doorstep of the satanists.
Yet even the best k n o w n of the satanic
groups, Anton La Vey's Church of Satan in San
Francisco, repudiates much of the traditional
black magic image.
In a multicolored information mail-out,
available upon sincere request, they deny that
concerts will "join hands and dance 'ring-
around-the-rosey' in a circle" or "dunk them-
selves in smelly oil'."
But they retain an aura of drama. The leaf-
let cautions, "If you do not feel'you can honest-
ly call upon Satan for help without shaking in
your boots, or accept the 'demons of the pit' as
your friends without safeguarding yourself
against them, don't practice Satanic magic!"
The solemnity=\of this warning is somewhat
tempered on the next page by the indigent de-
fense of Satanic practices which protests the
spread of "vicious stories of the Satanic sacri-
fices of innocent babies and small animals.
"This is pure nonsense, as the Satanist holds
these beings in sacred regard. T h e sacrifice
chosen is always a deserving one, and the meth-
od of sacrifice totally fits the act committed."
The brochure also insists upon giving a ra-
tional explanation of the satanic doctrine of
"Man must learn to properly indulge him-
self by whatever means he finds necessary, so
long as it hurts no one who neither deserves
nor wishes to be hurt. Only by so doing can we
release harmful frustrations, which if unreleas-
eI can build up and cause many very real ail-
To paraphrase Alice in Wonderland, "Every-
thing is getting scientific-er and scientific-er."
There are, of course, barely-acknowledged ref-
erences to a satanic cult which would find the
antics of the Church of Satan ludicurous. But
these are only brief allusions, followed quickly
by silence and a plea for privacy.
Evidently, if the old-fashioned sort of black
magic and evil witches still exist, those who
know will not breathe a word of it. Discretion
in a situation of this type is understandable,
but it does make it difficult for a curious per-
son to track down the visions of his imagina-
tion. Perhaps even more difficult to continue
believing in them.
HOWEVER, the difference between the ideal
and the reality becomes less disappointing
if one understands something about the nature
of occultism. There are two sources for informa-
tion of this sort - people who are into occult-
ism and books on the subject. In Ann Arbor,
whichever route the inquiring mind decides to
take, eventually it will arrive at the Circle Book
Shop on State St.
Circle Books' co-owner and astrologer Stephen Erlewine exhibits a throw
of the Tarot to his friend Jimi Silver
Michael and Stephen Erlewine, who run the
bookshop, also cast horoscopes, conduct classes
in occultism at the Free University, hold meet-
ings of An Ann Arbor Astrological Association,
and maintain contact with such wonderfully
enticing objects as tarot cards, books of ancient
wisdom, and a tank of tropical fish.
They got into occultism four or five years
ago "as one of those maximal self-realization
type things." Michael was a member of one of
the first white blues bands in the area and feels
occultism is another point in the same line of
They began t h e bookshop .two years ago
March 21, "the vernal equinox," Stephen smiles,
and its business has been steadily improving
since then. Astrology books and tarot cards'are
the most popular items; a n d modern books,
printed to take advantage of the growing inter-
est in occultism, sell more than the old titles.
Occultism, as Michael and Stephen explain
it, is remarkably appropriate to the needs of the
time. Michael says, "Occult means hidden, so
occultism is the study of what is hidden or not
clear - a part of the Western mystery tradi-
and one of;
and her grandmother are
her ancestors was a green
who later emigrated to
Scottish witches divided into three groups -
d, blue, or green - and used vegetable dye to
lor themselves appropriately. Gundella her-
lf has, appeared with greeni skin, ratted hair,
id black robes on television and before child-
n's assemblies at the school where she teach-
"They love that sort of thing," she says.
With her cheerful, middle-aged face . n d
ther large person, she is not a figure to in-
ire terror in school children, although her
.dents know she is a witch and, she admits,.
have never had any discipline problems.".
Her own four children have grown up with
tchcraft and know how to use ft themselves,
.t they s h o w varying degrees of interest in
rmalizing their status by joining a coven..
A coven - there are three in Michigan - is
nply a gathering of 113 witches, male or fe-
ale, which a witch joins upon reaching his or
r majority. A person may know witchcraft
d decide not to join a coven, as Gundella's
ter did, but then he or she cannot actually be
led a witch..
The style of a coven's meetings is determin-
by its members. Gundella's mother's coven
sets once a month and members help each
her with spells and such; they are older peo-
e and very close. Gundella's own coven meets
ly on the four sabbaths (witches sabbaths
ling on Feb. 2, May 1, Aug. 1, and Oct. 31)
d holds a basically religious ceremony. Eight
its members are teachers and five hold mas-
's degrees; they are more scattered t h a n
°mbers of her mother's coven.
The religious tenets of witchcraft are a mix-
re of deism and eastern philosophy. Witches
kieve in one god of which all things are a part
d from which all goodness comes. Gundella
Ld a prayer from the coven ceremonies which
uld not have been out of place in an ecumen-
.1 Christian service.
However, they also believe in reincarnation
that each person must live many lives and
;erience many things until he reaches a state
Stephen adds, "It's a way of orienting to life,
relating phenomena. Life can be; interpreted
many ways - as divine providence or a ser-
ies of coincidences. Everything is a different
way of describing the same phenomena.
"The whole psychological make-up of a per-
son could adequately be described as something
magical. I think that's part of the popularity
of occultism for people today. It offers a more
human, pleasing way of presenting the human
situation than the psychological sciences. As-
trology, for example, is not only a way of refer-
ring to character, but of including the emotion-
al involvement of the person as well."
Stephen is the astrologer of the pair - he
does the horoscopes - and Michael more an oc-
cult theorist, although both declaim the use of
such labels. Beginning in February, they will
teach two Free University classes, one in "The
Substance of Astrology" and the other an intro-
ductory class in occultethinking subtitled, "The
Concept of Age and the Degrees of Experience."
They agree, with a glint of laughter in their
voices, that people who embark upon any of
these adventures into occultism are likely to be
"surprised, to say the least." The horoscopes
are not, as many people expect, verbal analyses
of individual character. "We aren't interested
in telling people things they already 'know,"
Instead they are, quite literally, natal charts
expressed in zodiac symbols and navigational
measurement. To understand their significance
requires the ability to express qualitative exper-
ience in a highly specialized set of symbols.
It becomes necessary to learn a little termi-
nology, as two enthusiastic patrons who were
discussing their charts in terms of rising signs,
setting signs, and moons in Aries. Not that this
is difficult. The point is merely that for a real
horoscope one must be prepared to think in 'ab-
stract terms significantly more complex than
those of the 25-cent zodiac books and the wo-
THESE SAME IDEAS are a lso explored at
meetings of an Ann Arbor Astrological Asso-
ciation. The Erlewines' hope is to find a group
that can relax enough together to perfectly be-
come "one mind" and to follow an idea, like
death, through all of its levels of experience.
"We want to get.past the T-group phase im-
mediately and experiment to see where we can
go," Stephen explains. The kind of awareness
which they hope to acquire would be something
like the psychedelic experience with drugs, but
more sustained and controlled.
But any group of this sort is only as strong
as its weakest member. "If one person doesn't
understand and wish to be a part, nothing can
be done, he says.
Michael feels that most people come to the
meetings expecting facts to fit into their pre-
conceptions. "All we ask is time to present a
new way of looking at things," he says. "In the
end, they get what in fact they want, but not
what they believed t h ey wanted. Instead of