My friend Louis and I decided to take a Learning Annex class on Witchcraft. Louis thought we would go and be all retro and ironic, getting drunk beforehand and listening to Belladonna in our secondhand polyester clothes, and then watching the witches in class with wry smiles. But the truth was, I had a big crush on Louis, and I wanted to use witchcraft to seduce him.
Louis is tall, with blue eyes, big, sad hands, and dirty-blond hair. He lives with his red-haired, wiry boyfriend Jason who has a perfect body and perfect posture. Jason is completely sweet and flexible. I sort of have a crush on him, too.
Does that sound really slutty? I don't mean to sound slutty.
When we arrived at the Learning Annex, people were also filing into "Don't Call That Man!", the class next door. We sat next to a woman in a neon peach power suit and matching peach beads who was sitting next to a crazy old woman who was wearing strange Yoko Ono sunglasses.
Our teacher, fresh and pretty Phyllis Curott, came in, smiling. She had a pleasant tangerine face, blond hair, and Fayva shoes with cork soles. She started by saying that witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. "That was part of the Catholic church's attempt to achieve spiritual hegemony in Europe," she said. She sat Indian-style on a desk and explained how Wicca, a contemporary witch religion, worships the Goddess, which, after the Great Crusades, was subsumed by Christianity into Mother Mary. The crazy woman raised her hand, and Phyllis politely pointed to her. "How long are we gonna be here?"
For three hours, Phyllis talked about how we cocreate the universe and work within an intricate system of energies. "One primary Wiccan ritual I perform is to go to a hollow where a tree has fallen overthere is a lot of energy held in those spots. I go and bring an offering and sit. I squeeze off my sphincter muscles...the ones you use when you pee...and draw the energy out of the earth into me."
Every witch in Phyllis' tradition is given a psychic animal guide. In order to get in touch with one, you lie down, someone drums, and you trance out like a club kid. "You call for an animal, and it comes and it takes you on a journey. My animal is a bear."
One time Phyllis had a dream. This "tall, dark and handsome" man in black leather approached amid darkness and smoke. "Oooo!" went the class. The mysterious man lead her to a black and silver motorcycle. He gunned the engine and they sped off. The phone woke Phyllis; it was her friend Mitchell calling. Have I got the perfect guy for you, he said. Later, the perfect guy and Phyllis met. "He had two earrings in his ear!" Phyllis said. "Which ear?" someone asked. "The right ear! Phew!" she said and everyone laughed. And, as it turned out, the perfect guy with two earrings in the right ear drove a Harley! And now they are married! Everyone in class clapped. "Ours is an erotic, alive, ecstatic universe!" Phyllis said. "It responds!"
Phyllis did say you can use spells to fall in love. "But be careful what you ask for...because it will come back threefold." She glossed over the fact that witches use sexuality in their rituals: "That is for more advanced witches, and always with an ongoing partner." (Which can't be trueyou know witches are totally kinky. What's the point of having an alternative religion to Judeo-Christianity if you can't have a lot of sex? Take Stevie Nicks for example: she had sex with Mick Fleetwood, Don Henley, Gregg Allman, and Lindsay Buckingham.)
Phyllis concluded the class with a simple recipe for a success spell
Louis and I walked out together. Before parting, he looked at me with his silent blue pilot-light eyes, and we kissed good-bye. I had to have him. I decided I would follow a three-pronged approach: 1) ask for an animal guide in a dream 2) Go to a hollow of a tree and perform a magic ritual 3) Cast spells.
Now, I don't want to disrespect the Wiccan way. If I were pinned down and handcuffed in a room and forced to believe in something, it would definitely be moony, matriarchal, misty Wicca. Also, I'm not trying to break up Louis and JasonI like them, they are wonderful, they have a great relationship. I just want to make out with them, as if I were Anais Nin or that woman with a bowl cut who diddles with both Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah in "Summer Lovers." I want to use my Wiccan powers to break free of that patriarchal power structure that inhibits us from having healthy, pagan tribal sex!
Damn the cultural hegemony of the church!
So that night, I went to bed calling for my animal. I had a dream that I was at a dinner party and someone passed gas. Nobody confessed, so it was very tense at the table. The late Bounty spokesperson Nancy Walker was there.
I've always really respected Nancy Walker. She had such a varied, amazing career: Bounty Rosie, Rhoda's mom, the smart maid in both "Macmillan & Wife" and "Murder By Death," and, to top it all off, the director of the musical gala, "Can't Stop the Music," starring Steve Gutenberg and the Village People. I can see her crabby face with its red lipsticked mouth and shell-hair, and her veiny, ring-covered hands beckoning to me....She is definitely my animal guide.
The next day I was walking down Lafayette Street and I saw Valerie Harper coming out of her apartment! She looked great, toowhich assuaged my fears, because I've been worrying about her ever since she left the NBC sitcom "The Hogan Family" and was replaced by Sandy Duncan. How humiliating for her. She carried two large Barney's bags and was wearing these huge sunglasses. She held the door open for her daughter and yelled, "Come on! You got enough shoes!" I suddenly realized that this was a sign from my animal guide, Nancy Walker, Harper's mother on Rhoda, who obviously wanted me to shop a little for Wicca paraphernalia.
I went to Lady of the Moon on St. Marks, which is in a basement, and smells of magikal spices and teenage car interiors. A woman emerged from the curtained-off back room wearing a black tee and black stretch pants. She was about 50, with dyed chestnut hair, a rough, wrinkled face and old, blue, blotted tattoos on her forearms. She reminded me of my friend Charlotte's divorced, blue-eyeliner-wearing, burnout mom, who also had chestnut hair with gray-black roots. "Fucking Shit! Charlotte, did you fucking steal my ankle boots again?" she'd say, ashing her cigarettes into take-out burrito tins.
The woman's name is Rev. Lady Armida. She said the best books on witchcraft were ones written by Dr. Leo Louis Martello
Lady Armida also teaches a class (witches love to teach!)it runs for three months and costs $500. "That includes your books, supplies and robe. It's not easyI run a tight ship." You can't be ordained until you study for a year and a day. "It's a religion like any other. We have our codes." She gave me my change and I thanked her in my spitty, overly giddy way. "Witches are so cool," I thought.
I sat in Tompkins Square Park. There were no hollows, so I brushed away the little dope baggies under a tree and sat down. I tried to close my eyes and clench my anus, but it just made me feel like I had to poo, so I looked through all the books searching for an amulet or bath that would induce casual group sexa "Magic Love Sandwich Vinaigrette" or "Menage Mints" or something, but all I could find were love spells. I decided I'd worry about that later, and bought all the herbs I needed at Angelica's on First Avenue. I ran into my friend Prentiss. I told him what I was doing and his eyes widened"Be careful! My sister did a love spell on someone she didn't know very well and it worked. Unfortunatdly he was a total freak. She STILL can't get rid of him!"
I ran home to make my love bath
Wet and pruny, I sat down to make a Pomander Love Charm
I called Louis the next day. He and Jason were going to Miami. "We're renting a convertible Cadillac! It's going to be totally great!" I gushed in return and hung up, and then went back to the park. I realized that my spells didn't work because I hadn't brought an offering the first time I went to the tree like Phyllis does. So this time I dida little folded Quicker Picker Upper. Oh, Nancy my animal guide, guide me, guide me.