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Modern Pagans Excerpt: Laurie Lovecraft

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Laurie Lovekraft RE/SEARCH: You work with herbs, but what’s your position on psychedelics?

LAURIE LOVEKRAFT: Terence McKenna was a personal friend, so I have lots of opinions on psychedelics! Some of us see psychedelics as tools, or as medicines. That notion is derived from indigenous cultures all around the world. When there’s a sickness of the soul or the community, you might take medicines to aid in accessing wisdom to help you live your life in a more complete way, or bring you or your community back into balance. Using plants this way is one of the “green mysteries.” Use and misuse is really about personal responsibility. Psychedelics can be a crutch. You can have a dynamic ritual without anything stronger than chamomile tea! Ritual transcends reality, and it definitely can get you high—without a hangover.

Several years ago I took LSD and attended an all-night Samhain celebration—a time of year when many believe you can contact your beloved dead. This took place in the woods, with a huge bonfire. We did a ritual and descended into the underworld. I felt this huge surge through my body and started screaming—the ritual had tapped into a part of me that had a very deep wounding. Fortunately, this was a very safe space to do that. The whole experience was wonderful, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. That was the last time I took LSD.

Laurie Lovekraft R/S: How do you enter into a trance state?

LL: Intention. For example, I had been collaborating on a “Hekate” ritual for months, so I had a battery reserve of intention for what I wanted. I did some breath work, put on dramatic make-up and jewelry, took my drum to the ritual site and met my friends. I got into a very reflective, deeply quiet space and made room for the goddess to come through me, and it felt very powerful; I was charged for hours afterwards. I was dancing and singing and it was great! Music is a spiritual path for me. That ritual was a very successful encounter with the Dark Lady.

You know that you’re in a dimension of magic when surprising things happen: when you’re spontaneously speaking poetry, having visions, dancing for hours, or doing handstands—and you’ve never done handstands! Or you’re speaking somebody’s name and the phone rings and it’s them calling from Kenya. Or the wind will pick up when you’re invoking the East. Of course you can’t expect this to happen, because then you’re attached to the outcome of the ritual. Being a magical practitioner and priestess includes suspending belief and disbelief at will. You have to put aside your “lust for results.” Magic definitely is beyond notions of good and evil.

R/S: You’ve been described as a “kitchen witch”–

Laurie Lovekraft LL: A friend once said that “all women and cats are witches”—men can be too. My great-grandma was a kitchen witch; she emigrated from Eastern Europe and used folk remedies and herbal wisdom. Basically, a kitchen witch is a home remedy practitioner who isn’t necessarily trained as a ritualist, and who perhaps hasn’t read dozens of books on the Goddess. Grandma Libby would turn a cup upside-down when something was missing and the missing item would soon be found (the women of my family still do this).

At home, it’s empowering for people to create their own personal altar (or altars) with candles, cloth, photos, or sacred objects. A kitchen witch knows how to make do with what’s on hand. You don’t need a $25 candle that’s been specially anointed by His Highness the Head Honcho; it can be a candle in a jar with a picture of Inanna, Pan, or even Mother Mary taped to it. Add things to your altar that you find on a walk at the beach, or at Goodwill. I’m a thrift-store witch!

When I was traveling and studying music in India recently, I started having bad dreams in one of my hotel rooms. So I went down to the hotel kitchen, got some table salt and sprinkled it in all the corners, on the door sill, window ledges, around my bed and under my pillow. After that, I slept great! Salt and sage are good for purifying the energy in rooms.

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