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The Author's Corner

 

Phyllis Curott

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Love Spell: An Erotic Memoir of Spiritual Awakening

 

Witch Crafting

 

Book of Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

The Love Spell:
TWPT Talks to Phyllis Curott

©2002-2005TWPT


TWPT:  Looking back over your life was there a turning point that you can say this is where Witchcraft became a viable option for your spiritual path?  If not a single moment in time perhaps the point at which many divergent factors all began to add up in your mind to a new approach to your spirituality.

PC:  There were two epiphanies that showed me I was on the right path. I wasn’t looking for Wicca, or the Goddess, and twenty five years ago it would have been almost impossible to find either one.  I was led to the group that would become my coven - but it was the last thing in the world I was looking for.  At least that's what I thought at the time.  But the Goddess sent me an undeniable sign – a very powerful recurrent dream literally manifested in front of me.  It’s an amazing story I tell in Book of Shadows, and in The Love Spell and I don’t want to spoil it for readers, but obviously, when the Goddess called, I answered.   The second epiphany was my Initiation, which I described at the end of Book of Shadows – an experience that changed  my life.  Ultimately I would have to say that it was the journey of my life, and learning and using the practices in my daily life that convinced me this spirituality was full of wisdom.  It provided wonderful ways to experience the presence  of divinity within the world, in others and in myself.  That’s the greatest gift any spiritual praxis can give you, and
I’m really happy to be able share those skills with others.

TWPT:  I also want to pick up on the thread of when you decided to pursue a career in law. Was this something that had always been a goal of yours and what was/is it that you found/find about practicing law that appeals to you. 

PC:  It always appealed to me -- it's a career that allows me to fight for social justice, and also make a living.  I guess you could say it’s in my blood.  (And my stars)  Both of my parents were social justice activists  I've been active with the ACLU since I was a teenager fighting my school board over a censorship issue with the school paper I edited.  I was pretty focused on practicing law, although there were times I considered alternatives, like becoming a union organizer or a journalist. 

And I've done other things, like producing independent films for a few years.   I began my legal career fighting organized crime in trade unions and fighting for the civil liberties of union members, and social justice really is my passion, using whatever tools I have. I’ve been a pro bono activist attorney on behalf of Wiccan religious liberties for a long time - I helped win the right of Pagans to perform legally binding marriages and perform rituals in public parks, and I've advised on scores of  cases involving religious discrimination.

TWPT:  Was there ever any conflict between your ideas and goals as a lawyer and the emergence of the Wiccan spirituality in your life? The mindsets of lawyer and Wiccan HPS would seem to have some inherent coexistence issues.

PC:  For me, both are about making the world a better place, and human beings better occupants of that world.  Law is logos --rationality, logic and order, spirituality is eros –  the divine life force, sensuality and the wisdom of the heart .  Traditionally, though justice is a woman, logos has been considered masculine, and eros feminine.  Clearly, we all need both aspects to be whole as individuals, and we need both for our culture to be balanced and healthy.  That’s the subject of my third book, The Love Spell, which is the sequel to Book of Shadows.  In Book of Shadows I described how my struggles to become an attorney often collided with the values of Wicca.  To be a success I had to adapt to and emulate male modes of thinking and behaving.  In some ways, that was good – it was certainly empowering to cultivate a lot of those skills.  But I also lost touch with the feminine, with my soul, and it took awhile to realize that it wasn’t about gaining access to the game, but rather about  changing the rules of that game. 

 In The Love Spell I explore that same struggle but in the realm of emotions, relationships and sex. I, and lots of other women, have lost the fullness of our sexuality.  In a real sense we repeated in the bedroom what we’d been doing in the board room – “acting like men.”  We had to be active, in charge, in control. And we thought of being receptive as being passive.  But it’s not even remotely the same thing.  This is one of the most important themes of TLS that women in particular are really responding to - we've gotten trapped behind our armor and we've separated sex from the divine, from our feminine divine.  Because of the culture, both women and men dismiss a lot of powerful and valuable feminine energies as some how "less than" or servile, untrustworthy or sentimental, when in fact there's tremendous strength, wisdom and beauty in feminine sexuality.  We've been living in our heads, instead of our hearts. 

We've confused the ability to be receptive with passivity.  Receptivity is not inert; it's dynamic.  It's the power to draw to yourself what you desire, the ability to pull, which is the counterpart of pushing.  Without the thrust and tug, there's no attraction, no sexual tension, and no fulfillment.  One of the greatest losses I suffered, that we've all suffered including men, was the ability to be receptive.  We're comfortable identifying the feminine with gender related terms like mothering, nourishing, cooperating, communicating, being intuitive, sensitive and emotional, but Goddess forbid we should say receptive.  That's because we don’t trust it, don't trust ourselves.  But how can you experience love unless you have the courage to open yourself to receive it?  

It took a long time to realize Shakti’s power – to be receptive --  is the power of drawing to you, the power of magnetism; She arouses Shiva into motion.  To initiate with the power of desire is anything but passive.  There’s tremendous energy, movement, and power  in receptivity – but you’re pulling instead of pushing.  It’s incredible to rediscover that lost capacity, and so liberating and erotic.  Ultimately, both partners need to be able to push and pull, to tug and thrust – that’s the nature of the erotic dance between partners, of whatever gender.   We all contain qualities that have been ascribed to one gender or the other, the goal is to find the mix that’s right for you, that makes you unique and whole and to have a partner that’s a good fit for you.  That's a big part of the journey I describe in The Love Spell.

TWPT:  Does being a well known figure within Wiccan spirituality have any effect on your career in law and how do you deal with those who want to make it an issue? 

PC:  When I’m interviewed, reporters so often began by commenting on the fact that I’m a lawyer and a Witch.  And I always reply that the lawyer is the dark side.  Which gets a laugh. The fact is that when Book of Shadows and Witchcrafting came out, I did a huge amount of national and local publicity.  And I lost  all of my older, more conservative  clients.  And it was a real challenge --financially, psychologically, pragmatically.  But it was also a lesson I share with people.  What I have gained far outweighs what I lost:  freedom, the opportunity, fulfillment and happiness that comes with doing what I love -- to write and teach  and travel.  You can’t put a price on those things.  Life is short – you should do what gives you the greatest joy.  You have to “follow your bliss,” as Joe Campbell said. You can’t, and shouldn’t, just give up your “day job,” especially if you’ve got responsibilities to children, or a spouse.  And you have responsibilities to yourself.  You have to keep you feet on the ground, but you also have to keep your eyes on the stars.  Use your head and listen to your heart.  I still practice pro bono law, but I also write and teach., logos and eros - balance.  And if I can't continue to be published, somehow I'll meet the challenge of rebuilding a legal practice as a very public Wiccan priestess.

TWPT:  When you first started out on the Wiccan path did you seek out others who were on the same path or were you satisfied to pursue this in a solitary fashion? 

PC:  The first few years of my journey I traveled alone.  Or rather, I traveled in the company of what I now understand was my daemon, a male muse. He's a spiritual guide to the mysteries of a woman's soul, her sexuality and her creativity.  He manifests in dreams, synchronicities, and also in real men.  For the Greeks, the daemon was a divine being, a messenger from God.  My daemon has always been Dionysus, the God of ecstasy, embodied by various actors like James Dean, and musicians. He actually led me to the Goddess  and he's a major figure in The Love Spell.  The Love Spell is utterly unique as a story about a woman's relationship with her daemon, and it's such an important and neglected aspect of our spirituality.  Caitlin Mathews has a great book about women and their daemons which I high recommend.

TWPT:  Were there any books or reference materials that you discovered that were particularly helpful in understanding the path on which you found yourself? 

PC:  I read a lot about quantum physics which gave me some framework to understand what was happening to me when my journey began.  The books that I crossed my path seemed very magical in their arrival and content. I found the Egyptian  Book of the Dead, a fascinating biography of James Dean by David Dalton,  Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, and to the poetry and philosophy of the Romantics and Transcendentalists.  There were very few books around at the time –
Farrar’s first book What Witch’s Do, Z. Budapest’s stuff, Esther Harding, The White Goddess.  You really had to search if you wanted to learn. When I began to work with my coven, I learned the old-fashioned way – it was an oral tradition.  And it was perfect for me -- I’ve always been such an intellectual, someone who lived in books.   But I wanted to experience.  I found it was much more powerful to have an encounter, and then discover who I’d had it with after not before the fact.  That made the experience far more powerful, more objectively real, rather than something I would suspect I had created out of my imagination and accumulated information.

I don’t encourage people to do a lot of reading at the beginning of their journeys – I encourage them to do a lot of practicing.  It’s not about the head, about information – it’s about the heart and transformation.  It's so important for people to learn that there are other ways of discovering truth, especially divine truth.  But my approach has always been very shamanic - very much about personal encounters with divinity, communing with and being guided by the Sacred.

TWPT:  Tell me about your involvement with your coven and how that began and about your journey towards becoming a HPs of that coven. 

PC:  The first coven I studied with was the Mother Grove of the Minoan Sisterhood and it was an amazing experience of love and conflict, sharing and withdrawing, devotion  and drama.  We met every week for over three years and it was completely extraordinary, utterly magical and some of the most wonderful years of my life.  But instead of waxing on about it here, I’ll just send you to Book of Shadows.  I wrote it to share  the very best experience of working with a coven, to open that world to others, to bring people in.  What continues to amaze me is how many people tell me the book has changed their lives.  That’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever experienced.

TWPT:  So what was it that made you decide to add writer to the mix of lawyer and HPs and what was it that you wanted to communicate to the readers of your books? 

PC:  There were a lot of reasons motivating me to begin writing. I wanted to work creatively, I wanted to serve my community and my spirituality, I wanted to conquer my demons of self-doubt; and because I was meant to. 

 I’m always trying to write the book that needs to be written – the book that no one else has done, that stretches the envelope, stimulates our thinking, opens our hearts, deepens our spirituality.  And builds bridges to the mainstream by helping people understand what we’re really doing, and why we’re doing it. 

One of the reasons I wrote Book of Shadows was because no one had written a book about what it felt like to experience practicing, or the effect it has upon your soul and your day to day life.  I wanted to write a book that would explain Wicca to the average person who knows nothing about it, and I wanted to write a book that would help people who were interested, who were learning from very mechanical, information oriented books,feel what it’s like to practice.  Without a sense of feelings, of emotions, of consequences, you can’t really know the fullness of this spirituality, and so many people are learning from books, without feedback or anyone to talk to about what they’re feeling and experiencing.  I wanted to provide a mirror for people. On occasion there are those who don’t like what they see.  But that’s good too.

I wrote Witch Crafting because virtually every book was a “how-to”: stand here, say this, do that, mix this herb with that oil. It was all “Wicca 101.”  And no one had written a book that discussed the why-to. I was also having a lot of problems with the mechanistic approach people were taking to magic, with a lot of remnants of biblical thinking which don’t belong in this cosmology, but which actually pervade it.  I really wanted to tackle the dogma we ourselves were generating.  I had a real problem with the so-called Threefold Law, which is not at all an ethical precept, is actually a remnant of the biblical cosmology and totally inappropriate for our spirituality - but that's a whole, fascinating discussion.  Chapter Seven of WC.  I wanted to write a book that would get people thinking, questioning, not just swallowing and spouting our own dogma. 

And then of course, there’s THE LOVE SPELL.  I wrote it for many reasons, which we don't have time for here.  But most pressing was my sense that the world is in dire need of love. And Pagan readers are always asking for deeper, more complex books.  So I decided to tackle what I think is the central mystery of this spirituality - the magic of love.  The Love Spell is a memoir about a love spell that I performed that worked, and the consequences of that spell on my life, sexuality, spirituality and my growth.  Most importantly it's about our journey to true love -- as the greatest magic there is, and the reason that we're here, and the expression of our deepest divinity. 

Like divinity, love can't be fully experienced until it's embodied, so The Love Spell is very erotic;  it's unique, there’s nothing else like it.  I explore desire, sex, and the magic of true love, diving into the mysteries of the Great Rite, sacred sexuality and sex magic in a very experiential way. 

I find it so amazing that it’s coming out precisely as the fundamentalist right is waging a fanatical campaign of cultural and sexual repression.  Book of Shadows certainly came in for major attacks from the fundamentalists; The Love Spell is really pushing their buttons.  And it's under serious attack and stealth censorship.  But we can talk about that more later.  I hope people just enjoy reading it as a great, sexy story, but also that it will help readers retrieve the fullness and freedom and pleasure of their sexuality.  That it will help them on their journeys to their souls and their soulmates. 

Let me tell you, erotic writing is the most difficult and challenging, especially in the first person!  That’s why no one does it!   From the reaction so far, apparently I’ve got a knack for it, so it was worth the struggle.  But we can talk more about that later.

TWPT:  Tell me about some of the folks that you met when you first began exploring the Wiccan/Pagan community and were these folks what you had expected you would find before you met them? (real names are not needed, just your impressions of the W/P community compared to your expectations of what you might find)

PC:  I really had very few expectations.  I had judgments and anxieties based upon cultural indoctrination.  Not that Witches were Satanists, but that they were wacky.  Weird.  But also, possibly quite fabulous.  I had a mixture of Margaret Hamilton andVeronica Lake in my brain, and a sprinkling of Samantha Stevens.  But, as I described in Book of Shadows, when I walked into my first circle – all women at the time – there were no green faces, no pointy hats, just a lot of truly fascinating, iconoclastic women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethinicities. It was a fairly avant-garde, arty sort of crowd at the time, late seventies early eighties – lots of artists, writers, dancers.  Women who were already dancing to their own magical drums, as it were.  And of course, there were the three high priestesses – all Italian American, all salt of the earth.  No intellectual explanations for anything – just doing.  The best thing for a head-oriented person like me.

TWPT:  Tell me about your first book, Book of Shadows and how that came to be.  Being a lawyer you were probably familiar with the legal end of the process of getting published but how did you feel as a first time author sending your first book out into the world?

PC:  It came about, like most of the other important events in my life, very magically.  I had no familiarity, as a lawyer with getting published.  I definitely needed a literary agent.  But being a lawyer helped get my book deals.  Publishers were fascinated by the story of how an Ivy League lawyer becomes a practicing, and public, Witch.  Like a lot of the best things in my life, the opportunity arrived in very magical ways – synchronicities, etc.    I’d handled a number of First Amendment cases for Witches that had gotten some press in NY, and I was approached by agents asking if I wanted to write.  I dismissed it, I wasn’t  a writer.  But every time I asked for guidance, the answer came back the same:  Write. Write the book no one else has, describe what it feels like to discover this path, to walk it, to be changed by it.  Teach from your heart, not just your head.  Tell a story.  And more agents kept showing up.  After it had hit me on the head a few more times, I finally woke up and got to work. I was guided, I was given the greatest gift – the opportunity to do what I love and to help others in the process.  It doesn’t get any better than that. I poured my soul into Book of Shadows, was as honest and present as I could be. And then out it went into the world and you don’t know who finds it,  how it affects readers.  So when someone tells me that they found this spiritual path because of one of my books, or that it helped them in some way – it’s the most wonderful, indescribable feeling, and I’m so grateful.

TWPT:  When was it after the book was published that you knew that the book was going to be ok and that you could relax about the whole process?

PC:  Relax?  I was on the road for two years, first for the hardcover, then the paperback.  Doing serious, big time press – the O’Reilly Show, The View,CNN,NY Times – it’s a long list.  It was hard work and a wonderful experience – it really gave me the opportunity to work on changing negative stereotypes on a big scale, and that's a job that's never done.  Doing so much press really helped me to think and express myself in a very clear and simple away.  And I got to travel all over the world meeting Pagans and Witches, which was so inspiring.  I was like a bee, cross-pollinating.  When they told me we’d sold about 30,000 hardcovers, I was very happy. But I never stopped working hard. It’s just my nature, and I enjoyed it.

TWPT:  What did you learn as an author from the publishing process of your first book that you were able to carry over into your subsequent books?

PC:  Write what no one else has written. Don’t copy anyone else.  Write from your own truth. Write from your heart, not just your head. Don’t write for fame, or money, or any other reason except that you love to write and you have something unique and, hopefully, valuable to say.  I think you need some experience, some maturity to write.  I waited 20 years before I wrote. Don’t wait for inspiration, work everyday, have a regular routine, make writing sacrosanct, but also take time off everyday and every week to relax and be with the people you love – refill the well of your creativity by doing things you love and that nourish you.  And write from your heart.  It’s important not to edit yourself while you’re writing, no judgments, no inhibitions.  Just trust the flow.  But then you have to apply the opposite skills just as diligently – you have to be willing to step back, except criticism, look at your work critically, and edit edit edit.  Very tough to do both equally well, but both are essential to the process of writing a good  book, and both are equally creative in their own way.

TWPT:  When you set out to write a book do you have a target audience in mind that you write to or do you simply put your thoughts and ideas on paper? 

PC:  I always write for my community.  But I also, always, write for the mainstream – to open the door to this amazing spiritual world to people who might otherwise never find it.  I think that's one reason The Love Spell was attacked.  Because I've had mainstream publishers and front of store placement in mainstream bookstores, and because of my visibility, it's drawn fire.  You can't find it in many of the big chains now.  Burn that bridge between the mainstream and the community and we're further marginalized. 

TWPT:  Were you surprised at the success that Book of Shadows had in the market place and how did that change your thinking about upcoming books that you were yet to write?

PC:  I was very, very happy.  I was surprised that it was a best-seller inItaly andHolland.  EspeciallyItaly, for obvious reasons. 

I’m particularly happy that it continues to be a strong ongoing seller.  Book of Shadows was meant to be the first in a memoir trilogy, with philosophical/practical “guidebooks” in between. That was the second book, Witch Crafting.   Their positive reception, especially in the press and the mainstream was very encouraging to me - personally and as an activist.  So I decided to go a little deeper into the mysteries, writing with the idea that they hide in plain site and cannot be seen by those not ready to see them.  The Love Spell is next in the memoir trilogy.  BoS deals with discovering the Goddess, The Love Spell is the story of finding the God.  It’s a very magical love story; it's also a book that deals with the spiritual and  personal meaning of the Mystery, the Great Rite or Sacred Marriage and how modern relationships are actually the newMystery School.  People are always saying they want more sophisticated books – well, I hope that’s The Love Spell.  It's written in a very direct and seemingly simple manner, but it's also written with many layers.  It is a mirror - the deeper you look, the more you'll see.

TWPT:  What role do you see authors performing within the Wiccan/Pagan community? Are authors automatically leaders/elders within the community or do they have to earn that role just like anyone else aspiring to take on those roles?

PC:  I  think they’ve had a very important role in expanding and educating the community.  For many years it was a community that learned primarily from books because there simply weren’t enough available teachers and covens.  Books opened the door to the world.  But there are pitfalls as well – the development of our own dogma, of two dimensional and mechanistic thinking, of preoccupation with spellcasting as opposed to really thoughtful examination of this as a profound, transformative spiritual path.  That’s why I wrote WitchCrafting.  To explore the why- to, not just the usual how-to recipes.  And to challenge a lot of our own dogma, like the Three Fold Law. 

As far as being an elder, like I said, I waited 20 years to write.  You earn that title, and it’s given to you by others because you’re fulfilling your responsibilities as a teacher, as a defender of our community.  And that takes time and maturity, modesty and a sense of humor.

I lost most of my law practice when I went public with Book of Shadows - so you have to be prepared for sacrifice as well.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.

TWPT:  How difficult is it to bring spiritual ideas into the realm of words and communicate them effectively to your readers?

PC:  It can be very difficult, spirituality and erotic ecstasy are the most difficult subjects to write about in a way that evokes feeling in the reader. That’s why story telling is a wonderful way to do it – true wisdom resides not in the mind but in the heart and stories evoke emotions, powerful feelings.  It’s my favorite way to write – the Divine is not apprehended through the intellect, but through the heart.  Approached from that path, the unconscious rises to consciousness, divinity manifests in the world, and the heart guides the intellect to true wisdom.

TWPT:  What was your reasoning behind writing Witch Crafting and what kind of reaction did that garner from your readers? Reviewers?

PC:   I wanted to write a unique, thoughtful, thought-provoking book.  The reaction has been very enthusiastic – people are happy to have a book that asks questions instead of just posing the same old answers, that challenges our thinking, that asks us to look critically at what we do and why we do it. I looked at our practices, our beliefs, our language, all of these considerations from the perspective of our central precept and experience – imminent divinity.  Of course there are always people who find new ideas threatening and they react with fear and hostility.  And naturally some people disagree with some points and I would certainly hope they would.  As I said, if everyone agreed with me, I’d have to start re-thinking it all.  If I provoke people to think critically and creatively, that's success.

TWPT:   Was it more or less difficult to write Witch Crafting after you had already written your first book and learned some things about the process involved?

PC:  Very challenging, because it required a change in my writing  style.  I also had a very short time frame in which to write it.  But I love a challenge, and the measure of being a good writer is that capacity to grow, to explore different styles of writing, to find what’s appropriate for your subject matter.  And of course, The Love Spell is unique in its writing style.

TWPT:  This brings us to your latest title The Love Spell.  You refer to this book as a sequel to your Book of Shadows. Could you tell me your thinking behind this statement and give us an idea of what we can expect to find in this latest book?

PC:  A spiritual journey is the work of a lifetime, so my plan has been to do a series of memoirs about that journey. The Love Spell is a true story about a love spell that worked and the spiritual journey that spell provoked. That, I believe, is unique.  It's also more than just another "how-to, recipe" book.  It's a personal story written in the first person that's erotic.  As far as I'm aware, it's the only explicit memoir written by a women that re-weaves the suppressed connections between sexuality and spirituality.  And it's packed with practical information about relationships, science, psychology, biology, history, mythology, movies, comparative religion, philosophy, quantum physics, magical techniques, spiritual struggle and insight, and even some how-to!   And sex, did I mention sex? ;-)

I explore something that was a real epiphany for me: that our modern relationships are actually the newMystery School - they're the way in which we discover the Divine in ourselves, and in those we love.  This memoir - which is also written like a novel -- is about the deepest spiritual lesson of my life: that the Divine comes into the world through us when we love.  And just as you can't really know the Divine until it is embodied - in Nature, in yourself, in life, you can't really know the full power of love until you experience it physically. Contrary to a long, repressive history that's separated sex from the Sacred, we are the embodiment of divine energy, and sex is one of the most powerful and should be one of the most accessible ways for each of us to experience that radiance, that reality. To experience full, sacred, partnered eroticism - that can be very difficult in such a repressive culture, even for Pagans.   But the central mystery of our spirituality is the love story and the union of Goddess and God. Regardless of your particular cultural approach, we all tend to work with some form of this central spiritual dynamic. 

I wanted to share the wisdom that transformed my longing into love, the kind of love everyone years for and that we can all have.  I decided to bare my heart, my soul, my desires and experiences, hoping that people will recognize themselves in the story, and be inspired to discover the very best of who we are, and who we might become.  Because I believe that nothing is more expressive or our humanity - and divinity-than making love.  Just like BoS, this one has been a journey of self-discovery and change, for me and I hope for the reader.  I also hope that, like BoS, they find it a great story and a great read.  And since it's about sacred sexuality, I hope they find it sexy.  It's a juicy, joyful affirmation of desire, pleasure and our capacity to love, but it's a very honest book, so it's also about the pain and struggle so many of us experience in trying to find and feel and give love, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

TWPT:  Do you think that your readers are going to readily enter into this new book? Is it written in a similar style as your two previous books or does this break some new ground for you?

PC:   I hope readers will love TLS just as much as they did BoS, and so far the response has been incredible - we sold 5,000 copies in the first 6 weeks, with virtually no press.  Like BoS, it's a story that teaches - I hope it will help the reader on his or her journey to true love. The writing style is  somewhat different, a bit more terse in some ways, because it's about the masculine principle. And the overall style, the language had to be more restrained to contrast with very erotic, explicit love scenes that needed more powerful and poetic language and that needed to stand out more. It was a wonderful challenge to find the style that suits the subject.  Whenever an author changes styles there are going to be some readers who are going to be disappointed. It's a challenge that every writer, every artist faces, that we all face - do we have the courage to grow and change? Or do we stick with the tried and true because it's safe and accepted? For me, as a writer, and as a Priestess, I'm interested in growing and developing.

Writing erotic love scenes was certainly breaking new ground - there's a reason people don't write erotic love scenes in the fist person - whew, talk about difficult!!  Especially at the beginning, writing felt as if I was making love in public!  I had to really challenge my own inhibitions to confront those of our culture. But that's one of the points of the book itself.  And if I can help one person free themselves, well, I help free the world.  That's so important, especially right now. All of my books are very honest, this one is particularly so, breaking a lot of cultural taboos. 

When I share my own journey, I find that it's one shared by so many other people.  The things I've struggled with are also things they've confronted.  And very often, the lessons that I've managed to pull out of those experiences are insights people find helpful.  That's one of the reasons I write. TLS is a "guide" to the magic of love - not in mechanical spells and recipes, but in the power of our heart's deepest longing.  It's written a bit like a modern fairy tale, and deals with some very obstacles to love, like how the culture colors our notions of romantic love, how our parents influence who we long for and how we love or fail to love.  And I dealt with a very important issue that's rarely discussed - the influence of unconscious forces on the outcome of our magic, and our lives.  The things we learn in childhood, the wounds and unfulfilled needs, are like dragons that emerge from a cave when we cast spells, especially love spells. 

The book is full of symbolism - one of my favorites that started popping up before even I understood its meaning is the magic mirror.  As I wrote and reflected on the lessons I needed to learn about my relationships, I recognized how our lover is so often a mirror of what is missing in ourselves, of what we need to heal or change within, just as we are a mirror for them.  What we like least in them, what drives us crazy is usually some unrecognized aspect of our shadow selves. So no matter if there isn't a happy ending to your fairy tale and your love spell -- each relationship is an opportunity to discover what you need to know about yourself in order to be more whole, more fulfilled and more capable of giving and receiving true love, the love that's right for you.  You can't love another until you've learned to love yourself, and you can't find your soulmate until you've found your soul.   That is the gift of our  journey to love.

In The Love Spell, my discovery of the God - embodied for me in a daemon, a kind of male muse -- actually transformed my relationship with the Goddess.  I discovered aspects of myself that I'd lost, and aspects of Her - particularly those having to do with love, sensuality, the strength it takes to be vulnerable, and the importance of being open - to the Divine and to love.  I realized how important polarity is to magic, to love, to eroticism and I discovered that I had really gotten stuck at the culturally defined "masculine" end of the gender spectrum - working hard, controlling my emotions, being strong and rational.  I was my own white knight - but I'd lost track of my princess.  And my relationship with the Goddess had been all Athena based.  For me,  Aphrodite had been a kind of Barbie doll.  Working on this book I realized that it was a problem lots of women have - we'd forgotten how to trust the feminine, and we'd lost the power to be receptive, which is NOT the same as passive.  It's moving energy by pulling, rather than pushing.  Whether it's spirituality or sexuality, you can't experience love if you can't open yourself to receive it. >

TWPT:  You are currently out on tour promoting this book to the community. What kinds of responses have you been receiving so far and has the press been as kind to you as they were with your previous two books?

PC:   The response from the community has been tremendous. So many people tell me that, just like BoS, The Love Spell arrived at exactly the right moment.  But there's a real crisis going on with distribution of The Love Spell and I really need the help and support of the community.  It turns out that shortly after the book's release, despite really strong initial sales, 10,000 copies were returned to the publisher - that's the balance of the first print run. People are having a very hard time finding copies in the major chains like Barnes & Noble. TLS had front of store placement and it's drawn fire from the fundamentalists who've called it "Satan's Love Spell."  There's no smoking gun, but it looks like the book is taking a major hit from the culture wars.

And in contrast to the first two books, there's been no press.  BoS is still a very strong selling book, so the sequel should do just as well, if not better.  And it was selling great - which meant that it would continue to sell well.  And the usual practice is that hardcover books are not returned to the publisher until shortly before the paperback is released, a year later. So something went seriously wrong. The fundamentalist right has also been putting pressure on stores to reduce the size of Wiccan sections and increase Christian sections.  And people have been reporting from all over the country that not only have they been unable to find TLS, the Wiccan sections are indeed shrinking.

Why is it happening? My books have always been a bridge between the mainstream and our community, and getting rid of it contributes to the accelerating marginalization of our community.  It's also a dangerous form of stealth censorship -- our community has always grown through the availability of books.  One of the things that is most gratifying to me are the tremendous number of people I meet who tell me that they found the Goddess and this spiritual path through my books. That was one of the purpose of TLS, and it won't happened if people can't find it on the shelves of mainstream stores. And it's certainly true for other authors. And, of course, my publisher is financially unable to publish my next book if this one doesn't sell. So my future as a Wiccan writer is in jeopardy. 

But sometimes very good things come out of very bad situations.  I'm like the canary in the coal mine, so I've been staying on the road, giving a very well received talk about the current political crisis called Sex, Religion and Politics, The Growing Threat of American Theocracy, trying to rouse people to activism before it is too late.  The theocratic agenda is very dangerous, it's a form of fascism, and they've gained far more power than any of us expected.  And the results are already coming home - they have for me.  And they have for many Wiccan/Pagan bookstores that have been harassed, for people who are having their rights infringed.  James Dobson, who founded Focus on the Family which is the most powerful and well endowed fundamentalist lobbying group, has said that biblical law should be the basis for American law, specifically that the death penalty should be instituted for adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and Witchcraft.  Impossible right? Wrong.  Remember Bill Frist, head of the Senate. Standing in front of tv cameras during the Schiavo tragedy and declaring that American law should conform to biblical law? And did you ever think that 130 members of Congress would say they were born again?  That's almost a third of the Congress.

I was in Dallas a few weeks ago to participate in an amazing Interfaith conference and there were so many threats that the Dallas police assigned 4 officers to protect us.  Everywhere we went, they went with us.  Fundamentalists see Interfaith work as the work of the Devil, and that's the way they see us.  I always get threats and nasty mail when a new book comes out, and am attacked in their media and websites, but there's a marked increase with the release of TLS.  They're feeling their power and their abusing it.  We're in serious trouble and we need to get active -- the only safe Pagan, or Wiccan, is  a politically active citizen.  

TWPT:  Has the Internet been a significant factor in your ability to promote  your books and your ideas to a much larger audience than you would have been able to do in the "good old days" before broadband and easy access to the web? Do you have any kind of contact with those who read your books via e-mail and is that something that you like to encourage?

PC:  In addition to being on the road, I'm depending on the Internet and the incrediblecommunications web that this community has woven to save The Love Spell, and my future as an author.  I need to get the word out to folks that The Love Spell has been published and that I need their support.  10,000 copies is an overwhelming amount for an author to sell alone - but it's a tiny number in terms of the size of our community. I've been an activist for the rights of this community for 25 years -- as a lawyer, as an advocate in the press, with Interfaith work and community service through various organizations. I'm a helper, not someone who asks for help, and it's really hard for me to ask -  but as soon as people find out, they've been great in getting the word out, buying the book, ordering it from the stores that aren't carrying it, inviting me to speak. Pagan bookstores have been incredible in setting up book signings and stocking TLS.  And now Amazon.com is selling the hardcover for only $10 - cheaper than the paperback will be. 

I was scared, but I'm not anymore.  I'm pissed off and fighting back; and so grateful for everyone's love and support.  I feel like Paul Revere - only I'm yelling that they're already here.  It's been incredible to meet and connect with people - this is the most amazing, generous, courageous, and inspiring community and I love getting emails and mail from people. I read everything I get and it makes it all worthwhile.  I don't always have the time to respond, but I've got some wonderful members of the Ara community working with me and we try to respond.  I'm reachable at info@templeofara.org . 

TWPT:  Has being an author and promoting your book taken away from your practice of law due to the time constraints of actually doing both on a full time basis?

PC:   I lost most of my practice with the huge amount of press and visibility that came with publishing. And yes, because I not only write but also travel, teach, do advocacy and activism, there isn't much time to maintain a traditional practice.  Of course, I continue to do pro bono consultation on First Amendment cases.  I trimmed my lifestyle and was thrilled to be able to be a mostly full time writer.  And now, if I can't continue to write, I'll find a way to  reestablish a full time practice, which will be a challenge as such a visible Wiccan priestess.

TWPT:  Looking into the future just a little do you see any trends that Witchcraft and Paganism might be gaining some ground in being recognized as a legitimate path among the religions of the world? 

PC:  I've devoted most of my adult life to being public and working for acceptance of Witchcraft and Paganism in mainstream culture. And there are now countless activists all over the country  and publications, websites, stores, conferences, Pagan Pride Day, and more, all contributing to the countless ways we in which we are better off now than years ago.  There are millions of us, many of us are public, we're everywhere - we are far more accepted.  I do a lot of interfaith work and we are increasingly accepted in that community, and therefore more accepted by other faith traditions.  The popularity of Wiccan books earned us the appreciation and respect of the publishing world - the dollar speaks louder than anything in this culture.  And of course, there's been tons of pop culture stuff with lots of positive, though often silly, images of "Witches."  But I've also seen a radical turn to the far right - in the media and the coverage we are no longer receiving, in publishing, in the courts, in the workplace, and in the broader political currents that affect all Americans.  But this community is in particular jeopardy from a fascist movement that truly believes that anyone who isn't with them is working with Satan.  We're in danger of becoming the new Jews in a fascist culture that's hiding behind red, white and blue bunting and religious platitudes. We need to be vigilant, we need to be active, we need to speak up, we need to support each other, and we need to participate in the broader discussion of true moral values.  And here's a another reason why that goes far beyond our petty, and not so petty, human concerns: 50% of all the species of plants and animals will be gone by 2050 - that's a terrifying prospect and we can't allow it to happen because we were naďve or in denial or too busy.

TWPT:  I always like to close out my interviews by leaving some room to let the author fill in any gaps that I might have left by not asking about a certain topic near and dear to their hearts. Is there anything else you'd like to pass on to the readers of TWPT about your new book or about the path that we all follow?

PC:  Tons, but this has been a very long and thorough interview.  I guess I just want to say that wars come and go, governments come and go - even fascist ones, philosophies change, even religions grow and change or are replaced.  But one thing remains constant - Love.  It's the reason we're here, it's the proof of our divinity and it's the greatest magic there is. 

TWPT:  Thanks so much for talking to me about your writing and what's happening in your life and I wish you much success with your new book as well as the books that you have yet to write.