Life of a Witch: Interview with Laurie Cabot
Laurie Cabot is a controversial and respected pioneer of so much of what we think of today as being Witchcraft and Wicca in America. Cabot is the founder of her own Witchcraft Tradition, the Cabot Tradition of the Science of Witchcraft, and the Witches’ League for Public Awareness in 1986. In 1987 she formed the Temple of Isis as a chapter of the National Alliance of Pantheists.
Christopher: You have been involved in so many things that are now history in the Craft. How did it all start? How were you drawn to Witchcraft? When and where did your training start?
Laurie: I started as a child with very strong psychic awareness then started to look for answers. That quest put me on the path of an HPs of the Kent tradition and there I started learning the foundations.
Christopher: What was it like to be a Witch, before it became popular? Were you open about it in the beginning? What was the early community like?
Laurie: I have always been open about it. At first I was open about my desire to be educated, then to actualize what I was. There was some initial curiosity and then the kind of overt hostility that you would expect which continues to this day, but along the way a kind of respect came from those that bothered to get beyond their first impressions.
Christopher: Today Pagans wonder how much to teach their children about their traditions. Why did you decide to raise you two daughters as Witches?
Laurie: My children were exposed to what I did. I never forced it upon them. If they had wanted to go to Catholic Sunday school I would have driven them. Spirit is an individual path not one to be dictated by others.
Christopher: What drove you to live openly as a Witch, fully out of the broom closet?
Laurie: It was my dedication to live openly and in service to the Goddess, the God, the All. There was no other way.
Christopher: Why did you move to Salem and did this turn out to be an important turning point in your life?
Laurie: Salem was important to me in the way that I found an area that felt like home to me. But it was much more important to the city of Salem to have real Witches gather there, even if at first they tried everything to make our lives miserable.
Christopher: Your first shop was The Witch Shoppe which you opened in 1971. Was it the first such shop in Salem?
Laurie: It was probably the first such shop in the country if not the world totally dedicated to the craft and the needs of the community. I learn every day. I struggle the same way as anyone who is an entrepreneur, we can all share stories. In my case, the store was created, not to create some retail empire, but to support the community. The kinds of markups that are common in other areas of retail, I will not do. We make very little and if it was not for volunteers, we would not have been able to survive at all. In fact many of the products were simply not available before I found suppliers and some things I need to make myself as no one else does.
Christopher: How did The Cat, The Crow and The Crown get started?
Laurie: It is necessary to my tradition, and to others in the community, to have central place where they can get supplies. The store is where I can meet with the community. Here we can gather as a group, teach and share.
Christopher: You have been a teacher in craft for a long time. Didn’t you start teaching in the local colleges soon after you moved to Salem?
Laurie: Yes I did. Though the idea that a visible Witch was teaching became the focus more than the actual information being taught. It soon became counterproductive to the learning process.
Christopher: Don’t you see Witchcraft somewhat differently?
Laurie: Witches who are true to their traditions have more in common than not. What makes the Cabot tradition different is the emphasis on science and how we teach. I teach the science, art and finally the religion and all of it is supported by the Hermetic principles. There is no need for belief, just actualization. Belief is a dangerous concept; it supports ignorance and typically comes up when we reach the limits of our education or understanding. I do not need to understand the universe to marvel at it. I do not need to believe in the All since I see it everywhere and I need not believe that Magick works since I experience it. We should Be and Live fully in the moment that is the unfolding of every other moment, our path, tools and science guide us on this journey.
Christopher: Many of your students have become well known in their own right. What is it like for you when a Witch comes into his or her own?
Laurie: If they become known for excelling and being happy and walking the path of the ancestors then I am happy for them.
Christopher: Have you always been an activist? What causes you to get so involved, be it in civil rights or in the community?
Laurie: How can one NOT get involved. That is our path is it not?
Christopher: How did you become known in the media?
Laurie: To be honest, the only milestone for me was dedicating myself to this path, after that there was only the continuous unfolding of the path, the greatest moments are not always those that are accompanied by media, they can in fact be small precious moments shared with few, if anyone, yet they all shape what is to come.
Christopher: Was this when you began becoming known as an author?
Laurie: Yes the books were well received. I am glad of that.
Christopher: How and why did the Salem Witches’ Ball get started?
Laurie: The Ball was created as a fundraiser and all the proceeds went to the various charities and support groups that over the years I wanted to help. It was also a wonderfully fun way to gather the community together and celebrate the New Year.
Christopher: Now in the 21st century, what are the projects that you are most busy in?
Laurie: We are creating a Temple for the community as there has never been more need of proactive and organized efforts to continue this tradition.
Christopher: In a long a varied life, what are the things you are the proudest of and hope to be remembered for?
Laurie: I can hope that I have carried the torch of our ancestors correctly and perhaps taught a few to do the same along the way.
Christopher: Witchcraft and Wicca have come a long way. But what do we still need to do? What would you like to see us as a community develop?
Laurie: If you read the news, you will see that we have much to do. The protections afforded us are a thin veneer. Until all of us who walk in parallel paths stop bickering and act in unison we will not have the numbers, economic weight and votes to affect change in public policy much less public consciousness and we have no one but ourselves to blame if we fail to do this.
Christopher: Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Laurie: This path is not one born of Hollywood fantasy. Our exact history is not always clear but the knowledge, science, art and religion are and are made manifest to those who dedicate themselves to learning and the practice. Our roots are the most ancient of all and it is amusing that our myths, holidays and even deities have been taken over by those religions that have come after us. I would only request that if you walk this path, dedicate yourself to it fully. We have no need for fantasy; our collective Magicks work for the good of all.
This interview was first published in ACTION Beltane 2010.