February 2005 (v7 i4)
Counting the Ways Since 1997
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Catty Wiccan practices bitchcraft
There’s no ‘I’ in ‘coven,’ say fellow witches
by Ryan B. Martinez, Associate Editor

"It's your turn to refill the patchouli!"
SANTA FE, NM — Avowed Wiccan Lilith Browning, the 46-year-old leader of a small group of witches known as Crystalline Coven, has abandoned the serene pursuit of white magic in favor of "bitchcraft," say coven members.

"I don't care how much bad energy I'm channeling when I say this: Lilith Browning is a sour hag," said Eileen Lambourn, 38, who helped found the coven with Browning three years ago. "The only thing she knows how to conjure is bile — from my stomach all the way to the back of my throat."

Wicca, a neopagan spiritual movement whose diverse followers share a reverence for nature and a form of goddess worship, has steadily grown since becoming popularized in the 1940s by British civil servant Gerald Gardner. Throughout its history, the movement has battled Christian smear campaigns and misconceptions perpetuated by popular culture.

Browning is not boosting Wicca's public image, say coven members.

"That woman reinforces every negative stereotype about witches that has ever existed. She's mean, she's domineering, and when she laughs, she cackles," says Janelle Stevenson, 24, a Crystalline member for two years. "Now we just need a house to fall on top of her, and then we're all set."

Stevenson chuckled, then soberly added: "No, seriously. I'd love that."

Browning's 12 coven sisters have all expressed frustration at her for behavior they believe goes against the Wiccan Rede, the moral edict that "if it harms no one, do what you will." Her egotism and micromanagement of Esbat rituals, held 13 times a year to celebrate each new moon, has hindered sisterhood within the all-female group and fostered an environment of hostility.

"Oh my goddess, did you see the way she totally hogged the chanting talisman during the Incantation of Gaea?" said Sandy Westmoreland, who, at 19, is the youngest coven member. "She was hanging on to that thing like it was going to give her back her menstrual cycle."

Conflict within the group hit a fever pitch when Browning decided to do away with ritual invocations to the Horned God, the male deity of sexual virility, shortly after Browning's husband left her for a younger woman.

"I was like, 'Lily, I thought we agreed at the beginning that our coven wouldn't follow the Dianic Way,'" Lambourn said. "'The Horned God, while less important than the Earth Mother, still plays a major part in the degenerative and regenerative cycles of nature.' And she was all, 'Eileen, darling, it's clear that the male-female dialectic isn't working. We need the Horned God in our rituals about as much as you need another snack cake.'"

Lambourn continued: "What a fucking bitch. She knows I'm insecure about my weight."

While members have whispered to each other about leaving the coven, they remain compliant with Browning's wishes because of a list of incriminating secrets that she keeps in her personal Book of Shadows in lieu of the prayers, charms, and Wheel of the Year that should usually go there.

"How are we supposed to develop a raith if she's dominating the whole process and blackmailing us?" asked Stevenson. "The merging of psyches into a cone-shaped energy swirl that brings communion with the Earth Mother doesn't just happen overnight — or through one specific person. Lily needs to learn that there's no 'I' in 'coven.'"

She added: "Just like there's no 'bitch' in 'witchcraft.'"
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