We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we at AMASS are, um, a little obsessed with the occult. Chalk it up to our Co-Founder and Master Distiller being a practicing witch, a preoccupation with all things herbal, or the fact that we’re a stone's throw away from some serious energy vortexes here in LA, but witchy wonders take up quite a bit of our headspace.
That’s why, in anticipation of this year’s upcoming Winter Solstice, we’re recounting the witchy women we know, love, and think you should too.
Where do we even start with Marjerie Cameron? A poet, actress, and dedicated occultist, Cameron was known for her sex magic rituals (more on that in a minute) and for being a lifelong follower of Thelema, the spiritual philosophy founded by part mystic, part magician Aleister Crowley.
She met her would-be husband, rocket scientist and fellow Thelemite Jack Parsons, in 1946. Unbeknownst to Cameron, before their meeting Parsons had intended to attract an elemental woman to be his lover. Then Cameron showed up, all red-haired and blue-eyed, and Parsons considered the deed done. The two spent the next two weeks enraptured in between the sheets. To Cameron, those two weeks were a passionate love affair, but to Parsons, they were a rite intended to invoke the birth of the Thelemite goddess into human form.
A few years later in 1952, Parsons died in a mysterious explosion, and Cameron descended deep into delirium, becoming increasingly paranoid that Parsons had been murdered by anti-Zionists. Through astral projection, she made efforts to commune with his spirit, and headed east to a ranch in Beaumont, CA. There she amassed a group of magical practitioners she called “The Children,” and oversaw sex magic rituals with the intent of creating a breed of mixed-race "moonchildren" who would be devoted to the Egyptian deity Horus.
From there, Cameron’s whereabouts get a little fuzzy, flitting from the bohemian circles of Beat-era San Francisco to a ranch just outside of Joshua Tree. Finally, she landed in a small bungalow in the then-impoverished streets of West Hollywood, which were lined with sex stores and adult movie theatres. She’d remain there for the rest of her life.
That brings us to Leila Waddell, Aleister Crowley’s most powerful muse and a talented violinist, who became a member of the gypsy band in A Waltz Dream in 1902 at Daly’s London Theatre. There she met Aleister, and the two studied the occult together while taking a lot of mescaline. Aleister had several cute pet names for Waddell, including “Divine Whore,” “Mother of Heaven,” and “Scarlet Woman,” and he wrote ample poetry about her, as well as two short stories entitled “The Vixen" and "The Violinist.”
Like most muses, Waddell also played a key role in shaping Crowley’s thoughts and philosophical musings. She earned a writer’s credit on Crowley’s Magick (Book 4), as she and several of Crowley’s other students helped shape the text by eliciting commentary and asking key questions. Among other members of his magical order, Crowley cast Waddell as the star of his planetary-based magical rites, the Rites of Eleusis.
Their relationship dissolved after a series of affairs, however, and Waddell returned to her orchestral roots in Sydney, playing and teaching the violin until her death at the age of 52.
Last but not least, there is Zeena Schreck, daughter of the Church of Satan’s founder Antony LaVey and a spiritual leader in her own right. Like Leila Waddell, Schreck is also a musician, as well as a visual artist, photographer, and writer. Stylistically, she has been inspired by artists whose work is heavily imbued with a sense of mysticism and magic, and the idea that lineage is a vehicle to pass down metaphysical energy guides her ritual art.
In the ‘80s, Schreck served as the high priestess of the Church of Satan and remained its primary spokesperson until 1990, when she left the church to become a devotee of the ancient Egyptian deity Set and form the Sethian Liberation Movement. Unsurprisingly, during her time as the head of the Church of Satan, she had to take the heat for some serious publicity blunders. It wasn’t exactly the lifestyle she had in mind, and in a 2011 interview she said as much, “This was not what I'd intended to do with my life, I had other plans.”
Upon leaving the church, Schreck’s family lodged a full-scale smear campaign against her, and she decided to sever ties entirely, legally changing her last name from LaVey to Shreck. To this day, she won’t respond to any correspondence addressing her as “Zeena LaVey.”
These days, Schreck keeps mostly to herself and out of the news, save for the occasional conspiracy theory.
Feeling inspired to channel your inner witch? Read up on the occultish ways we like to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and then practice your own at-home rituals with our Mateo Candle, perfect for illuminating the darkest night of the year.