2016-06-30
Phyllis Curott is an author, attorney and Wiccan high priestess. One of the Wiccan spiritual movement's most influential theologians, Curott lectures and teaches internationally, and is also the Wiccan representative to Harvard University's Religious Pluralism Project Consultation on Religious Discrimination and Accommodation. Curott, 50, describes The Love Spell as a true story of a love spell that worked, and the sexual and spiritual journey that the spell provoked. It's also a tale of personal, and global, awakening to the magic of love. Beliefnet senior editor Deborah Caldwell talked with Curott about the spell.

How did you decide that you wanted to cast a love spell?

From the time we're little kids--singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or blowing out the candles and wishing on our birthday cake--we're casting spells all the time. When you meditate, when you make a plan, when you make a wish, you're casting a spell, you're opening your heart to the universe, you're focusing your mind and visualizing what you want, and you then are investing life force energy to bring it about. And that was part of the message of this book--I wanted people to realize how powerful we really are in manifesting the longings of our heart.

Tell the story of casting the old-fashioned spell to get your man.

I was 27, and practicing Wicca at the time. I was a witchlet, a baby witch, and had been practicing for about a year. My women's group would meet in this wonderful, spooky old shop, a dark dusty shop in New York, which is no longer there, a perfect movie set. I would see all these people coming in to cast love spells, and I had been longing for a long time, and finally I said to myself, "Well, why not? If you can, why shouldn't you?" So I concocted a potion which was made up of an herb which at the time was much more obscure and now much better known in the medical community, using the bark--it's calledyohimbe--using the bark of an African tree, and it has to be treated very specifically because it can be toxic.

Wow.

It's given to men to enhance their sexuality, and in African cultures it's given to newlywed couples for their honeymoon night. Anyway, I whipped up this little potion and I followed the directions very carefully, and it was a full moon on a Friday night, the night devoted to the Goddess of Love, and I cast a circle to create sacred space and to contain the energy that I was going to raise, and I had a drawing of a very romantic image of a man who looked like a king. He was wearing a crown, and had wonderful cheekbones and long hair. He was riding this magnificent horse with a long mane and a long tail, and a broad sword and a shield with a face on it. And sitting in front of him on the horse in his embrace, is a princess, and they're going through a magical forest. And I clutched that to my chest as I went into an altered state, which was extraordinary and intense, with amazing feelings of energy coursing through me. And I then proceeded to use a little good old-fashioned sex magic, which is essentially the harnessing of one's arousal and orgasm. That energy is directed into what it is that you are longing for, the goal of your spell, the object of your prayers. And for me it was embodied in this image.

There was this sense of diving deep below the surface of my own inhibitions, which is when I brought the energy of sexuality into this religious ritual that was devoted to love. And then I fell asleep after the culmination of this rite and the raising of energy.

A number of weeks later, lo and behold, one evening the priestess that I was studying with said, "I have somebody that I want to introduce you to," and she pointed to a man standing, looking at a book, his back to me. He had long hair, and when he turned around he was the image in that drawing. The long hair, gaunt cheekbones, and I almost passed out.

Did you immediately know this was "him?"

Yes, I knew who it was. And he looked at me and I looked at him and there was this flair, that love at first sight thing that hits, and I think he felt it too.

How does casting a spell work?

We know now, through lots of studies, how much the mind and the heart--the energy of a human being's soul--directed at a goal can affect the outcome. That's quantum physics. One perspective on this is when you use herbs and spells and incense and music and chanting, essentially all you're doing is using those things to trigger a shift in consciousness. And that it's actually that shift in consciousness that makes things manifest. There is another theory which says, yes, that's true, that is what's going on, but simultaneously everything has energy, and so you're adding the energies of a plant and aroma and light and color and sound - all these additional energies to your own, which have the effect of magnifying what you're doing.

One analog is eating: You digest the food, and it's the energy you run on. It also becomes a part of you. So when it's digested is that the energy of the food or is that your energy? It has become one and the same. The way I look at it is that whatever energy is contained within the rose or the digitalis or the candle or the oil is only potential. The power is not in that object. It's really in you, and it doesn't manifest until you act upon the object, until you work with it. And that's when the power becomes manifest.

Suppose I work for 10 years with a particular ritual tool, like a goblet--for me it's a very powerful spiritual aid. If a stranger came along and picked that goblet up and drank from it or put it on their shelf or whatever, would they suddenly have magic in their lives because the object was so charged. It's not until you are conscious and aware that you can unlock that power, tap into that power and make it work.

Suppose you're a typical American woman who is not a Wiccan. How would you cast a love spell?

One of the most important messages that I hope will be communicated in this book is that you don't have to be Wiccan to understand love. Everybody knows when you fall in love the world is magic, regardless of your religion. Everybody has that experience, that the world is more radiant, that all of your senses are heightened. Love is for me the greatest of magic or the greatest of miracle or the greatest divine truth, they all mean the same thing. When you make a wish, when you pray, when you meditate, when you chant, when you visualize--so much of the self-help books do what we've been doing for a long time, but without that red-button word "witch" or "witchcraft." For example, you sit down and you make a list of all the qualities that you want in a partner, and then you take that list and you put it in an envelope and you put it some place safe. Then lo and behold, that person appears. Anyone can do it, because what you're doing--whether it's a spell or a potion or a meditation or wish or a list, what you're doing is opening your heart to the universe. And love is the most powerful energy there is. And longing is an expression of that desire for love. It's also the initiation of our journeys to love and the journey to ourselves. But anyone can do that, and everybody does.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I do. But I have learned that love at first sight is not often as it appears to be.

Explain.

If you walk into a room full of strangers, there's some sort of unconscious radar--whether it's body language or appearance or whatever--that will direct you to exactly who you are attracted to. Inevitably that person embodies the pattern that we absorbed in childhood. It's an unconscious pattern that holds within it all the mysteries of the journey of love that we have to go through. And it's a journey that involves realizing who we are and seeing what our needs and our wounds are. What we so often do is project those those wounds, those needs, onto the person with whom we fall in love at first sight. That person embodies the missing parts of ourselves. And then through the relationship we're seeking to heal these leftover wounds of childhood.

You experienced love at first sight with Derek, the object of your love spell, but then it turned out he wasn't the right man.

Yes--you know, you go through life, you have relationships, you approach them with a full and open heart, and a belief that this is the one, and you commit yourself to that journey together. Then you begin to find that the reality doesn't conform to your fantasy.

In fact, when we fall in love at first sight we are under the influence of the love potion--that's what they call it--which is this biochemical surge that the brain and the body produces, that basically intoxicates you so you go mad with love, and you can't see the person that you've fallen in love. And it's not until those chemicals abate, which takes anywhere from six months to three years, that you begin to see the reality of the person that you are with, and most people at that point think that they've fallen out of love, because that intensity, fervor, and erotic arousal has diminished. You are entering a new level of intimacy, which demands more of you in a sense, people leave, because they're not getting the rush. Very often people will go looking for the repetition of that rush; they look to fall in love again.

To me, a relationship is discovering the reality of who you're with, and the role they play in the discovery of your own soul. You can't love fully--you can't find your soul mate until you have found your own soul, until you're whole. And the gift that we give each other in these relationships is the opportunity to discover those missing or wounded parts of ourselves, so that instead of trying to heal your partner--and that's what I did--I finally realized it was myself that needed healing. Instead of trying to support and nurture him, it was I who needed the support and the nurturing. And it was only after I had made that journey, which was a journey of many years, that I came to a place of peace and wholeness and openness to the ability to truly love.

What is the relationship between women's sexuality and spirituality?

I think that relationships are the new mystery schools--in Western culture they were the mysteries of the Goddess, often sexual. The mythology was that of the descent of the goddess into the underworld, and her confrontation with death, which was usually the God in his role as the warrior, and their union out of which new life comes, and the emergence then out the underworld. Their union is sexual, and to me that idea of conjoined polarity is at the heart of the entire universe. The entire universe is held together by the dynamic interaction of these opposite poles that are brought together to create something new; that's how new life's created.

So when we engage in relationship, that coming together is the opportunity for the revelation of a profound spiritual mystery, which you find in the eyes of the beloved. And that's the reason for our existence. It is through us that love comes into the world, and it is through us that divinity comes into the world, and it is at that moment of connection, of recognition, loves comes into the eyes, it is that moment of connection with another. And it doesn't have to be only a sexual, you know, expressed in a sexual connection.It can be through a child, it can be through friends, it can be an act of compassion with a stranger--but it is that moment of recognition of the connection between two human beings that we are expressing our divinity. Sexuality between two people who are in love is a way of finding the divine within yourself, experiencing it, seeing it, recognizing it, feeling it, being a partner, seeing it embodied, feeling it embodied.

 

So are you saying that the love potion brings two people together, but it's only after sexual union that you figure out whether you can create true love together--or are you saying that you find common ground as friends first, and then experience the sacred sexual union?

I think it can work both ways. In my experience, there was an amazing experience of realization initially through sexual experience, through the process of making love. That experience of making love as a revelation of divinity can be an event that occurs once, and then never again. That requires a more sophisticated perspective than most of us have.

You wrote a fair amount about the idea of being sexually receptive, of learning how to be feminine in your sexuality. Can you explain that?

I've been having conversations with women all over the country and I'm hearing from so many women that they're all struggling with the same thing that I struggled with. We were part of the first wave of women into the work force. And in order to make our way, we had to become like men. But the problem was that, first of all we were buying into the rules of the game, when in fact it was the game that needed to be changed. And in the process of going over to the other side we relinquished a lot of the feminine.

This book is about realizing that what I had done in the boardroom I was doing in the bedroom. And it's been an amazing to talk to so many women and hear over and over again how they have all been struggling with the same affliction that we didn't even realize for a long time: that we would get home, after being the breadwinners, and go to bed with our partners, and it was just not working. There was no sexual tension, it wasn't erotic, it wasn't arousing, it wasn't working, and it was in part because we were still in our heads, we were still trying to control. We were still, you know, active! active! active! Go go go go go! Evaluating: is he aroused? Am I doing it right? Am I doing a good job?

And then we would come home, and very often we would come home to men who were holding the feminine energy and they were drawn to us because we were holding the masculine energy, but when it came time to enter the temple of the heart, the sacred sanctuary of eroticism, we were frustrated and unfulfilled and we didn't know why. Even when we began to figure out why, it was still a struggle because we couldn't get the armor off. And there was a complete rejection of the idea of being receptive. We confuse being receptive with being passive or being submissive, and the fact is that no one can experience love unless they're capable of being receptive. Receptive is dynamic. It's just a different movement of energy. It's pulling instead of pushing.

How did you write those explicit scenes?

It was unbelievably difficult to write this. There's a reason that very few writers write erotically, because it is the hardest thing to write.

Did you read romance novels?

I did! I read a lot of romance novels, actually. I read the classics, I read the erotic sex scenes from major authors, all periods of literature, and I read a lot of modern stuff, which I found to be completely unerotic. There are stories about sex and they're not even remotely sexy.

And finally, thanks to the librarian at my local library, I found my way to romance novels. I discovered that romance novels are actually the secret erotica of the American women. The women in these books are strong, self-reliant, independent, but they haven't lost their feminine capacities to be receptive. And the men are very strong males, but they are incredibly receptive, very emotional, very giving, and the erotic scenes are about that give and flow of energy back and forth. Because both partners have to be capable of both.

And then I sat down and I started to write, and I was blocked! Completely blocked! Try to write a love scene in the first person! No one does that, it's an utterly insane thing to do. So I started by writing in the third person, and then I went back and changed it to first person, and gradually by the end of the book I was able to write in the first person. For all of my spiritual perspectives, I had to confront that we are the embodiment of divine energy, that our bodies are sacred, that sexuality is sacred, that it's the path to discovering divinity.

When you sit down to write this kind of thing, you feel like you're having sex in public and you have to confront all of the inhibitions that come from your culture. And it took a while, but I was able to break though. It was very important to me to write a book that was sexy and arousing that validated women's capacity for to experience ecstasy. Their right to experience it, their capacity to experience it, what it was that they longer for, and I wanted to write it in a way that was genuinely reaffirming of that and arousing, because I really believe that a sexually aroused and gratified woman is the most powerful force in the universe, and in that that state is the embodiment of the Goddess.

So you finished the book and write and ending that was a fantasy about meeting Mr. Right. And then what happened?

It ended with the realization that I'm casting a spell and that it ends with my closing of the book, putting down my pen, and the reader's realization that I've cast the spell. And I sent it to my editor and she called me up and she said, "You have to get the guy in the ending." And I said, "I'd love to but it's not a novel, it's a memoir. This book is the story of a spell that worked but the book itself is also a spell." She said, "You're a witch! Make it work!" and I said, "I'm doing the best I can."

And then about one lunar cycle after that, I met someone--it was utterly guided and incredibly magical. We didn't meet in person--we met over the Internet, and we corresponded for six weeks before we actually met in person.

Did you meet on an online dating service?

We did. I looked at a dating site on my computer and thought, "It's like eBay shopping! So much fun!" And I put up a profile and I was swamped and started dating and made a very good friend from it with whom I dated for a quite a while. But then I had to work on my book, so I put it aside. And a month after I met with my editor, the little voice inside that I had learned to listen to--said go to the dating site. I said, "I'm not wasting my time with that." And the voice said "You have to go right now."

So I gave up because the voice is usually right, and I'm looking through the pictures and there's this little picture of Sitting Bull, which I recognized because I did a lot of indigenous, shamanic work for a long time. The voice said, "That's the one." And up came the profile and I started reading and it was written by someone who was clearly a terrific writer, and there were pictures of this dark haired, dark eyed guy. I sent him a note and he looked at my profile. And we had, as two writers would, a very 19th century courtship of correspondence.



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