In ‘ The Laws of Magick’ in The Sunday Tribune I examined some of the legal frameworks which have railed against those practicing witchcraft. In a reversal of this I turn my attention now to the case of the only government appointed practitioner of witchcraft in the Western world. Louise Huebner, the official witch of Los Angeles.
As a media friendly author and radio/TV personality with no fear of self promotion, information on Louise Huebner’s early life appears in many sources, if all drawn solely from her own unchallenged account. Born in New York in 1930, she was consistent throughout interview and autobiography that she was aware of a supernatural power within herself from an early age, being able to influence her pre-teen peers with only her thoughts. Experience in controlling these abilities was learned from her grandmother, one of a long line of witches in the family. Prodigious, skilled at languages and, reading between her lines, benefiting from a certain level of wealth and privilege she was free to take advantage of the gradual opening of the American mainstream to counter cultural influences.
Moving to Los Angeles in the early sixties, Huebner became a regular fixture of local radio and television as an astrologer. Her husband Mentor was a hugely respected Hollywood illustrator. Much closer to a Samantha Stevens than a Baba Yaga, Heubner easily integrated into the social life of the major film studio’s upper echelons. As the nation began to turn on more than just the television, esoteric influences drawn from the British psychedelic explosion seemed to transmute into something darker in the American West Coast sun. Music and cinema increasingly displayed a more overt concentration on the occult. Publications as wide ranging as Life, Time, and Playboy began to run articles on witchcraft as something that diverted affluent,bored, mainly female suburbanites, on a par with swinging or dabbling with LSD. Within this context the offers started to come from national broadcasters, impressed by an articulate, amusing, and physically striking personality. This increase in notoriety caught the attention of Los Angeles Council, specifically councilor Enest Debs. Debs was aware that Heubner had parlayed her confidence and contacts into running a series of successful localised (in Los Angeles scale) festivals and parades. After discussion, Debs agreed to let Heubner co-ordinate the first of ten special summer concerts at the Hollywood bowl, the theme, already chosen, being Folklore.
Sensing the opportunity for free publicity arising from his guest co-ordinator’s popularity, Debs had an official scroll made up and sealed with the county stamp which read “This certifies that Louise Heubner has been designated the official witch of Los Angeles County by virtue of her supernatural powers and is officially assigned to reign over folk day at the Hollywood Bowl on July 21st 1968 at which time she may be depended upon to cast a spell over all of Los Angeles County”. Curated with customary attention to detail, the Hollywood Bowl event was a success. Attended by 11,000 people, this must still be the largest recorded casting of any spell. The stated intention of the spell was to increase the sexual potency of the entire Los Angeles region via the incantation “Light the flame, Bright the fire, Red is the colour of desire”. I am inclined to say it was a success.
Continuing to expand into other mediums, a spoken word album “Seduction by Witchcraft” was recorded, backed by exotic electronic sounds. An instructional book, “Power Through Witchcraft” was published in 1969. On the reverse of the both Huebner set out her official accreditation. The novelty had worn off within the local authority however, and the realisation was gradually sinking in that the publicity sought from their witch’s notoriety was flowing almost entirely in the opposite direction. Ernest Debs instructed county Counsel John Marhag to write stating that the title of official witch applied only in relation to, and for the duration of, the Hollywood Bowl event. His instruction was that she “immediately discontinue the use of the title “the official witch of Los Angeles County” or any similar designation that you are affiliated with Los Angeles government”. This interpretation was rejected by the subject, who pointed out no such stipulation was discussed at the time of granting. Additional official invitations to take part in subsequent events had also been issued and accepted.
Press releases from Heubner followed. As a skilled manipulator of the media she knew exactly what angle would appeal to the papers, with whom she had an entirely beneficial relationship. The story ran that the official witch now intended to de-spell and de-sex the entire county, with special consequences for Counselor Debs as he had personally been gifted a golden horn to increase his prowess. Maybe no one wanted to take a risk with the potency of the region, or perhaps wiser heads within the city goverment could see that they were being outclassed at every turn in the publicity stakes. as the matter rested there. Louise Heubner retained her title until her death in 2014, albeit that she scaled back her public activities and had effectively retired by the mid seventies.
This story is an amusing one to tell – hopefully – and whilst the tale crops up on a regular basis keeping her name alive, it is a shame in other ways that the book “Power Through Witchcraft” is so comprehensively overshadowed. Published in Britain as “Witchcraft For All”, complete with naked Hexplotation cover, the text is usual in it’s directness and clear explanation of the doctrines followed. Heubner rejects the notion of Covens and arcane lore, instead concentrating on individual power. This magical Knoxianism continues to draw criticism from those who prefer a heirachal priestly or collective wiccan system. In many respects some chapters are closer to a modern self help book than a mystical tome, although there are extensive guides to casting basic spells and interpreting numerology. Heubner’s main philosophy, which appears throughout the book in different phrasing, is do not switch off, stay on, always, as in the following passage: “”Relax – be yourself” That’s the surest route to nowhere ever advocated! Don’t relax! Do the opposite, get yourself all keyed up. The keyed up, emotionally turned on you is the best you the world will ever see.”
It is a matter of personal regret that I only became aware of Louise Huebner and her writing very shorty before her death and had no opportunity to correspond with her directly. Researching this article reminded me that her policy of openess had not changed by the time social media rolled around. It takes only a brief amount of research to find evidence of her being happy to supply or, as often, correct information online.