It make sense that Hollywood would be an unholy haven for members of the occult. You'd have to be involved in the Black Arts to get that star on the Walk of Fame, amirite? But while fame definitely has a dark side, some evil little tidbits seem highly exaggerated. Stevie Nicks plays a witch on American Horror Story, but has shrugged off those rumors like a gold shawl. Marilyn Manson, the Antichrist Superstar himself, is a card-carrying member of the Church of Satan...which doesn't hold much weight in the actual Church of Satan. Then again, some stars like Azealia Banks are not fronting when it comes to witchcraft. And as for those tales of the Illuminati...I'm 110 percent not getting into it today, so go hunting elsewhere.
However, I did page through the World Wide Web's Dark Library (Google) to judge whether someone was a good witch, a bad witch, not a witch at all, or literally just into crystals right now. And do keep in mind that I’m not an expert, I’m just another chick who wears a lot of black and has a Tarot Card print phone case.
Lana Del Rey
You were plausibly in-the-know about this one before even clicking but to recap, in 2017 Lana Del Rey posted some ominous instructions for her Twitter followers. "At the stroke of midnight… Feb 24, March 26, April 24, May 23… Ingredients can b found online," she wrote, referring to a global hex meant to bind the president.
When asked about it later, Del Rey had a perfect IDGAF react. “Yeah, I did it. Why not? Look, I do a lot of *$&#”, Del Rey shared with NME. “I'm in line with Yoko [Ono] and John [Lennon] and the belief that there's a power to the vibration of a thought. Your thoughts are very powerful things and they become words, and words become actions, and actions lead to physical charges.”
Verdict: More of a casual Tumblr-era spellcaster, if anything.
Azealia Banks has has a long history with dabbling in magic(k), and in fact it may have been a generational thing. “My mother practiced white table magic. Prayers to the ancestors and praying to saints and praying for all kind of protection,” she explained to Broadly.
That sounds like a very sweet tradition, but Banks’ approach to the arts is um...a little different. In a 2016 video, Banks shared she was cleaning out a closet where she practiced Brujería (“witchcraft” in Spanish, FYI) for three years. And there weren’t plastic skulls or black candles from Pier One Imports left in there; the closet was covered in blood, chicken feathers, and some other kind of horrifying substance.
“Real witches do real things,” she said video. UM, apparently.
Verdict: She is not playing games when it comes to witchcraft. All I’m gonna say is I would not want to be Lana Del Rey if I were involved in that kind of magical duel.
Oh, Stevie Nicks, the white witch. Stevie Nicks brought four decades of Fleetwood Mac lore to American Horror Story: Coven, playing on a classic rumo(u)r: She’s a witch. Nicks reasonably had reservations about parodying herself in that way. “In the beginning of my career, the whole idea that some wacky, creepy people were writing, 'You're a witch, you're a witch!' was so arresting,” she told LA Times in 2014. “And there I am like, 'No, I'm not! I just wear black because it makes me look thinner you idiots." Amazing.
That is to say that Nicks, her image, and those songs dabbling in mysticism and shadows of women (“This is a song about a Welsh Witch” was a popular opener for “Rhiannon”) are mostly a matter of aesthetics. She does not, view witchcraft or wicca as a “natural philosophy at all” according to a 1983 interview with Entertainment Tonight. There you have it: As she twirls back into American Horror Story: Apocalypse this Halloween, keep telling yourself that it’s just a TV show. You know, for more reasons than one.
Verdict: Adamantly NOT a witch, still reigns supreme.
This seems like an obvious choice, like adding “Beautiful People” to your Halloween Spotify. As explained in Marilyn Manson’s ‘98 biography Long Hard Road Out of Hell, he met Anton LeVay while on tour with Nine Inch Nails. LeVay was totes impressed. “Near the end of our visit, he said, ‘I want to make you a Reverend,’ and gave me a crimson card certifying me as a minister in the Church of Satan,” Manson explained. “It was like an honorary degree from a university.”
I mean, that’s sort of exactly what it’s like. CoS’s High Priest Peter Gilmore sort of diminished Manson’s actual role in the Church a few years back.
“He’s a member who has been given an honorary priesthood,” Gilmore told Loudwire. “When asked about what Satanism is he can be very articulate in explaining it. But his own music is his own art. His stage shows are his own, and they don’t really exemplify Satanism in particular.”
Maybe I’m reading into this but “very articulate in explaining it” feels like low-key shade. It more-or-less sounds like Manson’s involvement in Satanism is being able to talk about the religion without Googling it. Which, hey, better than me.
Verdict: Sorry, Gothlings, but Manson seems to be a fair-weather Satanist, at best.
Oh man, it would be very easy to go down a Bowie clickhole, so let’s keep things concise. In the mid-70s David Bowie was living off a diet of red peppers, milk, and cocaine, and that combo tends to keep you from sleeping. As such, he spent his spare time reading, picking up more than a few occult books. One of his favs was Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense, a guide to protecting oneself against the spells of other sorcerers. Having reached peak paranoia, Bowie started drawing pentagrams everywhere to keep himself safe.
And ICYMI, Bowie was dropping occult references in his songs as early as 1971’s “Quicksand.” The lyrics read “I’m closer to the Golden Dawn/Immersed in Crowley’s uniform of imagery,” referencing both the Occultist poster boy and the late 19th Century Order of the Golden Dawn. Likewise, those references were as late as “Black Star”: “in the villa of Ormen” refers to a serpent in Crowley’s work.
Then again Bowie also tapped upon Tibetan Buddhism, Kaballah, Christian mysticism, so I think he just had lots of tweaked-out library time.
Verdict: David Bowie was influenced by everything and then influenced everyone and I miss him every day. What are we talking about?
One of the most magical snapshots of Old Hollywood showcases Jayne Mansfield, bosomy blonde bombshell, paling around with Satanism’s High Priest Anton LaVey. Mansfield and LaVey became BFFs after a meeting at the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival. They partied in her Pink Palace (her mansion, not a metaphor), went out for dinner plans, and staged rituals for funzies. I do say “staged,” darling, because while these photos exist, Mansfield claimed to sort shrug off any accusations of being a Satanist.
A press release accompanying this unholy photoshoot has LaVey raving about how he made Mansfield a High Priestess and she enjoys love spells and blah blah blah. Weird mood, because Mansfield wasn’t practicing that faith.
“It is very interesting,” she said in the same press release. “I know the real basis of his church. I think he is a genius and I regard him as an interesting person. I am a Catholic and would not believe in his church. I am not a member of the black circle.’
So the most ~*dramatic*~ part of this is that there’s a theory that LaVey, consumed by jealousy over Mansfield’s boyfriend Sam Brody, accidentally caused Mansfield’s death. It presumes that LaVey hexed Brody, ensuring he would die in a car crash...and eventually, that car crash took Mansfield down with Brody.
Verdict: While Mansfield was definitely flirting with the devil, I personally don’t believe she died because she friendzoned him. It seemed more publicity stunt than religion, and remains a great story either way.
Sir Christopher Lee
Bond villain, Sith Lord, Saruman, Dracula. Sir Christopher Lee spent his acting career on the darker side of things. So it’s not entirely shocking that he at one point possessed 12,000 books on the occult. Like Page, this snowballed from a fascination with Crowley. Unlike Page, Lee was decidedly more empathic that the devil was not his homeboy.
“I have met people who claim to be Satanists, who claim to be involved with black magic, who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it,” Lee said in a Q&A at the University of Dublin. “But as I said, I certainly have not been involved and I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind: you lose your soul.”
Verdict: Non-practicing, very much a well-read badass.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Oh yes, Satanism seduced Sammy Davis Jr. by way of a 1968 Satanic orgy. You know, lots of hoods and masks, woman chained to a red-velvet altar, the usual. Seeing this as a v. fun time, Davis decided to partake in more Satanic orgies and hang hard with Anton LaVey and his kin.
He even tried to turn his belief into a rollicking 1973 sitcom called Poor Devil. The pilot features Davis as a low-level demon trying to move up the layers of hell, and hey, Christopher Lee plays Satan! Fun twist! LaVey loved it and gave Davis an honorary second-degree Church of Satan membership. No amount of soul-selling could make that show work, however.
And so, Sammy Davis Jr. kicked off the '80s dismissing his Satanism as a “short lived interest” but he still had “many friends in the Church of Satan” and I think that’s just swell.
Verdict: Pretty hardcore dedication during his time, generally SDJ seems open to plenty of religions. Let’s not forget he converted to Judaism!
Coins, stamps, Pokemon cards, Aleister Crowley memorabilia. Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page is a collector of at least one of those things, and spoiler alert: He’s more Black Arts than Blue Version.
Page’s fascination with the famed occultist reached Peak Weird when he bought Crowley’s old home, Boleskine House in 1970. He was quick to point out that it wasn’t just Crowley’s old haunts, it was also a hugely effed up cursed manor. My words, not his.
“Strange things have happened in the house that have nothing to do with Crowley,” he told Rolling Stone in 1975. “The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down.” LOVELY.
Page, however, made a point about how he mostly regarded Crowley as a “visionary,” and valued his beliefs in “total liberation.” Today, he seems to regard it as one of the passing fascinations of his youth. So next time you think you hear “my sweet Satan” getting a shout-out in the backmask for “Stairway to Heaven,” I would play it off.
Verdict: Page’s obsession with the occult was aggressive, for sure, but is it any more creepy than the cabinet of dead-eyed dolls your mom keeps in the living room?
WAIT, WHAT. Bear with me, but back in 2009 Graham apparently admitted to being part of a cozy little coven called The Goddesses.
"It's just for fun," she said. "We never jinx someone with evil spells. We meet in order to release positive energy. When one of us wishes to meet a great guy, we try to have an influence on that." Sounds more interesting than Book Club, I guess. And in a real Sammy Davis Jr. move, she even made her occult-y interest into art. This year, Graham put out a comedy film called Half Magic in which women reclaim power in Hollywood with witchcraft. Love it.
Verdict: "It's just for fun" kind of sums it up. Nevertheless this was one of my favorite revelations.
There have been whispers for years that The Craft star was a practicing Pagan, and only in 1997 did Fairuza Balk set the record straight. 20 years back, Balk fell in love with one of the oldest occult shops in the country and made friends with the staff.
"There was a man that used to work there and he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and he was a sort of a teacher to me during [The Craft]," she told Entertainment Weekly."I thought, what a shame this is going to be turned into a Chinese restaurant. So I bought it and put some work into it and helped it survive. But people of course were like, ‘She bought an occult shop and she’s fully into this and it’s all real.’"
Balk claims that she hasn't associated with the shop in a long, long time.
Verdict: She's no Nancy! Just a kind-hearted actress who gives help to eccentric places.