Sinful Sounds: The Revival of the Witchcraft Vinyl

The current occult revival in America that has seen a mainstream embrace of all things witchy has its origins in the counterculture of the 1960s. It was during this so-called dawning of the age of Aquarius that first saw the image of the witch cast its glamor on the public’s imagination. Pop culture saw fanciful images of witchcraft on TV sitcoms and horror films.

To get true information on the craft you would mostly have to turn to the burgeoning occult book market. There were a group of innovative occultists who took advantage of another medium of the era, the vinyl record. This would lead to a short-lived fad in which occultists recorded spoken-word albums detailing magical instructions and performing rituals, often accompanied by interesting choices in music. There has been a recent reappraisal of the records resulting in these original recordings being highly collectible. Some of have been re-released on digital platforms. All of them can easily been found on YouTube.

Before you listen to these magical recordings, I have provided my own reviews of these albums below, rating them on a one-to-five pentagram scale.

The Art of Witchcraft – Babetta (1974)

Released late in the witchcraft record trend and with a limited release, The Art of Witchcraft is often left out in discussions of the subject. Babetta Lanzilli styled herself “Babetta, the Sexy Witch” and to this day remains an active member in the Wiccan community in Los Angeles. The Art of Witchcraft provides instructions on various spells, charms, and invocations. Babetta starts the album with a disclaimer that there will be no talk of demons or black magic in the album. Despite that, the score is sinister and gothic sounding. At this point, the album treads on familiar ground and doesn’t truly offer anything new that hasn’t already been heard in similar fashion in some of the previous albums.

A Witch is Born – Alex Sanders (1970)

Alex Sanders, known to his followers as “King of the Witches,” was responsible for introducing Wicca to the hippies. Sanders’ embrace of the media to promote Wicca eventually led to him record this album. It is a recording of an actual initiation. The women being initiated is in fact a 15-year-old Janet Farrar who along with her husband Stewart Farrar will later write A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook, one of the definitive books on Wicca. Parts of Wagner’s Tannhäuser opera is played in the background. This is a historical record artifact important to the development of Wicca and it is indeed a beautiful ritual. A Witch is Born, however, lacks the dramatic effect that other occult albums utilized and wouldn’t earn too many repeats listening.

The Satanic Mass – Anton LaVey (1968)

It would take the “Black Pope” Anton LaVey to start the occult record scene with The Satanic Mass. Advertised as being “Recorded Live at the Church of Satan San Francisco,” LaVey’s album was an independently released recording. The album starts off with LaVey performing the Invocation to Satan, the Destruction Ritual, and the Lust Ritual. Verses from the Book of Satan are recited, making it their first public appearance a year before being published in The Satanic Bible. Having been a professional musician, LaVey emphasized the powerful role music plays in magic ritual. Stirring music from Beethoven and Wagner accentuate dark undertones of LaVey’s invocations. There is a subversive joy in listening to LaVey recite hedonistic maxims to the rousing anthems of John Philip Souza. Later reissues included the Hymn of the Satanic Empire which is a satanic national anthem written by LaVey himself.

By virtue of being the trendsetter, The Satanic Mass is important historically. It has an appropriately moody atmosphere with odd electronic sounds opening the album and nightmarish sirens at the end of the closing hymn. While it’s fascinating to hear LaVey conduct his black magic rituals, he doesn’t give detailed instructions on how to do them at home. You would need the Satanic Bible for that. Overall, a very fascinating listening experience.

Seduction Through Witchcraft – Louise Huebner (1969)

A year before recording Seduction Through Witchcraft, Louise Huebner was declared the “Official Witch of Los Angeles County” by the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. This of course angered more conservative members of the community, but Huebner carried the title with pride and in gratitude for the honor she performed a spell at the Hollywood Bowl to increase the sexual power of all Angelinos. Sex is Huebner’s magical knowledge is heavily focused on sex. Tracks on the album include, “Orgies- A Tool of Witchcraft,” “The Coleopterous Charm for Romantic Adventure,” “the Turkish Bean Spell for Tender Love,” and the “Earthquake Spell for Unwanted Lovers.”

The psychedelic music on the album really sets the mood alongside Huebner’s deep, sexy voice. Seduction through Witchcraft is the best example of the how the counterculture brought witchploitation and pop psychedelia to the mainstream during the sixties.

Barbara, the Gray Witch – Barbara, the Gray Witch (1970)

This album has a little bit for everyone. Knowledgeable in both the Right Hand Path and Left Hand Path forms of magic, Barbara, the Gray Witch lectures on the proper use of both. It may be a bit jarring to hear Barbara discuss prayers to God only to switch gears and describe human sacrifice. Barbara delves into harnessing your innate psychic powers and even proper public relations in coming out of the broom closet, so to speak when discussing your witchy lifestyle to outsiders. The music alternates from an eerie, tonal score to beautiful chants and Celtic-style folk songs. Barbara is a groovy chick who speaks in an informal and hip manner. She can be at times, sexy or humorous and listening to Barbara, the Gray Witch is very entertaining.

Hour of the Witch – Gundella (1971)

While LaVey adopted a sinister, gothic look and Huebner utilized her sexuality, Gundella was a matronly figure in the occult scene. A plump Midwestern housewife, Gundella was very much the wise woman many families have who read fortunes, concoct herbal remedies, and dispense folk wisdom. She practiced what today people would consider a variant of kitchen witchery. In the Hour of the Witch, Gundella cheerfully reminds listeners that many of the ingredients in her charms and potions can be found in the local supermarket.

For vinyl collectors, Hour of the Witch is an attractive item. Rather than the typical black, the record of Hour of the Witch came in ghoulish green color. The color probably chosen due to Gundella considering herself a descendent of the Green Witches of Scotland. Gundella, ever the family woman, recruited her son James Kuclo to provide the moody, electronic music for the album. The former schoolteacher provides clear instructions on magical formulas and spell casting. Hour of the witch is the most useful of the albums here in terms of working knowledge given.

Witchcraft & Magic: Adventures in Demonology – Vincent Price (1969)

Horror icon Vincent Price narrates this double album. This album covers a lot of ground. In keeping with Price’s career as an actor, this is a dramatic album with multiple voice actors, a musical score, and sound effects. The first track is a performance from Shakespeare’s Macbeth featuring the Weird Sisters conducting a spell over a boiling cauldron. The first part of the album is a rundown of the history of the occult. Price details the witch hunts, the occult roots of Nazism, and the bizarre Tale of Master Seth. The second part has Price giving tutorials on witchcraft complete with the proper ingredients for magical potions, how to perform curses and love spells, how to communicate with the dead, the use of the severed hand of a murderer to create the infamous Hand of Glory and even how to sell your soul to the devil.

Despite being the only person on this list to not be a practitioner, Price has the best album. His famed voice is delightful to hear even when he recounts the tortures of the Inquisition. This album is perfect to listen to in a dimly lit room for proper ambiance. The high production of this recording puts Witchcraft & Magic: Adventures in Demonology on a level above all other occult albums.

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