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Five of the most sought-after witchcraft rarities on vinyl

Celebrate the season with Goldmine's guide to witches and the records they made.
babetta_poster

Among the multitude of crazes, fads and cultural hiccups that highlighted the late 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps the most unexpected was an insurgence of interest in witchcraft and magic. Publishing and the movies both delved deep in these waters, but the music industry, too, took note — most visibly via releases by bands such as Black Sabbath, Black Widow and Coven; but also through LPs recorded by genuine practicing witches.

Therein, the artist would reveal the deepest secrets of their practice — period listeners alone can tell us whether or not they were actually effective. But major labels A&M and Warner Brothers both leaped aboard the fashion, while United Artists went so far as to commission author Nat Freedland to compile a double album, The Occult Explosion (it shared its title with his most recent book), featuring largely spoken word pieces dealing with astrology, meditation, UFOlogy, yoga, ESP, Spiritualism, witchcraft and Satanism.

Near mint copies of The Occult Explosion can be picked up for around $40 today; a small investment for such a far reaching topic. But other releases in this vein are considerably scarcer, for a fascination with witchcraft was not the only thing they had in common. They were also destined for small pressings, poor sales and, today, sky-rocketing values.

Here are five of the most sought-after.

Gundella

Top Of The Needle Records AR 1877, Gundella - The Hour Of The Witch (1971). $50

A descendent, she said, of “the green witches of Scotland,” Gundella was a Detroit-based public school teacher and lecturer. In fact, it was her private life as a witch that led her to become a regular sight on the college circuit of the early 1970s, after a meeting (at a Mensa Halloween party!) with the head of the psychology department at the University of Michigan. Their conversation turned to witchcraft and, by the end of the night, Gundella had been invited to speak to the students.

Thus began a second career that lasted well into the 1980s — the full story is told by Gundella’s daughter Madlynne in the liners to the Modern Harmonics label’s 29017 reissue of The Hour of the Witch. Copies of the original, with its eye-catching line-drawn cover, are far more difficult to locate, although their availability has seen first pressing prices dip well out of proportion with ithe album’s scarcity.

   

Louise

Warner Brothers/Seven Arts Records WS 189, Louise Huebner - Louise Huebner's Seduction Through Witchcraft (1969) $80

Louise Huebner herself was a Los Angeles occultist; Bebe Barron was the electro whizz whose freakish textures underpin her voice, and Seduction Through Witchcraft was their electronic psychedelic guide to getting it on with magic. But you’ll only know that if you own a copy, and that’s a lot harder to do.

For many people, their introduction to Seduction Through Witchcraft arrived courtesy of the His Master’s Voice David Bowie bootleg, with excerpts from a couple of the tracks spliced into an off-air recording of ABC TV’s broadcast of his 1973 farewell concert.

Why was it there? Who knows. For atmosphere, maybe. No matter; super-spacey synthy mystery music, and a dark, seductive voice intoning the correct conditions under which to stage an orgy seemed to blend perfectly with Bowie’s Ziggy-era message.

Already deleted by the time the bootleg appeared, Seduction Through Witchcraft has since seen reissue on both CD (Infinite Zero, 1996) and vinyl (Warners, 2007); it is an indication of the record’s continued appeal that even the latter currently sells for $40.

Author of a number of similarly themed paperbacks, including the marvellously titled Never Strike A Happy Medium, Louise passed away in 2014.

   

Babetta

Selby Towers 00013, Babetta - The Art Of Witchcraft (1974) $150

Babetta, “the Sexy Witch,” as she was known, is perhaps best remembered as the proprietor of Los Angeles’ Sorcerer's Shop of Witchcraft and Magic, for 28 years a bucket list destination for aspirants (and practitioners) from all over the world until its closure in 1999.

Longer memories, however, might also recall her as a popular guest on the likes of the Tonight Show, the Merv Griffin Show and the Regis Philbin Show; a consultant for magically-themed episodes of sundry television series (Starsky & Hutch comes to mind); and a starring role alongside Orson Welles in the 1978 docudrama The Late  Great Planet Earth.

Babetta also made a memorable appearance in the September 1974 edition of Penthouse — published around the same time as this, her one and only LP, was released. A glorious, and suitably seductive listen, it has never been reissued — but surely should be.

   

alex

A&M AMLS 984 (U.K. only), Alex Sanders - A Witch Is Born (1970) $200

Alex Sanders passed away in 1988, but prior to that, he had a reasonable claim on the title of King of the Witches — indeed, a biography of him, published in 1969, bore that very title.

Certainly, as founder of the Alexandrian strain of modern witchcraft, his influence remains profound today, while he and wife Maxine were rarely out of the British newspapers of the time, as they opened even their most secret ceremonies to press and film makers alike.

They even touched rock and roll, when they were contacted by the British band Black Widow as they prepared their debut album Sacrifice — a concept album built upon Wiccan imagery and ritual. (Tracks from the album appear on both the aforementioned The Occult Explosion album, and the U.K. CBS label’s Fill Your Head With Rock sampler).

The Sanders were also involved in preparing Black Widow’s live show of the time; film of one such, staged at the Lyceum in 1970, was released in 2007 as the DVD Demons of the Night Gather To See Black Widow – Live.)

A further taste of the Sanders’ pre-eminence can be conjured across A Witch Is Born, across a vérité recording of genuine Wiccan rite — on side one, an initiation ceremony (the initiate, Janet Owen, would soon become better known under her married name, Farrar, as co-author of a string of acclaimed books on witchcraft); on side two, Maxine performing the Charge of the Goddess, The addition of random slabs of classical music that was subsequently dubbed behind the rites are unnecessary, but might be considered to add “atmosphere.”

The album is hard to find in any condition; near mint copies, however, are rendered even more elusive due to the outsized sticker placed across the front cover, which too many future owners would attempt, fruitlessly, to remove.

A CD version of the album was made available in 1994 by the Grey Matter label; the Italian label Mother Isle followed suit in 2009.

   

barbara

DEA Records 1D-1001, Barbara, The Gray Witch - Barbara, The Gray Witch (1971) $200

Creator of the scarcest album on this list, and the most obscure of the practitioners who recorded them, Barbara The Gray Witch was nevertheless something of regional celebrity around her hometown of South Bend IN. A regular host of a U93 radio show, she was also an annual guest at the Niles Haunted House.

Recorded with writer and producer Ed Hansen, and the mysterious JC The Warlock, Barbara’s eponymous album was, extravagantly, released as a double LP, and features both spoken word and musical material.

A CD of the album appeared through her own Raven House label in 2001; Barbara passed away in June 2021.