Mandie Stevenson is in love with the 1993 Halloween comedy “Hocus Pocus,” except for one major complaint.
The self-proclaimed witch and psychic medium claims the film (like every other in Hollywood) misrepresents her and her sisters and brothers who cast spells in real life.
“It was a great movie, but like, really… a talking black cat? I mean, come on,” said the 45-year-old witch from Lewes. “And [there’s] witches chasing children ... trying to eat them. Is this ‘Hansel and Gretel?’ Witches don’t eat children.”
Stevenson is so enchanted with the craft that it’s become her livelihood.
On Nov. 6 in Pike Creek, this real-life witch will host a grand opening for her second retail shop, Mandie’s Magical Marketplace (4837 Limestone Road, Pike Creek).
Her first location in Lewes, which began in a hotel basement about five years ago, features witchy clothing and crystals meant for healing. Customers can have tarot card readings and sessions with a certified Reiki practitioner, Stevenson said.
Her business offers courses on mediumship (how to connect with spirits), psychic development and self-empowerment. Multiple times throughout the year, she and her staff host meetups for full-moon ceremonies on Lewes Beach, and the public is welcome.
The latest full-moon celebration was Oct. 21. It was extra special because it’s close to Samhain, a pagan festival celebrated on Oct. 31, which inspired Halloween.
Witches commonly refer to the season of Samhain as "the thinning of the veil," Stevenson said, because it's a time where spirits become more visible to them. That means people might see subtle things like random shadows, if they’re sensitive to it.
So, where did the tradition of wearing ghoulish costumes on Halloween come from? Someone came up with the idea that ghosts wouldn’t mess with humans if humans were camouflaged.
“The spirit activity was so high [people] would sense them and they were so scared of them,” Stevenson said. “They wanted to disguise themselves from the spirits.”
Stevenson’s Pike Creek store will include more healers and readers than at her Lewes location, she said.
It was important to bring her new shop to Pike Creek, Stevenson said, because New Castle County has the largest population of residents, with lots of witches (or witch-curious people) in the Wilmington area.
Sussex County also has its fair share of witches, she said.
Students from the University of Delaware have frequented her Lewes shop. Over the last year, Stevenson said she has noticed a lot of customers under the age of 21, and that group is becoming more curious about the New Age movement.
"It's becoming for the younger generation a huge thing," the 45-year-old witch said. "They're starting to kind of see that the old way of thinking, [from traditional religion], isn't really working out for them."
At the same time, she said, there are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and members of many other religions or philosophies who practice witchcraft.
Chelsea Fitzgerald, new store manager for Mandie’s Magical Marketplace in Pike Creek, said she’s come across people of all backgrounds at the Lewes store. A fraction of those customers, such as those with severe illnesses, have turned to magic because they’re desperate.
“They're coming in here because they don't know what else to do,” said Fitzgerald, 25, of Milford. “They're kind of at the end of the road. And they just want something that will make them feel a little bit better.”
Most witches are 'bi-hexual'
There’s a stereotype that all witches are bad. But Stevenson says that’s not true, although dark magic is real.
Each witch makes a personal choice how they want to conduct themselves, she explained.
There are three types of witches: White, black and gray.
White witches are good. Black witches can do curses against others. There's a meme about gray witches being "bi-hexual," since they fall in-between black and white witches. Yet they strive to be white. But if somebody really pisses them off, they’re going to attack back.
“That's where I am,” Stevenson said. “I'm wanting to do good for the world. But if you attack my family or my children – it’s on.”
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Stevenson said it’s her understanding that most witches are gray like her. Fitzgerald and Chrissy Conn, who both work at Mandie’s Magical Marketplace, both identify as gray witches, too.
The shop owner explained that she believes many witches are born into the lifestyle. At some point in her bloodline, she suspects she probably had a witchy auntie in there.
To be clear, there are also male witches. In fact, Mandie Stevenson’s husband, Josh Stevenson, is the only male witch in their coven, or witches’ group. Back in the day, male witches used to be called warlocks. But that title is frowned upon today because it has a negative connotation.
Light and dark spells
There are lots of spells in witchcraft. Some are said to help with healing, protection and even prosperity. For some spells, ingredients might include, urine, candles, a lock of hair and spices.
Fitzgerald, who doesn’t cast dark spells unless it’s justified, said she recently performed a banish spell on someone who was “being awful to me.” The spell prevents the person from messing with her, she said.
For that spell, Fitzgerald typically uses a mason jar, which is a popular tool for spells, and she’ll mix ingredients like vinegar and hot spices such as crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper. She likes to burn a black candle and let it melt over the jar.
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Yet Stevenson and Fitzgerald warn that casting dark spells is serious business. The person doing the casting should not be lazy, they warn, because if you accidentally target the wrong person, or you don't have a good reason to do the spell in the first place, that spell can backfire on you.
In her situation, Fitzgerald said she was being kind to the person who was bothering her, and “killing them with kindness.” But it got to a point where they kept attacking her, so she had to keep them away from her.
“It won't hurt them. Nothing bad will happen to them. It'll just remove them from my life.”
Princess Llucky, a 37-year-old witch with a full beard (who prefers the pronouns she/her), said she doesn't see all spells as being spooky.
Llucky described spells as trying to manifest something from the unseen world (or your imagination) into the material world. Hence, any person who says a prayer is casting a spell, according to the Rehoboth Beach resident.
A witch believes they can use magic to create prosperity, which is a light spell. For example, Stevenson said, if a witch needs to pay a bill or debt, they can write that amount on a piece of paper and put it in a mason jar. Then they can add honey and sugar to the jar.
“What that does is, it sweetens that intent to happen in your life. So it's going to help it work,” she said. “It's kind of like signaling in the universe that you need this done.”
She's always seen dead people
Growing up was rough for Stevenson. As a young girl, she used to get haunted by spirits that would hover over her bed, or they’d be hanging out in the corner of her room.
Ghosts would ask her for help.
“I would always sleep with my lights on in my room, because it was so scary,” she said. “I would try to hide from them.”
She would tell her mom, but the spirits didn’t stop bothering her. Even when she hid under the covers, she could still see them. With terror in her heart, she’d tell them to leave her alone. Sometimes it worked.
Her other strategy was to pretend she couldn’t see or hear them.
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At the age of 16, Stevenson was drawn to spellcasting and began reading books on it from the library. As time went on, she had a spiritual awakening and finally accepted that was she different, and she started to embrace being a witch and psychic medium.
As a psychic, Stevenson said, she can predict things about people. And as a medium, she tries to connect clients with spirits, usually their loved ones who died.
“Some will look exactly like an old lady, like a grandmother. Some look young. Some are just blurry gray,” the Lewes witch said. “Sometimes I can hear them talk very easily and have a whole conversation. And sometimes it's broken up or distorted.”
Conn, her coven member, isn’t a psychic or medium. But she has seen spirits. Last week, the Rehoboth Beach resident said she was driving in the dark near Crabby Dicks restaurant in town.
She said she saw somebody dart across the highway. So she slowed down, because she wasn’t sure if the second person, who was off the highway, was gonna chase after their friend. Before long, Conn realized the first pedestrian vanished.
“I was waiting for the other person to run across and they disappeared. That was weird,” the 53-year-old witch said, adding the second person vanished, too.
She now thinks it may have been ghosts. "When I started thinking about the figure, it was very dark, but it was light. But I can't even really describe it.'
Debunking myths about witches
First and foremost, witches and Satanists are from two different groups, although it’s a popular belief that they're similar, because both have pentagrams.
But those pentagrams aren’t the same, Stevenson said. Satanists have an upside-down pentagram, while witches have one that’s right-side up.
Witchy pentagrams, Fitzgerald said, are a symbol of protection and represent five elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
Fellow witch Robin Ward, who shares a coven with Stevenson and Fitzgerald, said most witches, including her, don’t even believe in the devil. Yet there are outliers.
“Unfortunately, there are black witches, the ones who really do worship Satan, which I’m starting to learn a little bit more about that,” said Ward, of Lewes, who showed up to last week's full-moon ceremony wearing a witch's hat and shirt with a broom on it that read: "Frequent Flyer."
Along with the theme that all witches are evil, Ward also wants to debunk the myth that all witches are unattractive and ugly, since she considers herself to be fabulous.
Stevenson pointed out that many of their peers are peaceful people who care about the environment and helping others. Her own goal, she said, is to work with the homeless.
Seven months ago, she started the private Facebook group Witches of Delaware, which has nearly 2,000 members. While everyone doesn’t live in Delaware, a number of them do, and the Lewes witch feels there’s finally strength in numbers to help make the community a better place.
Stevenson also has a tradition of waiving costs for some of her customers who come to her for healing. “I do a lot of pro bono for like rape victims, molestation, things like that, because I don't want to charge them."
While the pagan festival Samhain is commonly associated with witches, pop culture has perpetuated the myth that the event is pronounced as "Sam-Hayne." But the true pronunciation of the festival, Stevenson said, should be "Sow-Win," where the first part of the word rhymes with "cow."
She's still salty about how Hollywood continues to falsely portray witches, often reducing them to just cat-loving and broom-riding women who play with magic.
Stevenson would drop a house on some of those Hollywood script writers. But she's trying to be a good witch.
“I watch some and I actually get pissed off. I mean, people [in Hollywood] try. But they never truly get it.”
To learn more about Mandie's Magical Marketplace, visit mandiesmagicalreadings.com or call (302) 313-5950
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at email@example.com.