Fallingwater’s one witchy woman
There may deal in spells and rituals, but being a witch is really all about restoring harmony, says Wiccan author
By John Beck
Originally Posted: 10/16/2009
The supernatural witchy tale of Cerridwen Fallingstar goes way back to one of her many past lives, journeying all the way to 12th century Japan — the setting of her new novel “White As Bone, Red as Blood.”But, with Halloween on our doorstep, we won’t bore you with all the Shogun swordplay and sordid affairs. Flash forward to 1975 when her name was Cheri Lesh and she was a grunt reporter for a feminist rag in Los Angeles called Sisterhood.“My editor came in and said, ‘There’s a witch on trial for fortune telling,’ and I said, ‘That’s my story. I’ll take it.’ It turned out she lost the trial, but gained a student because I started studying with her after that.”Within a year Fallingstar, nee Lesh, was a full-on spell-casting pagan witch. Her family thought she was nuts, but they eventually grew accustomed to the idea. Today, she’s a popular Wiccan teacher/author who stables her broom in San Geronimo. We caught up with her just before the witching hour.
Q: Set the scene for me, it’s Halloween in Marin County — where are you and what are you doing?
A: I’m at home having a private ritual.
Q: What does that entail?
A: Well, Halloween literally means Hallowed Evening and “hallowed” means sacred or spirit like the way you talk about hallowed ground. It’s pretty much our Day of the Dead where we honor the people who’ve gone before, generally our nearest and dearest.
Q: Will you be raising the dead?
A: Well we have a saying that “what is remembered, lives.” So when you remember the dead, in a sense, they are living again through you.
Q: So you’re not on your front porch with a cauldron, stirring it with a broom handle, saying, “Double, double, toil and trouble”?
A: No, no, we’re not usually doing that.
Q: No dry ice at the Fallingstar household?
A: Well if we’re having a big public ritual we might do a little dry ice. It is a good effect.
Q: So the modern-day witch does break out the dry ice? It’s not passé?
A: Well, it is pretty modern, I don’t think too many ancient witches had dry ice.
Q: Touché, good point. So when Halloween rolls around are the trick-or-treaters a little scared to stop by and see the Fallingstar coven?
A: No, usually they’re really excited if they’ve heard about it. They’ll come to the door and say, “Is it true you’re a real witch?”
Q: And will you do anything witchy to prove it?
Q: You just hand them some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and call it a night?
A: Yeah, exactly. I don’t even dress up that much.
Q: What a rip-off. You’re no different than my mom on Halloween.
A: Oh well.
Q: Wow. So you’ve never ridden a broom and you don’t wear the witch’s hat?
A: Not too often.
Q: We need to get down to the bottom of this — what exactly makes you a witch?
A: It’s a spiritual tradition, a form of Celtic European shamanism. A shaman is a person who mediates between the physical and the invisible worlds. They may use sorcery or healing. The primary work of the shaman is to restore harmony.
Q: Is there like a finishing school for witches? I mean, it takes Harry Potter like eight novels to become a wizard. How do you become a witch?
A: I do a yearlong apprenticeship program where people meet one full Saturday a month for 13 sessions, and generally at the end of that they’re acknowledged to be a real witch.
Q: Do you find that witches are misunderstood?
A: Well, we often argue over what hurt us more — Hollywood or the Inquisition. But lately the whole Harry Potter thing has been great for us. We’re raising a whole generation of kids who think witches and wizards are cool.
Fallingstar incorporates rituals into the retreats she conducts. (Kevin Van de Water)
Q: So if I’m an 11-year-old kid and I’m going out for Halloween and I just read about all the witches flying around Marin County, I shouldn’t be scared?
A: Only if you’ve been raised to think it’s scary, if they’ve been brainwashed to think that there’s this connection with Satanism and human sacrifice.
Q: You’ve never at least sacrificed an animal?
A: No. I do eat meat, but I get someone else to do my dirty work for me.
Q: Not even a small rodent or maybe a goat?
A: No. I promise.
Q: Well, have you at least cast a spell on someone?
A: Not on someone — I don’t do any manipulative magic myself. Let’s define magic; it’s the art of changing consciousness and will. So shift your own consciousness and the world will shift in response — that is sort of our basic premise.
Q: What about a spell for editors? They’re often difficult to work with — what kind of spell could you cast on them?
A: Well, I would work on changing whatever telepathic agreements I might have with that person. And then put some protective energy around myself before I go into work. You could always do a spell to get a different job, too.
Q: A spell is almost like a prayer or a wish?
A: It’s almost like an active form of prayer, a participatory prayer.
Q: So imagine I’m out trick-or-treating Halloween night and I get lost, I’m the victim of some bad magic, I’m stuck in a cemetery somewhere, can we give people your cell phone and you can guide them through the night?
A: Heck, no — I’m gonna be busy.
Q: What do you mean?
A: I’ll be busy with my own ritual. You’re too old to be trick-or-treating anyway.
Q: Not me — the readers who see this. This is called “news you can use.”
A: They can come see me for a private session. I do hypnotherapy, and I help people get over phobias.
Q: What does a witch charge these days?
A: $90 an hour.
Q: Wow, you made a good move getting out of journalism.
A: It’s never too late.