APn 04/19 0620 Angry Witches Copyright, 1989. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. B

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APn 04/19 0620 Angry Witches Copyright, 1989. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. By DANA KENNEDY Associated Press Writer BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts' "official witch" has begun a letter-writing campaign to protest what she and other witches believe are violations of their civil rights. Letters of complaint, stemming from news reports linking a "witch" to a cult of drug smugglers connected with the ritualistic deaths of 15 people found near the Texas-Mexico border, have been sent to major newspapers and television networks from Laurie Cabot's Salem-based group, Witches League for Self-Awareness. "We are not satanists, we do not do black magic or any evil magic," said Cabot, who formed the 900-member group in 1986, shortly after the filming of "The Witches of Eastwick," a movie witches said made them appear "stupid." In group literature, the league is described as a "national and international anti-defamation organization which is working to protect the civil rights, dignity and public portrayal of over six million Witches, Pagans and Pantheists." The witches complained they have been "portrayed in an inaccurate, offensive and libelous manner which is in violation of our constitutionally guaranteed civil right to practice religious freedom, as well as freedom from harassment, discrimination, persecution, or the incitement of the public to form adverse opinions of members of a religious community." Cabot, dubbed the "official witch" by Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in 1975, said Tuesday that she and other witches are part of a legally recognized religion that is "peaceful" and devoid of the evil doings associated with witchcraft stereotypes. The recent complaints sent to news organizations such as The New York Times and NBC News stemmed from news reports about the murderous cult of drug smugglers in Texas. Mexican police have termed Sara Aldrete, the missing 24-year-old college student believed to be one of the cult leaders, a "witch." She has been linked to the 15 victims of the cult, some of which were unearthed at a ranch south of the U.S. border last week. "It's very loose terminology," said Cabot. "These were drug runners. What they were doing had nothing to do with witchcraft. Witchcraft has no evil gods." Cabot described witchcraft as a "nature religion" that uses a mixture of astronomy, astrology and psychic powers to heal and make things better. She said they use potions and cast spells to promote well-being and general good. "We have families, we have children, I belong to Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce, you know," said Cabot, who once owned a witchcraft store in Salem and is now writing books. She said the group hopes to "re-educate" people through the complaints but added that they could someday take court action if they believe their rights have been seriously violated.

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