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A 'Witch Queen' Who Casts Her Spells Year-Round

Oct 31, 2012
Originally published on November 2, 2012 3:53 pm

Lady Rhea is not the kind of witch you'll find in a pointy hat this Halloween. She is a real workaday witch, grinding out a living selling magic products in a booth at Original Products, a grocery store-sized botanica in the Bronx. She's been a practicing Wiccan for nearly four decades, making her one of the longest-serving high priestesses in New York City.

"I am a Wiccan high priestess and Witch queen," she says. "My age — I've been in the craft since '73. I have a lot of coven people and people who are attached to me over the last years, so one of them coined me 'Pagan Mother.' Call them up and I'll say 'Hello, are you listening? This is Pagan Mother, call me.' "

This week, Lady Rhea will see a small increase in Halloween-related sales, but most of her clients come looking for the same things that have kept her in business all these years: money, luck and love.

"Some of the requests I get are for love," says the high priestess, whose birth name is Aurelia Bila. "Or, you know, come-to-me candles."

A lot of customers want their boyfriends back or help losing weight, Lady Rhea says, but others want help with money. "They gotta get that dollar going, it's a tough area."

At her booth, people can buy cascarilla, camphor, candles, crystals, frankincense and $40 spell kits.

"This is a museum in itself. You have people asking for a bath. ... Pompeia water, which is an old perfume. Yeah, walk into Macy's and tell them you want Pompeia cologne," she says. "This is a practice, it's an earth religion and so we are a very earthy people. I will not look at a pigeon and consider it a flying rat, I will consider it a creature of the sky father."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today may be Halloween, but you won't find Lady Rhea in a pointy black hat. She's a real workaday witch who prefers a sweatshirt and Bluetooth earpiece. A practicing Wiccan from the Bronx, Lady Rhea has for nearly 40 years cater to those looking for help in matters of money, luck and love.

(SOUNDBITE OF RINGTONE)

LADY RHEA: Hello, Magickal Realms. Lady Rhea speaking, how can I help you?

Some of the requests I get are for love.

You want a love bath?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes.

RHEA: OK, come.

Or, you know, come-to-me candles.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: And the man becomes crazy about me?

RHEA: Yup. Get my boyfriend back.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: You know how to use it. Right, Mama?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I do.

RHEA: Take a normal shower and pour it from your neck down, and pray for love to be resolved.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: OK.

RHEA: Like Venus standing under a waterfall.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: OK.

RHEA: OK.

Help with money. They got to get that dollar going. It's a tough area.

The pictures I can't bless.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: OK.

RHEA: They'll get wet.

I am a Wiccan high priestess and Witch queen. My age, I've been in the craft since '73. I have a lot of coven people and people who are attached to me over the last years, so one of them coined me Pagan Mother. Call them up and I'll say hello, are you listening? This is Pagan Mother, call me.

(LAUGHTER)

RHEA: To bless the candle, we carve a hexagram on the top. Thank you, my lady. We carry baths, crystals, and these are our spell kits behind you, $40 per kit. Frankincense, camphor, cascarilla. We have Fast Money. I have a weight loss candle.

This is a museum in itself. You have people asking for a bath with Pompeia water, which is an old perfume. Yeah, walk into Macy's and tell them you want Pompeia cologne.

Hi, sweetheart. How are you?

This is a practice. It's an Earth religion, and so we are a very earthy people. I will not look at a pigeon and consider it a flying rat. I will consider it a creature of the Sky Father.

Comes to 15.24, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: OK.

RHEA: I'm the city witch.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Thank you.

RHEA: You're welcome.

CORNISH: Lady Rhea runs Magickal Realms, a Wiccan shop in the Bronx, New York. Our story was produced by Matt Ozug for the project Faith in the Five Boroughs. To see a video of Lady Rhea, visit NPR.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.