The Witch & The Skeptic

82 Howard St., Lewiston

Store hours: Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

Hosting an “Open House Gratitude Pot Luck” from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17.  Entry fee is bringing a favorite dish.

FMI: www.witchandskeptic.intuitwebsites.com

Christine Asselin, left, of Auburn, and Syrena White Feathers catch a breath of fresh air outside The Witch & The Skeptic on Howard Street in Lewiston. Asselin is a second-degree high priestess and White Feathers is a Reiki master/teacher.

Christine Asselin, left, of Auburn, Julie Bryan, center, of Auburn and Lorraine Colella of Lewiston participate during a witchcraft class at The Witch & The Skeptic in Lewiston.

The sign stating that “the witch is in” hangs on the front door of The Witch & The Skeptic.

LEWISTON — Julie Bryan began the Sunday night class by handing out her February newsletter and ticking off its highlights.

Gemstone of the month (amazonite). Recipe of the month (almond crescent cookies). Herb of the month (eucalyptus — but don’t ingest too much).

Then Bryan, three women and a man read from a paperback. Out loud. For the next half-hour.

Class closed with nine new songs, some robust vocals and a warning about next week’s chapter. In short, love spells: don’t do them. Very nasty results.

And that was Beginner’s Witchcraft.

Bryan and Lena Toth opened The Witch & The Skeptic in October, moving the startup out of their Auburn apartment’s laundry room. Toth is the skeptic. Best friend Bryan is the witch. In addition to its retail space, the small, one-story shop surrounded by tenements on Howard Street is used by Bryan to teach four classes a week.

She has a quarter-moon tattooed on her forehead, a mark of the third-degree High Priestess (HPPIII), symbolic of a third eye.

“It’s kind of like wearing a cross or a little white collar,” said Bryan, who says she was raised Southern Baptist. “We’re not in Europe so I’m like one of three people in Maine with one.”

It’s been mistaken before for horns.

The pair conceived of the business six years ago when they both worked for a local telemarketing firm selling vitamin supplements for arthritis and male-enhancement. Their company (then The Stone’s Hinge) began by taking orders for incense and candles from friends and buying from a wholesale catalog. Eventually, Bryan’s paycheck went to bills and Toth’s went to stocking new products.

For the past two and a half years, “We haven’t worked a regular day job,” Toth said. “We’ve been doing this the whole time.” 

By last year, they knew they’d outgrown the retail capacity of the laundry room.

Their reception downtown hasn’t been perfect. The first week, someone threatened to burn the business down. In the past month, they had a break-in.

“It hasn’t been an easy road, but we’re not going anywhere,” said Toth, 32. “We’re adding some culture into the city.”

The shop offers past-life recognition, aura readings and spiritual counseling. It sells incense, jewelry, healing rocks, books (“Coven Craft,” “The Truth About Witchcraft Today,”) pendulums, greeting cards and local goods. Leather-bound and dyed books were made by an Auburn man. Beaded glass necklaces were made by a woman who lives a block away and calls herself a gypsy.

The Witch & The Skeptic has 300 regulars — “There’s a lot of pagans out there,” Bryan said — but they’ve also gone out of the way to welcome different religions, with Christian, Jewish and Islamic products.

“It does make people more comfortable there’s a witch and a skeptic here,” Toth said. “I have an open mind, but I’m still waiting for proof of a lot of things.”

They’ve also incorporated in a food pantry and a free shop at Christmas, and have helped pay for car repairs and cab fare for people who need a hand.

“I used to sleep on the floor, when Lena met me,” Bryan said. “Wicca is very much service (to others).”

She teaches classes in a room off the retail space that’s kept dim and decorated with tapestries and art. Two other people in Lewiston-Auburn also teach witchcraft classes, Bryan said. They aren’t nearly as out about it. Three more teach in the Oxford area. People drive from as far as Canton and Brunswick for her classes.

Lorraine Colella, 29, of Lewiston, attended the Sunday night beginners class despite studying paganism for the past 15 years.

“The first couple of years (I used to hear), ‘That’s evil, that’s the devil. You shouldn’t be doing that,'” Colella said. People lately seem more curious than anything, she said.

A syllabus for the class showed students will read books such as “Chakra Healing & Karmic Awareness” and “Divination for Beginners” over the next year.

Bryan told the class they’d learn about invoking and evoking spirits. She steered students to YouTube for more songs (“search ‘Goddess chants'”) and offered a story about the hazards of romantic spells. They interfere with the universe, she said, and someone else’s free will, which are on the list of thou-shall-nots in the Wicca rules she also hands out.

Class rules: Don’t steal. Clean up your own mess. Question everything. Have fun.

“This isn’t something that’s dark and scary in the corner,” Bryan said. “It’s all about love and light.”

Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, unexplained and intriguing in Maine. Send ideas, photos and long-lost lyrics to [email protected]

Julie Bryan’s “third eye” or blue quarter-moon tattoo on her forehead is a mark of a third-degree high priestess. Bryan is the witch at The Witch & The Skeptic in downtown Lewiston.


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