19th Jan 2013 10:40am | By Helen Elfer
“Welcome to the east,” intones Lucya Starza, candlelight illuminating her flowing red hair, as she gazes out of the window towards the sea, arms spread wide to the spirits.
We’re standing in the living room of a new-build Eastbourne apartment (no, really).
Lucya is moving in a circle, asking the spirits of the four quarters to protect us from evil as we cast spells.
Sure, I might be shuffling awkwardly behind her in my socks, but depite the less-than-mystical location, it’s honestly bloody spooky.
The room is dark but for the candles, and in the corner sits a cauldron, spellbooks, a broomstick and a huge pair of cast iron owls who are watching the proceedings with wide, gaping eyes.
This, I think, has got to be as supernatural as you can get in a town better known for retirement holidays.
Lucya is a practising Wiccan, and has opened up her seaside home to wannabe witches through holiday rental site wimdu.co.uk so she can show them the rudiments of spell-casting, read their tarot cards and share some of her magical abilities.
I don’t know what I was expecting – warts and a mouthful of children’s bones a la Hans Christian Andersen, or baldness and square feet like Roald Dahl’s The Witches – but it turns out Lucya is neither.
Instead she rocks a modern kitsch-witch look, with long, burgundy hair and a funky dress covered in an owl print.
“Most of my spells are for healing,” she tells me earlier over tea and thick chocolate biscuits.
“I wouldn’t say curses never happen, but I don’t do that myself. Bad magic can rebound on you. Anyway, cursing is really rather anti-social behaviour.”
Wicca, a pagan religion, is thought to be the only faith of English origin.
Established in the 1950s, it is steeped in older history – believers say the practice is based on ancient arts.
As for black magic, Lucya says: “Cursing is from the Middle Ages when there was no real justice system, so going to a wisewoman and asking to curse someone was perhaps the only way people could feel that justice was being done.”
Now she and I are casting a spell for making dreams come true. In the flickering darkness, we carve wishes onto the base of floating candles and place them, lit, in a bowl of water as Lucya chants. My candle blows out straight away.
“Does that mean something bad?” I ask anxiously.
“No,” she says soothingly. “Don’t worry, candles just go out sometimes.”
Ah yes, so they do. I wonder if I’m losing it. Next we make a winter solstice potion.
Lucya is a fan of kitchen witchcraft, which means she uses everyday ingredients for potions – cinnamon for love, for example, or nutmeg for health.