Damien Echols was convicted, at 18 years old, along with fellow teenagers Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, of the May 5, 1993, murders of eight-year-olds Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols served 18 years on Death Row. The three men were released on August 19, 2011, after taking an Alford Plea.
In the face of a complete lack of physical evidence linking the three teenagers to the crime, they were convicted, many believe wrongly, largely because of Echols’ interest in heavy metal music, black clothes, and alternative religions such as Wicca.
While being grilled about his faith and occult interests during his trial, he never attempted to downplay his religious studies and instead calmly explained to the jury what Wicca is. Echols freely admitted to being a Wiccan and to be interested in and researching witchcraft, but all three accused denied being members of a Satanic cult, and denied committing the murders.
That jury, perhaps taken in by the testimony of “occult expert” Dale Griffis and his insistence on the Satanic influence on the slaying of the boys, and unable or unwilling to differentiate nature religions and mysticism from black magick or Satanism, were taken in by the Satanic ritual theory of the crime.
Echols has always maintained his innocence of the murders, but at the same time, has continued his study of occult spiritual practices and magick. In fact, he credits these disciplines with keeping him sane and saving his life while incarcerated.
Since he’s been a free man, Echols has been taking his love of magick to the next level and creating art, video, blog posts, and classes about the subject. He maintains a Patreon, through which members can access videos of tarot readings, exclusive writings, art work, and personal phone calls from Echols.
In January 2018, Echols had an art opening at New York City’s Last Rites, where he exhibited paintings of talismans that he described as “divine batteries” that hold energy and prayers, and are charged with the energy of archangels. But in June 2018, Echols announced that he will no longer be making art, citing a lack of fulfillment with the art world.
Echols has written a guide to his magickal practice in book form, which is slated for release on October 30. In High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life On Death Row, Echols shares his meditation and energy-working methods that he learned and practiced in prison. “I spent my years in prison training to be a true magician. I used magick — the practice of reshaping reality through our intention and will — to stave off incredible pain, despair, and isolation,” he says.
He believes that by repeated meditations and rituals done with the goal of his release from prison, that he was able to change his situation and walk free. “The most amazing feat of all that practice and study was to manifest my freedom,” he writes.
He elaborates: “My wife and I began a particular practice to get me off Death Row. We each repeated a version of the following affirmation at least once every day:
May I be home, free from prison, living happily with my Lorri. May it come about in a way that brings harm to none and is for the good of all. And in no way let this reverse or bring upon me or my loved ones any curse.
“We concentrated on this outcome every single day, without fail. And within one year of starting this practice, I walked off of Death Row.”
While some of the book offers an introduction to the concept of high magick and some personal anecdotes and thoughts from Echols, the majority of the pages are filled with instructions for meditations and rituals. He covers breathing techniques, visualization, and protection spells. He also introduces “angel magick,” and claims that “angels are the easiest forms of entities to work with.” Specifically referring to archangels Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, and Uriel, Echols explains that, “When I leave my house to walk down the streets of New York City, the first thing I do is evoke the Seraphim — angels of fire — and ask them to protect me. And I have absolute faith that they will do so.”
He has been teaching classes in ceremonial magick, and recently held one at Brooklyn Bowl on August 9 called “Introduction to High Magick,” with a $150 admission price. The class, “90 minutes of interactive dialogue about magick and basic practices in an intimate group setting,” was advertised to “help you manifest the life you want.”
Echols will soon be embarking on a book tour, during which he will be leaving consecrated ritual talismans in secrets spots around each city he visits.
He has also recently announced that he has begun working on his next book already, which will be entitled Angel Magick.
In addition to sharing his magickal knowledge, Echols has also created his own custom blend of coffee through Dead Sled Coffee. He named it Tzadkiel, after an archangel who represents freedom, benevelonce, and mercy.
For more on Damien Echols, watch the “West Memphis Three” episode of Investigation Discovery’s True Crime With Aphrodite Jones on ID GO now!
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Main photos: Damien Echols [Wikipedia]; High Magick cover art [Sounds True]