“I love Halloween …[and] I love haunting, haunted melodies. I’ve never been, and probably never will be, a down-home rock ‘n’ roll songwriter. I try to add that extra, spooky dimension to whatever I do. I want my songs to sort of step a little bit into the bizarre.” – Stevie Nicks
Earlier this month Mattel toys revealed the new Stevie Nicks doll as part of their Barbie Music Series line. The latest doll in the series, which includes legendary performers such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Cher, Stevie Nicks could be one of the hottest additions to the signature line in a long while, and within days pre-orders for the doll were sold out on the Mattel website. I should know, because I was trying to get one. A beautifully sculpted likeness of the pop music icon, the doll is dressed in one of Stevie’s famous flowing black robes and capes and she even comes holding a miniature tambourine. Looking like she’s about to perform either in a mid 70’s concert, or at a moonlit ritual, its Stevie Nicks the way we love her – completely witchy.
Is Stevie Nicks a witch? For decades that has been the popular rumor. The Fleetwood Mac siren has been referencing magik, crystals, astrology, meditation, visions and magikal beings in her music since her earliest days as a songwriter which can easily lead us to believe, at best, she has an interest in the supernatural. But over the years Stevie Nicks has swayed between denying belief in witchcraft to leaning deeply into her witchy persona. But if you go down the rabbit hole of looking for actual proof that she is involved in the occult you aren’t going to find much other than fan theories and lyric analysis which aim to label Stevie as a witch. Honestly, there is more visual evidence that Sammy Davis Jr. was a member of the church of Satan than Stevie Nicks is a practitioner of the black arts. But here’s the thing. I want her to be a witch. Stevie’s fans want her to be a witch. But is she?
So if there is no concrete evidence that Stevie Nicks has been involved in conjuring supernatural magik, there is no denying that her music is a magik all its own, and the reason she is a legend today all began with one of the most famous witches in pop music – Rhiannon. The second single from Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self titled album, “Rhiannon” would secure the band as a Billboard hitmaker and put them on the path to becoming one of the most legendary bands of the 1970’s. Furthermore, it’d be the first song that would put audiences under the spell of Stevie Nicks and create a magical musical icon.
Formed in London in 1967, Fleetwood Mac was a struggling folk band that had a minor instrumental hit in the UK titled “Albatross” in 1968, but was floundering with personal changes and a lack of direction. Moving the band’s base of operations to Los Angeles in 1974, Mick Fleetwood met Lindsay Buckingham who, alongside his girlfriend Stevie Nicks, was also struggling to find a place on the music market. Although they had released their debut album, “Buckingham Nicks,” in 1973, the album, now considered a classic, never found an audience during its initial release. When Mick Fleetwood asked Buckingham to join his band, Buckingham said that if he came on board that Stevie had to be a part of the group too. Fleetwood agreed, and Fleetwood Mac’s classic lineup of Mick Fleetwood, Linsday Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine and John McVie came together for the first time.
But did Fleetwood realize the powerhouse that they had in Stevie Nicks? Fleetwood Mac was signed by Reprise Records and entered the studio to record their first album with Buckingham and Nicks in January 1975. Titled “Fleetwood Mac,” it was actually the band’s second self titled album and, incredibly, the groups tenth studio album! Digest that for a moment. Fleetwood Mac had made nine unsuccessful albums and were trying again. Well, it rarely happens but their tenth time would prove to be the album that would be a hit.
Writing credits on “Fleetwood Mac” prove to be split between Lindsay Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, but surprisingly none of them appear on the front cover of the album, which only feature Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. I find this a curious and misguided art choice, especially considering their voices and writing aren’t heard on the album at all. Perhaps the label were going with the members most closely associated with the previous nine albums for the cover, or maybe they just didn’t really understand yet who the real stars of this album were going to be.
Stevie Nicks contributed three songs for “Fleetwood Mac” – “Crystal,” which was originally recorded and released on “Buckingham Nicks;” “Landslide,” which would eventually become a huge hit for American country group The Chicks, and “Rhiannon;” which would be the song that would define Stevie Nicks in the hearts of her audience.
According to Nicks, the character Rhiannon came from a novel she had read titled “Triad” by Mary Leader. Published in 1973, this seems to be a fairly obscure book. When doing this research, I had hoped to obtain a copy of “Triad” to see what it was all about, but it doesn’t seem to be available digitally, and buying a copy from an on-line book seller was unaffordable. But for what I gather via on-line reviews, “Triad” is about a woman named Branwen Erikson who, as a child, had a difficult relationship with her older cousin Rhiannon. When Branwen accidently causes Rhiannon’s death as a child, in adulthood she finds herself haunted by the spirit of her malicious cousin. Is it a case of split personality, possession, or witchcraft? The 1970’s was a renaissance for supernatural romance novels, and “Triad” sounds like an entry into that genre, and while the book doesn’t seem to have been reprinted since its initial release on the market, it did inspire Stevie Nicks to write the song about what she called “a white witch,” making the character forever famous in song. But beyond this source, the name Rhiannon has deeper meaning in the world of myth and was a Welsh goddess in some of that nation’s earliest texts. Stevie seemed to incorporate this version of the character as well in making her own narrative for her magical creation.
When “Fleetwood Mac” was released in July 1975, the first single chosen from the album was Christine McVie’s “Over My Head,” which broke ground for Fleetwood Mac as their first single to break into the Billboard Top 20, landing at number 11. A second single, “Warm Ways,” was released and flopped. But, when “Rhiannon” was released in February 1976 fortune seemed to change for the band. With Stevie Nicks at the helm for the first time, “Rhiannon” would prove to be the first of the band’s recognizable classics, and gained widespread airplay on US radio stations which launched the lp to the number 4 position on Billboard’s US album sales charts. Surprisingly, the single itself also stalled out at number 11, but “Rhiannon” would be considered Fleetwood Mac’s breakout single.
But it takes more than just writing a song about a witch to propel rumors that someone is a witch. In the case of Stevie Nicks, it seems that her live performances of “Rhiannon” was just a little to captivating fpr audiences who began to ask questions. Dressed in black and taking on the role of what she introduced as “a white witch,” Stevie Nicks would get a far away look in her eyes and swirl and sway to the music in a hypnotic trance. As Lindsay Buckingham would go on record saying “Her Rhiannon. in those days. was like an exorcism.”
But “Rhiannon” wasn’t the first time that Stevie Nicks had written about magikal figures in her music. On “Buckingham Nicks” Stevie had written a folk ballad titled “Sorcerer” about a “lady from the mountain” looking for a mysterious magical man. Filled with mystic allusions and referencing magical figures the song seems like an obvious tribute to the occult:
Who is the master
A man and woman on a star stream
In the middle of a snow dream
Show me the high life
Let me put you on ice.”
However, according to an interview Stevie did in 2001, the song was really about her loss of innocence when she came to Hollywood and entered the world of hedonism and celebrity as a sheltered kid from San Francisco. Perhaps this is true, but the word play and the imagery it conjures is too delicious for fans looking for that magical connection not to eat up.
But later Stevie would double down on her witchy content in 1979’s “Sister of the Moon” from the album “Tusk.” She once again sings about a mysterious woman with power:
“Some call her sister of the moon
Some say illusions are her game
They like to wrap her in velvet
Does anyone, ooh, know her name?”
According to Stevie, the song “Sister of the Moon” is actually about female empowerment and was written at a time that she was going through a deep depression. When looking through a mirror, Stevie felt that she was thin, sickly, crippled and weak so she conjured up the figure of the Sister of the Moon as an affirming entity to regain her personal power. In one sense it could be seen as a way to pull herself out of a time or crisis, but others might say that it could be seen as a form of universal manifestation.
While going through her body of work, finding the mystical references and magikal allusions in Stevie Nicks songs is like a treasure hunt. If you’d like to explore this further check out the Lindsay Romain’s excellent article Stevie Nicks’ 10 Most Witchiest Songs on Nerdist. She does the research and the deep dive on this subject and is worth reading if you want to explore this subject more.
Back to the question. Is Stevie Nicks a witch? The evidence says she is not, but her lyrical content and fashion aesthetics seem to say otherwise. It seems obvious that she at least has an interest in witchcraft. But why would she deny this one moment and lean into it at another? I think its interesting to look at the times that she has pulled away and then gravitated back to her witchy ways and what society’s attitude toward the occult was at the time.
In 1976, when “Rhiannon” hit the charts, witchcraft was still a fairly niche cultural phenomena which was spoken about in whispers and, if not completely disregarded by the public, was at least misunderstood as being something nefarious and evil. Being labelled an occultist could be dangerous to the acceptance of a public figure and was often connected, albeit it incorrectly, to figures like Anton LeVey or Charles Manson within the minds of the pubic. Witches were figures from horror films and cults as portrayed in “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Devils Reign” and “Race with the Devil.” They were to be feared. Look what it did to Jinx Dawson of Coven less than a decade earlier? In a 2014 interview with the LA Times Stevie spoke of her early feeling towards people questioning her affiliation with witchcraft by saying “In the beginning of my career, the whole idea that some wacky, creepy people were writing, ‘You’re a witch, you’re a witch!’ was so arresting, and there I am like, ‘No, I’m not! I just wear black because it makes me look thinner you idiots.’”
However, in 1979 Stevie spoke openly about her belief in magic when she said “There is always magic to be summoned at any point. I love to live in a world of magic, but not a fake world of magic. We all really basically have a lot of magic…. it’s only those of us that choose to accept it, that really understand it. It’s there for everyone. That’s the only thing that I feel that I am able to give to people and that’s why I know that they respond to me because I try to give them only their own magic…not mine, but theirs.”
Wow. In this quote, Stevie honestly seems to understand the concept of universal magik, which makes me believe that if she is not at least passively engaging in ritualist magik that she, at the very least, has resources to it.
But, a few years later, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Stevie seems to retract from her belief in magik by saying “I do not believe in witchcraft as a natural philosophy at all. I just think it’s fun. And I love black clothes and I love moons and stars and Merlin hats and Mickey Mouse. But no, I do not believe in that side of it at all.” In this statement she does not deny her interest in witchcraft, but she denies believing in magik. Why would she turn face at this time? Well, America was entering the cultural phenomena of “the Satanic Panic” at the time and it seems by this statement Stevie was trying to safely distance herself from negative publicity or for being wrongly vilified by a God fearing public. Again, it seems to be a matter of protecting her career and reputation.
But cultural acceptance of witchcraft would change once again in the mid 1990’s. Around the time that the film “The Craft” was released, Wiccan and white magik, partnered with the suddenly widespread popularity of goth culture, became a huge rage for discontented teenagers looking to rebel from the conformity of their community. Suddenly being a witch was extraordinary attractive, and Stevie Nicks was suddenly looked upon as both a role model and inspiration for an entire generation of misunderstood girls. With this cultural shift, Stevie seemed to, once again, embrace her witchy aesthetics. In 1998, in an interview with Interview Magazine, Stevie stated “A long, long time ago I decided I was going to have a kind of mystical presence, so I made my clothes, my boots, my hair, and my whole being go with that. But it wasn’t something I just made up at that point. It’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve always believed in good witches-not bad witches-and fairies and angels.”
So, with so many contradictions, no wonder its difficult to find a definitive answer to if Stevie Nicks is a witch or not. But the evidence shows that she definitely has an understanding and an appreciation for old world mysticism, and it has reflected through her works for the entire length of her career.
But let me tell you something. I know from personal experience that if you have a desire to partake in ritualistic magik, that world is more accessible than some would think. If I’ve been able to dip my toes into that world, which I have done from time to time, you better believe that Stevie Nicks has the resources to do the same. But more than that, I doubt there is a coven in the entire world who wouldn’t be honored to have Stevie Nicks in their circle. Werther she is or not, she is pop music’s most famous witch, and weaves a spell upon her fans that is undeniable.