More than the top half of the front of the Thursday Styles section in the print New York Times and a full page inside is filled with an account of Damien Echols, now holding forth to audiences on “magick.”

Echols, 43, who spent more than 18 years on Death Row in Arkansas for murders of three West Memphis children that he says he did not commit, talks in the article about prison life and his difficult adjustment to the free world. But the article also focuses on “magick,” which derives from rituals he developed to cope with the shut-in life of a single cell in Supermax.


Until 2003, Mr. Echols and his fellow Death Row inmates had been housed in cells with barred doors, which meant that they could see and talk to one another. “They were able to have relationships. They would pass books back and forth,” Mr. Echols’s wife, Lorri Davis, told me. “The supermax sealed them up in tombs.”

Rituals helped keep Mr. Echols’s mind and senses alive. “By the last two years, it was all I did. I slept very little,” he told me. “I would just eat and work out and do magick.” That terminal “k” is there to distinguish Mr. Echols’s practices — part of an occult spiritual tradition that incorporates Gnostic Christianity, Taoist energy practices and esoteric Judaism — from the cheesy pull-the-rabbit-out-of-a-hat illusion work that most people associate with the word magic.

There’s more, lots more. The reporter accompanied Echols to an appearance before a crowd in Brooklyn, where he was seen by some as a spiritual leader.