Candles on a makeshift altar were still flickering in the tiny apartment when police found the bodies of two young women, disciples of a 17th century mystical society, the Rosicrucians.

A note said the women had swallowed cyanide to seal their suicide pact. The scent of burning incense wafted over the bodies of the victims and the five house pets they had poisoned.

Laura Ann Weich, 25, an unemployed lab technician, and roommate Pamela Nagy, 24, were found Monday afternoon huddled inside a white circle scrawled on the bedroom floor.

A homicide sergeant said "both females had deep feelings in regards to cult religions, such as beliefs of pagan gods." A star was carved on the apartment's corridor door and more were drawn on the walls and woodwork inside, as was a cross with a single red rose in its center-the emblem of the Rosicrucian Society, whose members claim occult powers.

In San Jose, Calif., Ralph M. Lewis, president of the society, said it is not a religious cult but a fraternal group. "It's very unfair and very unethical to imply there was any connection. We're not teaching anything secret, hidden or weird. We don't have any voodoo rites or anything like that."