Last week I wrote a blog in response to a rant about consumerism. As I alluded to in that first blog, the author had great points but failed to differentiate between local occult stores with community presence, and big box stores or those dreadful online shops that sell crystals and poor-quality metal at bargain prices. I decided to interview one of my own local stores to see what they thought of this.
Sarah is a shopkeeper and owner of Mystic Moons in Moncton, NB, Canada, and has made her store a fixture in the Maritime Pagan Community. While she’s about 3 hours drive from myself, many of us in Nova Scotia make the commute to visit her shop, take in a workshop, or a public ritual, at least once a year. Our coven is making it a bit of a pilgrimage this year in fact. Her shop also has a Facebook page.
Living the Liminal: Recently there has been an uptrend in the paganism/witchcraft communities decrying consumerism and the effect it has on “the path”. Recognizing that this path is incredibly diverse, where do you find the issues with consumerism?
Sarah: I find the main issues with consumerism for our culture is the big box stores like Sephora, Spencer’s and Urban Outfitters. Let me not forget the big discounters like Wish and other online places like it. These places are capitalizing on naivety and as a long-time shop owner, I am nervous that this could have a negative impact on the progress those before us have worked so hard to normalize and those of us who have picked up the torch and continue to fight everyday for religious equality. The places are not ethically sourcing their materials, from books to smudge where is it all coming from?
Consumerism feeds on the need to have and want more. And in a society that is driven by the collective of more is better, and pretty is the only way, in many ways we have lost sight of what paganism is in the first place. And because most of us cannot compete with the capital that big box stores bring to the table, we are seeing a growing increase of the traps consumerism brings.
LTL: How is your shop, and others like it, benefited or harmed from the narrative, if at all?
Sarah: As a shop we have seen mostly positive from people who have gone to the big box stores and have purchased from those places and wanting something more than what they are offering. We have fielded many questions from people asking us what they even purchased as they show us the item in question; the employees at these places don’t know themselves. We have also experienced some negative from mostly the big discounters, as I know some items can be a bit pricey and some people have it in their heads that it should be a certain amount because that is what they have seen online. We have had experiences where customers have out-rightly told us they will purchase the item from Wish because its “cheaper”.Sometimes it’s not about supporting local, and I get it: people don’t have a ton of money and they really want the item, but they can’t dish out $100.00 for a singing bowl for example. But what people don’t get is that these discounters sell knock-offs and you aren’t always getting what you paid for. But hey if people are ok with that then who is to argue? But people need to understand that what a discounter like Wish is offering is NOT the same as what is being offered in a local or online pagan shop.
I know that other shops have experienced some of the same things. We owners talk to each other and share our experiences and see how we have handled certain situations. I think it’s very important for shop owners to support each other especially when it comes to these issues.
LTL: What’s missing or needs discernment in these blogs complaining of consumerism?
Sarah: We are a consumer-driven society, plain and simple. We have been shaped and molded as such. These blogs and articles bring awareness yes, however, just like I pointed out recently in an online discussion is that there are people who are still in areas that do not offer much in the way of either shops, teachers and even a greater community. People are hungry (even though we know more isn’t always better), people want to learn, experience, share, and connect with like-minded people. People like pretty and some don’t have the understanding that nature is pure and sacred (we don’t make nature pure or sacred). These people who want to write these blogs complaining about consumerism need to understand that:
- The big box stores are going to continue to bring in what sells regardless of the impact it has, unless we stand up and say NO this isn’t ok.
- Online Pagan Schools are going to continue to draw people in because people aren’t finding what they are looking for in their own backyards.
- People are going to continue charging obscene amounts of money for courses and the like without providing materials because people are paying it. Simple fact. People will take a course more seriously if they have to PAY for it than if it is free. It’s sad but totally true.
So while people continue to complain about the over-consumerism of our culture, how about educate and make people aware of such behavior and how it impacts our communities. Complaining never got anyone anywhere; stand up and take a true stance on consumerism.
I am so grateful to Sarah and her employees for taking the time to really consider my questions, and share back with me. I look forward to hearing from my readers and see what they have to add to the commentary! Feel free to answer my questions as well.
Here are my own thoughts on witching local.
Follow Lisa Jade @modernwitchcraftmusings on Instagram and Facebook.