Metaphysical shops offer treasures that go well beyond commerce, and the material provisions that are needed to practice our various pagan paths. There are many intangible benefits that are far more valuable to us as a community. They may not be as glittery, and there isn’t an obvious place to hang a price tag, but they are just as worthy of our financial support. Our shops are a light that stands against the shadows of a fearful society, and that is better than gold. Here are eight services that shops like mine offer our pagan communities:
1. We are a Community Center
We are privileged to host celebrations and social events of all kinds. Friends stop by to visit; impromptu gatherings happen; children come to play and we dance at our drum circles; love connections are made at “singles mixers”; Knit-witch crafting clubs have met here; we meditate and heal together; we belly laugh as much as we cry in the safety of each others company. We also vend at the pagan festivals where we camp out together, and throw parties like our Witches’ Costumed Ball and a tacky-sweater Yule Party. We once held summer camps for kids based on the magical world of Harry Potter. We’ve hosted everything from poetry readings and book signings, to private concerts with world renown musicians like Lipbone Redding.
I say that the whole damned point to all of this Witchery is to enjoy life; so we create various opportunities to come together to “drink the good wine to the Old Gods, and dance and make love in their praise. (1)”
2. We are the School House
We have a dedicated space in the back of the shop we call “The Vault” because this was once a jewelry store and it has no windows, just low light, dead quiet, with comfortable seating, an altar, and equipment for classes, rituals, divination and healing sessions. This room only seats 13, but we’ve taught meditation techniques, Reiki healing, incense making, spell-casting workshops, my whole “Year and A Day” training program in Modern Witchcraft, and countless more subjects. Many fine teachers rent that room and we found them eager students, who excel, and eventually start seeing their own clients in that room.
Because the shop has the infrastructure of equipment and supplies needed, communication channels in place, and the man-power to organize things, our community can pool their resources and hold larger events, like festivals and conferences. We create partnerships with our brightest luminaries, writers, and teachers in paganism, so they have the venue through which to offer their talents and wisdom to those who need it, where they live.
3. We are a Temple
I live where there is a church on almost every corner, and their congregations are lucky enough to have full-time clergy with office hours, or at least a listed phone number. Churches with open doors let their members come in to pray, light vigil candles, and receive counsel when they need it most. If you are a follower of a mainstream religion, no matter where you wander, there is a safe, sacred place to welcome you.
In paganism, not so much. So the local shop must double as our Temple, sacred ground where you can seek solace and help from local clergy. The good shops will provide space for use by various pagan groups to meet, hold classes, ceremonies, and offer services specific to their path.
We’ve offered classes in Modern Witchcraft for long enough now, that a separate spiritual entity we call The Sojo Circle Coven emerged, organized and operates out of the shop. Members have a commitment to continue teaching, mentoring and organizing the community. We hold two grand sabbat camp-outs a year, now. Here is my article about last Beltane.
4. We are a Lighthouse: A light from the shadows shall spring
Advertising for a business in a commercial location so that it is easily found is tantamount to lighting the beacon in a lighthouse. We stand on the rockiest shores of this ravaged society, illuminating the darkness, helping folks navigate their way into whatever harbor they need most. Even if they never come inside, just knowing we stand there shining brightly helps people feel a little less lost.
The magickal wards I erected over our location are charged to shield us from anyone who would do us harm, but also to draw to us all those folks who need us. At the end of every rite I close in our temple, as a closing prayer, we send the energy of our circle to charge the beacon in the Lighthouse thoughtform. Folks find us when the time is right, just like magick!
5. We Offer Safe Haven
Between these four walls, your weird is our run-of-the-mill. Let your little light shine, and no harm will come to you, no matter who you are. That sense of acceptance cannot be packaged or “sold” but is the most valuable treasure in here. Here you will find meaningful conversations with people like yourself, so ask the burning questions that sound “crazy” anywhere else and you will receive responsible answers. She Who is Without Oddness, Cast the First Stone, is my article about how we welcome our community with a different approach to “judgement.”
I’m not just talking about safety for religious expression, either. We make a huge point to serve and welcome our GLBTQ community, being especially vocal about that since the HB2 “Bathroom Bill” which discriminates against Transgender people was introduced. There’s a Safe Pot to Piss in at the End of the Rainbow, is my story about how we are speaking up for our trans friends.
6. We Propagate Awareness
Because I am so relentlessly “out and proud” and willing to talk about these previously verboten topics across the counter, word spreads of who we are, and how to find us. I’m regularly sought out to come speak in university religion classes, participate in interfaith services, and do news interviews. College students getting religion degrees are rarely pagan, but they come to us for help with immersion projects so they can understand our principles and practices academically.
By doing this outreach work in the community, many hundreds of regular, non-pagan people are given a few moments of exposure to who we are – just nice, beneficial people – that goes a long way to alleviating fears and incorrect information about us. Then THEY go about their lives, organically spreading what good things they know about their pagan neighbors. Give it some time, and soon far more of us will be able to safely “come out” of our broom closets.
7. We Establish Legitimacy
Shopkeepers help to normalize our minority interests by rallying them under a single banner, and then forming a legal entity. By navigating the business landscape we are proudly interacting with the adjacent industries and government agencies for countless permits and services. By playing the system as legitimate tax-payers, we cannot long be marginalized. By simply conducting business without shame like we belong here, we spread awareness and put a responsible face on our movement.
Over the years, our lawyer, accountant, bankers, and agents of all kinds have taken an honest moment off the clock, and asked me what this “witchcraft” thing is all about. They listened to my (carefully-crafted) answers, and were awesome about it, very curious and reasonable. Now they have a great story to share around the water-cooler, or on the golf-course, about that “Wiccan client” they have. <snicker>
Hey, I have no problem playing that exciting role, because the moral of the story is that I am surprisingly normal; just your average mini-van-driving, mortgage-paying parent who faces the same day-to-day struggles as they do, and is dead-freaking serious about her religion, without being pushy about it…and paid their invoices in a timely manner. Our money is just as green as anyone else and that is the only thing that should even matter to our business affiliates.
8. We Empower Pagans to “Save the World”
What matters to me about this “shopkeeper” gig is that we nurture our colorful, and diverse community of pagans so that they have the power, opportunities, confidence, and supplies they need to do THEIR work. Then they go forth into the world and engage in conservation, social justice, advocacy, and leadership in their own myriad ways.
I’ll not try to imply that I solely opened this shop as a selfless way to serve others at the behest of my Gods, as if I’m some sacrificial lamb, because that isn’t Witchcraft. In Witchcraft, personal sovereignty and self-care are paramount. I’m trying to make a living here; however, I also want a meaningful life for myself just like anyone else. I’m here to build a happier society that I get to live in, and to pass that legacy on to my kids.
Mainly, I want to have fun with people who are weird like me. I want to have sabbat picnics and eat BBQ and drink beer with people who share the same values, and watch our kids playing together. We can do all this while we are “saving mother earth,” starting with our little patch.
There are far more intangible treasures that our Metaphysical shops offer their communities than mere commerce, though that is important, too. At the end of the day, its these less-glittery golden benefits to our whole community that we shopkeepers so daringly defend. Won’t you help us?
In this Shopkeeper Saga series I’m working through this riddle in The Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkien. Its inspiring me to think about how we pagans approach our own destinies, our journeys to fulfill them, our relationships with material treasures, our heritage, and reclaiming our sovereignty.
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit