WINTHROP, Me. — On Saturday, April 4, Apple Valley Books closed its doors for the final time, ending a storied run of over twenty years. While it ultimately succumbed to the challenges facing all independent bookstores in the age of e-readers and Amazon.com, Apple Valley Books was also something of a focal point for Maine’s Pagan community. The Wild Hunt was able to reach one of the store’s owners, Rita Moran, to learn more about the store. In doing so, we discovered quite a bit about Moran’s own story along the way.
Together with partner Eric Robbins, Moran opened the store as Throne Books in August 1994. “Eric had worked in a bookstore in Liberty, NY and loved the business,” she recalled. “I was a librarian by trade, so books were my thing, as well.”
With both owners being Pagan, a following of Pagan customers built up over time, first in person and then, as the internet-age dawned, online. However, the pair discovered that the name they had selected for their business was sending a different message than expected. So in time, it became Apple Valley Books. “We changed our name after being open a few years, and discovering that most folks assumed that Throne Books would be a Christian book store,” Moran explained.Apple Valley Books was probably not what one might call a “Pagan bookstore.” The shop stocked a variety of titles in every subject, fiction and non-fiction alike. Its shelves, though, also had “a small stock of resin incenses, charcoal, books, Tarot, and some pagan-made art objects,” according to Moran. The store also had a reputation for being able to locate hard-to-find tomes of interest to the Pagan clientèle. The store was also a supporter of the EarthTides Pagan Network by way of its annual book sale held at a local fair.
Moran has never been private about being Pagan, a religion that has shaped her work in the political arena.
Since ours is a self-directed faith, one of our tasks in developing our Pagan lives is to set our moral compasses. To me, there are ultimately two very different possibilities: choose what does the least harm, or choose what does the most good.
The latter was my choice, and it has determined the course of my life. I’ve been involved with partisan politics (a much stonier path than issues politics) since I helped stuff envelopes for the Kennedy campaign. I now chair a county Democratic Party committee, the sort of thing my father did before me. I’m the third of four generations of union members, which informs my politics as well.
The place of politics in leading a Pagan life was validated when, during a wonderful weekend training in Druidry offered by Emma Restall Orr, the subject of her political activity was touched upon. I asked if she was politically involved. She looked at me silently for a minute or two, and said, ‘Of course; how could I not be?’
Part of that work was writing the Pagan+Politics blog for the Pagan Newswire Collective. As we reported in the past, Moran was also believed to be one of only two openly Pagan delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Her public face got her into the crosshairs of a Christian organization that sought to undermine her political work by attacking her religion, including efforts to make Apple Valley Books seem “sinister.” That attack led to Pagans and internet users rallying behind the Kennebec Democrats. Now six years later, Moran continues to chair her county committee, making it clear that she was able to rise above the ugliness of that time.
Closing the bookstore ends just one chapter in this Maine Pagan’s life, but there is more left to write in her story.
What lies ahead? I am retired and do lots of volunteer work. In addition to my political work I am a member of several community theater groups and choruses. I am a volunteer mediator for the Maine Division of Consumer Protection, the Maine State Archives, and a local food co-op.
My hopes for what lies ahead include health and happiness, honor, a heathen heart, and a loving partner with whom I can share it all.