How many times have your heard the phrase ‘all Wiccans are Witches, but not all witches are Wiccan’? A lot right? But how many times have you read a news article that fully illustrates that difference and how it can cause conflicts? Peter Rowe profiles two occult stores that exist on the same block in San Diego. One, Botanica Mama Roots, is a shop that caters to adherents of Santeria, while Superstitious caters to a solidly Wiccan clientele.
“Mama Roots and Superstitious are neighbors but not friends. They’re on the 3500 block of Adams Avenue, ringed in by bungalows, apartment houses, auto repair yards, taco shops and an impressive concentration of Irish bars and used book stores. Adams is the heart of Normal Heights, a ‘hood that probably wouldn’t object to the term “funky.” Here, a couple of witchcraft shops might be greeted with a raised eyebrow or two, but few on the avenue will raise a fuss.”
The owner and some customers of Superstitious go out of their way to bad-mouth the Santerian establishment.
“They are only a few doors apart, but between the two shops is a netherworld of difference. Leite’s inventory does not include curses. “If you are a true witch,” he said, ‘you cannot do harm’…He insists that true witchcraft focuses on helping people use their innate spiritual powers for good ? and that true witchcraft shops should give off an upbeat, cheerful aura. ‘We found this place by accident,’ said Rebekah Brooks, a psychic, priestess and former Mama Roots customer. ‘You don’t feel you are going to die if you come in here. You feel like you are going to die when you walk in there.’ ‘We have a different view of life,’ Leite said. ‘We love life’. ‘They,’ Brooks said, ‘make everything feel so evil over there.'”
I find it somewhat funny that Kyle Leite, the 22-year-old “veteran” of Paganism who owns Superstitious, doesn’t have a better analysis of why his store is different from the botanica down the block. Bad-mouthing the magic of Santeria (a magic that has far more adherents than Wicca does) to make Wicca look good, accomplishes nothing except to make us look petty. In my opinion, adherents of Santeria/Lukumi should be seen as natural allies in our struggles for acceptance and rights. Framing non-Wiccan forms of witchcraft as “evil” helps no-one. I think Alexandra Lyons, an employee at Mama Roots emerges as the voice of reason here.
“You’ve got to have both sides of the board. It’s each person’s decision what magic they are doing.”
If “modern Paganism” means anything, it means room enough to encompass a wide variety of religious and magical ethical systems.
Addendum: Both Alexandra Lyons and Kyle Leite have left comments clarifying what they see as distortions by the reporter Peter Rowe. I have e-mailed Rowe and will write a new post incorporating comments from all three.