A few days ago I had the opportunity to be in a shop that sold gifts, alternative clothes, and merchandise from rock and metal bands. To say that I felt in paradise would be an understatement. Even moreso when I saw that there was a section with occult items for sale: tarot decks, oracle cards, censers, Witchcraft kits, books about Wicca and spells, and so on. I immediately thought about the many criticisms I have read about the commercial exploitation of Pagan religion and the bad image it represents, and I wondered if this is as harmful as it is always said.
Obviously my opinion may be biased, because I bought a necklace of the heptagram, the seven-pointed star: this one follows the 7/3 measurements related to fae folkd, and I’m in love with it. However, I have been thinking about the subject for a long time, considering both the pros and cons, and I think I’m correct when I say that Pagan commerce is more beneficial in the long run than one might think at first.
Here in Venezuela, it is normal to find incense, stones, herbs, and religious symbols in stores focused on Eastern philosophy or Feng Shui, or even in souvenir or naturist stores. I knew that there were stores like the one I recently visited, where Paganism, magic, and Witchcraft are treated like a game. (Suffice it to say that I found a Ouija board that, according to its box, was for kids ages eight and up, right next to various anime and manga.)
Dealing with the deceased is delicate, deep, and risky. I am far from being a connoisseur of the subject, much less someone with the necessary experience to teach or guide others, but I know how to take care of and cleanse both my being and the place where I make contact when I honor my ancestors. The same happens with stones, symbols, or other elements that are normally used when performing a spell or a ritual. Burning strange herbs, saying three words, and snapping one’s fingers does not make anybody a witch, and there could be any number of mistakes involved that prevent the work from taking effect.
These types of results give a terrible reputation to Paganism, Witchcraft, and those of us who are dedicated to one or both of those terms. Many companies appropriate the sacred symbolism that we include in our rituals and ceremonies; they use them as if they were just one more pattern that can be discarded when fashion passes or the buyer gets tired of “playing Witch.” For many, this is nothing more than the fantasy world of a group of superstitious people who seek to feel powerful, but I like to think that reality is a bit more positive.
According to the Informe sociográfico sobre la religión en Venezuela (Sociographic Report on Religion in Venezuela), by Jesús María Aguirre, carried out in 2011, 88% of the population identifies as Christian, of which 71% identify as Catholic. This is ironic, considering that in Venezuela, Witchcraft is everywhere, but despite the strong influence of the Church in the country, over the years it has become increasingly normal to hear that someone has learned tarot, was interested in stones, colored and shaped candles, and so on.
I have noticed that people are more and more open to this type of practice, especially the younger ones, and looking to start somewhere. In my case, when I was in the middle of high school, I bought a magazine every week that came with many spells, rituals, and correspondences, as well as articles that gave me a lot for that moment, when I had limited options and no references or mentors to help me.
It seems to me that it is preferable for someone to start and give themselves the opportunity to start investigating, regardless of whether it is with regard to María Lionza, José Gregorio Hernández, or Pagan Witchcraft. I could say that the starting point does not matter much either because those who are truly destined for this path will stay on it and perfect their craft.
I gave away all the magazines I read after taking what really interested me and going further; although their content was not always the best or the most specialized, it was a starting point for me. Yes, it is true that putting Witchcraft books next to black corsets with Halloween designs and accessories from Japanese manga series is not the best of options and can create mistaken associations, but it is one way to reach the public.
Far from being an indirect form of proselytism, this commerce is about reaching a sector of the population, the youngest and surely easiest to educate. It is not necessarily educating them to create a new generation of Witches; rather, it is about raising awareness through interest, making known what our work is about, how it works, and fighting against extremists who seek to condemn us without even hearing our version of events.
It is true that there could be a better way to do it, but that is something that only time can solve. At the moment, the mercantile world pays homage to Oscar Wilde’s phrase: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Witches and Witchcraft have a negative reputation throughout Venezuela, so why try to cover the sun with a single finger? After hearing these words, many people shudder and cross themselves, but more and more eyes are opening with interest and seeking to go further.
Buying a witchcraft kit on sale will not make a person a witch, but it will certainly open the doors to a world that could be part of someone’s path, and if it is a path that, like many, has nurtured and helped us, why should we limit ourselves to the books of almost 100 years ago if now there are more options? As we approach the longest night of the year, I still think that more and more candles are being lit.