Column: an Essay in Five Hammers

Pagan Perspectives

Hammer the First
She hands me a tiny white box. I look at it, the gold lettering of the logo for Pathways, our local metaphysical shop, glimmering in the candlelight. It is the night of my first-degree initiation into my family’s coven, and now that the ritual is over, we are gathered around the coffee table altar in the living room of the house where I grew up exchanging presents. I slide the top off the box. Inside, resting on a pillow of spun fibers, is a silver sigil attached to a slim black cord.

Etsy’s New Policy Riles Magical Communities

Etsy, a widely-used site for selling handcrafted and other items online, sent shockwaves through the Pagan online vendor community by clarifying a company policy on spell-related items. While “clarify” was the word officially used to describe the action, in effect the change banned even a whiff of the supernatural in the names and descriptions of items for sale. An email sent to shop owners advised of the policy updates, but it wasn’t until items — and entire shops — were being disallowed that people really started to notice. An article on the policy shift at the Daily Dot explained what has changed:
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Fire Claims New Age Shop in New Jersey

A massive fire broke out yesterday in Long Branch, New Jersey, claiming 10 businesses and 14 apartments. Luckily, no human life was lost in the fire, though some pets were killed. Among the businesses that were destroyed was Sacred Circle New Age Center, a local meeting point for area Pagans, who were deeply saddened by the news. “…we’ll be there for them when they re-build, once we find out more info, if they need anything we can start a fundraiser or donations…This is so sad today for our Community to lose a business but so grateful they are alive and well.” The owners of Sacred Circle, Adam Kane and Al Romao, released a statement yesterday about the fire.

Quick Notes: Atlantis Bookshop, Pendle Witches, and Laura Wildman-Hanlon

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Friday. The Day the Lights Stayed on at Atlantis: London’s oldest occult bookseller, The Atlantis Bookshop, was apparently the only business unaffected when an explosion caused a blackout on their street. Could it be magic? Geraldine Beskin, whose family has run the shop for the past 50 years, said: “The lights flickered, and in the streets I could see everyone else’s go out. But we were left intact. It must have been magic!” Staff at the street’s boutiques and cafés turned to Atlantis, a Mecca for mysticists worldwide, for candles to keep their shop-fronts lit. Atlantis Bookshop is (in)famous for being a place that occultist Aleister Crowley would visit regularly, though the paper points out he died in 1947, precluding any role for Britain’s “wickedest man” in the blackout.

Prelude to AAR: A Visit to Fields Book Store

Greetings from San Francisco! I’ve arrived safe and sound in the Bay Area, and have received warm hospitality from my lovely hosts. While you’re reading this I’ll be immersed in the proceedings of the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting, but yesterday I had some unstructured time, so I thought I’d spend it by visiting the legendary Fields Book Store, a vital outlet for metaphysical and esoteric material since 1932. Braving the BART and buses, and with the help of some kind elderly ladies, I soon arrived at my destination. David Wiegleb, current owner of Fields, who I’ve interviewed via email for a variety of stories over the years, was gracious and open about the challenges of running a metaphysical bookstore in the current economic climate.