Skryclad: Clothed In Visions

Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Once & Future Agora

 

This is part two of four of a series on physical infrastructure in the Pagan community. In this blog post I am focusing on Pagan bookstores and related businesses. For the sake of transparency and disclosure, I'll say that I am the co-owner of a metaphysical bookstore (Bell, Book, & Candle in Dover, De) so I do have a personal interest in this matter. I will also say that it is a labor of love and that there are any number of other ways that I could make a better living with much less work. If my partner Jim, did not have a good job with benefits, I would never have considered a metaphysical store as a reasonable option for myself. This is an artifact of the often strained relationship that the Pagan community has with money and finances. The ambivalence and misgivings related to money and material goods within our community will be a continuing thread throughout this series of blogs.

 

De Facto Centers

 

Although I will talk about the value of Pagan businesses as a portal of entry for people seeking their path later in this post, I think that the importance of an easily found and easily identified outpost of Paganism in the mainstream world is essential to our long-term success. On more occasions than I can count, the phone has rung in my shop with a call from the print media press, television and radio crews, mainstream clergy, and other organizations looking for a contact point, a referral, or an opinion from the Pagan community. There is a power and a reality to a permanent physical address and a phone number listed in the phonebook that should not be underestimated. Good Pagan stores are de facto community centers. Bookstores are not the only kind of pagan shop that makes a difference in building community. Other sorts of businesses owned or staffed by Pagans that can serve in this role include: healing centers, coffee shops, art galleries, etc.

 

Visibility 

 

This past Sunday was the Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival, a one-day event that grew out of the Pagan Pride Day movement. One of its purposes is to provide an opportunity for people of other faiths to see us. Visibility is one of the first steps for a community to step into its proper place in the world. This is also why we have coming out days of various sorts in multiple communities. Brick and mortar pagan businesses provide visibility 365 days of the year. A consistent presence in the community also helps to reduce the idea that we are a fringe element that can be ignored or discounted. Another way that Pagan businesses connect us to the mainstream community is through charitable action. As an example, my shop donates items to community groups raising funds for everything from a Sunday breakfast for the homeless to travel funds for a local school chorus.

 

Space

 

Pagan businesses often provide meeting space and work space for pagan groups. Certainly some things can be done from people’s homes and of course space can be borrowed or rented from mainstream churches and centers, but it is much easier when you are in a space that is supportive of your work. The back room at Bell, Book, & Candle has been used as a meeting space for the Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival, tarot groups, discussion groups, knitting groups, networking meetings for local pagan groups, and more. My shop has also provided the use of our phones, copier, wifi, and storage of materials for events.  Bell, Book, & Candle has also given space in the shop for groups to sell things to raise money for their activities. There are many Pagan businesses that are doing their part for the community. I’ve been using my store as an example because I can speak from direct experience.  I encourage you to take note of the things that Pagan businesses around you have done. I also encourage you if you are Pagan business to become more involved in all sectors of the community.

 

 

Portal

 

For newbies to Paganism or recent transplants to a new location, Pagan businesses can be their welcome wagon and key to the city. Pagan businesses often offer guidance and suggestions to connect the right person with the right group, event, or activity.  The workshops and the rituals that are held at Pagan businesses are for many people their first face-to-face training and first rituals. Moreover not everyone wants to be in a group nor can they easily find the one that is appropriate for them, so that the rituals and the fellowship experienced at pagan businesses are often a central part of their spiritual life. Another community that I am a part of is the Queer community, LGBT and whatever letters will be added in the future community. I am not sure what course my life would have taken, had it not been for hotlines, queer bookshops, community centers, and gay bars so I could connect with people.  I can tell you that our store gets more phone calls of a hotline nature than it does business calls. Pagan stores are more than the portal of entry for many people.  They are a place for people to recharge and to reconnect and to know that they are not alone.

 

Agora

 

Agora is the ancient greek word for the gathering-place or marketplace that was also the center of political and spiritual life in a city. Pagan businesses and the activities that they help to foster, can act as our agora. Within our community the idea of thinking globally but acting locally is very popular. I know many pagans that go to great lengths to eat locally grown food, which is a good thing. Please extend the concept of acting locally to supporting your local pagan businesses. Pagan bookstores and businesses are an endangered species. They are endangered because of thoughtless actions fueled by the need for convenience. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that running a bookstore is a labor of love. That is true, but I can also tell you that it takes money to keep the doors open. Unless more pagans choose to use their money locally at pagan businesses, then our money shall line the pockets of large corporations and feed their Gods. Minority communities only begin to thrive when they fully invest in themselves first.

 

You may be asking yourself the question of whether or not Pagan community centers and temples should be doing the things that I just described as part of the work of Pagan businesses? The answer is a resounding yes, but it takes more time, effort, and the cooperation of many to pull together to create community centers and temples. In the future that I wish for and work for, there will be an abundance of pagan businesses and pagan centers, libraries, temples, and more. You take one step at a time and you work with what you have until you have more.

 

Next time I will be focusing on libraries, temples, and other land-based projects and why they are so important to our future.

Last modified on
Ivo Domínguez, Jr. is a visionary, and a practitioner of a variety of esoteric disciplines who has been active in Wicca and the Pagan community since 1978. He serves as one of the Elders of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan syncretic tradition that draws inspiration from Astrology, Qabala, the Western Magickal Tradition and the folk religions of Europe. He is the author of Casting Sacred Space: The Core Of All Magickal Work; Spirit Speak: Knowing and Understanding Spirit Guides, Ancestors, Ghosts, Angels, and the Divine; Beneath the Skins with other books in the pipeline as well. He is also is one of the owners of Bell, Book, & Candle (www.bellbookandcandle.biz), Delaware's largest metaphysical shop.
Author's recent posts

Comments

  • Gwendolyn Reece
    Gwendolyn Reece Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    Ivo, I have a practical question for you as a store owner. I am one of those people who does not have access to brick and mortar shop on a regular basis. From a business perspective, is it worth the time and trouble for a shop to ship things, or is that too much hassle? I would gladly order things through a shop if they could be shipped to me. I am happy to pay for the shipping, but I'm not sure if that is worth the complication to the store...especially if I'm looking for a list of items that may not be on hand in the inventory.

  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    Ask the store owner as each place a different take on this one. I don't mind shipping out an order.

  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    Excellent post, and I agree with everything you say. Could you perhaps give your thoughts on the need (or lack thereof) to represent and serve different segments of the Pagan community? For example, there are a few brick and mortar stores in my neck of the woods (norther NJ), but few have much of anything of interest to the Asatru/Theodish community, reconstructionist Greeks, Romans, or Celts, etc. Having a complete line of Paul Borda pieces is all well and good, but in my experience there are unique needs in terms of ritual equipment, more specialized and scholarly books, etc. that many Pagan stores don't really support.

  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    We do try to carry things for the Heathen community such as blank horns for carving, offering bowls, hammers, red ochre, jewelry, t-shirts, big hunks of raw amber, and of course non-fluffy books. I am fairly well educated on your community so I make an effort. What I suggest is Heathens either need to make efforts to educate and support local stores, or to open some. Most store owners don't know what to order, help them out. Consider doing special orders and being patient. Offer to run a lore study group in the shop or other events. A gift for a gift... unless Heathens spend money at a shop, the shop has no reason to believe they should spend the time and money to add items. By the way merchandise that sits on the shelves is lost money. Until the items sell, that is money the store does not have to but stock that turns over quickly. The same suggestions apply for other recon flavors as well.

  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch Saturday, 22 September 2012

    It definitely sounds like a nasty feedback loop. Pagan stores don't stock much of interest to various types of Recons because the Recons don't come to the store. But the Recons don't come to the store because it doesn't stock the stuff they want/need. And so on...

    Perhaps one idea would be for a store to team up with one or more Recon groups in its area, making them aware that the books and other items they'd want can be had, and going out of their way to solicit their custom. Maybe having a "Norse Fair" or something, and making sure it was well-advertised, might be a way to pull in folks and break that feedback loop. Turn it into an event; runecasting, workshops, maybe a mead tasting (depending on the local laws about such things)...

    Just brainstorming. It's certainly a pickle and the current situation doesn't help either side of the problem.

  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr Wednesday, 26 September 2012

    Agreed on most points and a Norse fair is exactly the kind of thing that would help.

  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    FYI... Argghh that you can't edit comments once they are posted.

  • Elissa Rich
    Elissa Rich Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    I posted this at Facebook, and Ivo kindly urged me to share it here:
    " Great post, and I too want to be able to see more brick-and-mortar Pagan businesses - we could have wineries, furniture, clothing, tools and more in these stores. I'd love to see it as a revival of the village market and village square, where the work of our hands and hearts support each other economically as well as spiritually."

    I'd like to elaborate as well - I recently graduated with a B.F.A. in Interior Design, and have become invested in not just sustainability, but biophilia/biophilic design as well, which harmonizes with my beliefs. I share this information because I'd like to share my skills and passions with fellow Pagans. I know there are others with valuable skills to offer as well, and I believe that putting ourselves out there in the physical marketplace is just as valuable (if not more so!) than the virtual marketplace. We pride ourselves on being community-oriented, so let's really invest in that idea.

  • Alan
    Alan Thursday, 20 September 2012

    I'm checking on the edit comment question. It certainly seems useful to be able edit ones own comment.

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Monday, 24 September 2012

    I really love that you point out how important Pagan bookstores are to people who don't belong to groups. I love being able to attend classes and meet people and it's a great refresher from the solitary practitioner life to be able to do a ritual once in awhile with others, even if it's outside of my normal practice. I will even go to classes outside of my tradition because I often feel like I learn a lot from the other participants, not just the teacher.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information