Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

Shopping for the Magickal Amid the Mundane

Magical Items

If you're lucky enough to live within a reasonable distance of a metaphysical, New Age, or occult shop, you may not give a second thought as to where you can obtain your witchy supplies. However, I often find myself in conversation with those not lucky enough to be near such a store, and they express frustration and exasperation about where they are ever going to find that much-sought-after ritual supply or spell ingredient. In this day and age, of course, there are a myriad of websites and online shops; however, it is also a good idea to try balancing Internet resources with supporting your community’s economy by shopping locally. In reality, the answer to your magickal needs may be closer than you think.

Many commonly desired magickal supplies can be found on shelves among seemingly mundane merchandise. A good place to start is your local grocery store. Yes, the one you visit regularly for your milk and bread. Grocery stores often carry treasures that are overlooked by even the most frequent customer. Most grocery stores have at least a moderately decent selection of herbs and spices in the cooking aisle. The rosemary you need for that protection spell or the eucalyptus you need for healing work could well be waiting for you in aisle 5 next to the flour and sugar. While you’re there, let’s not forget to pick up a witch’s staple: sea salt.

You might be lucky to live in an area with a particularly high multicultural population. The area I live in has a fairly large Hispanic population and the local grocery store carries a plethora of bulk spices imported from Mexico, as well as a large variety of inexpensive seven-day novena candles, both plain and with various deity and religious images. This find is considered a great score for candle magick workers as well as for those who might practice or incorporate Vodou, Hoodoo, or Santería into their path. Novena candles are perfect for long-term and ongoing spellwork. You may be thinking to yourself, "What about those everyday 'on the fly' spells?" A quick and easy solution is to head to the baking aisle and pick up a pack of birthday candles. They have a short burn time and come in a variety of colors, fitting the bill nicely.

This brings us to another prime place to check for magickal supplies: ethnic grocers. Asian grocery stores often carry a selection of Feng Shui supplies as well as statuary and trinkets such as money frogs, Maneki Nekos (lucky cats), and Hotei Buddha figurines. Who couldn’t use a little extra prosperous energy and a little bit of Feng Shui to bring things into harmony? Of course, while you’re there, don’t forget to look for those amazing tea sets they often carry as well as the great selection of affordable herbal teas. I’m lucky enough to also live only about half an hour from a "Little India." There is a wonderful Indian grocery there that carries not only delectable edibles but also an array of Hindu puja (ritual) supplies. Kum kum powder, offering trays and bowls, incense burners, deity murtis (statues), discounted bulk incense, and more can be found here—a delight for those incorporating Asian traditions. It’s only a matter of looking in the right places and keeping your options open.

There is yet another place you should keep your magickal eyes open while you are grocery shopping: your local farmers’ market. These markets often have a wide selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables to be included in tasty kitchen witch creations, as well as potted herbs that you can plant in your garden. Farmers’ markets and peoples’ markets are also stocked with local arts and crafts; you might just find the perfect chalice from a local potter, or come across locally spun yarn for crocheting a magickal creation. This would also support independent entrepreneurs and your local economy.

Don’t forget to add a trip to the dollar store to your magickal shopping rounds. This can be an excellent place not only for candles, holders, small knick-knacks of animal totems, and other things magickally symbolic, but also for sabbat decorations. I have more than once found wonderful altar decorations and components at the dollar store. They always have a plethora of new seasonal merchandise as the wheel of the year turns. Dollar stores also have proven to be a good source for various candles. Especially good finds include black candles near Samhain and gold and silver candles, which are generally carried closer to the winter holidays.

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, a great place to consider spending an interesting morning or even the better part of a day is a flea market. Flea markets can be feast or famine, but you’ll almost always find something worth your trip if you keep a keen eye. Old glass milk bottles, horseshoes, cauldrons, antique and foreign coins, stray keys (both antique and contemporary), cast iron trivets with magickal knotworks, and even pentacles can be found. Hunting for bargain-priced used occult books is also a more common occurrence than one might think. You may also find inexpensive old apothecary jars to store your herbs in, as well as flats of canning jars priced at next to nothing—a kitchen witch’s goldmine! Flea markets are actually a great place to keep your eyes peeled for bona fide occult and Pagan booths. More than once, when you’d least expect it, I’ve rounded a corner or stumbled into a nook and found myself in a small closet-sized botanica or a corner booth run by Pagans brimming with herbs, books, candles, tarot decks, and a selection of jewelry. Flea markets are becoming popular venues for occult and Pagan vendors because the overhead cost for the space is much lower than more permanent types of retail space. In some cases, this results not only in a larger profit margin for the shopkeeper but also lower prices for the customer.

Continue your local shopping adventure at antique and thrift stores. When it comes to antique shops, prices can vary widely from great bargains to high bounties aimed at wealthy collectors, but they are always worth a look. Old coffee tables and dressers can have new life breathed into them when reincarnated as altar tables or herbal apothecary cabinets. Keep your eye out for these finds at the local thrift stores. I actually found a lovely small handmade tile mosaic table for just six dollars at a thrift store run by the local school district’s PTA. It now serves as a goddess altar that we decorate with appropriate foliage each season.

It is also important to note that many thrift stores are run by charitable organizations as fundraisers for their causes. Shopping at these businesses can be a form of giving back to your community. As magickal practitioners, we often discuss how the energy you put out into the universe will return to you. This is obviously true for our magickal workings but it’s also important to realize that it is true outside of our rituals and spellwork. Giving back to your community is something that will return to you in a beneficial manner, both physically and metaphysically. These transactions create a truly win/win situation.

There is an old and well-worn pun that "witches are Crafty people." This phrase endures because of its truth! Most Pagans have a talent and/or skill in some type of art or craft. We are all well aware of the fact that any magickal tool or item you put your time, effort, and energy into making will be far more powerful than anything purchased in the store. This brings us to your local arts and crafts shop. Walk the aisles and soak in the inspiration: beads to craft into magickal jewelry; wood to paint, carve, or burn into protective charms and talismans; clay to be sculpted into runes; wooden boxes waiting to be finished, stained, painted, or decoupaged into spell and tarot boxes; yarn to be knitted into a ritual shawl . . . the list goes on and on.

Akin to the craft store is another much-overlooked source: hardware and home improvement stores. Do you have an affinity for power tools or working with your hands? Were you unable to find that perfect altar table or herb cabinet at the thrift store or flea market? No problem. Draw up some plans, head to the local home improvement store, and pick up some lumber, stain, and other supplies. Soon you’ll be on the way to building yourself custom magickal furniture! Another option to consider if carpentry isn’t one of your stronger skills is the purchase of a ready-made wall shelf. Home improvement stores carry a wide selection of such shelves these days. A wall-mounted shelf serves as a great shrine or altar if you are living in a small space or have children or pets you are worried about getting into your ritual items. Or perhaps you have an existing magickal cupboard or old dresser you use as an altar and it’s looking a bit tired. One great way to spruce up such furnishings is to pick out new drawer knobs or pulls. These can totally change the character of a piece, turning it from dreary to dazzling. Home improvement stores often carry fun novelty pulls, such as leaves or Celtic knots, or ones made of glass or metals.

For those who do much magickal work with plants and herbs, one option always up for consideration is growing your own plants and herbs in a magickal garden. A perfect shopping stop for the green witch is the local plant nursery. You will likely find almost any plant you’re looking for, as well as some you probably didn’t even know existed. They’ll stock houseplants, garden plants, annuals, perennials, a selection of herbs, and even seeds if you prefer to start from the ground up, literally. You can’t beat the expertise of nursery employees. Oftentimes, employees at locally owned nurseries are knowledgeable especially as to what will grow in your region and under what conditions. If you live in an apartment or have little to no actual space to plant a garden, never underestimate the power of a container garden on a porch, patio, or windowsill. Don’t forget to look for both gardening tools and creative pots and containers at the other stops along your magickal shopping route.

Another place to hunt for magickal supplies is the great outdoors. In a busy modern life full of computers, mass transit, and hustle and bustle, this may be easy to overlook. Mother Nature provides us with all the magickal trees, plants, and objects we could desire. Take a walk or hike through local woods, parks, or other areas. You may find a fallen branch that’s perfect for a staff or wand. Perhaps you’ll catch a leaf falling from an oak tree, which is said to bring good luck. Or maybe you’ll happen upon a rock or stone that calls to you for use in magickal work. Just be sure that it is permissible for you to remove the objects from the area in which you are hiking; many nature refuges, preserves, and sanctuaries have rules regarding this.

I should, of course, give an obligatory mention that any magickal supplies or tools, whether handcrafted or purchased (especially if they are second hand) should be cleansed and consecrated to remove any energies from previous owners or contact from previous shoppers. After all, you’re probably not the only one who admired that beautiful goblet you bought from the flea market to use as a chalice. Give it a quick rinse in salt water, pass it through sage smoke, or leave it in the windowsill in the moonlight.

I always recommend trying to support your local Pagan and metaphysical vendors. If you are not lucky enough to have one nearby, don’t fret; magick is still all around you. You simply have to engage your creative muse and explore the abundant existing resources in your area. You’ll do fine—Pagans have a wonderful reputation for seeing the magickal amid the mundane.

From Llewellyn's 2012 Witches' Companion. For current-year calendars, datebooks, and almanacs, click here.

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