I’d like to talk about the increase in popularity lately in esoteric business, and what this means for practice generally.
I cannot stand when people make a blanket statement for or against most things in life, as I’m generally of the view that extremism of any kind is a horrible thing. I find this especially the case with the frankly unrealistic view that some hold, that buying tools, oils, spell ingredients, any sort of esoteria, from a shop – weakens their inherent power or nullifies it all together. However, I am going to be a bit of a shit here and say that I do agree that sometimes this is the case. I’d like to explore a few realities through some entirely fictional case studies over three posts. OK, so these case studies are conglomerates based on actual existing businesses and individuals existing out there which I have interacted with – sue me. The point is not to shame but to ignite conversation.
So here we go...
The curious case of DarkFaeQueern:
Her business is a seemingly well established Etsy store with a 99.9% positive feedback rating and more than 13 featured items that have appeared on the front page.
Her banner is a crappily put together, pixilated tie-dye field with at least 13 pentagrams (power and good numerology) and the sort of airbrush artwork of a naked fairy with pointy tits that you expect to see emblazoned on the side of a stoner’s van. Her profile picture shows her smiling and looking you in the eye, with a real-life witch’s garden behind her, so you know she knows what she’s doing. Her practice resume is nothing less than overwhelming, she’s an initiated trad wiccan, a Voodoo priestess, a master reiki teacher, a Cunning woman, an native American Indian Shaman, a Psychic Vampyer and directly reincarnated down the Arthurian line from queen Maab herself. She’s also a Dali Lama in training. Namaste.
DarkFaeQueern’s store boasts an extensive range of well known hoodoo staples that you have heard about but potentially had trouble locating in your country, such as Florida Water (her own family recipe) and Goofer dust (sold in ADOREABLE little packets). She sells bundles of rustic looking candles with dripped wax effect all over them, rolled in all manner of potent herbs and resins and tied together in gauzey ribbon. You can even hire DarkFaeQueern to do an authentic, one-on-one tarot reading for you, and she has over thirty different decks for you to choose from.
DarkFaeQueern ships internationally, regardless of some of the more dubious ingredients that her bath salts and potent spell moisturisers claim to contain. She has a flat shipping rate for every country on the globe, and her prices are remarkably cheap, considering the time and effort it must take to make and bottle all those oils from scratch, and to roll those handmade incense cones just so.
DarkFaeQueen has a Blog or Tumblr account where she posts frequently about all the new Witchy goods she’s just listed for sale in her Etsy store, alongside re-posted images from other artisans out there making and selling esoteric goods from scratch, which she re-Blogs with comments like “So good to make your own oils, isn’t it? Check out mine here LINK”. Her photos are nearly always of the products, fully constructed, already bottled or packaged, sitting on some sort of altar or shrine or out in her garden. There’s a good reason she does this, she couldn’t possibly show you how the products are being produced, because there are just so many people out there waiting to rip off her recipes.
Whatever customer commentary or feedback she does post on her Blog or Etsy account tend to talk about how amazing her products are, how authentic the ingredients are, and most importantly of all, how they worked a treat and whatever ailment requiring the magick touch they had just resolved itself instantly at the lighting of a wick, the application of foot cream, the pouring of oil.
In case my tone isn’t 100% transparent here, I am of course being a facetious cunt.
DarkfaeQueern is a perfect example of all the problems I have with the realm of esoteric retail presently. I have interacted with some genuinely brilliant artisans of a manner of different paths who have provided me, for their price, a bevy of occult goods for use in my own practice. However, for each one of these people I feel truly blessed to have shopped with, there 20 shops or sellers out there trying to pass off mass-produced bullshit as hand crafted, intent-filled magical objects; and making a healthy profit doing so.
The problems that I have with this arrangement are multitude and varied. For a start, I resent being sold something that is labelled as being hand-made and is not – I mean that shit just really fucking crumbles my gingerbread house! The fact that you think I am stupid enough to buy your authentic flying ointment moisturiser that you’ve helpfully scented strawberry, set in a plastic pot, and removed all poisonous ingredients from; well, it speaks fucking volumes. The problem is that there are many out there who ARE happy to buy obviously inauthentic goods, because they compliment so nicely their inauthentic practice. I don’t want to get into a mud-slinging “My witchcraft is darker/more real than yours!” argument, but when you see some fucking Kitchen Witch on Etsy selling fucking glitter covered spoon-wands alongside her authentic Voodoo doll kits and offering free shipping if you like her on Facebook, well, I cannot help but question the religious seriousness of anyone who fucking buys from that store with a straight face.
DarkFaeQueern’s resume of mix-matched, patch-worked faiths is another thing that makes me violent. You’re all those things huh? You follow all those different religious threads, seamlessly, without a problem? Really? You actually claim to be a creature of myth and legend? You hide behind your many ‘qualifications’ like it is some sort of shield so that anyone who might call you out and say “I don’t think you’re actually the Dali Lama, I think there’s only one of those...” THEY seem like an insensitive arsehole for questioning your religious rights, and your sales skyrocket in support. Short of someone stepping up and saying “Uh, I am a native American Indian and your blatant rape of our dubiously shared cultural heritage hurts me in ways I doubt you could possibly understand. Those dream catchers are clearly made in China, and not by your hands. Explain yourself.” You will continue to get away with selling at best shoddily made facsimiles of religious paths you know nothing of, and at worst, mass produced renditions of other’s cultural property made by sweatshop labour.
DarkFaeQueern is not a real etsy seller, and the object of this piece was not to shame any existing seller out there who may match the case study closely, nor to allude to the rampant problems of etsy. Why would I bother when regretsy does it so effortlessly?
My intention here was simply to point out that there really is a lot of shit out there being passed off as authentic esoteric objects d’arte; and a lot of people who are willing to spend as little as possible to pursue their McWicca or Kentucky Fried Shamanism; and that I think this is really disgusting. You’ll notice I’m not really offering any solutions here. Well, it’s a pretty fucking daunting problem, but there’s a pretty fucking simple solution. GET TO KNOW THE FUCKING SELLER!
There are plenty of sellers out there making really amazing products, with Blogs and Tumblrs and websites where they discuss their work openly! They may not give you the recipe, but they should provide enough detail for you to confirm that they are what they say they are. Their products are more expensive, it’s true, and they might take longer to make and to get to you, and they might outright refuse to do a reading for you or to send you something; but if you get to know them and their craft and ascertain that they are in fact, the real deal, I guarantee you you’ll not complain once you’ve sampled their wares.
There’s a brilliant line in the first season of True Blood where Sookie’s grandmother has died, and at the wake Tara goes to eat some food provided by local gossips. Her cousin Lafayette stops her, telling her that the food is bad Juju, because the people that made it and brought it are only there to snoop and gossip and stick their noses into Sookie’s business; and that that energy has doubtlessly transferred to their food. If you take this example literally (and I do), why the fuck would you buy something someone is claiming to be something it clearly isn’t? Have a think about what sort of energy you’re getting from that shit? A sort of greasy, hollow, opportunistic greed born of a desire to make a quick buck in an already glutted ‘niche’ market at the expense of dupes desperate to feel a part of the great occult beyond.
No fucking thank you!