There is a huge business for magical items that are made (either by hand or mass-produced) and sold in retail shops, via online websites, and through catalogs.
It’s fun to get stuff and it’s fun to build up collections of scented candles imbued with spiritual significance, charm bags stuffed with tokens and magic, and tools that you just know if you have a particular crystal-tipped wand or athame with the engraved bone handle, you’ll become Ultra-Mega Witch, destined to have all your spells succeed and all your wishes fulfilled.
Except it doesn’t work like that.
Now, I am by no means knocking the items and services provided by skilled magical folk who make these things, put their heart and soul into magicking the heck out of them and then charge you a fair amount for their supplies and effort.
But I am against some people or suppliers who take a kitchen knife, solder on some pewter nubs, or glue a plastic pentagram to the bottom of the hilt, and want to charge $200 for it.
I am against people who would buy cheap candles, lightly melt the sides of them, open a bottle of “Mrs. Dash” to roll it around in before packing it off and sending/selling it for $20 as a charged herbal candle without so much as saying a chant over it.
Essentially, if you are going to purchase items, supplies, or tools, be wary and look into the maker or supplier of these things.
Do they use quality products? Quality varies, and depending on how much the materials cost the crafter, that should be reflected in the price to the customer. If they bought cheap stuff and didn’t do much to it, you shouldn’t have to pay a fortune to own it.
If they claim to work magic or that these items are intended for magical or spiritual use, do they know what they’re talking about? There are some shady people in the magical retail business who know that a large percentage of the community are what charlatans refer to as “suckers”.
Once, while I was working at a Witchy store, a very nice lady came in. She was somewhat of a regular to our shop and while I didn’t know her well, I did recognize her because she always had a warm smile and friendly word to say to someone. She walked over to the counter and excitedly pulled out a beautiful multicolored drusy stone to show my coworker. She waved me over to have a look too, then said that she had just purchased it and that the vendor at a festival told her it was a very special “Tibetan Sea stone”.
Now, Tibet is indeed a wonderful, spiritual place full of mysticism and enchantment. But the first words out of my mouth were, “But there’s no sea in Tibet… It’s a landlocked plateau bordered by the Himalayan Mountains…”
Her jaw clenched, her lips pursed into a tight line, and she was silent for a few seconds before replying, “Well, there could have been a sea there thousands of years ago.”
I didn’t argue with her. I didn’t go into an explanation of how drusy is formed, enlightening her that even if that were the case, that if there HAD been a sea in Tibet some 80,000,000 years ago, drusy isn’t a ‘sea stone’. I just gave my most professional smile and said, “Well, it’s a beautiful piece.”
Learn to weigh the differences between Cost, Price, and Value.
Cost — the expense of materials in their raw, pre-worked form to the crafter. How much did the crafter pay to get the candles (or wax and wicks and other supplies if candles are handmade), the herbs they are filled with, and the other miscellaneous expenses for supplies used in putting magic into them?
Price — the expense of the materials plus the money the crafter believes their time, effort, and skill are worth in creating this item.
Value — how much the buyer believes it is worth and how beneficial to themselves they judge it to be if put to use.
If these three things do not balance in your head or wallet, then you probably won’t be happy with your purchase.
In short, I’m all for supporting the honest businesses and skilled craftspeople of the Pagan community, but be careful with your money. Don’t pay people who sell you stuff like Tibetan Sea Stones and keep them in business.
2 thoughts on ““R” Is For Retail”
This is so true it kind of breaks my heart to read. There is no end to these types of vendors at any of the various holistic fairs that are put on in my town, where a booth fee is about a hundred dollars and if a person wanted to (and often they certainly do), he or she could slap together a few random things, call it something fancy, and then select it for four times what it’s worth and clean up. Which is perfectly fine, I suppose, to a certain extent. There are some people who just want a nice colorful stone or see a necklace they like, or resonate even with a shoddy candle and feel they they can truly make good use of it, as well as those few practitioners who see something like that kitchen knife and buy it with the intention to pretty much dismantle it and use it for its parts, but that margin of ethics still is too narrow in my opinion to warrant making a killing off of something like that when there are vendors like you who actually give a damn about their work and the people they share it with. I’ve seen an entire booth full of polished Live Oak sticks (I live in Texas, we trip over live oak deadfall every two seconds) with different labels like Yew and Ash and so on, all listed at different, and truly outrageous, prices. That, and shop after shop selling bags of herbs they purchased from a third party with absolutely no information on where that third party got those herbs themselves, how old they are, or even if they’re the correct herb at all. One shop I remember was selling a bag listed as mugwort that was filled with motherwort instead. She couldn’t tell the the difference herself, so saw nothing wrong with it. This stuff is rampant.
I suppose some of the responsibility does rest on the buyer to do the research and have a discerning eye, but you’re absolutely right that seller integrity and reliability should be of utmost importance. Unfortunately, snake oil isn’t just for the mundane world, so it really is assuring to know business owners like you exist as a reassuring light in all that nonsense.
Whoops, I mean white willow, not motherwort. Posted my comment too quickly.