While running errands the other day, I convinced my husband to make a side-trip to Raven and Crone. Set inside a small red brick building, R&C is the metaphysical book and occult supply shop in the Appalachian region of North Carolina. As I wandered the store, greeting the on-site tarot reader, admiring the icons and plaques and Green Men and shelves of books and shelves of tarot cards and rune necklaces and glass jars filled with dried herbs — and paused to pet the store cat, Lovey — I started to wonder: what would my ideal Pagan-friendly book shop look like? Pretty soon, I was drawing up imaginary schematics in my head and filling imaginary shelves with anything and everything that might be of interest or use to a modern polytheist.
Welcome to Sanctuary. Would you like to take a tour?
Firstly, the name: Sanctuary derives from the Late Latin sanctuarium, and the Latin sanctus. It is defined as both “a consecrated place” and as “a place of refuge and protection.” (Thank you, Merriam-Webster). For me, that embodies everything that a Pagan shop should be: a place to recharge, to relax, to reconnect, and to learn and to study, and to engage in rites and rituals.
Sanctuary is three stories tall, and constructed of sustainable materials: ethically-harvested and repurposed wood, brick, salvaged metal, and so on. Mosses and shrubs and flowers cover the green roof. There is a big wooden front door with a stained glass window set into it, and posts of herbs and flowers set all along the outer wall.
The basement contains half-a-dozen rooms of varying sizes. Some are decorated in the style of a particular tradition, while others are left bare. These rooms are available to anyone for use as ritual sites, to meditate, to study, to engage in trance work, and so on — all in honor of the many Chthonic Deities (Fire regulations and common sense would require at least one window in each room, but the light from these could be easily blocked with heavy curtains.) I could see a devotee of Hela holding a personal rite here; or a young man inviting trusted co-religionists to stand witness as he dedicates himself to Dionysus; or a woman who is new to polytheism trying her hand at ancestor work.
The main floor — fronted by that wooden door with the stained glass window — is light and airy, a large open space filled with book cases and shelves and tables. And, yes, there would be lots and lots of books, especially those from small Pagan-friendly publishers and books which have been self-published. The books would all be divided by topic, as would the devotional and ritual tools. So, for example, one massive floor-to-ceiling bookcase would house all of the Kemetic texts, as well as icons of the various Deities, incense, and so on. And, yes, as many traditions as possible would be represented, so I would make sure there are books on the shelf for Rodnovery, Forn Sedu, Hellenismos, Wicca, Celtic Reconstructionism and Druidry, you name it.
The shop would also offer a small selection of books to be checked out, just like a library. People would be free to read, copy, and use these books as they wished. Although, considering that these would be rare and hard to find texts, a credit/debit card would have to be put down or money left, which would be returned when the book was brought back to Sanctuary. (Call me distrustful if you will, but I am just being realistic; I know these books would walk if there were not real consequences for their theft.) The rarest and most fragile of the books, though, would have to be perused on the premises.
A section of the shop would also be set aside for what might be called general-purpose items, such as fresh and dried herbs and flowers, bowls and dishes and cauldrons and mortars and pestles, brooms and wall hangings and tapestries, Green Man and Green Woman masks, holiday ornaments, seed packets and seedlings, teas and so on. Local artisans would also make their work available here. Why buy a mass produced plastic offering bowl for your altar, if you can afford a hand-crafted clay bowl? What about a painted icon of Aphrodite, as opposed to an image printed off the internet? Or a small glass sun to hang on your Solstice tree?
There would also be a section (maybe near the front?) just for kids. Say, child-friendly altar items, dream catchers, mobiles, as well as books geared towards children. There are more and more such books published every year, and I would definitely want to highlight them.
Oh, yeah, and at least one bookcase of Pagan-friendly popular literature. I have ranted plenty of times about the dearth of polytheist-oriented science fiction and fantasy and mystery and romance and graphic novels out there. I would want to support those endeavors and those authors by featuring their work. So, S.M. Stirling and Katee Robert and Jordan L. Hawk and Joey W. Hill and Erzabet Bishop and Deborah Blake — among many others — would all be on the shelves.
Oh! Magazines and journals. Those, too, on racks near the cash register. Not just US-based publications like the BBI Media titles and Walking the Worlds, but also examples of overseas publications. It would be expensive, but I think it would be worth it to have at least a few Canadian and European and Australian issues to show American polytheists what is out there.
And, of course, there would be comfy chairs and pillows scattered around. And a fresh pot of tea, and maybe some home-baked goodies (I totally stole the tea idea from Raven and Crone. They have complimentary cups of hot, locally-made tea available from open to close every day).
Like the basement, the top floor would also be divided into half-a-dozen rooms of varying sizes. Some would already contain altars and shrines for a given tradition, while others would be left bare. The rooms could be used for rites and rituals, meditation, trance work, individual and group study, and even debates and discussions. I could see a priestess of Brigid leading a rite here in honor of her Goddess; or a poet making an oath to Bragi to complete a work in honor of the Norse Gods; or a loosely-affiliated group of theurgists meeting to discuss magical theory and practice.
Those are my initial plans, anyway. :) I’m sure that I will think of more things to add (maybe a ritual/sacred space behind the store with trees and standing stones?). So, what about you? What do you see when you envision your ideal Pagan shop?