It’s “Small Business Saturday,” so I went to one of my favorite villages to support the local shops as I prepare for Winter Solstice giving. Supporting local businesses is so important when it comes to living more sustainably. Making such efforts is important to me on my path. If you’re going to spend money on material goods, why not keep it in your local economies and help regional artisans, farmers, herbalists, etc? If at all possible, help talented local Pagans!
As I browsed, I thought about the many times new Pagans ask where one can get “supplies.” Usually, they’re looking for metaphysical shops. Yes, they can be great places to start, but what if they’re gone? Many communities have lost brick and mortar Pagan shops due to the poor economy. Even if you’re lucky enough to have one or two, they may not be in convenient locations. Or perhaps they carry some items but not others, or they just aren’t up to your ethical standards. We all know the places I’m talking about: mass produced statues made in China, cheap incense that makes you gag, paraffin candles, gem stones of dubious origin that were probably raped from the Earth Mother… Get the picture? So what’s a tree-hugging dirt worshiper to do?
My suggestion is always to look at three categories of local shops: artisan co-ops, heath food stores, and local food producers. Let’s take a look at each category.
These are places in which artisans from around the region each pay an entrance fee and cooperatively work together to sell their goods in one location. There are usually a variety of mediums represented. There are a few in the Northern NY region around the 1000 Islands area, and I know they exist in other places. They’re often the most impressive shops in otherwise touristy areas. (Who really needs another plastic snow globe?) What would interest a visiting Pagan? The shop I was in earlier had a plethora of hand dipped candles (including black, believe it or not), wooden and clay bowls, incense holders, blended oils, soaps (think purification), tea, and my favorite handmade incense. Heck, you could even buy a woven or dyed scarf and use it as an altar cloth if you want! Don’t see exactly what you want? Chances are, there’s an artist there who could make it for a commission. Sure, things are a little more costly, but walking an Earth-Centered path means making more ethical choices. Saving up for a handmade wooden bowl may cost me more, but there’s more integrity there than buying a cheaper, mass-produced bowl in a big box store. Think of the act of saving and supporting an artist as an offering to the Earth Mother! The beauty of co-ops is that you get to meet the different artists, so I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of the people. I know that the woman who makes the incense, for example, doesn’t use some of the harmful ingredients that other brands use, like saltpeter. She also grows or forages for many of the ingredients.
Health Food Stores
Does your hometown have a small health food store? Try to support them when you have herbal needs! Many sell organic herbs in bulk. I can get just about everything I could want at my local shop – dry herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, and, occasionally, beeswax. Some even carry clean-burning candles and incense. If I can’t grow it or forage for it myself, chances are my local health food store will have it. If not, they can often order it for me. If you’re advancing in your studies and want to make your own herbal goodies, or you simply want specific herbs for an offering, start here!
Local Food Producers
I’m referring to farm stands, wineries, and distilleries here. Eating local is a large part of my Druidism because it forces me to pay attention to the agricultural year, hence the Wheel of the Year. Locally grown food or flowers could be in your calming tea, your healing pot of soup, your group potluck, or your offering bowl. Interested in making herbal goodies in your magical rites? Get your hands on some local honey! That stuff is already brimming with healing energy. Similarly, your wineries and distilleries will offer different alcohols in which to infuse herbs. Unless you’re specifically looking for some energy from another land, alcohol made with grapes, grain and other ingredients from your region will be flowing with the blessings of your local Nature Spirits.
The next time you meet a new Pagan who wonders where to get supplies, I hope you’ll refer the seeker to an artisan co-op, health food store, or local food producers.