A Good Haul

A black oil diffuser, a red candle, a small Shiva lingam stone, and two boxes of incense.So I went to the shop I mentioned in my last post. Because it was a lovely little place with a very friendly vibe, I’ll go on the record as stating that it’s Spirit Dreams in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Don’t let their website fool you! They had lots of nice thingies. The neighborhood was great, too.

The one problem was that they tried to get me to believe that dark pink chime candles were red, but I’ll forgive them for that.

Anyway, I found some thingies there. A little Shiva lingam (which, perhaps blasphemously, I associate with Cernunnos). Their one remaining red chime candle, which I’m burning for the Morrigan. Morning Star incense–my favorite kind–for a little cheaper than it is in LA. And, most excitingly, the very oil diffuser I’ve been searching for for months. I like soapstone diffusers and I found a beautiful one last summer, but it turned out to have tiny cracks in the basin that caused leaks and made it unusable. That particular one was the last one Whole Foods ever sold, so I couldn’t exchange it for another. My local shop, which I otherwise love, has some ceramic diffusers, but they’re not much to look at. This little diffuser, in addition to being exactly what I wanted, was discounted because of a chip in the top. I saw it and instantly identified it as mine.

So now I like to think part of that powerful call I felt was my own little diffuser, waiting for me to take it home.

But, like all supply runs I make, the trip has me mulling over my relationship with stuff. We’ve all heard that saying: “The only tool a Witch needs is her body.” Yet Witchcraft is the most stuff-oriented religious practice I know of. We collect so much stuff! In my last post I said that I was really tired of stores being used as community centers, and I mean it–but that doesn’t mean that I don’t look forward to browsing in the shop whenever I go to a ritual. I get excited when I run out of candles or incense, because it means I get to buy more! Whenever I come into a little money, I immediately earmark it for the latest thing I want: at the moment, it’s an Artemis Ephesia statue and a wide-frame drum.

I don’t like this about myself. My mother is extremely materialistic, very into shopping. I once had a friend who kept her wish list pinned to her wall so she’d never forget about anything she wanted. I know a guy who bought a second computer on a whim. A thousand-dollar computer! Studies show that buying things releases dopamine; the act of taking a thing into your possession makes you feel physically good. That’s why people crave it so much. That’s why so many people consider shopping a pastime.

I really, really don’t like this about myself.

For a long time, I lived a very ascetic life: the only recreational items I ever bought were books. When my jeans grew too worn-out to wear anymore, buying new ones was a fraught experience, laden with stress and guilt. I didn’t want to become my mom. I didn’t want to be like other people.

But gradually I realized that starving myself of pleasure wasn’t bringing me any great sense of peace or joy. If anything, I just felt guilty and self-flagellating all the time, appalled whenever I saw a thing and wanted to own it. So, eventually, I eased up. I allowed myself to want.

I wonder: why are we wired to want stuff? Why the dopamine rush when we get a thing? What does acquiring things do for us evolutionarily?

I wonder: how has Capitalism perverted what might be a normal impulse in living things? What would ravens’ caches look like if the ravens’ entire economy hinged on gratuitous consumption?

I wonder about these questions when I think about the stuff component to other religions: Judaica stores, Hindu murtis, Christian icons. Even Buddhists usually set up a little altar. Yes, I know, images and objects help focus prayer. But everyone wants the best images. The best objects. The most beautiful, personalized, and perfect things. In many cases, the biggest and most ornate.

I think Witchcraft, with its emphasis on magic and the tools and props that go with that, presents more of a risk than many other traditions of compulsive materialism, of addictive shopping. It’s something we Witches have to wrestle with. But I also think those impulses–those feelings that this thing is calling me, that it wants to be with me–are worth listening to. As guilty as I often feel after I spend money on myself, I can’t remember the last time I bought something that I didn’t use and love.

When I start to feel really guilty about my latest shopping trip, I remind myself that I only spent 17 bucks. People spend that much on lunch.

May you have no more and no less than the best, most perfect treasures in your home.