Kindred Spirit has a new location

Kindred Spirit has moved to 2354 E. Little Creek Road, Norfolk, VA 23518, with a phone number of 757-480-0424. The new location is in a newer strip mall between a Pizza Hut and Dollar General. It’s a little hard to see from the road, but worth the trip.

Review: Mystic Moon, Norfolk, VA

Mystic Moon, 3365 N. Military Hwy, Norfolk, VA , 757-855-3280

Hours: M 10am-10pm, T-F 10am-9pm, Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 12pm-6pm

This is a big shop, in terms of space, and the way it uses that space is alternately exciting and disappointing.

The building itself is not as well maintained as I would expect. It has a barely-converted-from-industrial feel. There is lots of bare painted concrete, with scrapes in the paint, a thin rug that doesn’t cover the whole floor, and lots of dust. This is not a disaster; if you’re excited about the merchandise, you might not notice at all. But it gave the place an odd, ill-cared-for feeling that seemed unwelcoming to me. It’s  not just small details: moderately important things like providing sufficient light in the dressing rooms have been totally neglected.

I do like that they have dressing rooms, and they have a fair selection of clothing, mostly from the Bruja line. This is mostly pseudo-romanticist styles of blouses, gowns, robes, and skirts in a range of colors and easy-care fabrics. Their sizes run small, though, which perhaps accounts for the preponderance of 1X and larger sizes in stock. They also have an odd sprinkling of fetish type clothing and accessories.

The rest of the merchandise is eclectic. There are lots and lots and lots of small groups of merchandise that are obviously handmade or sourced from particular small-scale suppliers. This means that a shopper has opportunities to find something unique that can’t be bought anywhere else. For example, they have jewelry and talismans made with Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, which are fascinating, but there’s also a fair amount of childish-looking Sculpey pieces for sale that just made me cringe.

It also means that the store comprises multiple small areas that each seem like a display unto themselves. The overall lack of organization doesn’t help. Their selection of tumbled stones is simply spilled out over a couple of trays, with no divisions, descriptions, or other help for shoppers.

Their selection on what I would consider standard items is equally spotty. There are specially made spell candles for different intentions, hand-carved, and plain 3 inch votive candles in different colors, but no chime candles. They carry their own line of oils and have a wall display of herbs that is larger than most, but some things are out of stock. Jewelry is kind of hard to see in the counter, but they seem to have some selection at okay prices. They have only a few books, many secondhand.

They do also work to provide services to the larger community; I’m not in the immediate area, so I can’t say anything about their events, but they host rituals, classes, divination services, and even a library. The library is as eclectically chosen as the rest of the shop, so I’m not sure how much use it would be, but for the casual reader it might be interesting.

The people were friendly the whole time, and the store cat – a big black kitty – was downright lovey. This is an interesting place to visit, but if it was my main store, I’d be a little disappointed with some of the things it’s lacking. I get the impression that the owners have fallen into the common trap of creating a store based on exactly what they would want or like to offer, without a lot of thought about how different types of shoppers might have different preferences, or what would be most appealing and attractive, as well as easy to navigate, for shoppers.

I see a lot of room for improvement in this store, and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from visiting there. I hope they continue to refine their presentation, because with the space they’ve got, they could be fantastic.

Review: The Crystal Fox, Laurel, MD

The Crystal Fox, 311 Main Street, Laurel, Maryland 20707, 301-317-1980.

Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm

The Crystal Fox has an immense range of products crammed into a little nook in Laurel, an exurb of the DC metro area. The store is reasonably accessible to people from both Baltimore and DC, and it seems determined to capitalize on that by attracting as many segments of the market as it can. The resultant melange of products creates an interesting experience. If you need Pagan supplies, the Crystal Fox probably sells what you want, but you might not be able to physically locate it in the store without help.

Merchandise and selection: The Fox has some of just about everything, including some stuff that looks oddly out-of-place to me but is probably a result of the Fox’s effort to appeal to everyone, like the whole shelf of RPG books and games. Just a few of the other items I saw included drums, clothing, mugs, blades, candles, stones, herbs, incense, books, jewelry, and statuary. Sweet Galatea, do they have statuary. Everything from inch-high figurines to sizeable altar pieces, on such diverse subjects as cats with wings batting at butterflies, Jessica Galbreth figures, Indian and Egyptian deities, and contemporary Pagan sculpture like Paul Borda’s.

That some-of-everything approach extends to the other areas as well. You can get a sense of this by looking at the store’s webpage; the list of categories in the left-hand column alternates between incredibly specific (“Gratitude stones”) and vastly general (“Jewelry”). There were more kinds of athames and other blades on hand than I’ve seen in any other single bricks-and-mortar store. There were more kinds of incense than I cared to try to count, including many apparently directly from India. If I needed a black seven-knob candle and some galangal root tomorrow, the Fox is where I would go to get them, but when I got there, I might not know where to look.

That’s the down side of this eclectic, disorganized profusion of merchandise: the store is tremendously cluttered. It’s actually hard to move around in some areas. One tiny aisle runs between behind a waist-high counter placed so close to shelves that I hesitated to go back there for fear of knocking something over or tripping over things on the floor. Customers have to move around each other and trade places to investigate the store’s myriad nooks and crannies.

In some spaces, the products aren’t just crowded together, they look haphazardly placed, like the boxes of candles on the floor in the back corner that were stacked every-which-way, as if someone had just rummaged through them and no one could be bothered to straighten them out. To be fair, probably no one could spare the time; the staff were busy with one thing or another the whole time I was there, although they were friendly to customers and didn’t hesitate to take a break in what they were doing to answer questions or make sales. There’s also a very laid-back store cat, a pretty black-and-white kitty who snoozed peacefully under a clothing rack the whole time I was there.

There is some organization: statuary tends to be towards the front, most of the candles are in the back corner, herbs in the other corner, but that’s about as good as it gets, and even those loose groupings have stragglers tucked into odd niches all over the rest of the store. Every inch of wall space is used, from floor to ceiling, and shoppers should be prepared to hunt and dig for what they want. The store would be a nightmare for someone with mobility problems, and don’t even think about visiting while accompanied by a small child who likes to touch things. I imagine that frequent visitors become familiar with the locations of their favorite items, just like I know where my books are even if they’re not alphabetized, but until that mental map gets made, it’s rather overwhelming.

Books are, of course, one of my favorite things, and this store doesn’t neglect that area, but their selection in this area, like others, is broad and sometimes quirky. There were shelves full of everything “occult” or “fringe” from astrology to UFOs. Another bookcase has a fairly wide range of Pagan and Wiccan books, including some classics (the Farrars), some hard to find (British occult novels of the 1940s and 50s), and several standards (Cunningham). There were works on Druidry, but I can’t recall if I saw any on Heathenism or any reconstructionist paths. There was a whole shelf of Witch School materials, some feminist works, and more.

Prices: The prices were for the most part reasonable or even lower than at stores in more urban areas. I have no doubt that the Crystal Fox’s wide selection and dense layout contribute to keeping those prices low. Unfortunately, several items that I looked at did not have prices labeled. Tarot decks were one example, which I found inscrutably odd and probably contributed to me not getting a deck. (I dislike having to ask prices. It feels too much like bargaining.) I was pleasantly surprised by low prices on some things like stones and mini candle holders.

Side notes: The calendar on the website indicates that there are readings available on weekends and some classes; I did not think to ask if there is some additional room where these events can be held with more than two or three people, but I suspect there must be, because there’s no such area in the retail space. The store also has a membership card program, and a product selection on their website that largely reflects their in-store merchandise and prices, although not completely. Some of the omissions are a bit odd: the website has white female figurine candles, for example, but no male ones, and no red or black figurines, all of which I saw at the physical store. It feels like all of these things are adjuncts to the shop’s very clear emphasis on providing the widest possible array of products in person.

Overall: The Crystal Fox is a great place to spend an afternoon treasure hunting through its stacks and heaps. If it was the nearest store, I’d be more excited about its range of supplies and the way they seem to strive to keep everything on-hand – no running out of the most frequently needed colors of chime candles, for example. On the other hand, if I were trying to explore Paganism, I’d find the store disorienting and dismaying, especially with the inclusion of roleplaying materials and so many books on “new age” type subjects. If you need a hard-to-find item and have to see what you’re getting before you buy it, or you want to take your time browsing to discover something you didn’t know you needed, this is a great place to go.

Review: 13 Magickal Moons, Occoquan, VA

13 Magickal Moons, 407 Mill St. #201, Occoquan, VA 22125, 703-492-2211

Hours: Sun-Tues 12pm-5:30pm, W 12pm-9:30pm, Thurs-Fri 12pm-5:30pm, Sat 11am-5:30pm

This store is a little hard to find. It’s at the very end of Mill Street, the main part of the Occoquan historic/shopping district, at the opposite end from where you enter the area from the highway. It’s on the second floor, over the rug shop. The sign might be visible from across the street, but when you’re right underneath it, the railings make the sign almost invisible. The entrance is via an external flight of stairs that starts just beyond the rug shop’s corner.

Merchandise and selection: 13 Magickal Moons has a strong emphasis on its own in-house product lines. For example, they didn’t have regular essential oils, but had a variety of oils that seemed to be mostly perfume oils (not extracted from plants), plus their own custom blends for particular purposes: Full Moon, Isis, etc. They also had in-house brands of salves, herb blends, incense, candles, Books of Shadows, plate-and-chalice sets, and witch bottles, as well as pre-prepared spells meant to be “activated” by the user by a recitation and intention. A good idea of the selection of in-house products is available through their website.

They had a good selection of tumbled stones, also for reasonable prices. The book selection seemed haphazard at best; it was heavy on Tarot, lacking basic classics like Cunningham or contemporary bestsellers like T. Thorn Coyle. It seemed to be more a selection of what the owner would like to read (or has read) than what she thought was best to offer. (Or maybe she hasn’t thought about the difference.) I did discover good-quality used copies of High Magic’s Aid and The Sea Priestess, but I don’t know how regularly they get in interesting used items like that. There were two or three Tarot decks available, but the selection seemed to be similarly eclectic; I didn’t see a standard RWS, for example.

Prices: The store’s no-nonsense setting and attitude were reflected in low prices on basic supplies, like chime candles for 35 cents and many stones, even large pieces of tiger’s eye and amethyst, available for a dollar. But so much of the product selection is focused on the in-house brands that I felt like I was actually shopping for pre-made spells or major components, instead of just picking up my own supplies. There was a huge selection of candles incorporating herbs and oil blends hand-made for specific purposes, but since I like to make my own correspondences and rely more on my own focused intent than an imbued spell component, I wasn’t very attracted to them.

There is also a basic selection of jewelry, mostly silver, with some pretty gemstone pendants. Prices were a little high on the silver pieces, probably because of the tendency to high margins in retail jewelry. They also had some pretty handmade jewelry pieces, including hand-knotted malas (Buddhist prayer beads) with semiprecious gemstones for very reasonable prices, ranging from $30 to $60. A few things, like the healing salves, didn’t have clearly marked prices.

Healing services, including Reiki, and Tarot readings are available for prices about average in this area. The very active schedule of classes had some stand-alone classes available for $15, but most of them were part of longer sequences related to the in-house tradition. The owner is a member of the Order of the White Moon and offers OWM teachings on women’s spirituality. (Full disclosure: I am also a member of OWM, but I have had no direct contact with the owner through OWM and was unaware of her connection prior to visiting the shop.) She also has her own tradition; information about that is available online.

Side note: The three store cats were friendly, with one tubby tabby escorting me through the store and offering comments on my observations. The owner greeted me kindly and was available if I needed anything. My favorite part of my visit there was that when she was checking me out, she put my purchased stones in a baggie and added a spoonful of sage and lavender as a way of cleansing the stones of any energy or intent from other people who might have handled them before I bought them. That’s a perfect example of a gesture that takes little effort on the part of the merchant but is a very thoughtful and considerate acknowledgment of the customer.

Overall: I enjoyed my visit there, but got the strong impression that the store is aimed at a specific community and acts more as a base for classes and the in-house lines of candles and so on than as a merchant aiming at the general public. This store wouldn’t be much help to someone new and exploring the Pagan path, for example, unless he wanted to start classes there. It’s not a place where I would discover new things that expand and enhance my personal practice, either. If I were a practitioner in the nearby area, I could use it as a source for supplies, and would definitely go there if I wanted something for a particular purpose but didn’t want to go about making it myself or didn’t know how to.

Review: The Magickal Attic, Newport News, VA

The Magickal Attic, 10351 Warwick Boulevard, Newport News, VA 23601, 757-838-3450

Hours: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm

It’s probably not fair to this store that I visited it only a few hours after going to Kindred Spirit, which made the differences between the two even more striking than they would have been otherwise. I’ll try not to let that bias my review, but take with a grain of salt, as always. (Your choice of pink Himalayan, Dead Sea, or full-moon-charged salt applies!)

The Magickal Attic is in the Hilton Village, an upscale area full of tiny boutiques in the midst of Newport News. The shop has the feel of a one-woman-operation; it’s like being invited into the owner’s own Witch cave to examine her wares. This might appeal to some people, but I found the space somewhat claustrophobic, since it was small to begin with, not well-lit and decorated in dark colors. I felt that I had to be very careful moving down the aisles not to bump into anything. The proprietor greeted me very politely, but it’s the kind of space where if there’s a conversation going on, everyone is involved in that conversation by default. When I was a little baby Witchlet, I would have been pretty uncomfortable in that shop.

Merchandise and selection: This is first and foremost a rock shop. If you want quartz crystals, this is your place: all different sizes, laid out so that you can pick them up and examine them. There was a moderate selection of tumbled stones, but not a ton of them. Herbs were arranged in packets on a wall, easily reviewed, and there were a few candles, a small selection of Tarot decks, and a little bit of incense. (My memory of these details is not perfect since I wasn’t planning on doing a review at the time I went; I apologize if I’ve understated what’s available, but it wasn’t much, and was definitely constrained by the shop’s size.) There were some altar tools, including chalices and cute mini-cauldrons. A rack of pendulums included some information about using them, and two small shelves of books were arranged below knee-level, with a limited selection of new copies of several crystal encyclopedias and some of the basic classics like Cunningham.

The other thing this store specializes in besides stones is products for animal companions. I am sorry to say I didn’t review the choices in detail, but they had some nice pendant stones for an animal’s collar. The pet fragrances I was rather hesitant about, since ingredients were not listed, and I have a lot of sensitivities. But the inclusion of animal-related products was one of the things setting this store apart. It only makes sense, since the two store dogs, two tiny Shi-tzus, were very eager to greet me and to escort me through my shopping trip. They’re small enough not to cause problems if you aren’t that fond of dogs, but they’re definitely  greeters, so be prepared for an ankle-high furry onslaught when you open the door.

Prices: As I said, primarily a rock shop. I’m not as familiar with regular prices for stones, but most of the tags on tumbled stones looked reasonable, and the quartz crystals seemed decently priced as well: small-to-medium sized ones available for $10 and under, for example.

Side notes: This really does feel like the owner’s Witch cave. I don’t mean to overstate that, but it was the dominant sense. The owner is an extroverted lady; she was perfectly nice to me, but she might be a little overwhelming for some folks. (Her energy is reasonably well-matched with her Shi-tzus: determinedly friendly!!) She mentioned that clearly stones were her preferred tools, but said that she also works with a master herbalist, a Reiki master, and so on, in order to widen the range of services that her shop provides. They also do classes based on her own Hindu-influenced tradition, which might be interesting for some folks who want to work more with that cultural background.

Overall: This is an interesting boutique, and could be the nexus for some great classes and networking, but it’s not the kind of place I would think of as my local shop to be relied upon for basic needs. I wouldn’t pop in there to pick up a couple candles for my full moon ritual, but if I found teachers I wanted to work with, it could be a great resource.

Review: Kindred Spirit, Norfolk, VA

My partner had a short trip to the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area the last couple days, and I took the opportunity to go with him and visit a couple of the Witchy stores in the area. I thought I’d write brief reviews of each store to give you one Witch’s experience. Like commenting on specific products, this is something that I don’t have a lot of experience with, and for which I receive no consideration or compensation. With that said:

Kindred Spirit, 7510 Granby St, #C, Norfolk, VA 23505, 888-454-3180

Hours: M-F 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

This was the kind of place where just visiting made me feel good. (I know that’s not a very professional or specific statement, but this is a Witch’s review of a store catering to people who work with metaphysical energy, so I’m going to review that energetic sense of the store more heavily than I would for, say, your local camera shop.) Kindred Spirit is in a somewhat shabby strip mall, but the store itself is well-maintained, spacious, and brightly lit, with comfortably-laid out islands and shelves of merchandise. It smells of incense, like many Witch or Pagan shops, but not in a way that’s overwhelming or choking. The proprietors greeted me kindly but weren’t intrusive while I was shopping. When I made my purchase, the lady ringing me up was both kind and efficient, making it a very pleasant experience from start to finish.

Merchandise and selection: Kindred Spirit has a solid foundation of what I think of as the essentials for a Witch/Pagan/New Age store: decent selection of tumbled stones, incense, herbs, and candles. I was disappointed by their limited book selection; they had mostly secondhand works that looked more like what’s left over when I clean out my bookshelves than the kind of carefully-selected inventory that I like to browse. But, I’m obviously a bookworm, and if I had to choose between having my local shop carry books and basic inventory, I couldn’t blame them if they picked the stones, incense, herbs, and candles over books.

The real plus to Kindred Spirit is that they also carry plenty of handmade items, including some jewelry, very elaborate candles, and some very nice altar pieces. There were some altars designed in a way similar to an old-fashioned lap desk: a shallow box, the size of a small desktop, with a hinged lid. One of them had a ceramic tile the size of a sheet of paper inlaid in it, with one of Jessica Galbraith’s more popular images on it. Galbraith’s work also featured in the greeting cards and some decorative items around the shop, supporting their claim to provide fantasy as well as Pagan resources. Although they didn’t have the wide range of selection that some stores do – they tended to have just a few choices in any given altar item – they did a reasonable job providing choices, and I liked the way they featured uniquely crafted items.

Prices: I was impressed by their prices, especially on everyday items that make up the majority of my purchasing at a local store. Their chime candles (4 in high, 1/2 in diameter, what I think of as the standard one-per-spell candle) were available in the whole rainbow of colors and were only 48 cents. Their incense and herbs were very reasonably priced, with many, if not most, of those items available less expensively than I could get them through Amazon or another major online retailer, even before shipping, which is truly amazing. I picked up some frankincense and myrrh resins, in fact, because they were so inexpensive compared to what the closest shop to me charges.

Side notes: I enjoyed visiting with the store cat. I was told there was another one further in the back somewhere who didn’t make an appearance; the orange-and-white kitty sitting on the counter was much more interested in sleeping than inspecting the visitors, but appreciated a small behind-the-ears scratch.

Overall: Kindred Spirit is a great place for the local practitioner to pick up regular supplies. I didn’t have time to investigate their class or ritual offerings, but based on my impression as a shop, I’d expect those to be very hospitable, welcoming settings as well, ones I wouldn’t hesitate to explore. This was the kind of place that I would stop in just to see what was new, and would enjoy having as part of my local network.