Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Augustine's: A Lesson in How Shops Think You're Dumb

Sometimes your day doesn't go as planned. But when your day doesn't go as planned, and you happen to live in one of the world's largest cities, then you can go metaphysical shop hopping. The first store I attempted didn't open until 2pm - for some unknown reason (I think they might like to sleep off the night before, but I could be wrong.) - and, thus, did not provide with a good shop to hop. That is what led me to visit Augustine's. Yes, I realize many words one their website are misspelled.

I was...disturbed...by Augustine's. No, it had nothing to do with the fact that they're a Voodoo/Hoodoo/Rootwork store. I actually think that there aren't enough of those. It had more to do with the increasingly apparent observance of one of three possibilities:


  1. The people that run this store think you are a total and complete uneducated, illiterate buffoon.
  2. The people that run this store are completely uneducated, illiterate buffoons.
  3. The people that run this store want to make a buck - preferably your buck - by any means necessary.

Why do I say such a pointed and judgmental thing? Well, where to start? How about categorically!

The books: Not even Llewellyn would publish the drivel that was on these shelves. There were books on how to travel in 'sub-space' by magic. Right next to the books on Druidry were the fictional books The Lost Years of Merlin and Le Morte d'Arthur. Sold as fact. Also, did you know? The Da Vinci code is factual and should be read as such! Obviously, I wasn't too impressed with their selection, but moreso I was a great deal upset that they are so willing to purport fiction as fact, a beef I have with much of the pagan/new age movement. 

The candles: They bought absolutely every single candle from the Lucky Mojo/Lucky Hoodoo/Lucky Crappydoo website and stuck them on their shelves. They also have an Augustine's original line of chakra candles...but they seemed to skip colors. From what I know of chakra correspondences - which, granted, isn't complete - all that is required is to have the proper rainbow color. They ran out of indigo wax, however, and just decided to make two sets of blue candles for the throat and third eye chakras. Not making it up. The guy behind the counter told me so. And hey! Do you not have time/room to burn a candle? Do you have absolutely no clue how the flame gets from the match to the candle wick? Then why not take Augustine's up on their candle burning service?! They charge between $50 and $410 to light a fucking candle everyday for you. $10 of that is for the candle, and the rest is the supposed labor of lighting said candle everyday on one of their special altars.

And, Rioters, there were a lot of candles on these special altars. I understand that folks need to make enough money to live on, but charging that much money to light someone else's candle on a daily basis? What an unbelievable rip-off. 

The stones: If I could be more ticked than how I was about the candles, it was about the stones. Or, rather, what they called stones. The jars of stones included your standard amethyst, quartz, etc. However, each stone was labeled with something akin to the following description:

Good for luck, success, psychic powers, gambling, peace, prosperity, love, sexual prowess, and magical power.

On. Every. Stone. Each stone was the same, no exceptions. Furthermore, they charged outrageous prices for these stones, which is really a misnomer. They were barely pebbles, beads even. The labels were incorrect, and in fact they charged various prices for the exact same stone, depending on which jar it was in. These tiny flecks of stone were in no way worth the price they charged, and some stones weren't even stones. For example, they sell something called the Supreme Prosperity Stone, which is a green glass craft pebble. You know those glass pebbles with the flat backside you hot glue on things or put in fish bowls? They were going for $3/ea. and were sold as an all-powerful magical prosperity tool. #EpicFail

The oils: The big draw of Augustine's is that they create and blend their own oils. Like much of the rest of the store, however, this service is less than stellar. The one person that worked behind the counter told me sometimes he put rosemary or mint in his Van Van Oil, depending on the situation. Now, I'm all for substitutions and making a spell work for that particular situation. But, from what I know of Voodoo/Hoodoo (which, again, is limited, admittedly) you don't just go substituting things unless you have a damn good reason for doing so. Each ingredient has a specific purpose and reason for being in that recipe. The formulas are set, tried-and-true formulas with little variation. But, from what was on the shelves, it looked like variation was exactly what they sold. If you picked up two bottles of Violet Light of the Angels Protection wash (or whatever order those words were in), they weren't the same, and very obviously did not contain the same ingredients. One was blue and looked like Dawn dish soap with flower petals in it. The other was purple and looked like water with one drop of food coloring added. 

But what got me was when I asked the guy if he had any training or a book of shop recipes he went buy to make each oil for the customers, this was his response:

Not really. I typically just make them however my spirit guide tells me to do it at the time. No two are ever the same.

My beef with Augustine's is the same beef I have with many pagan shops: they don't care about providing accurate, fair-priced services and products. They care about making a buck, and they're pretty sure you're dumb enough, desperate enough, or ignorant enough to give them your money. They fill their shelves with every possible supply from every corner of anything anyone might consider magic. However, it's to the point where it's not out of convenience for the customer, but out of trying to make a buck. It's disgusting and it's time gouging the pagan community was stopped. I'm all for buying pagan - thus the Buy Pagan movement - but I cannot support shops like this in good conscience.

What do you think? Comment, tweet, or email your responses to IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

6 comments:

  1. That place sounds hideous.

    There aren't any pagan shops near me so I typically buy online from uk shops that are very far away. But so many things are expensive.
    Normally, I'll try and pin down pagan shops and visit them when I pass them on holiday :)

    I hate that people can get away with selling such crap.

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  2. I really wish I'd looked at the site first. I needed not look further than the 'stay out of jail' spell kit. Apparently for people who don't need legal interference.

    Do people buy that?!? Forgive my french but what bollocks. Urg!

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  3. We are few and far apart, those of us that actually are serious and know what we're doing.

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  4. Wow. The factory farming of metaphysical stores does exist huh? That sucks. We all need to be smart consumers in lots of ways I think, even spiritually.

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  5. I took a peek on eBay today under "Metaphysical" for the first time in months.

    I really find it hard to believe that so much hogwash is being sold at such insanely high prices. And I'm not just talking about the spell kits that list for over $300, even a lot of smaller things are immensely overpriced at $5.95 given the claims made for them.

    So much for the illusion that all the credulous fools are opting for the Republican party and its extremist Christianist right allies.

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  6. I'm not too surprised. I think that these types of shops cater to the newly interested who saw a few episodes of "Charmed" or something and thought, "Hey, magic is cool!" I'm not knocking all people like that, by the way. We all have to start somewhere. It's the newbies that help keep places like Augustine's in business, however.

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