We need Pagan thrift shops

So this post is a bit rare for me. I don’t normally do stuff like this, but all afternoon, I’ve felt strongly that this is something I need to write, and write now, and post it, because I can’t keep it to myself. This needs to be shared. Whether anyone agrees, I don’t know, but I’m putting this out here anyway, even if only I end up caring about it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about stuff. Our paganisms, and our polytheisms, are religions of stuff. Pick any book about how to do a paganism and it will invariably have a chapter on all the stuff you need. Tools, statuary, robes, books, whatever. You can also search for witchy room tours on youtube to see just how much stuch we like to hoard away. And there is nothing wrong with stuff! Many of us find them useful for our practice, and I don’t think we should abandon our stuff if it helps us do our religions well.

Of course, getting said tools isn’t always cheap, and sometimes, you can’t just get any tool, you need to have the right one. Some of these things, like libation bowls or dishes or candles or other stuff, can be found in ordinary thrift shops, or bought cheap elsewhere, but some things, like statuary, are harder to substitute, particularly if you don’t have the money for them. Australian pagans might understand how hard it is to not spend a lot of money on deity statues; if I can find one for under AU$100 with shipping, I consider it a bargain.

Many of our paganisms and polytheisms have some sort of earth-centric or nature-based focus; not all of us are, and that’s fine too, but a lot of what we say when we talk about our Paganisms is that we are nature-based religions. Wicca and Druidry are probably the biggest groups that adhere to this, but there are others out there as well who have this commitment to putting the Earth at the centre of their religions. In an era of climate change and a need to rethink how we deal with stuff, these Paganisms are valuable.

And while there’s often a lot talked about recycling your waste or thrift shopping or growing your own food or giving time to environmental causes, I don’t think there’s enough discussion on what we do with our stuff once we don’t need it anymore, particularly for those of us who are solitary, or isolated, or don’t want to just leave it to someone in their will for them to deal with once they die.

Not everything can nor should it be thrifted, nor would I dare suggest that is the ideal for the stuff we no longer need. Some tools or other items are better destroyed than given away. But there are things we do get rid of, from time to time, for a variety of reasons. Tarot cards, oracle decks, statues, crystals, incense burners, books, candles, ritual tools, bells, all these things either end up given away to friends, donated to thrift shops to deal with, or occasionally sold online.

Just speaking for myself, I have a box of deity statues packed away in the bottom of the linen cupboard because they’re not relevant to my practice anymore, but I don’t know what else to do with them, other than stash them away, ~just in case~. I’ve also cleaned out a lot of my supplies over the years, and got rid of books, bowls, candles, oracle decks, and a set of runes, magazines, candle holders, incense burners, and even incense.

But this isn’t just about having too much stuff. This is also about accessing stuff that might otherwise be too expensive, or out of reach, or otherwise inaccessible, particularly to those of us who don’t have a lot of money. Sure, books you can sometimes find cheap online, but that is also conditional on you being able to buy things online, and being able to get them sent to you.

And we can’t overlook the New Age markup. There’s a particular New Age shop a few suburbs away from me that has lot of the Greek and Roman bronze coloured resin statues for sale, and the cheapest is, iirc, about AU$130. The Hestia I have was going for AU$200, last time I checked. Not every New Age shop is quite that bad with their statuary prices here in Australia, but it’s not unusual, either.

Mind you, this is Australia, and everything is fucking expensive here, even our books. AU$35 for Cunningham’s Book of Magical Herbs (or whatever it’s called?) is not even unusual, and the rarity of finding any Pagan books in a bricks and mortar store is shown in the price you pay for them here. Which is why most of mine have been bought online, because it’s far, far easier to find the books I want. The only exception I can currently think of is my hardcover copy of Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, which I bought from the state museum for about AU$90, because it was there, and at the time, I wasn’t sure I’d find it anywhere else. If I’d had my time again, I’d have waited and bought it online for, well. A bit less than AU$90.

But I feel like there’s a better way to deal with our stuff, and the stuff we don’t need that might otherwise clog up our working spaces. I don’t know of anything like this currently exists, but for me, having a Pagan thrift shop, run by Pagans who understand what you’re bringing in and how to cleanse and treat it and price it fairly and affordably, this feels like a better way. To know it’s going back to other Pagans, and that, like all thrift shops, the money is used for other purposes, such as donations to Pagan charities, or to other causes where needed.

And if I knew I could pick up a second-hand statue of Herne from my local shop just for the Yule feast that’s coming up in a few weeks, and then donate it back afterwards, rather than spend $100+ on buying one permanently, I think that would be a good thing. Good for how we relate to our things, to our stuff, and that we can make these things circulate around the place where they’re needed. And, in many ways, to build community.

A lot of what’s driven this is that I’ve been volunteering two days a week in an op shop/thrift shop for the past fourteen months or so. It’s a little shop, in part of a suburb where the posh bit meets the not-so-posh bit. Our shop isn’t just for those who have money and don’t need the things we sell. It’s also for the pensioners, and the homeless, and those who don’t have as much money, or who need things they couldn’t afford to buy new. We have a lot of regulars, and some who come by just for a chat.

And I think that sort of thing, replicated around Pagan communities and our stuff, could be really valuable. Not everyone might be able or interested in ritual meet-ups, or even to meet a large group of strangers, but going to a thrift shop, that might be easier. It might be all the community someone needs, or as a way to tap into other networks they might not have known by meeting other people there. Meeting people who can offer advice, or to find something you might not be able to buy new, or to find a bargain you’ve been searching a long time for. Even just to stop by and see what’s new, or to be in a Pagan space where you’re accepted for who you are, and what you do, and there’s all the stuff of your religion around you, and it’s okay.

Maybe this is daft, and far too utopian, and perhaps that’s accurate, I don’t know. But this thought hit me hard on the way home from my shop today, and I really felt like I needed to write something down tonight, to not just talk about it as a dream, or as a thing that might be nice, but as something we need. We need to handle our stuff better, and make things more accessible. Because being Pagan, and getting all the stuff we need, can be really expensive if you live in the wrong place (*waves from Australia*), and I don’t think it needs to be like that. Sure, our religions aren’t always for everyone, but I don’t think these things should be out of reach. We need to make these connections within our communities. All these things need to happen. Whether they do happen, well, I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone else thinks this is as important as I do. But I’m putting these thoughts out now, and if nothing comes of it, well. So be it. But I hope this at least stirs some thoughts in others about these things.

11 thoughts on “We need Pagan thrift shops

  1. I love this a lot.

    Along with the environmental and price considerations, I think casual community is undervalued and poorly understood, and you’ve really hit the nail on the head. Not everyone wants to go to formal meetups, but there’s a deep comfort associated with just being surrounded by the trappings of your religion, in a welcoming, no-pressure environment.

  2. I don’t know if it would be feasible in Aus, except maybe in the big cities. But a shop like that in my little town would die after a month. We can’t even keep a fruit and veg shop open for more than a year. Not that I don’t love the idea of Pagan opp shops – but I love opp shops in general.

    Maybe… Secondhand Pagan fairs in each state, ones that change location each year, or even each season – it may not provide charity money, but it creates the sense of informal community you speak of and the part where we are selling and sharing or even bartering with people we can be fairly sure will use our old items as more than just garden pebbles.

    1. I think it has to come from the communities themselves, it can’t be forced into places where there’s no market for it. Op shops in particular survive on what’s donated to them, so if there isn’t enough to stock the store, it won’t work. And of course it’s much harder to work these things in small towns, but that’s arguably true of any sort of business in a small town, as you say. If the market’s too small, it won’t survive.

      I’m not sure seasonal fairs would create the same sort of atmosphere I’m thinking of, though, but that’s not to say they also wouldn’t be a valuable way to get people together to get our stuff circulating. But I’m not sure how well that would fair in Perth, there’s a very disconnected pagan community here and nothing that could step in to feasibly organise these things and bring everyone together.

      But I don’t know, this is something I think we need, but if no one’s willing or able to make it happen, and make it sustainable, then me having ideas isn’t worth much. Everyone else has to want it, too, and I can’t make them want it. So maybe it’ll never happen, but it’d be nice if it did, even if only in a few places where the community’s big enough to make it work.

  3. Have you thought about setting up something like this as a Facebook group? It could make it easier for disconnected Pagans from all over to sell and ship their things. People could offer secondhand goods, finds from thrift shops, used books, and the like. People could then comment with offers or trades they might like to make. To keep things from getting spammy, appoint moderators and have a limit of 48 hours that each post can stay up on the group (just like with local yardsale/auction groups). Ask people to put when the auction/sale expires, minimum buy-it-now (BIN) price, starting bid, increments, and the like. One day out of the week could be “Search for” posts.

    1. I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to set up a Facebook group for that sort of thing, and to be honest, Facebook is probably the worst platform for it anyway. And it relies on people having the capacity to pay for shipping on top of everything else, and if you want to minimise that cost so that things are still affordable for everyone, they would all have to be as local as possible. And there are, quite frankly, better ways to do that sort of thing than on Facebook.

      The heart of what I’m talking about is community, physical community, and the support from, and giving back to, community. This isn’t the sort of thing that can work online on an international platform. Which isn’t to say pagan online trading groups aren’t useful in their own way, and they happen all the time on a variety of platforms, but they’re not what I’m talking about here.

  4. I’m not in Australia, but I am in the heart of the midwest (admittedly, close to a major metropolitan area). I think the crux of this depends on the actual pagan population of an area, and whether those people would be inclined to donate their old stuff, and what market that old stuff had. If an area only has a few thousand pagans out of hundreds of thousands of people, how long until that shop can no longer sustain itself? We would have to have a larger overall religious body, or it could be in an area with a large concentration of pagans.

    I know what you mean, and I crave that ‘casual community’ as well–I just don’t know what a feasible place to create that would be, besides creating an actual pagan community center or something.

  5. This is a fantastic concept, although obviously more viable in higher Pagan(etc)-populace areas. I do take your point about physical community, which I think is of critical importance, but I do see that there could be a place for something like this online as well for those of us lacking a local connection.

    Your mention of ‘what do we do with our stuff when we die’ has also been on my mind lately (as I’ve been contacting lawyers to get a proper will drawn up). With no children and few in-person connections, I feel a bit at a loss as to what I’d want to do with my collection of books, statuary, reagents and (not too-personal) tools, etc. I feel like it could be valuable to pass along, at least some of it. After watching a local house undergo a fire sale-style ‘estate sale’ lately, the prospect of everything I hold so dear ending up on a table at the curb for 25 cents apiece because I have no one to inherit my possessions feels discouraging.

    1. Yeah, I mean, it’s never going to work in every area, I know, and it does require a certain population of pagans to make it sustainable. But I don’t think it’s impossible if enough people want it. But I think anything like this is a long way off, so I will just dream about it for now.

  6. I think this is an amazing idea. It’d be so nice to have a physical community, and I think that’s something plenty of pagans would find valuable. And it would both have more variety and be a lot cheaper than your average New Age shops. I definitely think this could work.

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