You might think that purchasing pagan paraphernalia would involve visits to toothless crones at the dead of night - that or music festivals. In fact there is an entire online industry out there and demand for all things ancient and alternative has never been higher. Our resident "Sects and the City" girl Ruth Murphy takes us on a journey through the Wicca-wide web. Introduction by Robert Collins.
It is widely accepted that the internet is a near limitless repository of goods and services fulfilling mankind's multitudinous activities, occupations, interests and tastes. But because it is a relatively new technology, as a trading tool one tends to associate it contemporary living - things we buy now for our modern lives. However, as the ongoing voyages of the etail explorer continue to show, it's foolish to underestimate the breadth and scope of online retailing.
What with the proximity of the summer solstice and all, with its associations with druids, pagans, wiccans and the like, we thought we'd investigate how e-commerce is facilitating the practice and practicalities of an ancient belief system. As luck would have it, one of our own number was more than passingly acquainted with the ways of Wicca (very often grossly over-simplified as modern day witch-craft), so we set her loose in cyberspace to see how well catered for were her brethren. This is what she found.
There are many difficulties one faces when it comes to practicing such a misunderstood and under-represented faith as Wicca in the 21st century, especially in a large city such as London. Not least is the notion that we all run around naked on moors in the moonlight, throwing unsavoury ingredients into a bubbling pot and cackling madly. We only do that on weekends.
Seriously though, it is no easy business being a yuppie 20-something witch with a serious case of "Sects and the City", but thanks to the wonders of the internet, it is actually easier than ever before.
Information, supplies and equipment are all so much more accessible now that one doesn't have to harvest one's own cinquefoil by the light of a waxing moon.
It is now the work of a moment to look up tide tables or moon phases, essential to many ceremonies and rituals and a simple laptop is much less bulky than an entire encyclopaedia of herbs and plants when it comes to looking up their various properties.
Before taking you on this journey through the Wicca-wide web, it should be said that many of these sites are not the most professional-looking that you will ever come across. The children of Avalon don't seem to have got around to the finer points of Web 2.0 yet.
However, if you look past the mass of animated banners advocating the legalisation of cannabis, there are some interesting and useful websites out there.
The website www.wicca.com, for example has some really useful resources, with an excellent page that lists the moon phases month by month for the year, as well as interesting definitions of various moon phases, such as "blue moon", "black moon", "blood moon" and "wolf moon". It also features a Celtic tree calendar with dates and information on sacred tree families.
Information on divination symbols is also easier to access, with sites such as www.crystalinks.com/divinationsymbols.html providing easy-to-find definitions to common icons. This is a real Goddess-send when you can't remember just where in the teacup the acorn symbol should appear to denote good health.
And it isn't just information that is easier to access these days. Many rituals and spells call for specific herbs and plants that aren't necessarily stocked in the local ASDA. (Try asking where the Solomon's Seal Root is next time you're doing your weekly shop and you'll see what I mean). A very good site for herbs is www.unusualherbsandedibles.co.uk - an advantage of the products on this site is that all the herbs and plants are of a culinary grade, so they are safe to use in tonics etc. Unfortunately, however, the catalogue is only ordered by its Latin name at present, so it is useful to know what you are looking for before you start searching. If you are growing your own, then www.herbexpert.co.uk is a great site for advice and information.
Candles are relatively easy to find on the net, so I won't go into too many details here, but www.candlelightcraft.co.uk has a good selection of inscribed and charged candles, as well as quick-fix spell kits. Orders are dispatched within five working days and can be returned within 10 days for a refund, replacement or exchange on faulty items. This website also has a nice selection of crystals, but www.crystalshop.co.uk also has a good catalogue of uncut minerals and crystals for reasonable prices if you can't be bothered with all that heart-shaped gift store stuff.
However, if you want shaped crystals for a specific purpose, then www.crystalshop.co.uk is a good option. The site features a wide selection of pendulums, obelisks, pyramids, clusters, wands and spheres and I would say that it is probably the best site I have found for these items. Delivery is within one to two working days, refunds are available three working days after receipt of the order and payment is available through Paypal.
Books too are much easier to come across online than trying to find a pagan bookstore in Barnet. The key site, unsurprisingly, is Amazon, although www.speakingtree.co.uk is another good site with a clear pricing system and a nice range of alternative texts, albeit alongside a few teen-orientated books such as "Sexy Witch". The bookstore on www.wicca.com is also worth more than a passing glance.
The list of helpful sites for the modern-day Circe is seemingly limitless. In this area, as with every other, as long as there is sufficient consumer interest it seems the internet will provide. It's a natural confluence of the ancient and modern worlds...and very handy too. As for me, I will be on e-witch.com tonight. There's a portable embroidered skrying board I have my eye on.