EXPLORING THE OUTER EDGES OF SOCIETY AND MIND

Through Mediums Never Before Considered – Psychotronics, Spiritual Services and the Analog Internet

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 29, 2019

71PizkqBOXL.jpg“The field of study known formerly as parapsychology is undergoing a massive renovation, extending to all its ranks, its procedural methodology and its accumulated literature. The renewal of the discipline, now called psychotronics, overlays a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception. The field embraces the study of many of the psychophysical phenomena discussed throughout most of this issue of Impact of Science on Society.” – Zdenek Rejdak, Psychotronics: the state of the art in UNESCO Impact of Science on Society, Volume XXIV, No. 4 / October-December 1974 (1)

1974 was a banner year for psi research.

In 1974 Unesco issues Vol. 24, No. 4 of their periodical Impact of Science on Society – this particular issue focuses heavily on ‘the parasciences’ with special emphasis on psychotronics – “the science of mind-body-environment relationships, an interdisciplinary science concerned with the interactions of matter, energy, and consciousness.” (2,3)

In 1974 G. Putnam and Sons publish Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science, an anthology edited by Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell collecting papers from some of the time period’s key researchers in parapsychology and consciousness studies – defining an agenda for research that continues to hold relevance into the 21st century.

1974 is also the year that Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ publish an article in Nature titled Information Transfer Under Conditions of Sensory Shielding, outlining results from their early remote viewing research at the Stanford Research Institute. (4)

For our purposes here – 1974 is notable as the year that the Old Farmer’s Almanac releases their 182nd Anniversary Edition celebrating nearly two centuries of continuous publication. Awhile back I picked up a copy of the 1974 edition at a local thrift store hoping to take a look at the tenor of a time when so much was stirring in the collective psyche in relation to psychic functioning – and after a previous post exploring a copy of the 2020 edition I became curious as to how the two compare in terms of spiritual service ads. (5)

What I discovered was rather surprising.

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1974’s edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac offers ads for computer aided astrology, Telecult Powers, The Ancient and Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis, strange prophecies, superconscious powers, dowsing for buried treasure, and a full front page advertisement for the Universe Book Club Inner Circle – an organization that offers in other advertisements, “a deeper understanding of life through the psychic sciences. ESP. Prophecy. Astrology. Telepathy. The Supernatural…the best in occult books from all publishers at average savings of 50%.”(6) – each of these speak to the popularity of the occult sciences when the almanac was published – and that’s before we even get to the classified section!

 

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Once we hit the classifieds we find a number of ads for dreambooks, occult directories, occult books, fortune telling cards, herbs, lodestones, incense and more:

 

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What we don’t find- outside of perhaps the fortune telling cards, lodestones and herbs – are advertisements written from the specific perspective of American folk magic traditions such as conjure, rootwork or classic spiritual work.

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In fact many of the ads – especially the Astro-Profile ad featuring a one year horoscope ‘prepared with an IBM computer’ – seem to follow closer to the theme of the Impact journal,  “(overlaying) a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception.” One might argue that the dowsing rods are a traditional form – but we encounter them here advertised as a ‘directional locator,’ with the marketing copy overlaying a technical-physical interpretation on an older practice.

Prior to seeing the 2020 edition this wouldn’t have struck me as particularly odd – however, when we look at the 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac we find that most of the advertisements aimed at the spiritual service market use language directly drawn from conjure and rootwork practices or language centered around psychic services as popularized by the late 20th century psychic hotlines:

 

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This is in stark contrast to the 1974 edition, which has full page ads for occult material throughout and includes occult services under a number of mundane categories in the Classified section – the 2020 edition has no additional spiritual service ads in the main sections and within the Classified section it has specific categories for Astrology, Spiritual Advice, Spiritual Healer, and Spiritualists. We find these sections included in the classifieds for nearly a decade or more if we look back at some of the editions from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

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This article from p. 7 of an 1850 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac shows that even when black magic doesn’t make it into the ads – its outlines can easily appear elsewhere, hidden in plain sight. (7)

Advertisements in Questionable Taste

Think about that – in 1974 these services were normalized under regular categories – since at least 2012 they are given specific focus under categories like ‘Spiritual Healer’ and ‘Spiritualists’. These categories didn’t even have ads that would have fit under them in the 1974 edition!

If we were talking trends in technological progress this might be less surprising – we can imagine that earlier editions wouldn’t have ads related to smart phones – but here we have an instance when the Old Farmer’s Almanac puts MORE focus in the 21st century on folk magic and psychic services than it did in 1974 when UNESCO was publishing an issue of Impact specifically focused on ‘parascience’ and an Apollo astronaut was publishing an anthology of research papers focused on Psychic Exploration.

This becomes even more anomalous when we consider the perspective offered in this Seattle Times piece on the Old Farmer’s Almanac from 1992:

“In 1990 the periodical began courting advertising from mainstream advertisers, and now contains full-page, four-color ads for Sorel boots, Florida orange juice, Chevrolet trucks, Total cereal, and Agway stores amidst smaller black-and-white inserts for choir robes, miracle magnifying eyeglasses, hair thickener, copper bracelets, apple juicers, weathervanes, racks for holding multiple caps, bag balm for curing animal sores, toenail-fungus ointment, trusses, and insurance to help pay burial expenses. The almanac still refuses all ads for alcohol or tobacco.

Hale takes a sanguine view of the more bizarre products hawked in his pages. “Jimmy Carter was an advertiser, long before he became president; he used the almanac to sell worms for bait.” Nowadays, he says, ads fall into one of three categories: “Advertisements in good taste, advertisements in questionable taste – like the miracle cures or anti-aging products – and advertisements in bad taste, like voodoo dolls, which some people could attempt to use for malicious purposes.

“Each year, after heated debate, we happily accept ads in the first two categories.” (8)

A careful reading of former editor Jud Hale’s statement shows that spiritual services centered on what is popularly known as black magic – hexing, cursing, revenge, etc. – are out, but as long as the legal bases are covered most everything else has a chance of making it in. This draws attention to the fact that what is currently making it in doesn’t necessarily track with the emergence of the contemporary ‘consciousness culture’ market or the trends we see in the digital space related to human potentials like transcranial electric stimulation, binaural and isochronic soundscapes, sound healing, meditation and mindfulness, or anything like that.

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The Analog Internet

“In many homes almanacs were the newspaper, the magazine, and the mail-order catalog rolled into one. In other words, almanacs were the first internet.” – Lisa Chen, The Old Farmer’s Almanac: An Investigation – Seneca Review (9)

Running a Google search for the phone numbers associated with the contemporary classified ads shows that many of them come up in the Google Books preview of the 2020 edition and nowhere else. For many service providers these ads appear to be the only angle being used to attract clients.

Looking at some of the spiritual service providers that do show up in a wider search provides  us insight into the market we’re looking at.

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We’ll start with Mrs. Jewel of Rock Hill, South Carolina, whose ad in the Astrology section includes a business address:

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Mrs. Jewel, Psychic Reader – Rock Hill, South Carolina

We can also find her in a Facebook post from a local pawn shop, World Record Holder Pawn (10), which mentions Mrs. Jewel and includes some nice shots of a pamphlet advertising her services:

 

If you’ve been seduced by the mediated image of mystery surrounding traditional spiritual services it may come as a surprise to find what looks to be a standard psychic reader sitting next to someone like Dr. Sal who offers lucky bags and help against evil spells and witchcraft:

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These blurred lines peaked my attention when I first started looking at spiritual service advertisements while researching for Craigslist Conjurations – Preliminary notes on Spiritual Services, Folk Magic and Digital Advertising in 2014 (Click here for the full 53 pg. PDF version). That early research introduced me to how spiritual service providers frequently cross artificial boundaries developed by observers outside of their targeted clientele.

This boundary crossing exists between the online and offline worlds as well. These ads form a sort of analog hypertext linking a broad range of individuals and networks – mixing services offered solely through word of mouth advertising and classifieds and service providers that expand their business profile into the digital space. All connecting individuals, cultures and economies across a shared relationship with a belief in the supernatural or the super natural.

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Ann, God’s Messenger from Fayette, North Carolina is another service provider whose address is available via a quick search. She can be found on Google as Sister Ann, Reader and Advisor. Sister Ann is another boundary crossing provider who seems to make no differentiation between folk magic and psychic services, this time quite directly offering to stop rootwork.

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Sister Ann, Reader and Advisor – Fayetteville, North Carolina

Based on her service reviews some folks love her and some folks hate her. (11) Sister Ann has a basic website – sisterannreaderadviser.com – utilizing stock images suited to a psychic service provider – who would expect that beneath this almost mundane facade sits a woman offering rootwork services?

“Are you having trouble? Have you lost your job? Does life seem like it is getting to be too much? Do you wonder where to turn? I urge you to call me, Sister Ann. I am a religious holy woman and have been able to help hundreds of lost souls who have had troubles in life. Through God’s grace and mercy I have the power to heal by prayer.”

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Some spiritual service providers have been running the same ads for years. We find Spiritualist Leza from Valdosta, Georgia going back to 2012 in the Google Book results with a simple ad promising the cure all evil spells, reunite lovers, potions and luck:

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Despite the persistence of her ad in the various editions of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Spiritual Leza is not one of our providers that appear to have extended their marketing into the digital marketplace.

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Beyond the Pages of the Old Farmer’s Almanac

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Classified Section from the 2012 Old Farmer’s Almanac

There is an ebb and flow for spiritual service classified ads. For example, the 2012 and 2013 editions having significantly more offerings in the Astrology section than what we find in the 2020 edition.

These rhythms in the number of ads are regulated by shifts in the culture and in the economy. As Jud Hale says in the Seattle Times piece from 1992:

“I believe we’re a link to something. The almanac has always done well in times of recession. I think people hearken back to the traditional values in times of a crunch…The Old Farmer’s Almanac isn’t `quaint,’ It’s all about what’s happening in our world, now. It’s as up-to-date today as it was 200 years ago.”(8)

This observation on the recession is reflected in the psychic and spiritual service industries as well. Providers in these areas offer services to those who are looking for stability, direction and empowerment in uncertain times. Even so, economic factors shift the amount of income that clients can offer no matter how desperate their perceived need and the industry itself was negatively affected by the most recent recession. As disposable income has increased so has the market for and marketability of these services:

“The Psychic Services industry has grown steadily over the five years to 2018 as a result of recovering economic conditions and growing acceptance of industry services among consumers. Following a dip during the economic downturn, rising disposable income levels over the past five years have spurred demand for discretionary services like psychic readings.” (12)

Differences we see in the number of ads may have to do with certain service providers moving up market as the opportunities increase alongside increases in disposable income. It may also reflect service providers reacting to the increased potential for interest in their services within the wider market as the economy began to recover through 2012 and 2013. Moving their advertising to digital platforms could allow them to more easily capture the attention of a diverse audience. Or, it’s very possible that these service providers failed to achieve success and ceased offering service of any kind within this market.

One of the things that we begin to see as we dig in to these ads is that we are not just looking at a single market, economy or industry – we’re looking at a rather diverse and interconnected network of markets, economies and industries and services that fluidly shift and intermingle to meet the needs of their clientele.

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Rev. Jackson ad in the 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac

This network has a global reach as we can see from a service provider named Rev. Jackson who bought ad space in both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Jamaican Gleaner.

Published out of Kingston, the Jamaican Gleaner or simply The Gleaner is a newspaper with international distribution in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.  Founding in 1834, it’s been in circulation ever since and continues to connect diaspora communities around the world.

Rev. Jackson’s ad in both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the Jamaican Gleaner shows us that the networks of markets, economies and industries related to these psychic and spiritual services cover a much wider geography than we might expect – and target a community with ties not only to the U.S., but the Caribbean, U.K. and Canada as well.

Seeing the reach of a provider like Rev. Jackson it is possible that the increased focus on spiritual services associated with popular notions of hoodoo, conjure and rootwork in these 21st century Old Farmer’s Almanac ads is a reflection of an increase in the estimated worth of the African American market.

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Voodoo Healer with the same phone number in a series of classified ads for ‘Psychics, Spiritualists, Astrologers, Readers‘ in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper – Thursday, August 24, 2006 (13)

According to a recent study from the University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth, this market went from “$961 billion in 2010 to an estimated $1.3 trillion in 2018. Since 2000, the African American market has seen a 114 percent increase in buying power.” (14) Along with an increase in buying power comes an increase in service providers within the market, so it makes sense that we would see this mirrored in the psychic and spiritual service ads appearing in publications like the Old Farmer’s Almanac and Jamaican Gleaner which have such a wide and continuous distribution.

But…Where are the Psychotronics?

“We present results of experiments suggesting the existence of one or more perceptual modalities through which individuals obtain information about their environment…”- Harold Puthoff and Russel Targ, Information Transfer Under Conditions of Sensory Shielding (3)

Now that we’ve found some answers for the surprising presence of rootwork in the 2020 edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac – the question remains, where’s our new era of psychotronics as forecast in the 1974 edition of UNESCO’s Impact?

Just as the spiritual service ads appear to be following market trends, the fate of psychotronics exists within a wider cultural and economic milieu. The interest in developing “a new technical-physical dimension on an earlier philosophical-psychological conception”  was directly related to the further development of a cybernetic understanding of the mind/body complex being explored at the time. (15) If we want to see where psychotronics went all we have to do is look at the internet – which, as Dr. Diana Pasulka points out in her preface to American Cosmic – UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019), developed in part from a program focused on ‘“Augmentation of the Human Intellect.” (16) 

In order to truly understand these areas it is important to de-mystify what we are talking about – the mediated image of psychic and spiritual services is a marketing ploy that is very much divorced from their everyday applications in the lives of practitioners and from the areas of study focused on by serious researchers. (17) This is also true in terms of how the underlying human potentials being tapped in these service offerings are distributed within the wider culture.

Look back at that Astro-Profile advertisement and take out the astrological language:

Prepared with an IBM computer – Your Character Analyzed – Programed by World Famous (Experts) – Individually Prepared – Based on 25 Million Pieces of Information – 12 Month Projections – Trends for the Year…

If we didn’t know this was a 1974 ad for an astrology service it could just as well be the description of forecasting and personality profile tools that have been developed using data sets drawn from social media usage. Today’s transcranial electric stimulation for performance enhancement in sports and the arts is yesterday’s “God Helmet” experiments searching for the source of apparitional encounters and ways to enhance or induce anomalous or spiritual experiences. (18, 19)

Corporate, commercial and military intelligence interest in psychic functioning frame UNESCO’s Impact journal issue focused on parascience. In the ensuing years research in these areas produced results that were able to be reframed (and monetized) within more acceptable contexts, as well as being reframed to avoid complications related to a portion of the research that occurred between 1974 and 1995 under classified programs.

Along with this is the proprietary nature of the corporate interest – and yes, there was indeed quite a bit of corporate interest, including companies such as Boeing, Xerox, Sony and others. As just one example, Gene Semel, a former senior sound design manager at Sony, went in search of Sony’s ESP research and discovered that “finding ways to measure anomalous energy transference – and to uncover a commercial application for it – was something to Sony took seriously. In the company’s labs, it was objectively and empirically researched for over a decade under the oversight of Sony Senior Researcher Yoichiro Sako.” (20) News reports from the time show that Sako’s research was met with controversy in the media despite the support of Sony’s executives. (21)

“There might be a new type of communication system out there, a system that transmits data through mediums we’ve never before considered. We don’t know, but we’re trying to find out.” – Sony executive Mika Ishida (22)

According to Sako,  “We found out experimentally that yes, ESP exists, but that any practical application of this knowledge is not likely in the foreseeable future.” (21)  Based on media reports this research initiative began in 1991, four years before the Pentagon began declassifying the Remote Viewing research that has become so well known. That’s 16 years after the parascience issue of Impact –  no matter what the skeptical sub-culture wants you to believe, psychic functioning has staying power in terms of research and commercial interest.

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PRECOG ECONOMIES

 

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Advertisement from FATE Magazine for The Mind and Time and Space by Dan Tassi, Dorrance Co., (1962) (23)

While Sako is sanguine about the possibilities of applied psi – the psychic services industry in the U.S. alone had an estimated worth of $2 Billion, with the prospect of a steady increase of 2% per year according to IBIS World. (12) The disconnect here is in the fact that Sony’s research was focused on developing technology from psychic functioning – any research into the existence of said functioning was a mere antecedent to creating products that could tap into it. Recent research into psychokinesis and mind/machine interfacing may prove him wrong – but in the meantime, outside of product development, we already see that there is a massive financial incentive to develop viable psychic services.

“It’s worth noting that those who do buy into the precog economy don’t like to publicise the fact.” – Amelia Tait, Psychic Future – What Next for the Precog Economy? (24)

51dWpiXb7hL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg$2 Billion is big, but Dr. Julia Mossbridge, a visiting scholar at Northwestern University and co-author of The Precognition Code – The Science of Precognition, How Sensing the Future Can Change Your Life (Watkins Media, 2019), says that “once precognition hits the higher-end markets – governments, investment banking – the estimates will go up by an order of magnitude,” as quoted by Amelia Tait in a Guardian article published as I was wrangling this post into coherence.

Mossbridge clarifies for Tait that the industry is mixed in terms of what clients can expect, with providers offering services that range from serious applications of psi research to frauds making money manipulating their clientele. The concept of a precog economy highlights the need for service providers that have followed the impetus of the 1974 Impact journal and are utilizing technical-physical methodologies in their work, such as Associate and Controlled Remote Viewing protocols or the protocols outlined by Mossbridge’s book, to increase accuracy and regularity in their results.

As the wider publication of  research modalities occurs we see adaptations in the public service offerings that reflect their adoption even within the sphere of popular psychic and spiritual services. In other areas of the culture there is the possibility to develop refined service offerings that take advantage of the research to integrate psychic functioning within corporate, government and medical environments as the scientific investigation of these potentials develops a better framework for understanding what has existed in our culture under the labels of the anomalous and occult. (25)

The lack of consistent regulation in the industry, the taboo on psychic functioning in professional cultures and the fear of psi (26) that occurs for many when they weigh the meaning of psi and all of its implications each contribute to fueling the shadow economies surrounding psychic and spiritual service industries. As we see with the parascience revolution forecasted in the 1974 issue of Impact, it may be that as these services become successful they blend seamlessly into the existing cultures and technologies around them. Perhaps the precog economy’s future exists within the world we already see every day expanded a bit with our understanding of human potential – a synthesis that leaves only a hazy outline of its prior taboo in back page Classifieds of tomorrow’s vintage edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Footnotes:
(1) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000010749
(2) https://twitter.com/DrPatHistorian/status/1138551696391573504?s=20
(3) https://www.psychotronics.org/about/
(4) https://www.nature.com/articles/251602a0
(5) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/for-our-readers-that-shop-by-mail-fast-cash-money-oil-and-the-old-farmers-almanac/
(6) https://altered-statuses.tumblr.com/post/184400802667/the-universe-book-club-invites-you-to-join-the
(7) https://archive.org/details/farmersalmanacfo00phil/page/n7
(8) http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920614&slug=1497100
(9) Lisa Chen, The Old Farmer’s Almanac: An Investigation. Seneca Review, v. 47, n. 2, p. 38–43, (2017)
(10)https://www.facebook.com/WorldRecordHolderPawn/photos/a.590333837714882/2255544111193838/
(11) https://g.page/PsychicNC?share
(12) https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/specialized-market-research-reports/consumer-goods-services/personal/psychic-services.html and https://finance.yahoo.com/news/psychic-industry-fortune-tellers-ibisworld-221118482.html
(13) https://newspaperarchive.com/kingston-gleaner-aug-24-2006-p-23/
(14)https://news.terry.uga.edu/articles/Rising_tide_lifts_all_boats_Americas_economic_growth_benefits_minority_markets/
(15) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/02/03/cyborgs-psychics-and-intelligent-plasmas-speculative-approaches-to-human-space-travel-with-jose-canseco/
(16) https://www.americancosmic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Preface-A-Tour-of-Silicon-Valley-with-Jaques-Vallee.pdf
(17) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/hidden-pathways-to-everyday-magic-supernatural-living-in-the-american-marketplace/
(18) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-red-light-district/201710/enhancing-athletic-performance-brain-stimulation
(19) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3287/d07f47a54f746aa2444465b2268fdeb11d1e.pdf
(20) http://www.mindpowernews.com/SonyESP.htm
(21) https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-11-12-mn-2130-story.html
(22) https://www.wired.com/1996/09/esp-extra-sony-perception/
(23) https://wearethemutants.com/2019/03/05/i-shall-teach-thee-terrible-things-the-ads-and-articles-of-fate-magazine-1963/dan-tassi/
(24) https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/sep/29/psychic-future-what-next-for-the-precognition-economy
(25) https://youtu.be/8l2cmV8JvxE
(26) https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_psycho20.htm

Hidden Pathways to Everyday Magic – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 24, 2019

‘It is the glory of the God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.’ – Proverbs 25:2

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Entrance to the office at a tire shop just outside of Athens, Georgia

A flat on a rural highway and a closed tire shop in town had me wandering around northeast Georgia this week looking for an affordable solution to getting back on the road. Great reminder that when the regular patterns of our daily life are disrupted we get a chance to discover some of the hidden pathways of magic that exist all around us.

Frustration turned to fascination when I finally found a used tire shop a few towns over and walked in to discover that the owners had protective wards put up over every doorway in the place. The entrance to the office had a Gideon’s pocket New Testament, horse shoe and a pamphlet titled Conditions de Entrada al Cielo (Conditions for the Entrance into Heaven) secured to the frame. It was an immediate reminder of what I’ve been writing about lately in regard to the commonality of magico-religious practices.

The mediated image of folk magic presents an exotic appeal and mystery that is almost entirely missing when you dig in to its actual practice – for many people magico-religious beliefs and spiritual work are integrated fully into their every day lives in a way that is foreign to those who come to these practices from Neo-paganism, popular occultism, and other spiritual sub-cultures that are tied strongly to marketing, commercialism and identity politics rather than a continuation of traditional forms through contemporary means. (1)

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Grocery Store Grimoires

For the past few years I’ve been fascinating with the distribution of occult books in the seemingly mundane environment of the U.S. marketplace. (2)

If you poke around the magazine aisle – most grocery stores have books that give the basics for developing advanced intuition, out of body experiences, precognition, and similar human potentials. You may have missed them though, because they are almost always aimed at the Christian market – the most prevalent material is under the guise of  ‘spiritual warfare’ and ‘supernatural living’.

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One person’s Holy Ghost baptism is another person’s Kundalini awakening – some have prophetic dreams of Jesus and others call that precognition. The publication and mass distribution of Eben Alexander III’s book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, is a secularized example of the grocery store grimoire phenomenon. The book was widely available as a bestseller and gave a very public presence to the current state of the debate around Near Death Experiences. However, Secular examples like Alexander’s book don’t have the same staying power or continuous market presence as the spiritual warfare and supernatural living material.

303dce7d6701e82232198d08b25105b8.jpgThe books included in photos above, which I took at a local grocery stores over the years, may be framed within a Christian worldview but this does nothing to lessen their mystique. Remember that ritual magic in large part comes from exorcism traditions and it’s merely a flip of intention to change an exorcism into a conjuration or invocation.

Folk magic and Charismatic and ecstatic forms of Christianity have long been intimately tied. What we seen today in the grocery store aisle might not have the same patina of age worn respectability that an occult classic like the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses has, but when seriously applied a surprising amount of the practical use value remains intact.(0

As I was pondering these potentials I started to wonder how much of my speculation was a thought experiment, and how much was actually likely to occur. Were there really folks out there back engineering this spiritual warfare material and using it for more unorthodox purposes?

Apt to the research it was a ‘grocery store grimoire’ that gave me the answer:

“In the 1970’s a group of ministers who had experience dealing with demons began to hold lengthy conversations with them, seeking to obtain special understanding about things in the spirit realm. In the end this proved disastrous. The group went into serious doctrinal error and some of them died prematurely.”

– Derek Prince, end note in They Shall Expel Demons: What You Need to Know About Demons – Your Invisible Enemies (Chosen Books, 1998)

Ministers using allegedly possessed members of their congregation as mediums to channel discarnate spirits in order to gain forbidden knowledge – you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of unorthodox purposes.

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Santa Muerte at Walmart

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Grim Reaper T-Shirt at Walmart (Athens, GA)

In the course of my research into grocery store grimoires I was disappointed when the closest Walmart expanded their romance novel selection and nixed the Inspirational Books section. A set back more than made up for by the Men’s Clothing area – where la Santa Muerte still sits secure in the rotational display of discount t-shirts.

“But that’s just a cheap grim reaper shirt!”

Oh no my friend, it’s a gateway into supernatural living if you know anything about the popularization of Saint Death’s iconography in the black and grey market.

If you are a savvy entrepreneur in the Mexican market, looking to quickly capitalize on the growth of a popular tradition, or if you are an intent devotee looking to represent La Nina Bonita through your clothing, where would you start?

A few companies make Santa Muerte specific shirts, but these are not always easily acquired – so you grab the first thing that fits the bill within your environment. In Santa Muerte’s case this just happened to be shirts with illustrations of the Grim Reaper. Those outside the devotion see nothing more than a shirt from Walmart – those within know that here in the midst of the mundane la Madre Poderosa stands hidden in plain sight. (3)

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A Study in End-Times Biblical Prophecy

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Bible study invitation in the foyer of a local post office.

A trip to the post office can turn into an adventure in apocalyptic fervor when you encounter a delightful invitation to an End Times Bible Study.  In the hyper-textual landscape of popular religion you’re never far from the edge of the eschaton.

Flyers like this provide ephemeral strands stretching between the grocery store grimoires and the folks who read and practice them. The same cultural streams which focus on end-times biblical prophecy are very likely to be attentive to the import of spiritual warfare and exorcism.

Subtle markers on the boundaries of a secret landscape – these examples all hint at a interconnected, intwined and integral aspect within the daily lives of people who would balk at the idea that they are involved in some form of esoteric or occult practice. Secured by the othering of academic categories which ignore these living streams of mystery – they go about their normal days unseen.

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The House on Devil’s Pond Road

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The house on Devil’s Pond Road

I can’t tell you how many times I drove past this abandoned house thinking it was merely another one of the curious and crumbling memories that populate the landscape of rural Georgia. That is until a casual conversation with a local antique dealer about the efficacy of charms lead to a surprising revelation:

“Back in the 1930’s there was a woman practiced conjure a couple towns over. They say she held court from a throne formed by the twisted roots of an old oak tree down on Devil’s Pond Rd.”

The oak tree that the antique dealer mentioned is that sort of black vegetative splotch in front of the structure – it’s now broken and overgrown with vines – a striking symbol of how fragile these intimate traditions are. When the line of transmission is broken unless one is skilled in interpreting residual traces they drift away into rumors and forgetfulness.

After learning more about the site’s history I developed a series of sound pieces (available to stream above) to honor the conjure that once lived here – they are best enjoyed with ear phones while gazing at the photo to imbibe the residual transmissions of the house on Devil’s Pond Rd.

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Facts and Predictions for the Entire Year

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Lottery Dream Books at a convenient store just outside of Athens, GA

These simple manuals systematize a symbol set which can be slowly memorized and tied to intuitive responses. Once the supernatural cover story is dropped, what you essentially have is a folk version of the art of memory with the intention of accessing dream states and day to day synchronicities to heighten intuitive functioning. (4)

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Craigslist Conjurations

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Mother Powers advertisement from The Lucky Red Devil Combination Dream Book and Numerology Guide (Eagle Book Supply Inc, 2013)

Generalized psychic and metaphysical services are a mainstay in the Craigslist classified ads. Presenting an image reminiscent of the psychic hotlines that were promoted in commercials and infomercials during the 1980’s and 90’s the bulk of these advertisements offer standard super natural options for those seeking assistance from beyond the pale confines of everyday life.

With a bit of digging it’s occasionally possible to discover another class of advertisement, more rarefied offerings from a few unique individuals who have stepped outside of the common psycho-spiritual SEO. Ads like the ones I gathered back in 2014 from Miss Mary, who runs a number of advertisements in different cities.

To the uncritical eye they might seem to be repetitious – however, the true connoisseur of traditional spiritual work will recognize the poetic touches that make each ad unique. She uses a time honored formula that is reminiscent of older advertisements for such services. Miss Mary’s ad copy is similar to the Mother Powers advertisements in Lottery Dream Books, or the associated advertisements online for Sister Mary, here you can see the tradition carrying on into the digital world of Craigslist classifieds:

SPIRITUAL ROOTWORKER (BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA)

MISS MARY CAN HELP YOU ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD IN HOURS. ARE YOU IN HARD LUCK? DO YOU HAVE PROBLEMS THAT ARE WORRYING YOU? ARE YOU SUFFERING IN PAIN AND MISERY? DO YOU WANT TO GET LUCKY AND STAY LUCKY? IS YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE SPENDING THE MONEY ON SOMEONE ELSE? HAS HE OR SHE LEFT YOU FOR ANOTHER? CALL MISS MARY NOW FOR HELP. ARE YOU HAVING TROUBLE WITH YOUR LEGS, BACK, STOMACH, HEAD, OR ARMS? IS YOUR HAIR FALLING OUT? MISS MARY WILL REMOVE BAD LUCK, EVIL, SICKNESS, PAINS AND NERVOUS CONDITIONS FROM YOU NOW. MISS MARY WILL TELL YOU HOW TO BE LUCKY AT HORSES, CARDS, BINGO, LOTTERY, DOGS, SLOT MACHINES, AND NUMBERS. CALL NOW FOR HELP. YOU WILL BLESS THE DAY YOU DID. MY WORK IS 100% GUARANTEED. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE RID OF YOUR TROUBLES BY TOMMOROW.

MISS MARY POWERFUL ROOT WORKER (BRUNSWICK, GA.) 

MY POWERS ARE GUARANTEED. DO YOU HAVE BAD LUCK? NEED HELP? MISS MARY SOLVES ALL PROBLEMS. MONEY, LUCK, BUSINESS, HEALTH, NATURE, MARRIAGE, LOVE PROBLEMS, DRUG PROBLEMS, ALCOHOLISM. MISS MARY CAN REMOVE EVIL SPELLS OF ALL KINDS. VOODOO, ROOTS, HEXES. 100% SURE FAST RESULTS. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID. MY MAGICAL POWERS ARE BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION. CALL NOW FOR IMMEDIATE RESULTS.

POWERFUL ROOT WORKER (BRUNSWICK, GA.)

MISS MARY WILL READ YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WITHOUT ASKING YOU A SINGLE QUESTION. SHE HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL BY PRAYER. ARE YOU SUFFERING? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? ARE YOU LOSING YOUR HAIR? HAVE YOU EVER STAYED AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE? WELL THINK NO MORE MISS MARY IS HERE TO HELP YOU WITH ANY PROBLEM YOU MAY HAVE. MISS MARY WILL HELP YOU IN LOVE, MARRIAGE, ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, LAWSUITS, EVIL, DIVORCES, ANY PROBLEM IS NOT TO BIG OR SMALL. I WILL GIVE YOU LUCKY NUMBERS TO PLAY LOTTO, BINGO, HORSES, DOGS, SLOTS. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE RID OF YOUR PROBLEMS TOMORROW. MISS MARY SOLEMLY SWEARS TO HELP YOU. CALL MISS MARY  TODAY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

0RDAINED PSYCHIC READER AND ADVISOR (BRUNSWICK, GA)

HAVE YOU BEEN HOODOOED? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? MISS MARY HAS GOD GIVEN POWER TO HELP YOU OVERCOME YOUR PROBLEMS NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL. I WILL TELL YOU JUST WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FRIENDS ENEMIES OR RIVALS, WHETHER HUSBAND, WIFE OR SWEETHEART IS TRUE OR FALSE, HOW TO GAIN THE LOVE YOU MOST DESIRE, CONTROL OR INFLUENCE THE ACTION OF ANYONE EVEN THOUGH MILES AWAY. WILL GIVE YOU LUCKY NUMBERS, I HAVE HELPED THOUSANDS THROUGH ALL WALKS OF LIFE. I WILL ADVISE YOU ON LOVE, MARRIAGE, BUSINESS, HEALTH, DIVORCES, LAWSUITS, LUCK, ALCOHOLICS, DRUG ADDICTIONS, HAPPINESS,SPELLS, SUCCESS AND EVIL INFLUENCES OF ALL KINDS. I WILL TELL YOU WHO YOUR FRIENDS AND ENEMIES ARE. GUARANTEES TO REMOVE ALL EVIL AND BAD LUCK!!! WHY SUFFER WHEN YOU CAN BE HELPED AND FREED FROM ALL YOUR TROUBLES!!! DON’T FAIL TO CALL MISS MARY TODAY YOU WILL BLESS THE DAY YOU DID!!! CALL MISS MARY AND SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT MY POWERS CAN DO FOR YOU!!! DO NOT COMPARE ME WITH CHEAP, COMMON, ORDINARY INPERSONATORS MY WORK IS WITH GOD!!! CALL MISS MARY TODAY

SPIRITUAL READER AND ADVISOR (BRUNSWICK,GEORGIA) 

MISS MARY WILL READ YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WITHOUT ASKING YOU A SINGLE QUESTION. MISS MARY HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL BY PRAYER. ARE YOU SUFFERING? ARE YOU SICK IN ANY PART OF YOUR BODY? HAVE YOU EVER STAYED AWAKE AT NIGHT THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE? WELL, NOW YOU DON”T HAVE TO! THIS SPIRITUAL WOMAN WILL GUIDE YOU TO OVERCOME YOUR PROBLEMS NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PROBLEMS MIGHT BE. I CAN HELP YOU WITH LOVE PROBLEMS, MARRIAGE, OR BUSINESS PROBLEMS. I CAN GIVE YOU SURE HIT LUCKY NUMBERS. I WILL CURE ANY PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE. DON’T BE DISCOURAGED IF OTHERS FAILED YOU. MY WORK IS WITH GOD AND MY POWERS ARE GUARANTEED TO WORK. CALL ME AND FIND OUT FOR YOUR SELF HOW GREAT MY POWERS ARE. CALL MISS MARY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

MISS MARY ROOTWORKER (BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA)

LET MISS MARY REMOVE ALL EVIL SHADOWS AND SPELLS FROM YOU AND YOUR HOME. I USE LOVE POTIONS, SPELLS, DOLLS, HERBS, OILS AND CANDLES IN MY WORK TO REMOVE OR PLACE A VOODOO. DO YOU WISH TO CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF ANYONE YOU DESIRE MISS MARY WILL ADVISE YOU IN LOVE, MARRIAGE, BUSINESS, LUCK, HAPPINESS, AND MONEY. CALL MISS MARY TODAY AND BE HELPED AS THOUSANDS HAVE ALREADY DID. CALL MISS MARY AND BLESS THE DAY YOU DID.

Psychic Palm and Tarot Card Reader

I AM A LOCAL PALM READER HERE IN BRUNSWICK, GA. I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR OVER 30 YEARS I HAVE ALOT OF REPEAT CLIENTS THAT ARE VERY SATISFIED WITH MY READINGS I AM AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE PARTYS IF YOU ARE HAVING A PRIVATE PARTY AND ARE INTERESTED IN HAVING A REAL LIFE PALM READER AT YOUR PARTY CALL ME FOR RATES MISS MARY

In ads like these we find spiritual workers who retain connections to long running traditions of folk magic and healing – reminding us again how common traditions of folk spirituality continue on despite the tendency to relegate these areas of human experience and expression to dead images of a curious past. (5)

For the full 53 page PDF – Craigslist Conjurations – Preliminary notes on Spiritual Services, Folk Magic and Digital Advertising – CLICK HERE

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Distributed by Keystone Laboratories

Gas stations and Craigslist ads aren’t the only place you can find these residual traces of conjure culture. Walking down the cosmetics aisle at a local Dollar General I ran into Ebony Glow, a soap from Keystone Laboratories that might look just like any other beauty product – however it turns out to be yet another gateway into supernatural living in the American marketplace.

The third picture shows a vintage Keystone Laboratories catalog from Tony Kail’s West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo History collection. As you can see the catalog features products familiar to anyone versed in American folk traditions such as our aforementioned Lottery Dream Books, votive candles, and conjure classics like the 6th and 7th Book of Moses. (6)

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Kali at the Gas Station

15844469_10154913417596670_8282549110676948160_oA quick stop a few years ago at the gas station in this photo lead to the discovery of a concealed Durga altar with representations of her maternal and wrathful aspects tucked away behind the counter and hidden from view by a box of blunt wraps and a display of energy supplements.

“Kali is often depicted in the posture called pratyalidha, with Her left knee advanced and her right leg drawn back. In this position Her left foot can prod Her Shiva into wakefulness. Pratyalidha and its opposite, the alidha stance (right knee advanced, left drawn back) both come from a Sanskrit root which means “lapped up, licked, tongue applied to, eaten.”

What She eats, with Her tongue, Her eyes, and Her very pose, is your Ahamkara Shakti, your energy of self. Since the chief expression of shakti in the physical body isprana, the life force, the power which keeps body, mind and spirit functioning together as a living unit, what Kali eats as you worship Her is your prana. Physical life, health and longevity require that ahamkara self-identify strongly with your organism to permit prana to enliven your body. Spiritual health requires ahamkara to relinquish most of this attachment, and Kali is happy to help you actively relinquish it.

The chief carrier of prana in the body is blood, so when you see blood dripping from Kali’s tongue you should see that blood as the prana of Her devotees, offered to Her to transmute. What She craves is your blood (your prana) that She may truly bring you to life. (7)

Unmediated and stripped of exotic framing this simple altar speaks to the powerful integration of applied spirituality in the every day lives around us.

The pure streams of magico-religious practice aren’t found in flashy packaging and artisanal facade – they’re found in hearts consumed by practices that reveal the presence of mystery in the midst of the everyday.

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View from the side of the road where a flat tire initiated today’s reflections on super natural living.

“The supernatural and occult imagination becomes the locus where the tension between the material world and the world of the spirit is realized and then dissolved.” – Peter Bebergal, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

All of the examples presented here represent a direct line of influence straight from folk traditions that have come to be popularized and mediated in the various occult revivals over the years.

Here in this varied selection of products and media we see ‘the supernatural and occult imagination’ become enlivened through empowered, contemporary and active traditions of belief that, despite their skeptical detractors, speak to the efficacy of supernatural living and demonstrate this efficacy with their subtle power and presence in the American marketplace.

Footnotes:

(1) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/for-our-readers-that-shop-by-mail-fast-cash-money-oil-and-the-old-farmers-almanac/
(2) https://modernmythology.net/satans-target-your-mind-supernatural-living-in-the-american-marketplace-c6c38c616778
(3) https://skeletonsaint.com/2013/05/01/selling-holy-death-from-grim-reaper-to-skeletal-virgin-a-brief-look-at-commercializing-an-emerging-iconography/
(4) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/gambling-with-psi-lottery-dream-books-and-other-money-making-mind-tricks-96622bcec051
(5) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/craigslist-conjurations-an-exploration-into-the-interstices-of-spiritual-services-folk-magic-and-bd210e3f22e6 – and – https://www.academia.edu/13615817/Craigslist_Conjurations_-_Preliminary_notes_on_Spiritual_Services_Folk_Magic_and_Digital_Advertising
(6) https://memphishoodoo.wixsite.com/museum
(7) https://archive.org/details/DeviMahatmyamEnglishTransiteration/page/n33

 

For Our Readers That Shop By Mail – Fast Cash Money Oil and the Old Farmer’s Almanac

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on September 15, 2019

“Since 1792, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has spoken to all walks of life: planting charts for those who grow their own food; recipes for those who live in the kitchen; Moon and sunrise times for those who watch the skies; and forecasts for those who don’t like the question of weather left up in the air.” (1)

Image from iOS-99

Old Farmer’s Almanac display in the magazine aisle of a local Kroger supermarket (Athens, GA, 2019)

In most grocery stores across the United States you can pick up the latest copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical“(2) – a staple of life in the U.S. for over two hundred years.

These nondescript little books discretely resonate with the luxurious possibilities of supernatural living in the American marketplace and they always catch my eye – so, when a good friend texted a photo from the 2020 edition with an advertisement for the Luck Shop, the next chance I had to take a look I did.

Your Master Spiritual Goods Supplier

Luck Shop advertisements are a familiar sight in the back pages of the Lottery Dream Books I pick up at local gas stations (3) – however it was a bit of a surprise to find “your master spiritual goods supplier…the largest and most comprehensive Mojo Store in the Midwest- Specializing in selling Spiritual Supplies and Cultural Heritage products through…retail store and mail order catalog, for over 90 years,”(4) in a booklet sold at Kroger.

It shouldn’t have been surprising – but I’d come to expect that such a direct connection to conjure culture had been pushed to the margins of the marketplace and was now only available in places like independently owned gas stations and other liminal haunts – not right in the magazine aisle of the local grocery store next to the greeting cards and Sudoku booklets.

Flip to Page 247, and there it is:

Image from iOS-101

LuckShop.com display ad in the 2020 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac

One of the things that captivates me when I find these portals into the world of supernatural living is the business dynamics that go into an advertisement or product like this making it into the mainstream grocery market.

Our Products are Your Platform

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Media Kit website advises that:

“Our products are your platform.

As one of the most trusted brands literally in the world, the OFA brings instant credibility to, and interest in, its partners. When you work with us, we connect you to our community using the tools that suit your company, your product, and your message best.” (5)

When you apply this corporate copy to a mojo supply shop advertisement magic happens.

How many people pass by these booklets everyday without realizing Fast Cash Money Oil is just a phone call away?

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“The Old Root Man’s Formula for Fast Money Drawing gets evil off of you or out of your body. Kills all jinx and bad luck around you. Uncrosses your home and everyone in it. Returns all evil back to the sender who put it on you, no matter the situation!” (6)

How many readers of The Old Farmer’s Almanac are looking for Rev. Moses Triple Strength  ‘Old Root Man’s Formula’ Liquid Evil and Jinx Killer?

The Media Kit states that the publication is aimed at “a cross-section of North America itself. From the small farmer in the Midwest to the suburban family focused on sustainability and connection to the environment, our community members have one thing in common: They seek to lead informed  lives honestly, valuing innovation, durability, reliability and trustworthiness.” It’s incredibly intriguing to figure out where The Old Root Man’s Formula fits into that mix. 

Has the LuckShop.com misjudged their ad spend?

Has the Old Farmer’s Almanac misjudged their market?

Or is the question of occult spirituality in the contemporary United States a bit more complex than the picture we see framed by the popular media and sub-cultures that have emerged around these topics?

A Trip to Miller’s Rexall in 2018 disabused me of any remaining assumptions I had over what place spiritual work has in contemporary culture.

Run Devil Run

lsDespite its well known status as one of the long standing landmarks of folk magic in the southern United States, stepping past the threshold of Miller’s Rexall Drugs new customers were greeted with  a standard pharmacy located in downtown Atlanta (7).  The store itself and its general set up was similar to any other urban pharmacy, it even had the same discount bin of random items at the front – the only difference is that the ills and maladies Miller’s provides curatives for don’t stop at indigestion and the common cold.

This surface normalcy is one of the things you don’t get a real sense for unless you visit a shop like this in person – and as Jack Montgomery, author of American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healer (Busca Inc., 2008), pointed out in a Facebook post when he and Memphis hoodoo scholar Tony Kail visited Atlanta a few years ago – Miller’s is one of the last of the original spiritual supply stores left in the U.S. – making opportunities to visit few and far between for most folks.

The mediated image of folk magic presents an exotic appeal and mystery that is almost entirely missing when you dig in to its actual practice – for many people magico-religious beliefs and spiritual work are integrated fully into their every day lives in a way that is foreign to those who come to these practices from Neo-paganism, popular occultism, and other spiritual sub-cultures that are tied strongly to marketing, commercialism and identity politics rather than a continuation of traditional forms through contemporary means.

Just a Few Blocks from the Courthouse

These practices are often not learned first from books, but from family members and neighbors – they are drawn from the needs of the community and a cosmological and metaphysical understanding that is woven into the very identity of the social structure itself.

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When I visited Atlanta, Miller’s Rexall and neighboring spiritual supply shop Rondo Distributing were both just a few blocks northeast from the imposing Fulton County Courthouse – and fitting the proximity to the county court house and Atlanta’s municipal buildings many of the products offered for sale focus on resolving court cases, getting out of jail and of course the much lauded items intended to make the law stay away. All of the items were on ready display along with innumerable other spiritual supplies – packed onto shelves organized for use rather than marketing.

Democratizing Access to the Numinous

Clients come in with a need and are directed towards products by a helpful sales staff, including, at the time, Doc Miller himself – just as they would be if they needed advice on how to cure a urinary tract infection from their local pharmacist. It just happens that their requests might also include jinx removal, protection from the evil eye, curse breaking, and so on. 

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These aren’t walk-in tourist kind of places – even today they are an active part of the community, serving a specific set of cultural needs that aren’t addressed anywhere else. Whether it’s fast-luck or keeping cops away, the needs addressed highlight the day to day concerns of the marginal communities served by the shop.

Places like Miller’s Rexall also provide a functional role in giving these communities the tools necessary to formulate their independence from the strong currents of control which issue from the dominant cultural institutions – a function similar to what Hugh R. Page, Jr. ascribes to the works of Henri Gamache, which just so happen to also be for sale in these stores:

“One of the distinguishing traits of these works is that they democratize access to the numinous through the abrogation of power typically vested in institutional hierocracies. By making readily available biblical texts, Judeo-Christian hermeneutical traditions, and selected data on indigenous religious rituals from around the world, these books provide non-specialists with the practical knowledge and expertise to create personal liturgies for healing and canons for appropriating the Bible that resist hegemony and promote individual and communal self-empowerment. Interestingly, all appear to be, in fact, pseudonymous works. “(8)

The stores act to centralize communities outside of the mainstream and official domains, as well as provide them with tools to shape and rewrite the narratives of disempowerment that are maintained by the dominant social institutions – and their waning status in the culture is a sign of transition. Miller’s and Rondo are in a city district set for rehabilitation, which will likely challenge the organic culture that keeps them alive, potentially leaving them little room outside of becoming museum shops or tourist attractions to survive.

Magic always lives on the margins – and as those margins shift, so do the occult outlets that serve them. Thankfully, for our readers that shop by mail in these trying times, seems that you can always pick up some Fast Luck Money Oil from the back pages of an Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Notes:

(1) https://www.almanac.com/content/about-us
(2) https://www.almanac.com/content/history-old-farmers-almanac
(3) https://medium.com/@DBMetcalfe/gambling-with-psi-lottery-dream-books-and-other-money-making-mind-tricks-96622bcec051
(4) https://www.luckshop.com
(5) https://www.almanac.com/sites/default/files/mediakit/20_21_almanac_media_kit.pdf
(6) https://www.luckshop.com/evil-and-jinx-killer
(7) Now under new ownership Miller’s Rexall has moved to a location in nearby Decatur.  See https://www.millersrexall.com
(8) Hugh R. Page Jr., Post-Imperial Appropriation of Text, Tradition, and Ritual in the Pseudonymous Writings of Henri Gamache –  from Esotericism in African American Religious Experience : “There Is a Mystery”, Eds. Stephen C. Finley, Margarita Guillory and Hugh Page Jr. (Brill, 2014)

For more insight into stores like Miller’s Rexall and the communities that they serve – the Shattered Reality podcast hosted an in depth conversation with Jason Mizrahi, manager of Original Products, a long running spiritual supply company located in the Bronx:

https://www.originalbotanica.com/

 

Seeds Sprout in Darkness – Mail Order Magick, Death Row and the Initiation of Damien Echols

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on November 20, 2018

“The shattering of expectation that accompanies trauma doesn’t just cause transference, it opens a door.”

– Whitley Strieber, Solving the Communion Enigma – What is to Come (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011)

 

MYSTERIES AD (1)Always eager for a good mail-order magic anecdote it was great to read in a recent Rolling Stone article from Ilana Kaplan that Damien Echols’ first experience with magic(k) was of the tabloid advertisement variety:

“Damien Echols’ interest in magick can be traced back to when he was seven years old. While reading one of his grandmother’s tabloids in his family’s Mississippi trailer, he saw an ad for a book: ‘Wanna learn magick? Send $5.95 to this address, and we’ll send you this book,’ he remembers. This ad didn’t focus on the idea of magic, as in entertainers performing illusions like David Blaine or Criss Angel, but rather ‘magick,’ a path of evolution or transformation stemming from its own set of practices. Echols thought nothing else would matter if he could practice magick, but growing up in poverty, he couldn’t afford the book. But magick would become an integral part of his life.”(1)

Echols is an extreme example of just how powerful these mediated encounters can be – crediting his personal practice of magick, whose seed was laid by a tabloid ad, with focusing him during an experience on death row that few could fathom enduring:

“It wasn’t until he was put on death row that he began practicing high magick. ‘When I was in prison, I had nothing but time, so that’s when I dedicated every single minute of every single day to learning everything I could from classic sources,’ “

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Although Echols is careful to state that he is drawing on ‘classic sources’ for the practices he outlines in his new book, High Magic – A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row (Sounds True, 2018), he needn’t be a purist to find everything he would need for occult realization. If he’d had that $5.95 as a kid he might have gotten material that brought him every bit as close to true practice as the classic sources he references. His summation of the goal of the Art can even be found in L.W. De Laurence’s notorious mail-order magic manual, The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and East Indian Occultism, which begins with a preface that states:

” Wishing thee every success imaginable in thy studies and experiments, hoping that thou wilt use the benefits that thou mayest receive to the honor of thy Creator and my Brother Adepts both in Spirit and Earth Life who have so ably assisted me in placing this knowledge before thee my friend and for the benefit of thy neighbor, in which exercise thou shalt ever experience the satisfaction of doing thy duty…”

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The Book of Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage – de Laurence Company, 1948.

Beyond common metaphysical goals and altruistic advice, Echols book also includes the kind of psycho-physiological development material that is a mainstay of mail-order magic manuals and popular practical occultism. As Kaplan points out in the article, “the practice, which Echols focuses on in his book, refers to energetic practices, spiritual growth, ceremonies and rituals.” Why is it then that so many would see a tabloid ad and pass it up – while some see it and seek deeper initiations into their innate potential? Potential, that in Echols case, allowed him to carry a light through hell during his imprisonment.

When we look at mass market material or mail-order magic manuals it can be easy to dismiss them off hand, but the importance is in their application in a person’s life – and when a person pursues the application of the basic steps that many of them outline they find an entrance into a very deep world of experience that goes beyond expectations.

In this instance the basic step started by a mail-order magic ad was simply the question of magic itself which primed Echols to develop his practice more fully during his excruciating time on Death Row:

“This is something that I put to use in the darkest, hardest, most brutal times, more so than most people in modern-day America will go through. So, if it works during that, then surely it will help other people who may be dealing with other situations that are difficult to get through.”

9780143109501Like so many seekers, Echols found that the seeds of his potential awakening lay in darkness. This is something that religious scholar Jeffrey Kripal, J. Newton Razor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, has been exploring in his work on exceptional human experiences. By looking at the very personal and traumatic experiences of novelist Whitley Strieber, among other experiencers, Kripal has developed a contemporary framework through which to study traumatic initiation patterns.

This framework sheds light on one of the key reasons why Echols may have found success where others find merely idle occult speculation. Speaking of Whitley Strieber’s experiences in their collaborative book, The Super Natural, Kripal says:

“Out of existential necessity and the transcendent traumas of his own immediate experience, he was implicitly and intuitively practicing the comparative study of religion.”(3)

De Laurence continues to be apt for comparison here in that his outwardly absurd mail-order catalog played a strong role in developing counter-traditions within the Americas and in west Africa at a time of existential crisis, when nationalist interests were working feverishly to destroy indigenous, folk and popular traditions and solidify mainline belief systems that integrated safely with the governing culture. In these situations the hyped up rhetoric of mail-order mysticism becomes a powerful alternative for self development and an aid in keeping transmissions intact from more developed lines of practice. It also helped that De Laurence was selling some of the same source materials based on the Golden Dawn system that Echols would draw on during his time in prison.*

Encountering the advertisement in his grandmother’s tabloid magazine, in an environment of poverty and need paralleling those who found occult truths in the De Laurence Catalog, the desire for more helped to sink the anchor deep in Echols mind and, regardless of any lack of legitimacy in the ad, that desire was enough to form the core of his practice when the need for that hope was more dire.

Republishing the work of some of the best popular occultists from his time period, the material that the De Laurence Catalog provided formed a correspondence course focusing on the kind of applied comparative religion that Kripal discusses – including the esoteric domains of physical practices and energy work – encouraging experimentation with his ad-hoc inclusion of folk magic, spiritualism, Theosophy, ceremonial magic, yoga, mesmerism, hypnotism, self-help and everything in-between and on the side.

With its wide distribution and integration into pre-existing magico-religious and cultural traditions his catalog had a hand in fomenting the development of folk magic in the southern United States, urban folk magic across the U.S., popular Theosophy, New Age metaphysics, Pan-African mysticism, Black Nationalism, Afro-Caribbean traditions and changing the way traditional practices were performed in Nigeria and Ghana.(2) In the same way, Echols personal study framed as it was by false accusations from religious fundamentalists was open ended and allowed him to access whatever worked as opposed to what was dogmatically correct.

This is similar to what we see with the growth of Santa Muerte’s popular devotional tradition in the Americas, where those who have found faith in the Beautiful Girl are often at odds with mainstream religious organizations and have sought solace in alternative spiritual focal points. When their search for spiritual empowerment intermixes with a crisis moment they often begin a new life as an ardent devotee.(4)

For those who would scoff at contemporary mass market occultism, Damien Echols offers another reminder that these ideas can lay seeds that have a widespread and often unnoticed effect on our contemporary culture and individual lives. Encountered in the most mundane, everyday situations – when their potentials are realized in the right set and setting – when one walks through the gate of trauma – the outcomes can go well beyond cultural curiosity.

They can even become the blossoming root of High Magick.

(1) https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/damein-echols-west-memphis-three-high-magick-758311/
(2) https://www.dailygrail.com/2012/12/the-mysterious-influence-of-one-human-mind/
(3) http://cosmologicsmagazine.com/jeffrey-j-kripal-the-super-natural/
(4) https://skeletonsaint.com

*Special thanks to Michael M. Hughes for pointing out that Echols work was larger based within the Golden Dawn system! 

Strategic Spiritual Warfare and the Feast of All Souls – Comparing Cultural Technologies for Processing Collective Trauma

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on November 2, 2018

14206181_10154497505756670_610393306113448089_oThis year, while writing about the growth of Dia de los Muertos celebrations across the United States with Dr. Andrew Chesnut, it struck me that this famous Mexican holiday provides an alternative spiritual solution for  one of the main drivers of politicized exorcism and spiritual warfare culture – a society or culture’s sense of inescapable corporate guilt/sin and generational trauma.

C. Peter Wagner, a pioneering figure in the 3rd Wave charismatic movement, developed complex theories of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ to combat collective guilt. He saw this ‘stronghold’ of demonic control as a key component in the late 20th century/early 21st century culture of crisis.

“As the Body of Christ agrees to pull down strongholds of corporate sin, the way will be opened for revival of churches and a harvest of souls greater than anything previously imagined. Identificational repentance gives us the power to heal the past.” (1)

The specific tool that Wagner presents to deal with these corporate sins is what he calls ‘identificational repentance’.  As he explains:

“We Americans are not ignorant of the fact that our nation has gained high international visibility for many things, some good, but some very bad.  Now by God’s grace many American Christian leaders want our nation also to be known for our deep remorse over the national sins and atrocities we have committed.  We want to be among the first to corporately humble ourselves before God and before the people we have offended, to confess our sins, and to seek remission of those sins in order to heal our deep national wounds.  With no desire to be arrogant, we hope that if we provide a good example which pleases God, some other nations may see fit to follow our lead.

This corporate or group humbling often takes the form of dramatic public performances of faith – what Wagner in other contexts refers to as a ‘power encounter’ between the Christian and the sinister forces that stand between the present world society and the Kingdom of God. Public prayer performance, theatrical displays, and visible ‘prophetic’ actions that draw on Biblical examples such as the clay pot, plumb line and other physical symbols found in the Book of Ezekiel.(2)

In Latin America and throughout the Carribean festivals associated with the dead and a cultural openness to a metaphysics in which the dead remain an active presence in the world of the living both play a part in altering this cultural relationship to corporate guilt.

On the level of spiritual practice and applied religion – this vitalized relationship with the past allows for a conversation and an intimacy to the process of collective grief that is completely absent from the forced and academic applications of behavioral technologies and social engineering techniques recommended by 3rd Wave and New Apostolic Reformation ‘prophets.’

The commercial growth of traditions such as Dia de los Muertos provides an important area of cultural integration and communication between the United States and Latin America – but as Sarah Chavez, director at The Order of the Good Death, points out – this is not enough:

“While the images and rituals of Dia de Muertos are beautiful, and praised and commercialized for their aesthetic value, keep in mind the reality of every day life for many in the Latinx community whose experiences are too often filled with violence, and policies that dehumanize, hurt and can lead to death.”(3)

And this is one of the key problems with politicized spiritual warfare. While collective rituals such as Dia de los Muertos provide an opportunity for community growth, personal reflection and a deepening of family bonds – in many ways the psychic warfare techniques of the 3rd Wave charismatic movement  serve only to deepen collective wounds stemming in large part from centuries of the same strategic spiritual warfare techniques being applied to indigenous spiritualities and socially marginalized individuals and groups.

Seen as technologies the responsibility for care when implementing, cultivating and developing these cultural tools becomes much clearer – and the unconscionable damage to the human organism’s collective psyche from their misapplication is an area where the popular prayer warriors have yet to repent.

For more on Dia de los Muertos and the culture of death in Latin America see:

Exorcising Mictecacihuatl – The Origins of Day of the Dead in Mexico (The Global Catholic Review) 

Meet Mexico’s Trinity of Death – Day of the Dead, Santa Muerte, and Catrina Calavera (Folklore Thursday)


Footnotes:

(1) https://renewaljournal.blog/2011/07/18/the-power-to-heal-the-past-by-c-peter-wagner/
(2) Wagner, C. Peter, Spiritual Warfare Strategy – Confronting Spiritual Powers (Destiny Image, 2011) 
(3) https://twitter.com/sarah_calavera/status/1058041548154134528

Conjuring Evil – The Political Dangers of Mixing PR and Possession

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on October 23, 2018

‘…for the myth to have real weight, it must rest on popular belief. To put it differently: once cannot simply project a myth to the outside even by the powerful modern material means; such an image will have no force unless it is already believed. The myth is contagious because beliefs are contagious.”

– Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, p. 247 (Vintage Books ed., 1973)

 

DSC_0665

Ritual Romanum (Photo: Anthony Burgess Foundation)

Exorcism is in the news again with Father Gary Thomas, an exorcist assigned to the Archidocese of San Jose, bringing the 1st Amendment right to free speech to bear on the realm of spiritual warfare during a PR campaign highlighting the Archdiocese support of newly elected U.S. Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Addressing this in a recent piece for The Global Catholic Review I outline some of the difficulties that arise when PR overshadows the delicate personal and spiritual vocation of the exorcist – as well as some of the difficulties that emerge due to the close relationship between exorcism and conjuration. These may seem like minor points – but the use of ‘spiritual warfare’ by political elements within the faith traditions cannot be overlooked – especially in the networked media environment of today’s world.

Read More: The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

Careless skepticism in the popular media obscures the raw power encapsulated within the mytho-poetic imagination of the human organism.  The ability to harness this power drives the missionary expansion of certain politicized sects within the larger faith traditions – it also empowers the demagogues of our contemporary age as they hijack popular mythology to the bitter ends of subversive statecraft.

1-i4bt7VGYEYIxcEEYhUxgNgOver the past few decades exorcism and spiritual warfare have become surprising additions to the global political scene with charismatic practices being adopted as a means of myth building within the ecumenical body of politicized Christianity.

Figures like the late C. Peter Wagner, whose focus on world missions at the Fuller Theological Seminar lead to the growth of the ‘New Apostolic Reformation‘ movement, have developed a strange and starkly effective theoretical structure for ‘strategic spiritual warfare,‘ mixing insights from warfighting doctrine, intelligence tradecraft, obscure, often heretical writings from various historical sects of Christianity, and a vision of the world as a cosmic battle ground for unseen forces.

Seeing no difference in effective military technique and effective spiritual warfare – since they are all actions on the continuum of the divine plan – these groups have taken what was a quiet tool of the ‘Church Militant‘ and blended it with the kind of weaponized cultural systems that Marshall Mcluhan warned of in the 1970’s when he said:

“World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” *

This now entrenched brand of Christian occultism exists across the ecumenical spectrum, and has drifted far afield from whatever roots it might have in traditional practice. While contemporary examples of publicized ‘exorcism’ bear a cursory resemblance to folk practices, they are more deeply informed by high level university studies in behavior and psychophysiological indicators such as those conducted by the Center for Biopsychosocial Research at Fuller Theological Seminary.

This understanding also includes how the reception of these practices and anecdotal accounts of their efficacy will play out within the increasingly networked global media environment. In order to cast out demons one has to have demons to cast out, or at least have a group of people who believe that there are demons to cast out. This is where the neutrality of the marketplace provides one of the more interesting tools for social engineering.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.27.59 AM.pngPerhaps the most ironic detail in all of this is that for years conservative Christians have leveled charges at competing ideological groups for initiating the same practices in the marketplace.

Evangelical author Tim Lahaye, best known for his rapture ready Left Behind series, seems to be looking in a mirror when he writes in his book, The Battle for the Mind (coincidentally the same title as the psychologist William Sargant’s book on induced trauma and behavioral change):

Many years ago, my mother, along with others of her generation, used to lament the rapid decline of morality in America. She considered the natural descent of fallen, secular man an irreversible trend. No doubt she echoed the feeling of most active Christians of her time.

What her generation did not realize was that the majority of Americans were not really that immoral by nature, but were being led down the path of moral degeneracy by the humanist social planners who dominated our society. *

While these Christian writers are fond of telling you that Satan’s target is your mind, they are not so open about the fact that they have the same goal in mind. Utilizing a potent mix of applied psychology, behavioral economics, technological proficiency and a bit of archetypal mythology, they’ve been able to create and enchanted imaginal landscape in which to pursue their goal of bringing heaven down to earth.

Today the ubiquity of advanced communication technology, centralized distribution throughout a distributed international market, and the growing interdependence of the global economy make such influence important to understand more clearly. While we shouldn’t fall into a lazy paranoia over the potential of choice architecture to irrationalize society when misapplied by eager exorcists and overreaching evangelists, it is necessary to see that these dominion minded ministers are working hard to bring their politically virulent concept of supernatural living into consumer’s living rooms and lives, and with their religious ideology at the fore, they may not be too careful with the consequences.

For more on the strange culture of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ see:

Satan’s Target: You Mind – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

Or head over to The Global Catholic Review for: 

The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

* Mcluhan, Marshall, Culture is Our Business, p. 60 (McGraw-Hill, 1970)

   LaHaye, Tim, The Battle for the Mind, Power Books (1980)

Special thanks to Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, for the invitation to continue my exploration of global exorcism culture with a contribution to The Global Catholic Review! 

 

Occult Science, Civil Rights & the Sears Roebuck Catalog – Is Consumer Capitalism a Master Key to Diversity?

Posted in > SUPERNATURAL LIVING IN THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE by David on October 17, 2018

“In the era of Jim Crow, race was everything. And for black Americans, most of whom were rural farmers, access to goods on an equal basis as whites in faraway cities at reasonable prices was a godsend. And that’s what the catalog was.”

– Louis Hyman, Director, Institute for Workplace Studies, Cornell University

Sears recent bankruptcy announcement has lead to some nostalgic media on the company’s influence over the years – including an opportunity for historian Louis Hyman to present his fascinating research on the role of consumer capitalism in providing an atmosphere conducive to empowering the civil rights movement.
delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378

In an NPR interview that aired on October 17th, 2018 Hyman details how the Sears Catalog provided a way for minority groups to circumvent the white power structure and access the global economy via mail order. What struck me most was how familiar this process is – having seen the exact same dynamic at play with mail order pioneer, L.W. de Laurence and the famed De Laurence’s Catalogue of Books for Mystics: Together with a Complete “cabinet” of Materials Accessory to the Pursuit of Mystic Study!

Talking with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Hyman detailed how local authorities and business interests went to great lengths in their attempts to stop individuals from accessing the freedoms offered by Sears mail order service. Public bonfires of the catalog, as well as more direct harassment when folks came in to post their orders, were used to dissuade buyers from skirting past the social strictures put in place by the power structure.

For the de Laurence Catalogue, which, in addition to it’s psychic and occult supplies, offered what today would be called personal success training and professional development to marginalized individuals and groups, authorities in the Caribbean went to far as to ban the catalog entirely:

De Laurence: sb dial, also attrib; <De Laurence, a Chicago publisher of books on occult subjects, banned from Jamaica. Witch-craft; loosely, obeah.

– from the Dictionary of Jamaican English, by Frederic Gomes Cassidy, R. B. Le Page (University of West Indies Press, 2002)

As I’ve examined in a previous article – historian Owen Davies, in his work Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, points out that the ban has long been seen as “a cynical attempt by the British to limit the influence of unionism and the American black empowerment movement.” Even after Jamaica declared independence in 1962, and in light of subsequent socialist governments, the ban remains in place.

delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378_3Speculation on the political importance of “High Science” becomes solidified when we realize that one of Jamaica’s most powerful examples of radical politics, Marcus Garvey, was himself heavily influenced by the New Thought and Mind Science ideas that were promoted in some of the more popular publications in the De Laurence Catalog. Garvey’s Pan-Africanism was touched by a mystical strain and mythological importance garnered from tapping into the cultural movements initiated, supported and propagandized by publishing company’s such as the Yogi Publication Society and De Laurence, Scott and Company.

According to Hyman, just as de Laurence did with his own catalog, R.W. Sears “published instructions in the catalog – how to simply give the requirements to the postman so you didn’t have to go through the store. And in a lot of places, the post office was also the general store, so it was pretty complicated to even get your order submitted to the catalog. But they found lots of ways to do this for rural African-Americans as well as immigrants, people who didn’t even speak English. They had all kinds of clerks available to take your order in nearly any tongue.” Even the focus on native language marketing that Hyman points on regarding Sears can be found in de Laurence’s practice of hiring immigrants from Africa to help facilitate his sales on the continent.

delaurence-catalog-1938-1939-occult_1_ec3f260fa7c110a830a8148578811378_2Based on his analysis, Hyman points to the neutral, market building mechanisms of consumer capitalism as one of the driving forces behind the similarities we see between these two very different pioneers of the mail order format – and also a driving force in the cultural changes that their catalogs subtly supported during one of America’s most troubling periods of social history. This same process is at play in the emergence and growth of Saint Death’s devotional tradition around the globe – as Santa Muerte continues to fill out her role as one of the fastest growing spiritual practices in the world.

What many see as crass commercialization of Santa Muerte’s tradition can also be analyzed as a surprising and subtle tool for cultural integration and communication. The semi-independent economies developed through more informal structures such as the Sears Catalog are now trillion dollar opportunities. According to the most recent Multi-Cultural Economy Report put out by the University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth, “African American buying power in the United States will rise to $1.54 trillion by 2022,” and the numbers for Latin American and Hispanic buying power are not far behind.

One of the phrases popularized by Santa Muerte’s devotees is that in death, all are equal – and it seems that for a true consumer capitalist, if the money’s green it’s good to spend no matter who you get it from. While the errors of unchecked capitalism can be easily debated by experts, it may be that in some small way and in certain situations – consumer capitalism is a master key to diversity.

Another subject for future study!

Until then:

For Louis Hyman’s appearance on NPR’s All Things Considered check out – How The Sears Catalog Was Revolutionary In The Jim Crow Era

For more on the surprising cultural life of the de Laurence Catalogue check out – L.W. de Laurence and the Mysterious Influence of One Human Mind – originally published at The Daily Grail in 2012.

For more on the role of consumer capitalism in the growth of Santa Muerte’s devotional tradition, check out – Selling Holy Death – From Grim Reaper to Skeletal Virgin, A Brief Look at Commercializing an Emerging Iconography

Also Note – the De Laurence Company brand is still in business if you’re looking for any ‘Materials Accessory to the Pursuit of Mystic Study’: http://www.delaurencecompany.com/

*UGA Selig Center numbers are found in the Forbes Magazine article  – Amazon Poaching Diverse Sellers from Ebay

Images of the de Laurence Catalog are courtesy of a completed Ebay auction.