Spooky season is the best season, which is why I always end up going all out with decorations, costumes, and even movie marathons. Anything haunting or mystical is perfect for me. However, since I was unable to get to Salem in time, I decided to find the spooky in Boston. Just a brief T-ride away off of the Red Line Central stop is Seven Stars. Seven Stars is a New Age bookstore in Cambridge, and they sell a wide range of literature and talismans for occultists all over Boston.
Walking into the bookstore, nothing other than the name would suggest mystical books and crystals and tarot cards. There was an intense scent of incenses, and as I walked up to one of the many countertops flooded with different crystals, I started noticing all the little differences that brought out the spiritual and spooky. Behind the cashier were walls of tarot cards and under the tables were crystal balls of all sizes. From the walls, tapestries of different beliefs hung above shelves. The further back I went into the store, the more eclectic the place became, stacks of books on feminism and conspiracy theories on the floor. The book genres become broader towards the back of the store, whereas all the children’s and current best sellers sat on tables by the door.
There was no one in the store but two men who conversed across the room from the counter to the door. A black and a white man, they looked like any other people, but it became obvious to me that they were workers when I went to check out. The whole place was very quiet, and it almost felt like I would be breaking a rule if I spoke. I went to look at the crystals first, picking up stones that caught my eye or gave me a ‘feeling’. The whole store had very soothing energy to it, and walking from table to table, the rainy day outside faded away.
As someone with limited knowledge of New Age practices, I noted that many of the books were for beginners or were books that highlighted themes of certain practices and beliefs. On one bookshelf, there were books about world history and philosophy; on the shelf next to it, there were books focusing on feminism in the 21st century, and next to that, were myths of Celtic druids.
New Age is defined as, “a broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism” (Oxford Dictionary). Maybe people have cited members of the New Age movement as modern-day hippies. Based on the Oxford definition of New Age, it is easy to see why some people would go as far as to suggest a resurgence of hippie culture in today’s society. Based on cultural and political issues around the world from wars to nuclear weapons and interfering with elections, it is no wonder that stores like Seven Stars are popping up and staying in business. By mixing together new and old books, Seven Stars is able to stay relevant with the times.
Using new pop culture books and old religious texts, Seven Stars is able to create an environment that welcomes everyone no matter their beliefs. Mainstream books allow for a broader group of consumers to come take a look, but after eyeing up some crystals and talismans, I doubt the newest best seller is the only thing customers leave with. I have been to tourist voodoo shops and have walked past crystal stores in all types of cities. Seven Stars was the first real New Age store I went into that was more about the practice than the rising popularity of spirituality and alternative beliefs. I left the store with a handful of crystals that would be a gift to a friend; I wish I could’ve left with so much more.
According to studies from Trinity College and Pew Research Center, witchcraft and New Age religions have been steadily increasing over the past decade. Many people attribute this to the fourth wave of feminism and the #MeToo movement, but millennials cite a change in belief and seeking something outside of the organized religion most of us were raised with.
Seven Stars is only one of many New Age and Occultist stores in the Boston area. There are psychics from Downtown to Allston and boutiques of all practices and beliefs. The stores all offer something different, allowing people looking for faith to find the one that fits them correctly. While considered a religious and political movement, New Age practices are often very personal and being able to create a belief system tailored to yourself is something magical not many organized religions offer.