I went shopping in the most unusual shops in Downtown Duluth.
A friend gave me a gift certificate to Lady Ocalat, a shop on the skyway level of Superior Street. Monday, I visited the shop, but as can happen at a one-person operation, she was closed.
(I forget how many businesses decide to roll up the mat on Grandma’s weekend. For some, the visitors are a boon, but for others, the crowds drive away their regulars, so they take their family vacation.)
I returned Wednesday intent on three tasks: spending the gift certificate, walking to North Shore Bank of Commerce, where I get $2 bills, fifty-cent pieces, and dollar coins, and then walking to the final Singles Night at the Depot.
Lady Ocalat was busy — she was giving back-to-back readings. She called her husband down to help me. He rang me out — a vial of simulation Bat’s Blood with parchment, a vial of simulation Dove’s Blood with parchment, both purchased because I am a writing teacher, and the idea of a magical or mystical dimension to writing intrigues me. I had a small amount left over, and I purchased some “Come Hither” spray. I haven’t used it yet; I am curious what scent it will be. There were signs advertising paranormal investigations — help with forces outside your understanding. The vibe at Lady Ocalat’s is that the world is filled with powers that are beyond our control, but perhaps not our ability to understand and work with, through oils and objects, incense and words or incantations.
While I was waiting, one of the other customers suggested I shop Namasté. I decided I would make it my last stop, after filling my pockets with the unusual currency at North Shore. Have I mentioned how much I like these folks, for the sunny way they help me be eccentric? (Someone at Singles Night asked me why I pay in dollar coins, fifty cent pieces, and two-dollar bills. I replied: “Because it starts conversation. Thank you!”)
I walked into Namasté with ten minutes until the place closed. I asked for the shopkeeper (Hailey)’s favorite deck, or the most unusual deck in the store. I explained that I am hoping to write something about the rhetorical functions of tarot and oracle decks.
She took me to the stacks, and she showed me her favorite, the Sacred Rebels oracle deck. She liked that it includes directions for bringing the message of the cards into meditative or creative or life practice. I’d never seen that before, either, and I grabbed a deck.
She asked me why I was interested in tarot, and I replied: “I’m a professor, and it seems like a fascinating thing to wrote about.” She gently pushed a little harder, though — why tarot?
I swallowed a little harder, and I could hear the confidence that comes from talking about being-a-professor crack, in my voice, just a little.
“Because,” I said, “I used to sit at the bar in the Zeitgeist, waiting for friends or just passing time, and I would pull out the cards (to reflect on for my writing project, to just reflect on for myself), and people would talk to me. They would ask me for a reading — that is too spiritual, I don’t get involved in that. But I would let them draw cards and talk about what they see. Strangers. Friends for years who would talk to me differently because I had a tarot deck with me.”
She replied: They feel safe. The deck means that they can feel safe with another side of themselves with you.
She asked me whether I had ever had a reading done. Yes, at a festival, though — a very different thing. She talked me through the services available at Namasté. I’m not sure whether I will try them, because if I do, I need to go not as a professor preparing to write, but as a person open to the experience.
The vibe here was that there are ways you can make yourself better, ways you can use tools and practices to heal and to deal with the world.
I brought the Sacred Rebels oracle deck to Singles Night, where I used it only with the people I genuinely liked. A new deck, special, for the new people I have come to enjoy. But that is another story.
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