For Aztec Press. View original here.
When I walked into Celestial Rites and took a seat on a couch in the shop’s cozy backroom, one of the owners told me not to be nervous.
He could tell I was nervous? Of course he could. Michael Kraych reads energy for a living.
With his partner Jennifer Kraych, Michael has owned Celestial Rites for five years. The shop started on Seventh Street and Hoff Avenue, but the Kraychs outgrew that space and moved to a storefront on Fourth Avenue.
“It was great for starting out, but it was only 600 square feet,” Michael said of their first shop.
Michael has been a palm reader for three years. He sought a form of divination and began palmistry after having his palm read.
Jennifer, on the other hand, has performed tarot readings for 19 years. Her sister gave her a tarot deck when she was 17.
She also became a Wiccan at age 17, but the shop focuses on more than the Wiccan faith. Books on Satanism, Nortic magick, Celtic magick, black magick, Voodoo and herbal remedies line the shelves.
Delicate stones and crystals hang on the branches of a tree display. A collection of small cauldrons and figures are thoughtfully placed throughout the store, along with an assorted supply of incense, oils, powders, tinctures and card decks.
Two crystal balls are set up underneath the glass counter top.
“I tried to use a crystal ball once,” Michael said. “It just gave me a headache.”
The shop owners also make and sell dream pillows, puppets, herbal blends and magickal herbal candles.
Celestial Rites is for “everyone with an open mind,” the owners insist. They cater to most religions but agree there isn’t much Christian influence.
When it comes to acceptance in the community, the couple hasn’t received negativity beyond a Bible verse written in chalk on their front door.
The verse was Leviticus 19:26: “You shall not eat any meat with the blood still in it; neither shall you use enchantments, nor practice sorcery.”
“There are extremists everywhere,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer comes from a background helping mentally disabled hospital patients at University Medical Center, and has a passion for helping people.
The Kraychs agree more Tucsonians are open to the idea of the metaphysical. In fact, Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States.
“It seems like a lot of people are drawn to the goddesses we have on display, like a relation to Mother Earth and environmentalism,” Michael said.
The rising normality of feminism also has a lot to do with the increasing love for goddesses, Jennifer added. But even more so, she said a rise in spirituality has drawn more people into Pagan culture.
The shop will host a henna artist for the street festival and a psychic who can communicate with animals and the dead later this fall.
With Halloween nearing, the Kraychs expect the usual customers looking for capes and kitschy costumes.
“It’s all Hollywood,” Michael said, referring to customers who expect to cast a spell or dress the part.
Rather than “Happy Halloween,” the Kraychs might offer a “Blessed Samhein” greeting.
Samhein, pronounced saw-wen, is the witch’s new year in the Wiccan faith.
“It’s the thinning of the veil, or when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest,” Michael said.
The Kraychs will celebrate together and have a private ceremony after Halloween.
Jennifer plans on dressing as Hecate, the queen or goddess of the witches.
“I’m not green,” she said. “I don’t have warts on my nose.”