In casually perusing the Practical Magick and More new age boutique on Main Street, I took it for a cozy, quaint incense purveyor. It was only by talking to Karen Jaroszek that I came to realize that there are deeper forces at work here, and a fine line separating light from dark.
Jaroszek and fellow proprietor Karen Church moved to Geneseo in March 2010 and opened the boutique over the summer. Jaroszek and Church prefer to be called by their spiritual names: Lady Willow and River Woman, respectively. Lady Willow and River Woman cater to a local but significant population of the supernaturally curious and experienced. Willow says half of the shop's clientele are experienced witches, Wiccans and pagans. The other half consists of curious passersby and beginners.
Merchandise at the boutique includes dried herbs, oils and potions, pendulums, spell books, Tarot cards and jewelry. These items can be used for various acts including the cleansing of negativity, ritual anointing, divination, spell recording and simple journaling.
"I would say 90 percent of everything here is handmade by local people," Lady Willow said. "We're really big into getting back to the old ways."
Part of the women's philosophy involves tapping into the spiritual powers they possess. Lady Willow is a Tarot reader, and River Woman specializes in guided meditation and herbs. Ladies Min and Aura join the pair in their shop to assist with services that include palm and aura readings. Lady Min is Reiki II qualified, meaning she can channel universal energy into a patient for healing purposes, and Lady Aura has been trained by shamans in other medicinal arts.
The witches also perform house cleansings for those who believe theirs to be haunted. Lady Willow said people are relieved to find help in times of need that others probably wouldn't understand. "We have people come in and they're like, ‘you're gonna think I'm nuts,'" she said. "But we're the people they can go to."
Sometimes, these cleansings get a little dicey. Lady Willow says she can feel spirits' presence, but unlike Lady Min, she cannot see them. "The last time we were at someone's house, I got real cold and I could feel ‘that feeling' in my legs and [Lady Min] looks behind me … it's just a [spirit] in all black, a shadow person."
There is certainly a dark side to what these women are doing on Main Street. They believe staunchly in karma and the rule of three (whatever energy you exude into the universe will be sent back threefold) and therefore desire to use their abilities to help others. Others do not.
"There's such a fine line that could be crossed," Lady Willow said. For example, the witches do not sell Ouija boards because they hold the potential to jerk spirits from eternity into the physical world. "One, if you're just playing around, you don't know that you've done that," Willow said. "And two … you don't know how to get rid of them, and they don't know how to get back."
Rather than wantonly conjuring spirits, the women at Practical Magick and More desire to help people. Those who come for Tarot and palm readings are looking for something they believe the women can provide. "We're mostly here for guiding people … we don't know them and we don't judge them," Willow said, adding that people generally feel better after their readings.
Sometimes, readings can be unpleasant for the women, particularly when a reading indicates something negative on the horizon (once, Lady Min had to tell a woman she would be permanently separated from her husband) and when they encounter people who cannot stop seeing spirits (consider the "schizophrenic" nine-year-old who sees a figure with its mouth sewn shut).
"It's something we have to do," Willow said. "If it wasn't because we had a business, we wouldn't even charge for it. We just want to help people, but unfortunately we have bills to pay."