The main business of Salem is witchcraft.
Besides the several museums devoted to the subject---we visited the Salem Witch Museum, which is more a work of theater than a regular museum. I'll explain in another post.---there are shops all over town that deal in the occult, hocus pocus, spiritualism, fortune telling, and a New Age-ish potpouri of phony Celtic, Egyptian, Druid, and Native American trinkets, charms, and books. Looked to me as we were walking around town yesterday that there are more of these stores than there are bars and funeral parlors in certain Irish neighborhoods in Boston.
More of them than decent lunch counters too, although we found a good one, Derby Fish and Lobster, which serves excellent chowder.
Some of these shops are in business to sell souvenirs to tourists. But some deal seriously in magic for believers. It was hard to tell looking in their windows which was which. Or which was witch. We were told at the Witch Museum that Salem has a significant population of practicing Wiccans and we were asked to be tolerant and open-minded should we meet up with any during our stay in town. By which I assumed was meant, Please refrain from giggling. But probably the museum guide wasn't talking to me. There are fundamentalist Christians even in the bluest state and plenty come from other states on vacation. They don't like our politics but they love our beaches and seafood.
Salem has an official witch. Laurie Cabot. Back when he was governor, Michael Dukakis proclaimed her the official witch as a way of honoring her for her community service work. The Wiccans are so proud:
While this certainly was a compliment to Laurie Cabot, it was and is today a symbol of hope for all Witches who do good works on behalf of their community and nation. Equally as important, it serves as a testament that Witches have a place in America today and are recognized as practicing a legitimate and honorable religion which shows a path of dedication for the good of all. This was the first time in history that a high standing politician openly recognized a Witch for their good works.
Cabot is also a shrewd businesswoman. Besides being a dot com and running her shop in Salem, she's franchising. She's also diversified. She owns a lingerie shop in Melrose.
I didn't go inside the official witch's store. I didn't go into any of these shops. Not trusting myself to practice tolerance with a straight face, I tried to steer us clear of them. But the 11 year old is fascinated by Celtic and Egyptian mythology and something along these lines caught his eye from the window of Nu Aeon. He asked to go inside to poke around. The 9 year old was brought up short by a whiff of incense as he stepped through the doorway and decided he liked the smell of sea air better, so he and I waited outside while his brother and mother went browsing.
I liked Nu Aeon's signs---the ones on the building, not the signs and portents sort. Big sign above the window promised "Excellence and Authenticity in Witchcraft and Magickal Supplies."
Stand up sign on the sidewalk said, "Real Magick. Real Witchcraft. Spells and Potions that Keep on Giving."
You have to like witches with a sense of humor.
Up the street at The Oracle Chamber they're more serious about what they do, which is mainly fortune telling.
"Psychic, Tarot, and Spiritual Readings."
"No appointment necessary."
I guess they know you're coming.