Last Saturday, I woke up to a beautiful spring day with nothing in particular planned. This is the first time this has happened to me since, well, last spring, so during my morning meditation I found myself thinking about what I wanted to do with my day. The thought came unbidden, “I should go to Harry’s and get a candle.”

Harry’s is, of course, Harry’s Occult Shop. It’s a Philadelphia institution, the place to go to get conditions lifted or fortunes told or lights for setting. I wouldn’t ordinarily dream of going on a Saturday; the place is always packed on Saturdays. It’s a tiny little shop and there are so many who want their help and it can be a challenge just getting in the front door, let alone getting the attention of one of the workers there. It was a lovely day, though, and just the process of going across town and walking in Harry’s front door was a pleasant enough idea. I hadn’t even been to that end of town in eight or nine months. I decided that if it was too much, I could just leave and go somewhere else, but it was something to get me out of the house and into the world.

Harry’s, for those who aren’t familiar with these things, is not a “pagan” or “witchy” shop, not a “new age” shop – its roots are deep in the working-class magic of the urban poor. I understand the place a lot better since reading up on hoodoo through cat yronwode’s books and website, but I’ve always been aware of it as a place that anyone from any background could go to and find help. It got pretty grotty back in the mid 90’s or so, but after finding new management it is now a happy, welcoming little beacon.

I went to Harry’s and of course Harry’s was packed. They aren’t really a store where one buys merchandise from off the shelves – they have a few things for sale, some crystals and candles and a few astrology books, but people don’t go there to buy things from off the shelf. They go there to have things made. This means waiting around for your candle to be prepared or your oil mixed or your reader to be free. This means lots of people standing around in a small space. It’s kind of fun just to observe, actually – people from all different backgrounds, all ages, sizes, colors, types, all looking for some kind of help. I walked in and thought, oh, I’ll be here for a while. Then I noticed who was behind the counter, offering kind grandmotherly advice to a young South-Philly-looking girl.

It’s not all that surprising that a friend of mine would be working at Harry’s, considering the kinds of friends I have – I didn’t know she was working there, but once I saw her, I saw that she fit perfectly. What surprised me was that this friend is intimately connected to the situation I came to have addressed – a member of her family was caught up in the same whirlwind as mine. After she was done helping the girl she came sailing out from behind the counter, all beads and patchouli, and gave me a lovely big hug as we caught up on each others’ news. We hadn’t spoken since September so there were some things to catch up on. I told her about the situation I needed the candle for, and blessedly had to explain very little as she already knew most of it. She looked very fierce and promised to make me “such a candle.” She did, and I had the fun of waiting around people-watching at Harry’s while I thought about my friend’s new job. She’s working as a sort of village witch, mixing up potions and spells and such on a regular basis and that seems to me to be a great way to spend time, if you are up for that sort of thing.

This isn’t really a new observation, but it hit me once again how magic is used to find power in places where you feel powerless. I am in a situation where I have some heavy guns lifted against me; I’m fighting them on my own as much as I can but in many ways they completely overpower me in the apparent world – the only thing I have extra is my fierce will and the help of the spirits, and the magic is a path to use those to my advantage. So I thought about where else I felt powerless, and when my friend came back with my candle (such a candle, the thing practically was pulsating) I asked her to also mix me up a bath for a lighter, happier heart. She did, a bright lovely lily-scented thing, and it works exceedingly well.

I lit the candle on Monday’s full moon in Libra, with many sincere and fervent prayers for success. May it be so. My heart is light.