People seek Robert Garza when they need answers, healing and hope.
And during the coronavirus pandemic, he said he is more in demand than ever before. At Garza’s store in west Houston, the masses are flocking to buy his herbal remedies and to seek his guidance in spiritual card readings.
“It’s been crazy,” said Garza, owner of Yerberia La Santa Fe.
Now that the future is uncertain to many, the spiritually inclined are finding comfort in the mystical. Crystals and gems are selling out at local shops. Dried herbs like sage, used in cleansing rituals, are in high demand. Natural remedies for ailments are increasing in popularity, as are books on herbology and tarot. Symbols of deities and sacred items for home altars are becoming highly sought-after.
“People don’t just want to know about their health,” Garza said. “They are experiencing so many stressful situations right now.”
Houston is a melting pot of magic and the occult. The city is home to communities practicing Brujeria, Paganism, Wicca, witchcraft, Santeria, new age spiritualism and more. Scores of psychics and astrological guides have set up shop in the region.
“When anybody feels like they are in a fragile situation, they call on the spirit for help and guidance,” said Clyde Wood, a self-described “student of the mysteries” and occultist.
Wood, who owns The Witchery in Galveston, said he and his wife, Kimberley, are utilizing their knowledge of Hermetic and ceremonial magic on a daily basis to promote health and well-being during the pandemic. In addition to regular sage burning to eliminate negative energy, Wood said the pair use essential oils for spiritual aromatherapy baths, among other rituals.
“We’re seeing more people looking for something that’s just not available elsewhere,” said Paul Premazon, owner of Magick Cauldron in Montrose. “We’re comforting a lot of people and that’s the most important thing. We’re giving them hope.”
Business at Magick Cauldron, which has sold metaphysical supplies for 35 years, has doubled since the pandemic, Premazon said.
“I’ve ordered more herbs in the past three months than I did in the previous eight months,” the store owner said. “The hardest thing is getting the stuff in here fast enough. I’m ordering cleansing sage smudges hundreds at a time every week. ”
Many who’ve come into his shop in recent weeks were first-time customers, said Premazon.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s first stay-at-home order — that temporarily shuttered businesses the state deemed non-essential — closed shops like Premazon’s. But when the store reopened May 1, customers were especially eager to scoop up items they hadn’t had access to in weeks.
Wood, owner of The Witchery in Galveston, said he worried business would slow due to the downturn of the economy.
“It was actually the opposite,” said Wood. “We had the best May we’ve ever had, and June is on track to be the same.”
Weekly tarot card readings are in high-demand at The Witchery, Wood said. The shop has adapted to meet the needs of customers while also protecting them from the virus, he added. Plexiglass shields in between the reader and the client, along with mandatory masks, have made readings safer, said Wood.
Garza said many of his customers need natural remedies because they don’t have access to healthcare.
“A lot of people can’t go to hospitals,” he said. “They don’t have insurance and can’t afford to go to a clinic.”
The fear of contracting COVID-19 while at a hospital is another factor, Garza said. Some are beholden to natural medicines because it has been tradition for their families for many generations. And others don’t trust western medicine, he said.
Countless belief systems fall into the metaphysical. People within those groups tend to practice privately and may never interact with one another, the store owners say. The shops that offer the supplies they need is a commonality that has fostered a sense of community— one that has strengthened during precarious times.
“I hope we’re harboring a sense of community,” said Premazon. “A lot of what I do is just listen to people because they have no one else to talk to. I try to let them know that there is hope, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”