Boujee Botanika and The Octopus Opal.
For a business in staid downtown Auburn, the shop at 113 East Main sure carries an off-the-beaten-path title.
But drop in sometime, look around, chat up the people inside, and you’re bound to come away with an appreciation for the aptness of that funky name.
Nothing on those shelves arrived via Amazon, or eBay or Etsy or any other behemoths of e-commerce. Instead, you’ll find spice blends from Egypt, green tea with 1,000-year-old tea leaves from China, magic feathers, all carefully selected by owner Nikole Chisholm.
There are salt bowls to absorb negative energy in a room — recommended for people beset by nightmares or who are dealing with a nasty work place environment.
Nearby are smudge boxes, each with a different set of herbs keyed to whatever a person is trying to exorcise from his or her life.
And just because she likes them, there are numerous small metal skeletons scattered about the joint in yoga poses next to spices for customers who like to flavor their cooking with a bit of magic.
A pleasant but exotic fragrance hangs in the air, drowsily cozies up into the olfactory works and settles in.
What could that be?
“That’s Palo Santo wood. It grows only in Peru and Ecuador and it’s been burned for centuries to purify, and bring blessings and abundance,” said Chisholm, adding that it’s an energy cleanser and resetter, you know, just an all-around neutralizer of bad juju.
“Pretty much everything (people) do is magical, but a lot of people just don’t think about it. So, I wanted to make sure everybody had something to come in for,” Chisholm said. “People come in and they ask me, ‘How do I do this, or how do I do that?’
“We sell a lot of herbs that are medicinal and magical. I get a lot of people who come in, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m a Christian,’ and I go, ‘Oh, that’s fine, you can still be magical.’ Who says you can’t? Because it’s literally a state-of-mind.”
Chisholm got the keys to the small shop July 1, which for years had been the Shoe Forest. She held her soft opening Aug. 2 and her grand opening Sept. 2, she said, “when the moon was full.”
And, brave soul, with COVID-19 raging.
“Yes, I opened in a pandemic,” Chisholm said. “I took a huge risk. I already had a business in Tacoma. But when my husband and I bought a home here, I realized I didn’t really want to drive to Tacoma every day. Then I thought, know what? I should move my business here, and while I am at it, expand. Insane to open in a pandemic, right? But it’s working, yeah, we’re doing well.”
Chisholm founded this establishment and its forebear in Tacoma because, she said, “I couldn’t find a store in Washington where I could walk in and ask a question without being judged.”
Indeed, when your queries, like hers, are about metaphysics, religion, faith, enlightenment, crystals, card readings, healings and the efficacy of different varieties of smudges, you run the risk of being labeled an oddball and offending people of fixed convictions.
But Chisholm is a live-and-let-live sort of woman.
“I get a lot of people who come in here and say, ‘I never thought Auburn would have a store like this.’ And I’m like, ‘well, that’s why I opened it.’ Because I get a lot of people who are ashamed to buy the kind of stuff that we have here,” Chisholm said. “This is a lifestyle store. We have sugar-free candies, soda made with Stevia instead of artificial sweeteners.”
Born in Fullerton California, Chisholm said, when she was a girl, her mother, then working on her master’s degree in psychology, brought her along to every continent save Asia and Africa. Her experiences in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy and Greece were formative to her later beliefs.
Her parents, she said, did not raise her to be religious, desiring only that their child should have the sort of freedom they did not have during their own strict upbringings. So, she said, she hung with Jehovah’s Witnesses, went to synagogues, went to mosques, went to Sikh temples, talked to Hindus, went to mass.
But none of it fit.
Her question then became, what does fit? And when she started reading, and she read a lot, she decided that everyone had a little truth, and that there was no absolute truth in any one of the religions she was listening to — indeed, everybody had their own version of truth. And the only thing she found without certainty was paganism, where one is either “talking with the old gods or working with the earth.”
“I didn’t realize there was a term for it. It was just something I’d been studying since I was 15, and now I’m 51, and that’s a long time,” Chisholm said. “But then I realized it was okay to come out and say, ‘Hey, I’m a pagan, I don’t have to be Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or whatever.’ So, people need stores like this, where they are super-not judged at all. We don’t judge anybody. You are 100 percent safe in this store with your ideas and your belief systems.”
She teaches, gives advice, recommends books for people, helps people find their way, but never tells them how to do anything.
What’s missing for a lot of people, she said, is the actual connection to who they are.
“We don’t know, we get told who we are every day, buy this, read this, the doctor says this drug does this, you’re diabetic, don’t eat that. I found that if I actually followed what people were telling me, I got worse, not better. So I learned to use my intuition to tell me what works and what doesn’t, and now I do that for other people. I really like helping people.”
No, she said, she is not the fount of all truth, and when she walks, she treads on the ground.
“What I tell people is that I am an encyclopedia of spirituality and alternative health practices. That is a good way to describe me, because I’ve read so much and I’ve been everywhere except for Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, but as far as the western community is concerned, I’ve read a lot.
“I know a little about everything, and a lot about some things,” Chisholm added. “So, a lot of what I do is give advice, or if I feel something about somebody, I will let them know. Basically, what I want to do is educate people so they’re not getting the wrong information from the internet,” she said, adding a joke: “Because, as you know, everything on the internet is totally true.”