MARSHALL - The word "pagan" can elicit unease in some people due to a stigma attached to the term, but a local resident and Marshall business employee is hoping to dispel the notion that the term should have a negative connotation.
Lisa Wagoner, an Asheville resident and downtown Marshall's Of Wand & Earth's social media manager, recently published her first book, "Positve Pagan: Staying Upbeat in an Offbeat World," and will host a book signing at the store June 18.
Wagoner said she's contributed to anthologies in the past, but "Positive Pagan" is the first book she's written solo.
The author said she started writing the book after noticing an outsized number of people in the pagan community were focusing on negativity while in the throes of the COVID pandemic.
"I noticed in the pagan community, just like in so many other communities, so much negativity, and a lot of complaining," Wagoner said. "So, I wrote this blog called Being Positive in a Dark World, and, I get goosebumps because I have gotten such a huge response from that. Some people felt in the minority because of the concept of 'toxic positivity,' or that being positive somehow was a negative thing. I looked around, and there wasn't necessarily a book like that out there, full of practical ideas."
The book's publisher is Llewellyn Publications, an independent publisher for books of body, mind and spirit, according to its website.
"It's been a long time coming," Wagoner said. "I ugly-cried when I got my copy in the mail, because until then, it's been a galley copy, which is very rough. So, when I got it, it felt like it was me in book form. That's what I really wanted it to be. I want people to not feel alone, and to feel like they can get things done."
Wagoner said she feels like the book can be used as a resource for readers as needed.
"That book is not necessarily meant to be read cover to cover. It's to be picked up, put down, kept in your backpack or your nightstand, and just to dip into it," she said.
Oxford Languages defines the term "pagan" as a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
According to the author, the term doesn't need to be uninviting.
"I don't want the word 'pagan' to be off-putting," Wagoner said. "I used to work at another metaphysical shop, and I would see people be really fearful, and be like, 'I sort of have interests in this, and I don't know what to do,' and it's real tentative stuff."
Wagoner said she hopes to convey the idea that engaging in pagan practices — sometimes referred to as 'folk magic' — is not meant to be exclusive.
"I even say that in my introduction, that you don't have to identify as a pagan, necessarily," Wagoner said. "If you appreciate nature, like you hug trees or you know, hike, or whatever, I want this book to be a bridge. You can have your own spirituality and still dip into the book, because the whole premise of the book is action. I feel like a lot of people get bogged down in things, and action is what moves you forward and gets you to the things that you want, and the life that you want. Positivity is an energy, that you tap into, and then you can get things done."
The author said she hopes the book will help readers tap into that spark of inspiration and intentionality.
"The human experience can be a lot," Wagoner said. "I have that perspective of life is hard. It's just a way of getting back to an ember that's inside of you that you can tap into, to get back into that positive frame of mind."
According to Pascha Solomon, Of Wand & Earth's owner, the book is especially relevant today, as anxieties and mental health issues are rampant due to certain stressors such as social isolation and economic insecurity.
"It's hard to get up every day, and it's hard to look at some of the isolation and the struggle that's going on around us," Solomon said. "What I loved about the book, as an extension of Lisa, and as an extension of our vision here, is the idea that (the practices detailed in the book) creates a connection that there's good in the world, and that doesn't require you to have a belief system other than, 'I believe there's still good in the world.'
"That's what I think that the people here in Madison, especially, regardless of what they believe, they've felt on the outside of that for a long time. Many of the people that have populated this area for centuries come from that connection with nature, from the Indigenous folks, and then later the many seers and practitioners that came here and understood that relationship with water, with weather and with the mountain. They might have gone to church on Sunday, but they had that relationship, and interwoven in that is trauma, and hardship, suffering and struggle."
According to Solomon, the shop is the lone metaphysical store in the county.
"I feel that our responsibility in being here in Madison County is to help raise the vibration for everyone," Solomon said. "We don't require that anybody feel, believe, practice any certain thing to walk in these doors or partake in what we hope we're creating. One of the reasons that (Lisa and I) get along so well and found each other and continue to grow together is because it's our belief that it's time now to support our community."
Wagoner started working for Of Wand & Earth in 2021 as the social media manager, or as Solomon dubbed her, the "Maven of Mystical Curation."
In fall 2021, the pair launched their podcast, "Mystic Tea."
"A lot of it is an extension of 'What do you put out in the world that raises the vibration that creates a place of magical existence?'" Solomon said. "So, for me, I believe that we don't do magic. We are magic. We create a magical way of being. My heritage is French Moroccan and Cherokee, so I've got these ways of thinking that are very different than some traditional ways. A lot of that is the connectedness of it all. When we're connected to good energy, that's magic. It's not sitting around and doing this kind of hocus pocus.
"So, what we tap into is how to tap into nature to create a balanced and harmonious world for all. We talk about stuff like that on the podcast. It might be raising your vibration through food. It might be tapping into the mycelial network. Mostly, we just clink our cups and laugh."
The podcast is available on Spotify.
When not recording podcasts, the pair also works to sort out the store's revamping, as the downtown Marshall site is in the midst of a mystical metamorphosis, with plans to add a dog-friendly tea house.
"We like to have a space that's welcoming for everybody to come. There's just not as many places as we'd like to see for that," Solomon said. "So, we thought a tea house would be a way, that's not booze, to sit down with your friends and recharge your energy."
According to Solomon, she is thinking of rebranding, and has toyed with the idea of changing the business' name to The Two Brooms Tea House. For now though, the shop's name remains Of Wand & Earth: Marshall's Mystical Mercantile."
Wagoner, a Downtown Marshall Association board member, will hold a book signing at Of Wand & Earth on June 18 from 3-5 p.m.
The book is available online at Amazon, Llewellyn, and numerous other outlets.
The original article is available here.