Magic: The gathering! Occult bookstore a haven for Bushwick’s supernatural scene

The future is crystal clear: Co-owners Phillip English and Joe Peterson, with astrologist Licorice Root, run an occult bookstore in Bushwick for the neighborhood’s growing occult community.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The literature at a new Bushwick bookstore is bound to raise your spirits.

Phillip English and Joe Petersen opened the occult bookstore, boutique and performance space Catland on a quiet stretch of Flushing Avenue last month in hopes of serving the borough’s booming metaphysical scene.

“It’s for the Pagans and the Wiccans and the mystics and the hoodoo root workers,” said English, who was raised an Odinian, a worshipper of Norse god Odin, and is now a Thelemite, a follower of the teachings of British magician and writer Aleister Crowley.

The shop differs from the typical botanicas around Brooklyn, which cater mostly to Hispanic and Caribbean shoppers interested in practices such as Santeria and voodoo.

Catland, instead, targets Bushwick’s booming 20-something scene with a focus on education, first off through literary offerings covering both the history and rituals of a variety of marginalized occult religions — look out for titles including “The Magician’s Companion,” “The Voudon Gnostic Workbook,” and “Birth Canal Blues.”

Alongside the books are incense, minerals, and herbs intended to be used to communicate with spirits, as well as figurines, jewelry, and candles.

The pair keep an altar in the rear performance room and put it to use in a recent Mercury ritual to invoke the spirit of the Egyptian god Tehuti, which featured a chalice filled with hyssop water, a bronze cup inscribed in Aramaic, a statue of Odin, two bells connected by a rope, and benzoin powder.

“The idea is to evoke a feeling or a force,” said English.

On top of the merchandise and rituals, English and Petersen host a Friday movie screening and plan to offer a goth night with an open mic, performance hour, and dancing to industrial and dark music.

Walk like an Egyptian: Catland owners Joseph Petersen and Phillip English flank figurines of Egyptian gods and goddesses.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“We want it to focus more on the social element, instead of having the music so loud that people can’t socialize,” said English.

Customer Lyndsey Harrington, who attended a recent film screening, said Bushwick has become a vortex of occult energy and that a place like Catland — which is named after a song by the experimental band Current 93 — is necessary as a hub for the community.

“Everyone was hanging out and talking about their different approaches to magic,” said Harrington. “Women with goddess and pagan roots spent half an hour talking to a Satanist.”

In a tiny nook under the stairs, a woman who goes by the name of Licorice Root performs astrology and tarot cards readings — bolstered by a computer program and, of course, years worth of horoscope know-how.

“If you have a certain Venus transit, you will find love,” said Root — who vouches for the accuracy of her readings up until the point when free will comes into play. “I can tell you that, but it depends on if you leave your house.”

Catland owners are confident Brooklyn’s small supernatural subculture can sustain the shop — and their business model was enough to win the backing of third investor Fred Jennings.

But don’t expect to find Jennings around the store.

“He’s not interested in the occult,” said English. “He just thinks it’s a good business decision.”

Catland [987 Flushing Ave. between Bogart Street and Central Avenue in Bushwick, (718) 418–9393, facebook.com/pages/Catland].

Shrouded: Catland, a new occult bookstore on Flushing Avenue, caters to Bushwick’s growing occult community.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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