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Let Edge of the Circle be your gateway to the mystical

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Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Photo by Lindsey Anderson

For fans of magic, aspiring witches, and all intrigued by the rich and diverse history of minority religions, the gateway to mysticism may not be as far away as once thought. Edge of the Circle Books, Seattle's premier stop for all things pagan and magical, is open seven days a week in the University District neighborhood. The store is full of all the literature and materials one might need to begin researching and practicing different forms of magic. Perhaps the most valuable resource in the store is the charming shopkeeper, who is more than willing to talk all kinds of magic with intrigued customers.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

A shop rich with history
Robert Anderson owns and operates Edge of the Circle Books through his corporation, Fun Time. "Many years ago, when I took over ownership of the store, I formed a corporation, so I am President of Fun Time Inc. Which owns and operates Edge of the Circle Books, so that's my title," Anderson said, laughing.

Edge of the Circle has a rich history in the Seattle community, and Anderson has been involved with the store since its earliest days. "Edge of the Circle, before I owned it, grew out of another store, so now we need to go back into the late 80s. A very idealistic man ran a store that moved from a hallway somewhere else to a little shack on 14th and Union, and the store was called Schmonic Convergence. It was pretty much the main pagan and magical store for the Seattle area," Anderson explained.

"It was staffed with volunteers, and the guy who owned it was moving away, so he sold it to one of the volunteers. She remodeled and renamed Edge of the Circle, which was in 1992. I was a regular at this new Edge of the Circle, and eventually they needed to hire somebody. I was interested in working there, so I started working there," he continued.

Anderson's love affair with the store grew more passionate as he became more involved. "I loved it! They let me order books for the store, and I love books! I was able to find obscure books that other places didn't have, and this was back before people had internet access. This was like 1993, '94, and there was a little internet, but it wasn't like it is now. I even ended up calling England. I loved it, and I just loved being a shopkeeper."

Eventually, Anderson was able to buy Edge of the Circle. "It's been owned by Fun Time Inc. since 1995," Anderson explained. "I started working here in 1993. It moved from a shack on 14th and Union to 701 E. Pike Street, on the corner of Boylston Ave, two blocks west of Broadway on Capitol Hill in early 1994. I was made general manager shortly after the move, and then I took over ownership in the middle of 1995, and I've been doing it ever since."

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

Edge of the Circle leaves Capitol Hill
In 2015, after over two decades on Capitol Hill, the store moved to the University District. "After we'd been there for 20 years, in 2014, new people bought the building. They told us we would get to stay. Then a year later, they kicked us out after we had been there for 21 years, for no reason at all," Anderson said. "The Stranger tracked them down and were like, 'Why would you want them to leave a place when they've been here for 21 years? They were paying their rent, and they weren't causing trouble.' And the response was, 'Well, that guy had kind of a niche market, it was a corner store, and we were looking for something that would bring more foot traffic to the area.' They wanted something more mainstream."

Kicking Edge of the Circle out of Capitol Hill seemed to bring the building owners karma, as the "corner store" location has yet to find a permanent tenant. "I've heard the space is empty now," Anderson added.

Under Anderson's care, the store in its new U District location has blossomed into a welcoming space that houses magical items and information for a myriad of diverse practices. "One thing I would say about the store is we have a wide variety of things for a variety of different magical traditions and minority religions. I think of this place as a magical and pagan UN, where you can have stuff based on Norse paganism, stuff based on West African traditional religion, you can have Kabbalistic material, you can have Chaos magic, you can have Wicca, you can have Druid reconstructionist, you can have Hellenic reconstructionist. I'm sure I'm leaving out so many important ones, but we can all be here, and we can all shop here, and we can all get along," he said.

What's popular in the store
Because the store has so many different types of magical and spiritual books, Anderson is usually pretty good at noticing which practices are "trending" based on the titles that sell the most. "Hoodoo, a Black American folk magic tradition, has grown in popularity, both in books and supplies," he noted. "Traditional witchcraft, witchcraft practices that predate Wicca, has been big for the last few years. Grimoire magic, when we say ceremonial magic, as it turns out, there are many different things that fall under that umbrella. One of them is going to be stuff like the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley, and another one is the magic of the Grimoires, which is different. There have been a lot of people writing about it, working with it, working with it, and writing about it, so that's been a thing, too."

Over the last few years, tarot decks have also soared in popularity at Edge of the Circle. "I carry most of the tarot card decks available in the United States, and I'm always looking for more," Anderson said. Some of his best-selling tarot decks are LGBTQ+-based. "The Pride Tarot's been out for a while. This one's done by a lot of different artists. I have one left of the Divine Diversity Tarot deck, too. I got a bunch of these and they sold. Joe Philips, he's the same artist who did Witch Boys, and in this deck, he wanted to include everybody. The artist himself is a chubby, Black Gay man. He included people of all body types, all ethnicities, Gay, straight, Lesbian, all together in this deck."

A brief history of tarot
Anderson has a vast knowledge of tarot and explained that the decks in the store vary on several different levels. "Some of it is going to be different artists' interpretations of the cards. Tarot started as a deck of playing cards; it got brought into magical stuff. There were symbols in it that were mystical, magical already, kind of accidentally. Again, they were making it to play cards," he explained.

"When it got brought into magical stuff, people started to change the decks to fit different magical systems. So, I've got a bunch of things based on the Golden Dawn system. Crowley was a member of this group; his deck was influenced by their teachings. [Arthur Edward] Waite was another member of the Golden Dawn, and his deck does not include all of their teachings, but it's probably the most influential tarot deck, and it started the explosion of 20th-century tarot decks, so a lot of the decks out there are based on Waite."

While Edge of the Circle mostly sells literature and mystical items, the store has also recently begun marketing its merch. "I have a bunch of T-shirts that I designed. I kept wanting pagan and occult-related T-shirts, and I kept not finding them and I wanted to carry them, and now I'm in the habit of designing them," Anderson said.

Seattle's main pagan/occult store
Edge of the Circle has cemented itself in the history of Seattle's pagan and occult culture. Not only does the store sell literature and items for those looking to get more into a practice, but they also host events, providing space for members of the community to meet.

"Sometimes I let activist groups use my classroom space to meet," Anderson said. "As far as events go, back to having a classroom space, different groups will sometimes meet in the basement, public classes, private ritual groups, things like that. Also, sometimes I'll have book signings or other things; there'll be an author event here."

Since the pandemic, Edge of the Circle has been careful not to host too many public events, but the store is excited to announce it will be bringing in an author for a special meet and greet in September. "An author by the name of Raven Digitalis will be here September 10th. He is known for having written books like Shadow Magick Compendium, Esoteric Empathy, and the new The Empaths' Oracle, which is an oracle deck.

While Anderson is excited to start hosting in-person events at Edge of the Circle and loves the store's new location in University District, he admits he does miss being a part of the Capitol Hill community. "I miss all the people from Capitol Hill, but I still carry the SGN here," he said. "Come visit me!"

One of Anderson's favorite things about working at Edge of the Circle on Capitol Hill was seeing the connections between the pagan/occult community and the LGBTQ+ community. "There's always been this overlap between these two communities," he said with a smile as he pulled out an old copy of the SGN. "Here is a picture that I know, I recognized [Dr. Leo Louis Martello] because he's a famous witch and pagan and part of the early pagan movement of the United States. And [the SGN] posted this and put this on the cover because it's a famous picture of the early days of the Gay rights movement. These two communities have always been overlapping and helping one another, and I hope that continues."

Edge of the Circle Books is located at 1307 NE 45th St. Seattle, WA 98105. The store is open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Sunday. The store will be hosting author Raven Digitalis on September 10, 2022.