State Street Mystic avane Taylor exposes the secret behind bat’s blood

by Brian Clarey

The Witch of State Street has eyes that crinkle behind the lightly tinted lenses of her small, round eyeglasses when she smiles her pixie-ish smile. She has tiny hands’… tiny’… and slim fingers bedecked with precious metals. She wears no pointy hat to tame her mane and there is no broom in her parking spot out back in the lot, but she does have a cackle’… well, maybe not a cackle but more of a lilting laugh, evocative of the wind chimes that hang from the ceiling of her witchery, also known as Eclectic by Nature, recently relocated to 408 State St. She has no cauldron and no visible warts. Her belly is big with child, and every so often while she enthuses her thin arms cross her abdomen in a subconscious gesture of motherly love.

In truth, she’s not much of a witch at all.

But that’s what Tavane Taylor says she’s becoming known as: The Witch of State Street.

‘“You could call me a witch,’” she says with another crystalline giggle. ‘“But you’d be wrong.’”

Her store can be described as a multi-denominational metaphysical depot and good-vibe clearing house, or maybe a naturalistic bookstore with a paganist bent or perhaps a showplace for the softer side of the occult.

When the talk turns to labels the Witch just shrugs her shoulders.

‘“Anybody who has anything in their life that is considered ‘alternative,”” she says, making quotation marks with her fingers in the air, ‘“they can be comfortable here.’”

She began her dance with things unexplainable as a young girl growing up in the eminently explainable world of Old Lime, Conn., when she says she always dreamed of owning a bookstore.

Her travels brought her to California, ‘“where all the fruits and nuts hang out,’” she says, and then to the Florida Keys where she managed a bookstore very much like her current enterprise.

‘“It was a little less on the pagan side,’” she says, ‘“because we were scared of the’… flack.’”

Then she came to Greensboro where, she says, ‘“it turns out there was a huge pagan community. I was stunned.’”

Here she opened her first store near the corner of Elm and Market streets, making the move to State in the last month. Her space is beneath the State Street Center for Renewal, an enclave of alternative practitioners in fields like massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, psychotherapy, yoga, Pilates and the like.

She uses the treatment rooms upstairs for readers and therapists that she features each week ‘— astrologists, intuitives, palm and Tarot card readers and creators of henna tattoos.

Down in the store the décor relies on deep colors and the organized chaos of the merchandise on the shelves, on the walls and hanging from the ceilings.

Inside you’ll find incense; massage and exercise equipment; sound therapy tools; aromatherapy scents; locally made jewelry; tapestries; Tarot cards; stones and crystals; postcards; sarongs and scarves; spirit catchers and dream-catchers; pennants depicting the five elementals of earth, fire, water, air and spirit; Joey’s wraparound pants direct from Thailand; fairies; faeries and mermaids; I-Ching coins and copies of New Witch magazine.

Behind a glass case, lain among the jewelry and trinkets, is a scythe-shaped hand knife which is labeled by a descriptive card as a ‘bolline.’ Though the blade is imposing and a bit scary, Tavane says that it has no sinister purpose. The card says that it is used for ‘“practical purposes such as harvesting herbs, cutting branches or inscribing candles.’”

Or how about draining bat’s blood, which she sells by the vial at the counter?

That one makes her laughter chime again. ‘“I’m a vegetarian,’” she says,

The ‘bat’s blood,’ she says, is nothing more than red ink with a spooky name, likewise with the ‘dragon’s blood,’ which she says is straight-up palm tree resin.

‘“There’s no such thing as a dragon,’” she explains, and it says as much on the card next to the display.

‘“I try to have as many description cards as possible,’” she says, because some of her merchandise freaks people out.

‘“Some people won’t ask,’” she says. ‘“They’ll come in; they’ll see something; they’ll walk right back out.’” This happens frequently, she says, when customers of certain belief systems see anything, say, with a pentagram on it.

‘“That’s the second freakiest thing,’” she says.

But the freakiest, she insists, are the books, tomes on folklore, Wicca and witchcraft, herbalism, mysticism, spirituality, Reiki, druids, Feng Shui and recipes (or ‘spells’).

‘“This whole bottom shelf is about various types of paganism,’” she says, ‘“and probably the bulk of it is Wicca.’”

And just what the hell is that?

While the practitioners of the religion known as ‘Wicca’ often call themselves ‘“witches,’” Tavane calls them ‘“tree huggers.’” Its spiritual foundation lies in nature, which makes it a pagan religion which deifies not humanistic forms but the aforementioned elementals (symbolized by the five points on a pentagram), and any naturally occurring flora or fauna is viewed as its own miracle.

But like her store, Tavane’s spirituality is not so easily defined.

‘“My mom was raised hardcore Southern Baptist,’” she remembers, ‘“but she let me be exposed to whatever’…. I would go to temple sometimes, to church sometimes’… whatever my friends were doing.’”

Her pagan side was awakened during the summers of her youth, where she played on ten acres of wooded farm country in Sugar Grove, Va., where bears and other creatures roamed the forest and a creek ran through it.

‘“That’s where I got my respect for nature,’” she says, and the Witch of State Street once again hugs her growing belly.

It’s a girl, by the way, and the sex was discerned not through divination but by a sonogram that she displays proudly on the wall next to the register.

Her name will be Tristan, says her mother the witch, and undoubtedly she will be another of nature’s miracles that occur every day.

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