Seven Questions: Tiffany Boggins of WitchLab on Modern Witchcraft
The owner of the Franklinton store for occult items, oddities and antiques views her business as a place for teaching and seeking.
In Franklinton, a mile and a half west of the Scioto River, sits a small store that might be easy to miss if not for the massive, mystical mural—”Muses” by Lucie Shearer and Jake Mensinger—painted on the side of the building that houses it. A glance in the storefront window might reveal a cauldron or animal skull alongside a smattering of crystals and dried herbs. You’ve found WitchLab, a self-proclaimed safe space for the magical community of Central Ohio.
Named an editor’s pick for “Best Place to Find a Vintage Ouija Board” in Columbus Monthly’s annual Best of Columbus package, WitchLab offers both a permanent collection of magical and medical curiosities alongside metaphysical supplies for a wide variety of spiritual practices. The shop opened its doors in December 2018, on the winter solstice, and—with the exception of state-mandated shutdowns early in the coronavirus pandemic—has been a homing beacon for anyone interested in the occult, oddities and antiques, says owner Tiffany Boggins.
The 120-year-old building was formerly home to a family hardware store and then a Pentecostal church before sitting vacant for some time, Boggins says. She found the space with the help of AJ Vanderelli, owner of nearby Vanderelli Room and Boggins’ friend.
Columbus Monthly spoke with Boggins at her store in late May; the following has been edited and condensed.
The first time I came in, one of your employees told me that you opened the store when you realized you had a bunch of stuff in your basement that other people might be interested in. Is that true?
That’s certainly part of it. There’s a lot of things that led up to it. I was at a serious crossroads; things in my life were about to change drastically. I sat down at my altar and asked, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” The message came back resoundingly clear—which is odd because that doesn’t usually happen for me. It was like, “Open a shop, stupid.” I’d been making product and teaching classes in my basement, and I’ve been a collector of witchy things forever, so my house was definitely overrun. My kids were really happy when I opened the shop; I took half of everything out.
I love to shop for occult things—even just doing the regular orders that keep us in candles and incense and tarot cards, regular vendors, I love doing that. And then I spend my days off, often, traveling out of town to go shopping and see what I find. Sometimes we literally toss a coin and go in that direction until we find an antique store or thrift store.
Tell us a little about your experience with witchcraft. What does your practice look like?
My practice is a little hard to explain. I was 15 when I found witchcraft, and my practice was easily described as Wiccan. Then I moved into doing more ceremonial magic—O.T.O. [Ordo Templi Orientis], Golden Dawn type work. When I was in my 20s I moved to Philly, and that kind of led its way toward independent self-study. I went toward alchemy for a while; alchemy is actually one of the main reasons that I make perfume, which is one of the main reasons WitchLab exists in the first place. I started as a perfumer; that was the original intent.
So my practice has evolved a lot over time. I’ve been through years where I don’t practice. It definitely hasn’t been consistent for 30 years. Now I do occasional intention work, like if I really need something to move forward. I do a lot of offerings; we have altars here at the shop, I have altars at home, I have altars in my backyard. So I do a lot of thanking and giving offerings. Occasionally meditating if I need, if I feel that I'm too clouded and not seeing the way. Because a lot of times, the way that I’m supposed to go comes as a natural path opening.
This is kind of silly and deep, but this is kind of what witchcraft is about—figuring out who you are and using your instincts to guide you in the right way.
You mentioned that you started WitchLab as a perfumery—what did that evolution look like?
Right, it started as a perfumery and making general products out of herbs and essential oils. The magical intention was the main aspect of it. My first few lines of perfumes were all called Occult Perfumes, and they all had different things they did besides just smelling good. Then I started making a line of personal care products that were basically things my family needed. My then-husband wanted mustache wax, so we developed mustache wax. He was a tattoo artist and I wanted skin balm, so I created skin balm to heal tattoos. that's one of the things I want to get back into, because that’s where I started. The personal care products and the classes.
Originally the classes were tarot. And then in 2015 or ’16, I started doing elemental magic classes out of my home. My basement was a smaller version of this [store]. Seriously, a lot of stuff in the front, the permanent collection stuff, that was all in my basement, and a lot of the weird stuff that you see here. I just wanted an immersive experience for people to learn magic in.
So the elements course was a class once a month, and I would teach you all about that element, how it works in magic. And then we would do something like an actual make-and-take based on that. So with the air class, we made perfume. In the earth class, we made terrariums. We did water terrariums for the water class, that was super fun. I got everyone pretty little marimo moss balls. In the fire class, I taught everyone how to make fires in their cauldrons to do fire magic, and then we’d have a big fire in my backyard at the end.
WitchLab has a lot of books and tools for a lot of different modalities—hoodoo/voodoo, Wicca, Buddhism, Appalachian folk magic. How do you curate what you offer?
I think of WitchLab as a beacon, so it attracts both students and teachers. I am not trying to be a teacher of everything; I’m here to guide you to the teacher that can help you. When you put up a sign like WitchLab, you’re going to get teachers and you’re going to get seekers. And I love pairing them up. I think it’s the best, because there wasn’t anything like this when I was learning. There was very little information or resources, and it was very frustrating.
I recently read an article that discussed how witchcraft tends to become more mainstream whenever folks, particularly women, feel like they’re losing some sort of power. So when the women’s liberation movement and civil rights movements were happening in the ’60s, for example, and now in these times of the pandemic and the social justice movement. Have you noticed an uptick in interest?
To be honest, I feel like it started blowing up a year or two before that. Just the amount of people for whom it suddenly became an option. Not that it was “cool” or anything, but suddenly they were exposed to it. It was always an option, but people didn’t really look at it because of the stigma. But I think that people are saying that they [care less] about what other people think.
I think the answer you get a lot when you ask people why they do witchcraft--what they say is, “I like to feel like I have some control.” You can't depend on magic all the time; it’s more of an influencer. It’ll tip the odds in your favor, but you have to be doing the work.
What message would you like to share with people who are curious about WitchLab or witchcraft in general?
Well if you just want to see the store, come on in! The staff is incredibly sweet and helpful. That’s something we find important. I have one guy who tells me I should charge admission just because of all the things you get to see.
And then as far as, if this path calls to you or is interesting to you, you can literally come in and just talk to a staff member. We will ask you about what you’re interested in, what attracts you, and then we’ll show you the options that you have.
And what about a message for folks who maybe have some of those misconceptions or preconceived notions about what witchcraft is?
There’s a lot of different people in witchcraft, as there are a lot of different people in all religions. Give it a chance. There are a lot of really great people doing a lot of really great work for the community in this lifestyle or religion or craft, whatever you want to call it, this path that we walk.
Some of us walk this path because it calls to us, it draws us. And when we are walking the path we’re most comfortable with, we can be the most effective. We’re still doing good work, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what we believe in, we’re still a viable force for the people and the community.