“Do you know anything about Spellbound, or Mark and Martin?” Mark and Martin’s PR rep asked right before introducing me to Mark and Martin. I had to admit I did not. “Oh, you’re in for a treat,” she said. I have to admit I was.
Mark Phillips and Martin Anguiano are co-founders of the beloved Los Angeles–based crystal shop Spellbound Sky. They are as friendly and charismatic as they are covered in crystals, which is to an extent that must add a significant amount of weight to their musculoskeletal system. I met them in a light-filled corner of the Whitney Shop at New York City’s Whitney Museum, where they’re holding a pop-up version of their L.A. store from June 15 until June 25. “Well-timed to get my necessary accoutrements for the summer solstice,” you may be thinking. Oh no. You already know more than I do.
I am a crystal novice, I must admit. My experience with all things “woo-woo” is limited to feeling an intense distaste for those who seem to have inducted the term “woo-woo” into their vocabulary only to show people that they, too, are familiar with the term “woo-woo.” I love spending money on things that might make me feel better, however — $10 green juices, Bark Box for my dog, $12.99 on the Headspace meditation app per month. (The latter two do work.) Before coming to Mark and Martin for an energy reading and crystal consultation, something you can purchase for $80 if you visit in-store, I was not the least likely to be swayed, but I certainly was not swayed yet. Wellness-related things in general set off a “targeting those who are sick or otherwise vulnerable and convincing them to put their trust and money in pseudoscience” alarm inside of me that is hard to quiet.
Anyway, crystal shit is everywhere now. What used to be a niche New Age practice, and, memorably, a niche Spencer Pratt practice, has become less “niche” and more “just a thing a bunch of your less skeptical friends are doing with varying levels of intensity.” This is for a few well-documented reasons, noted in crystal coverage across media and on this very site. Young people are not particularly interested in religion, but would still like to believe in something; the world has become too grim and the feeling of helplessness to stop it is too much to bear, so many are turning to mystical measures with the hope that it might decrease their daily despair even slightly; crystals are pretty and it’s fun to spend money, particularly if you have a lot of it.
As a crystal shop, Spellbound Sky is beloved both for who Mark and Martin are (genuinely sweet, not pushy, very funny, eager to teach; the perfect combination of personality traits to convince you to believe in the power of rocks) and for how they present their wares. In a quick chat before my energy reading, Lauri London Freedman, head of product development at the Whitney, told me the presentation was, in part, what made her want to bring Spellbound Sky to the museum. The placards placed next to each type of crystal explain what the crystal is and what it’s meant to do. This is rare for crystal stores, I’m told. I myself have never been to another, but according to a crystal friend, stores will often overwhelm newcomers with explanation-less crystal piles, which is not good if you’re looking for one explicitly to make you rich, just as an example. Freedman said this, in tandem with the crystals’ beauty, called to mind the placards next to art in a museum. And this, in tandem with her love for Mark and Martin, made Spellbound Sky a natural fit for the Whitney Shop.
Spellbound Sky’s space at the Whitney Shop is very beautiful, even to a skeptic — crystals and candles and soothing things everywhere, including this troll with crystal hair that I deeply wanted until I saw it was $107, and three $75 ritual kits designed specifically for this pop-up in case you want to dip your toe in witchcraft — and it’s very much buzzing with blissed out vibes. “It’s so nice to be around all of the crystals…” a museum shop employee told me, moonily. Another told me she didn’t expect to be so taken by the crystals, and something about how when she was in college she knew people who were into things like this and she thought one way about it then but I guess life can change you and your mind can open, and what I’m trying to tell you now is it’s clear that everybody in this space was straight up loopy on crystals.
My energy reading with Martin, who was dressed in a very low-cut black tunic stacked with crystal necklaces and bracelets (“oops, sorry, my tit is out,” he apologized at one point, though it was fine, I wasn’t bothered by his tit), began with a crystal healing: energetic extraction with a quartz crystal. I held two quartz crystals “butt to butt” and was told to pull them apart slowly as he weaved another quartz in and out of my arms.
We ran through the procedure twice. The first time I pulled the crystals apart very quickly, noticed that I had pulled them apart too quickly, and worried that my arms were now too wide and maybe I should stop separating the crystals and also I wasn’t sure if my eyes should be open or closed. “Baby, you are so stressed OUT!” Martin told me, correctly. “You have to breathe!” We tried again, and this time I tried to remember to breathe and pull the crystals apart not like a maniac. Martin’s right hand began to shake very noticeably this time, and I was immediately worried that it was going to be an Office Space sort of thing where the therapist dies because he took on all of Berger’s anxiety — remember? Luckily, however, he did not collapse and instead, after we’d finished, he said: “Are you working on a big project outside of work?” Oh my God, none of your business as a reader but I am! “That’s why my right hand was shaking, I could feel that energy. It’s going to change your life.”
Oh my God.
I’d been having a bad day and I did feel a bit better after the energy clearing and after somehow Martin knew a secret about me (that my life is about to change due to my talent). Next he did a quick rundown of how crystals work with our seven chakras (which are “just real,” he said, in a way that intimated he could tell me why but that I should just believe him because why waste time) (fine by me) and we did a tarot reading, the first I’ve ever sat for, which is odd, as it seems like something I would love, and it in fact was. As Martin pulled the cards, explaining to me in detail what they meant on their own and to me specifically, he would sometimes stop to dramatically shove one in my face. This could either mean something good or bad — generally that I was letting negativity and overthinking get the better or me (“Oooh, girl…”), or that I was destined for success (“You’re a smart, powerful woman!”). He stressed that the cards aren’t meant to predict the future as much as to read energy as it is now — the future is always in our hands to change. In fact, he said, he had changed his own future (aided by crystals and gumption) leaving the fashion industry to start a crystal shop, despite naysayers who found the change laughable: “he’s opening a retail store during a recession, and he’s going to sell ROCKS!” (Sitting in his pop-up at the Whitney Shop, he seemed very pleased with his choice.) Anyway, it was a very kind reading, more a pep talk with a lot of compliments than anything else, and frankly I loved it.
What I imagined an energy reading and crystal consultation would be is, like: these guys tell you what to buy. On the train ride there I geared up to be given a hard sell, which is something that makes me very uncomfortable, like when you’re shopping for a mattress and you don’t want this particular mattress but instead leave having bought the mattress because you just wanted the situation to end. It wasn’t that, though. (Though it did take place in a crystal store, so I guess the buying part was implied.) (And though I did buy a bunch of stuff.) (And though it may seem like I’m now essentially telling you to buy stuff, which I am not — please trust me.) After the reading with Martin, I was handed off to Mark, who explained a few crystals to me, and then I was left to explore.
It is now time to admit to you that I bought four crystals, a candle, and an essential-oil potion. Please leave me alone! I don’t know what to tell you. I couldn’t help it. All around me, people were buying crystals. One girl bought a crystal just because it had a Dalmatian pattern and she thought it was cute (it was). The vibes in there were good; I’d just been complimented. I found myself walking around, picking up a black tourmaline (“physic protection, powerful purification for negative energies and bad vibes”), seeing it was $10, and thinking, “oh, that’s not bad.” And then buying it! I found myself worrying that I would not be able to buy more of their candles online, because I was unsure if they had an online shop. And they don’t!!!
Generally, the idea behind the “I do not know if crystals work but I still am going to use crystals” thought process is similar to the idea behind buying a lottery ticket, or blessing yourself before parachuting out of an airplane. It appropriately conjures the New York lottery’s very funny catchphrase: “Hey, you never know!” But I think, as long as someone is not telling you a crystal is going to heal your cancer and as long as you don’t spend $500,000 on crystals in a year (like Spencer Pratt did, remember?), it’s at least not quite as evil as some other wellness practices. Right? Yes? I’m already onboard, please just agree. So far my crystals haven’t changed my life, but it has only been a few days. And in any case, I know I am a smart, powerful woman.