Hocus Pocus

By Leah Greggo

December 2020

The Hocus Pocus Occult Emporium, located on Meyran Avenue in Oakland, calls itself the oldest Occult shop in Pittsburgh. The store itself is tiny, dimly lit, and very welcoming. Once you step through the threshold at Hocus Pocus, as stated on their website, they aim to make “you feel as though you’ve stepped into a magical realm between worlds.” Inside you will find anything you might need to take part in the magical arts, from Tarot decks and crystals to sage for Native American smudging rituals.  The store is for “mystics, poets, witches, shamans, dreamers, healers, seekers, & visionaries of all paths,” from novices to experts.

circular table with stones, sage, and other occult objects
“Pendants and Other Merchandise ” Leah Greggo. Some of the magical items for sale at Hocus Pocus

Opened 23 years ago, owner Salem Vastel has put a lot of his own history into the store. In interviews he shares that he is Romani and that his family traveled to the United States to escape from death camps in Germany and the profound impact this has had on him. He says that an eclectic “mishmash” of many religious beliefs like Tao, Sorcery, Ceremonial Magic and Witchcraft were part of the magic of his people and that this inspires the merchandise at Hocus Pocus. 

Vastel, who dreamed for years of opening a shop like this, explains that one of his goals is to help educate people and empower their lives.  To aid in this, Hocus Pocus sells beginner kits for things like witchcraft, for those just embarking on a spiritual journey. In addition, there is a newsletter that you can sign up for to learn more about all of the objects and rituals featured in the store. For those who take an interest, learning about Occult “takes a lifetime” and Vastel hopes that Hocus Pocus is somewhere for people to begin that learning. And perhaps the most magical part of The Hocus Pocus Occult Emporium is that it is a haven for those who practice religious and spiritual traditions in Pittsburgh that lay outside of the mainstream.

Occult in general is a very loosely defined concept. In the broadest sense, it is any belief or practice that has to do with the mystical or supernatural. Traditions such as Paganism and Voodoo and even more official religions such as Christianity can all have elements of it.  When asked to define it for himself, Vastel explains occultism as the “movement and manipulation of energy” in the world and that those who study it see it as much of a science as anything else.

Featured Image

“Hocus Pocus,” Leah Greggo. The Hocus Pocus Occult Shop from the outside.

Further Reading

“The Hocus Pocus Occult Emporium .” Hocus Pocus Pgh, hocus-pocus-pgh.myshopify.com/pages/about. 

Moro, Pamela A., et al. Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion : an Anthropological Study of the Supernatural . 7th ed., McGraw Hill, 2008.

Poljak, Julianna. Hocus Pocus Equips Oakland with Occult Objects. 28 Oct. 2020, pittnews.com/article/161408/arts-and-entertainment/hocus-pocus-equips-oakland-with-occult-objects/. 

How to Cite

MLA: Greggo, Leah. “Hocus Pocus.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 8 January 2021, https://religyinz.pitt.edu/hocus-pocus/.

APA: Greggo, Leah. (2021) Hocus Pocus. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/hocus-pocus/.

Chicago: Greggo, Leah. “Hocus Pocus.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 8 January 2021. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/hocus-pocus/.