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‘Understand the principles’: Cult of Gemini closed this week

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
Cult of Gemini's Rachel Lazarus stands behind the counter of her downtown Grass Valley store. Her store closed on Monday.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

After five years of business in Grass Valley, Rachel Lazarus has closed Cult of Gemini.

The reasons, she said, are many, including spiritual, personal and financial — though not having to do with COVID-19 or the subsequent shelter-in-place orders. Cult of Gemini, which closed Monday, served different purposes, acting both as a retail shop selling jewelry and books, as well as a service to help customers delve deeper into different spiritual traditions.

But over the last few years, Lazarus said she’s found issues with the role her store played in the community, like selling things — crystals and white sage — extracted from particular communities that don’t see the financial benefits from the process. She’s watched some people partake in cultural appropriation, participating in a garden-variety spirituality that takes without appreciating the full context of where specific rituals and traditions arose. Frequently, she said, some locals engaged in certain ceremonies without being invited by elders who know them best, or weren’t willing to learn the depth and richness of their history.

“If you don’t grow up in a culture or a tribe, then you’re missing the subtext of everything,” she said.

Whenever Lazarus partakes in a particular doctrine, she said she first simply observes and remains quiet. She also tries not to participate in rituals when someone from that respective tradition is not present.

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“What I want to do is understand the principles, (thereby) understanding what’s happening and why,” she said.

However, she said people often separate actions from their tribal context, “using them recreationally that doesn’t have to do with the rituals from which they come.”

Partly due to this phenomenon, Lazarus said she plans to relocate to Los Angeles. But she doesn’t intend on jettisoning her work altogether. Rather, she intends to continue it and become more of an activist. She hopes to teach people that culture can be respectfully shared, but only if you don’t “disregard where it comes from and the people of whom it comes from.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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