Off of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, The Holy Rose offers wares for religion and spirituality of all genres.
by Katie Pate | photography by Eamon Queeney
Step into The Holy Rose and you’ll find yourself enchanted by a collection of practical and fantastical goods, from handcrafted jewelry adorned with semiprecious stones to crystal balls, holy water and jars filled with hard-to-find herbs like angelica root or mugwort. Hundreds of books and ornaments line the walls. Lord Bastian, the black cat, will greet you upon entering and you’ll hear a friendly “Hello!” from behind the counter.
“We kind of defy description, we just try to be an uplifting space,” says the owner of the store, known as Priestess Rose, who declines to reveal her given name. She has flowing honey-blonde hair and a pleasant smile, and is often draped in ankle-length dresses as she moves about her shop. As she describes it, the store is an “esoteric wonderland for the spiritual seeker” that sells goods from across the spectrum of beliefs and traditions, including Paganism, Wicca, Buddhism and Catholicism, among others. Rose works hard to make her business a welcoming place for everyone. “We are not a store that is hinged on ego,” she says, “we are not here to judge where anyone is on their spiritual path.”
The Holy Rose moved from City Market to a quiet Wakefield Avenue storefront last year. “We were hesitant to move because it can kind of be the death of a business,” says Rose, who, with her husband John, transformed the new space from what was “just a big empty concrete box” into an otherworldly emporium, carefully ornamented with mysterious and magical goods. As it turns out, she didn’t have to be afraid: “The first day we reopened, we had people lined up out the door to come in,” she says, “we hit the ground running and did not stop.”
The Holy Rose first opened its doors in 2013 as a retirement project for Priestess Rose, who had recently become an empty nester. She wanted to fill a gap in Raleigh retail, which lacked a store that offered spiritual goods from a range of practices. “We just thought we would throw it at the wall and see if it stuck,” she says. “It turns out there was a tremendous demand for what we had to offer.” Many customers wonder about Rose’s spiritual background—she goes by Priestess, after all—but she holds firm that she will never reveal her beliefs to customers. “My background is insignificant,” she says, “I don’t want anyone mimicking me, I want them finding their own self.” When speaking to customers, she stays as neutral as possible. “I kind of have to be a spiritual Switzerland,” she says, “people’s inner workings of what they believe should be very personal.” Goods in the store come from vendors and artisans around the world, and some Rose’s hand-poured ritual candles, which are among the store’s most popular items. Some, like the Mighty Money Maker candle, which purports to attract wealth, have a “cult following” among customers, Rose says. “They just fly off the shelves.”
Customers of the store agree that The Holy Rose is meeting its mission of being inclusive and friendly. Daniela Da Cunha, a repeat customer and practicing Wiccan, recounts her first visit to The Holy Rose in 2017. “Priestess Rose fosters an environment that allows for self-discovery,” she says. “I was seeking guidance in how to direct the energy I felt.” Da Cunha, who comes from a Catholic family, was seeking to learn about alternative beliefs, so for her, “a big part of the journey for me has been education,” she says. “It is so important to stay open, to be kind.” Beyond its wares, The Holy Rose typically has a slate of other offerings that the store hopes to resume in the coming months, like tarot readings and special “Teen Witch” days for younger customers, who may shop with a parent (normally an 18-and-over policy is strictly enforced to protect her wares from accidental damage). Until then, the shop will continue to serve a few customers at a time, from six feet away, in-store and curbside (like many businesses, they are accepting call-in orders). “These are very troubling times,” Rose says. “I think people are looking for answers and this is a good place for that.”
Above all else, Rose wants her store to be a safe place for everyone to visit, an “all-inclusive” place where people from all backgrounds feel comfortable. “We’re just us,” says Rose of herself and her employees. “We are here to help people to find their way.”