Stars in the house
A year ago, Cheshire Rose Books, a big red landmark in Old Fair Oaks Village that astrologer Samuel Heaton opened in 1989, closed. For area astrology buffs and other fans of esoteric books, the loss was keenly felt. A month later, Robin DeStefani reopened the store as 9th House Books; the new store takes its name from the “house” in astrology that governs philosophy and higher education. DeStefani, a longtime customer of Heaton’s, is a novice independent bookseller. But in an era of bland, one-size-fits-all, big-box booksellers, her decision to buck that commercial trend is certainly welcomed.
What interested you in running an esoteric bookstore?
When I grew up, in a very conservative religion, there were a lot of taboos surrounding the exploring of unorthodox things, things that didn’t come from the authority of the church. There was a lot of fear involved, and even thinking outside of that box, because then there was the potential for you to lose your family in the eternity. But, with a lot of internal pressures, I started thinking about what I really felt. And I really like all the ninth-house stuff, which has to do with philosophy and spirituality and higher thought, and I like exploring beliefs. The best part, I think, was just exploring spirituality that wasn’t tied to some authoritarian system.
There are some people who are seekers and some who are not, and some things are not for everybody. But this kind of stuff should not be out of bounds; if you really are metaphysically or spiritually inclined, then you should go to where your spirit leads you instead of having some outside authority stopping that.
Do you get a lot of customers who tell you they are recovering from authoritarian religions?
Yes! Today I had three or four people in. Today was an amazing day. I heard, three or four times, people talking about being shunned by their families or being outcasts in their families because of their explorations, whether it’s in astrology or tarot or Eastern mysticism, and being told by their family members that what they’re doing is evil or of the devil.
Is it nice to have a safe zone where people can talk about taboo subjects?
Yeah. Four of us today were talking at one time, and a couple of people were kind of jangled by something that I guess had happened last night, astrologically. And it was interesting to see these people meet each other who hadn’t known each other before. This one man had a stone with him, a selenite stone, and he was doing some impromptu healing work. It was great to see the connections. Before they left, he was giving this one woman—who had to leave her family because of their objection because of the religious thing, and she had moved downtown—the name of a place or a congregation where they meditate.
Do you have workshops at the store?
Right now, no. I started out with some things in mind, but then I thought, “I want to go slowly; I want to do what I really want to do, because I haven’t done much of that in my life.” I’m pretty analytical, and I’m trying to honor how nature made me, instead of doing what I ought to do. Because that’s another thing when you’re raised so conservatively—doing what you ought to do. According to whom? It’s weird to be this old and still be discovering what it is I really believe in, what I want to do.
But isn’t that the secret of life—always discovering new things?
Yeah. And I feel like I’m making up for lost time. Seriously, I remember the moment I sat down and thought, “OK, Robin, what do you really think?” It had to do with religious issues. And I could feel something arising out of me. And the usual keeping my mind closed or shut, or my heart, was in there, because I’d been told not to question. But I had to really concentrate to relax, just to let my real thoughts come out. And my first thought was, “I don’t believe in patriarchy.” And, see, I don’t believe in matriarchy, either.
What kinds of books do you carry outside of esoteric? Like more popular genres.
We have a book, The Sense of Being Stared At: And Other Unexplained Powers of the Human Mind. And this is a book I just got in because we liked it: Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet. I was watching The West Wing a few years ago, and that was one of my favorite episodes, because they were explaining how there were different mapping systems. But I’d say about a third of our business is astrology-related, and we have a lot of good stuff that people don’t have.