Connecting and Empowering
Mara Evenstar is co-owner of Evenstar’s Chalice, a store with spiritual supplies that make your soul smile (Ypsilanti, MI). She is Director of the Evenstar Institute which sponsors diverse spiritual practitioners and offers courses and workshops to evolve and enrich your life. Mara directs the Conscious Rites program for the Intentional Living Collective, using ritual and ceremony in meaningful ways to foster deeper awareness, connection, and conscious evolution. Mara and her daughter Andrea cofounded Sophia Unfolds that organizes gatherings and retreats dedicated to empowering the Divine Feminine in us all. Mara works as a consultant in sacred and transformational arts with individuals, groups, and communities.
Do you see any trends in the types of products or services people are currently seeking in the spiritual arena?
I think a lot about the undercurrents in what people are looking for as I decide what new offerings to make available and which products to bring into the store. Two of the bigger trends I’m seeing are people focused on reclamation of spiritual paths and doing ancestral healing, even with my one-on-one clients. These issues may not be what they came in for, but it’s what we end up doing because it seems to be the healing work that is surfacing right now. Some people are doing it consciously, and with others it just seems to be what comes up.
There is also more consciousness around cultural appropriation and things like that. In the earlier New Age and Pagan movements, there was a kind of free-for-all mix of rituals and practices. While blending is good, today there is more sensitivity to reclaiming specific practices and their meaning for your actual lineage. I see that especially in the African American population.
Ypsilanti is incredibly diverse. We have customers from all backgrounds, we have all age levels, and we have a large LGBTQ population, so a lot of the work is about understanding where our identities are coming from. We also have solitary magic practitioners who want to be in a spiritual community, so I’m seeing that as well. Even though at the moment it may feel that people are moving into narrower understanding of where they are coming from, I think that piece is needed in order for them to be able to cross the borders and truly understand another’s path and where the common pieces are. A lot of people see it as a regressive step, but I feel it as a needed step toward unification and authentic understanding.
Do you conduct workshops or programs in your retail location?
The retail shop takes up about two thirds of the space in Evenstar’s Chalice location. Within the retail area is what we call the “Wee space” because it’s small or “We space” because it’s used for us together. We usually have small circles there, like the Monday night meditation. We have designed the shop so things can be moved around and open the space for larger circles as needed. In the back of the store, we have the “Nexus” room where people can get a private reading, healing services, or other spiritual modalities.
We also have access to the community room at the Intentional Living Collective, a non-profit located a short distance away, across the line into Ann Arbor. As an individual consultant and as Director of the Evenstar Institute—our education arm—I arranged to have this space at our disposal for our larger classes. It will hold a circle of twenty people. I’ve been holding Reiki classes there. They also have a consulting room, where I have done energy work for private clients.
Do your group activities help people get acquainted with your practitioners and lead to individual sessions?
That was the expectation, but we find that the reverse is true. A lot of people come in that are new to the store and are intrigued that we have readings or other services immediately available. Most of our personal services are done with our walk-in traffic while only a third or so are scheduled ahead of time. After people become familiar with our readers and service providers, they start to engage more with the programs and classes.
Do you have regulars who attend events—creating a community or social group?
Yes, but we don’t have the same circle of regulars always attending the same events—it’s very dynamic. We have a variety of programs with overlapping appeal to a diverse mix of people. People from all different practices come together for our Full Moon Gathering, for example. We make our rituals universal or secular enough that they speak to everyone in a meaningful way. It is a challenge, but that is how we do it. People come here for a lot of reasons—for spiritual connection, for learning, for sense of community, and for social aspects.
Do you find that women are more comfortable at events conducted by other women?
Only a few of our programs are specifically oriented to women. Women-only spaces can be very important for those women who are experiencing certain phases of their journey, such as working on a mother-daughter wound, learning to love their bodies as they are, or getting through gender-related anger. It really depends on where a person is on their path and whether a woman-only or a male-only space serves them and the context of the offering.
My daughter Andrea and I have an organization called Sophia Unfolds to support the rise of the divine feminine. We want these to be co-ed spaces because it is important for healing of all genders. Men need to heal the sacred feminine as well as the sacred masculine in themselves and we can do things to support that. We want to create bridges and avoid cultural separation into tribes of women and tribes of men.
How have you adapted to the online environment? Have Zoom meetings, for example, extended your reach?
The pandemic affected us all in many ways just at the time we were opening the Evenstar Institute. We had planned on having most of our classes to be in-person, but we made the shift and only had online activities for the first two years. I wanted to continue teaching Reiki in person, for example, but I knew it could be done online and people were needing it—particularly self-healing. So, I pushed through the challenges to make Reiki available online. I found that some people only wanted it in person, but there were those that preferred the online option. It absolutely extended our reach beyond the local—we had participants from all over the world.
The online Full Moon Gathering has extended our reach quite a bit for the Sophia Unfolds program. Now we flip-flop between the in-person and the online format because we found that we were serving a community that we would lose if we returned fully to in-person. We have learned that hybrid events aren’t as effective—at least for rituals. We continue to dance around the options to make it work since people hold space in very different ways when they attend in-person and online.
What would you say to someone who insists that Reiki can only be in-person or “hands-on?”
A big part of Reiki is distance healing, especially in the later levels. If we can heal at a distance, we can certainly do attunements at a distance. I’ve had very powerful Reiki shares online, one to another. Remote Reiki works and is beautiful. If you ask me if I still have a preference to do it in-person, however, the answer is Absolutely!
My second master’s degree is in Leadership and Social Transformation, and part of my training was in doing transformative learning in online spaces. This prepared me to create online containers similar to the way we create powerful in-person containers, and I know it is possible for a transformative experience to happen in an online environment.
How did you get a wonderful name like Evenstar?
Months before my 50th birthday, I asked spirit for a new name that would reflect my spiritual journey and who I now am in this incarnation. My maiden and married names no longer suited me for various reasons. A few weeks before my birthday I was awakened at 3 am and spirit offered the name Evenstar. I was skeptical about it at first… it seemed too New Agey. I also had some trepidation about naming the business Evenstar, but I was talked into it by my colleagues and friends. The name also refers to Venus, so I feel the store is named after its patron goddess rather than me.
Where is your energy focused at the moment? What do you see for the future?
I can’t call it focus, because my attention is evenly divided, as it always has been. I have the radio show, the store, the institute, Sophia Unfolds, the Intention Living Collective and personal consulting services. For me it is a dance to see what is in the foreground today. The challenge for me to make time for self-care and finding the balance between generative and productive time. My attention is on “What’s Up” in my arena and what’s happening in the world… recognizing where the energy is. I have a very deep trust in the universe, in spirit. I also have a very deep trust in my ability and resilience, in part because I live in service. I lead a spirit-led life and it requires a lot of trust, but I don’t think I could live any other way.
What message would you like to convey to people?
Your spiritual community is out there. It doesn’t look like it used to. It doesn’t look like belonging to a specific group or a church. There is much more freedom. You can find deep sustenance with connecting with others. The world feels unstable, and people feel that when they leave a mainstream religion they are on their own, but they are not. Coming together and connecting doesn’t have to look like anything formal.