Earlier today I was browsing the occult section at my local used bookstore–Smith Family–and I came across an intriguing slim little text, Magic with Incense and Powders that Anna Riva had published in 1985. I flipped through it and was quickly dissapointed: the book was just a listing of Anna Riva products and how to use them.
I suppose I was more interested in knowing just what was in some of these products. After all, Anna Riva’s lines have been mainstays in occult stores since the mid 1970s, and all her oils, powders, and potions never list ingredients.
At this point, I think the whole line is likely something to steer clear of altogether. The person once known as Anna Riva, Dorothy Spencer (who arrived at her pseudonym by combining her mother’s first name with that of her daughter) sold her business, International Imports of Los Angeles, to Indio Products in the late 1990s. By 2000, the owner of Indio, Marty Meyer, had said that Spencer was suffering from Alzheimers, and this was repeated in Carolyn Long’s 2001 book Spiritual Merchants (p 126).
I don’t know how Spencer initially formulated her oils, though the fact that she called them “curios” with no magical powers implied, doesn’t really bode well–the disclaimer meant she couldn’t not be sued for fraud if, for instance, it was found that something like strawberry oil didn’t actually contain any strawberries. Word around the contemporary occult water cooler is that the current products are definitely not kosher. If they do contain natural essential oils, they are heavily cut with synthetic bases and fragrances, too. Worse, the company has been suspected of using inferior ingredients and passing them off as real, such as using soybean rhizomes as ginseng.
At the end of the day, I think you’d get more bang out of your magical buck by crafting some things yourself or buy purchasing incense and such that is clearly labeled with its ingredients.