in the 70s, 80s and 90s, my grandmother and my great-grandmother were very exploratory. they attended workshops, meetings and lectures about anything and everything, so long as it was different from the roman catholicism they had known as children. metaphysics, spirit guides, nutritionists, psychics, edgar cayce, dr. bob martin, whatever. they never became devotees of anything in particular, other than to nutrition, but rather embraced random elements of the movements of beliefs they had investigated.
my great-grandmother remained the most traditional, preferring to adorn her house with photos of jesus and to recite the lord's prayer before bed each night. but she also kept little charms hidden around the house, most of which i didn't know what for. i would flip through the strange books on her shelves, little leather volumes with gold embossed symbols on the covers. some of them i still have. i always kept them under my mattress. she gave me a copy of the prophet when i was a teen, and after it became evident that i wasn't going to read it, she said, "fine, then put it under your mattress. it'll help you whether you want it to or not." she taught me little chants to say when i was upset or confused and in need of some fortification...from the universe. she bought drinking water from the grocery store, but kept it at room temperature in big glass bottles, each with a crystal inside, to purify it.
my grandmother, on the other hand, dove in. when i was growing up, her house was packed with strange things. photos of spiritual leaders, crystals, triangles. for years, a triangle made of thin brass tubing with a rose quartz stone embedded in the top hung over her bed. she had little metal cards in various colors placed around the house, each color meant to heal something. her refrigerator was full of flax meal, bags of wheat germ, vitamins and supplements, and cactus juice. she made her own dresses and leather belts. any time i tried to describe her at this time, i just said she dressed like stevie nicks. stevie nicks at 65 with a penchant for purple. stone rings and wire-wrapped crystal pendants, etc.
oddly, as soon as she retired, much of this went away. she became political. she stopped wearing flowing purple dresses and started wearing jeans. she started going to rallies and weekly meetings held by various liberal organizations. she even started participating in the mothers against war group, the ones who would stand on the street, immobile and silent, wearing black veils. the gurus and strange recordings went away, but the crystals are still around. except now, they're not displayed prominently on polished tables - they're shoved to the side or set on the floor beside the table, which is now covered with newspapers, take-out menus and tv guides.
i sort of resented her kookery when i was a kid because between she and my great-grandmother, i was tired of being bossed around about whether i was putting enough positive energy into the universe, or eating enough almonds. every week, my great-grandmother (grammy) would call me with something new she heard on dr. bob's radio show that i wasn't supposed to eat. i'd look around at my school friends and their dumbly normal families, gorging on fast food or midwestern comfort foods 3x a day, and then i'd look at my little single-mom-family-dinner, which was all steamed vegetables and no soda allowed, and i would be pissed. why can't we have pizza! etc.
now i'm glad, of course. but i sort of wish my grandmother would be weird again.
incidentally and allegedly, my grandma took my mom to a psychic when she was about 20. the psychic told her she would be married with children as she desired, and described her husband and future child. i don't remember how detailed she got, but she said dark-haired and dark-eyed, which is true. my mother is fair with blue eyes. OMG PSYCHIC! more specifically, when my mother went into labor, my grandmother said she'd be done at 3:30 that afternoon and that i would be ~an olde soule~. the 3:30 part was right. PSYCHIC GRANDMOTHER. i think that was the first and last time she predicted anything, however. my other grandmother, not my grammy but my dad's mother, my beloved and terribly normal catholic old grandma alyce, told me that story. when i asked my stevie nicks grandma for confirmation, she didn't seem to want to discuss it. that was 5 metaphysical phases ago, i guess. she doesn't want to talk about hocus pocus bullshit anymore when there's a war and a recession goin' on. and i guess i can dig that. we are no longer living the clintonian fantasy life in which one can spend all their money on crystals and sage and feel all right about it.
books about spiritual self-help, primarily.