Whether it's through Kundalini yoga, Vedic astrology, FengShui, Wicca or Kabbalah, the people of Los Angeles have always been willing to go to any lengths to find answers to the unexplained, especially with 2012, a magnet for New Age theories, a few months away.
But if this year's International Alchemy Conference is any indication, those lengths don't exactly include driving to Long Beach.
The annual International Alchemy Conference got its start in 2006 at the convention-center Mecca of the United States: Las Vegas. It moved to L.A. two years later, where it continued to attract what organizers describe as "the largest gathering of alchemists in 500 years."
According to many exhibitors, this year's modestly-sized crowd was a symptom of the alchemists' move from the Los Angeles Convention Center, and lane closures in both directions of the Long Beach Freeway didn't help. Despite the distance and thinner crowds, the 2011 International Alchemy Conference was still a success, especially since all proceeds benefited Japanese relief efforts by way of the Golden Pyramid of Peace.
Simply put, "alchemy" translates to "transformation," and it's not just about the medieval practice of turning base metals to gold or silver -- it's about making personal changes for the better. There's no doubt that the yearly conference was a veritable banquet for the mind, body and spirit. The vast expanse and range of speakers, workshops, exhibitors and vendors had something for everyone, from rare alchemy books to Swarovski high vibrational crystal jewelry and "gorgeous goddess wear."
But that's also why the International Alchemy Conference was a little overwhelming, because it wasn't easy to know where to start, or even how to approach a system that resonated with you. Even though admission to the exhibit hall was free, the tarot readings, astral channeling, and reiki crystal therapy were not, and it was often pretty hard to know who to trust.
Luckily, L.A.'s own White Witch, Maja D'Aoust, was on hand to help sort things out Saturday in a panel on traditional alchemists. She spoke about the unification theories of particle and planetary physics while drawing parallels between biology and the cosmos.
D'Aoust considered herself lucky to be sharing the stage with people whose works she had studied, including Dennis William Hauck, who handed out real sulfur to the audience, and Dr. Thom Cavalli, a Jungian analyst who studies alchemy and psychology. "It felt really good to hold my own scientifically and mythologically as the only lady up there, with a bunch of world-renowned dudes who I highly respected," she told LA Weekly. "We all had a palpable camaraderie that was pretty magical as soon as we got on the stage. It was downright remarkable."
Lata Kadel sold exotic jewelry, clothing, amulets, charms, talismans, and yoga tours of Nepal from her booth at the International Alchemy Conference.
Echo Park's House of Intuition also set up shop at the Alchemy Conference, selling stones, oils, herbs, jewelry and readings.
Inside the Golden Pyramid of Peace Village and the Modern Mystery School, the Egyptian Temple celebrated "the magic of Egypt" and divine beauty, offering channeling sessions with the goddess Isis, along with some good, old-fashioned spontaneous chanting.
Inside the Sanctuary Circle, Indian Vedic and "international well-known mystic" Lali Kakar offered palmistry, numerology, psychic and past-life readings, as well as success coaching. Having read the palms of Dr. John Gray, Loretta Swit, Joe Frazier and Mariel Hemingway, this medium offered visitors of the International Alchemy Conference something called "the big bang reading experience."
Adjacent to the Modern Mystery School of Wicca and the Channeling School, "The Goddess" booth sold dresses, shawls, apparel and jewelry designed by Eiko (photo, right), a Japanese native who believes "we should choose to dress up according to how we feel, instead of trying to adjust to the environment. We are all princes and princesses, so we deserve to take care of ourselves and dress well."
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A resident alchemist at work inside the fully-functioning Alchemy Laboratory, the newest component of the yearly International Alchemy Conference. According to festival organizers, the Alchemist Laboratory "is a sacred space where usually no one is to enter and interrupt the process of a new discovery. It's a myth that alchemists themselves are merely eccentric crackpots. Mostly they are serious experimenters. They are highly educated and intelligent people with a keen interest in discovering the secrets of nature."
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