Damian Quick of Tamaqua is deeply spiritual.
The forty-two-year-old man was brought up in a typical Christian environment and attended parochial grade school.
By age 12, Quick felt he saw the light. But it was a light much different from the spiritual environment he was immersed in at the time.
Quick experienced what he felt were paranormal or supernatural encounters. Things happened which he just couldn't explain or figure out. When he tried to relay his experiences to clergy, he was met with resistance and disbelief.
But Quick didn't let the discouragement extinguish or taint his reality. He knew he felt strong callings inside himself, and so he decided to follow his own path.
"The paranormal experiences led to my awakening," he says.
Today, he is a proponent of the New Age philosophy, devoted to helping others along their spiritual journey. On January 15, Quick and his wife, the former Kerri Gill, sponsored Tamaqua's first New Age and Holistic Expo, held at the Tamaqua Community Center. The event showcased 16 exhibitors and was offered free to the public. It attracted a wide variety of both old-timers and new-timers. Quick says the purpose of such an event is to let people know about spiritual and holistic alternatives. He uses his own story as an example.
"I was raised Catholic but the church never had any answers for me."
He now works with Runes, an oracle from which one seeks advice. Runes are an ancient Germanic alphabet used for writing and divination.
"Each letter of the alphabet is a symbol used to unlock the subconscious, similar to Tarot cards," Quick says. The whole concept of Runic symbols is one that comes with a surprise.
According to researchers, Runic inscriptions of great age have been found in North America, supporting theories that Vikings arrived in the Americas long before Columbus!
"Some would consider it a form of witchcraft," says Quick, employed in a field closely tied to law enforcement. "I am spiritual, not religious. My spiritualism tends to be more of a philosophy."He also believes that spirituality takes different forms to different people, something to be accepted with grace and appreciation - along with an understanding that God is everywhere.
Quick says, "God cannot be put into a box. Who are we to limit it?"
One exhibitor, David J. Miller, Weatherly, experienced a similar phenomenon at age 14, when he discovered he was unusually intuitive.
He now reads Tarot cards, a guide to the past, present and future, and believes in natural healing philosophies.
"I was looking for ways to help others without being involved in a structured religion," says Miller, 37, with wife Aileen at his side. As far as the beliefs of others, he doesn't choose, nor does he judge.
"I'm neutral. I'm open to all religions. I don't solidify myself to one mode of thinking," he says. Miller is employed as supervisor at a distribution center near Hazleton.
He also hosts DeadDave's Internet Radio Show, an Internet blog talk radio, every Sunday at 8 p.m. It draws participants from the U. S., Japan, Argentina, Canada, Brazil and anyplace on the globe. Last weekend, his guests were children of horror legends, featuring Sara Karloff, Bela Lugosi Jr. and Ron Chaney.
Also at the expo, Tamaqua artist Ray Swartz and wife, the former Barbara Schuetrumpf, set up a stand featuring carvings, paintings and all things mythical, such as unicorns. Swartz says sometimes people think these things represent some sort of newfangled belief system.
"What they call New Age is actually thousands of years old," says Swartz.
Other popular exhibits included Andrea Brock's Healing, of Bethlehem. Her focus is on awakening, clarity, purpose and direction. As a shaman, Brock practices communication with the spiritual world, always with a sense of healing, wholeness and wellness.
"It's about helping people and loving them," she says.
On this day, Brock performed a cloud reading and used a variety of stones, beads and crystals to help Wendy Coogle, Schuylkill Haven, overcome energetic stagnation which had been causing stomach problems.
Brock says she uses the frequency contained in each item in order to accomplish the therapy, and "the person must allow it take place."
"I feel better physically and mentally," said Coogle, following the treatment.
Exhibitor Billy Edley, 27, Wilkes-Barre, is an Iraqi War veteran, now disabled, who performs brujha, or bone readings, using an age-old technique passed down from his grandmother from Puerto Rico.
In hushed tones and polite manner, Edley can describe how he saw an apparition, a beautiful face, which appeared to him after his military unit was hit by a roadside bomb. He now is devoted to helping others, and is employed in the psychiatric unit of a Clarks Summit hospital.
Exhibitor Stephen Platko, Branchdale, is a former Catholic, now a Spiritualist and Reiki master. Reiki was developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui and uses human palms to transfer healing energy in the form of ki.
He performed a Reiki cleansing technique on visitor Richard Knorr, Hazleton.
"I feel good," said Knorr, following the session. Knorr said he felt warmth and vibes, or an aura, from Platko's hands. Platko also performs mind melts and psychic surgery.
Like the others, Platko, had an awakening as a child when he fell off a cliff but escaped injury. "And I couldn't explain why," he says. But the experience prompted a lifelong commitment to helping others and exploring deeper meaning.
"I enjoyed talking with him," said Crystal Hicks, Lansford. Platko and Hicks spoke of the concept of astral walking, an out-of-body experience that Hicks is familiar with.
Also on hand was Louise Fontaine, Shamokin, a palmist who at one time studied anthropology and forensics while living in Arkansas.
She feels she encountered a Higher Presence after a near-death experience due to a heart ailment. Her heart stopped beating and she was clinically dead before successful resuscitation. "I was laying on the gurney and I flat-lined," says Fontaine. She felt herself passing through a tunnel, she says, guided by two deceased relatives.
"My mother and uncle appeared out of a mist. They were there to take me through the tunnel."
Fontaine says she actually traveled the tunnel and, at the other end, saw a figure in a white robe and hood. The figure said to her: "You must go back."
Fontaine protested. But the figure insisted: "You have to go back. You're going to learn as if you were in kindergarten, and then you're going to teach."
At that point, it ended, says Fontaine, and she was back in her body. "I saw the tunnel close before my eyes."
She offers this word: "You never die alone. Somebody will be there to meet you." Ever since that experience, Fontaine has redoubled her efforts to reach out to others.
The event also included a book signing by prolific author and vegan cook Vila SpiderHawk, with her Forest Song series, and many other special attractions and exhibits.
Perhaps what made the expo most unusual is that it wasn't sponsored by a church, business or organized enterprise. Instead, it represented the love and goodwill of two individuals, organizers Damian and Kerri Quick.
Exhibitors were charged a small table fee to help defray expenses, but the Quicks reached into their own pockets to pay hall rental fees and advertising costs to make it happen.
"We wanted to bring something different to Tamaqua," says Kerri.
The event was well-received and the Quicks intend to hold another one in Tamaqua, to be announced in the TIMES NEWS.
Damian says it's about helping people understand their choices and getting in touch with their own individuality.
"People need to be aware they can change if they're not on the spiritual path they want. God is available to everyone because He's the energy that keeps the universe alive. God is infinite energy."
Quick says each person's experiences are unique.
"Everyone's path is individual - all leading to where we need to go."