Attitudes About Money
I suppose it is because we are a religion of converts, with many of us finding Paganism in our teens and early twenty’s–a time in life not noted for its material abundance–that we as a subculture seem to have a problem with money.
I get it. I really do. I mean, you’d think a religion wouldn’t need money. After all, religion is about our lives and the Gods and how we balance our place in the world, so what does money have to do with religion? I know you’ve seen churches and groups that swindle people out of their money. And I doubt there are very many American Pagans I know of who would be willing to tithe a percentage of their income like they do in Islam and some Christian denominations. When you see the extravegence of some churches which shall remain unnamed but which have their own country…well, it makes you think twice about where your money is going.
A lot of early practitioners of the Craft taught that you cannot charge money for teaching the Craft, that the lessons were spiritual in nature and do not belong to anyone, therefore there is nothing to charge for. This is a valid point. It doesn’t seem right to charge money for information that someone could get now for free on the internet, or by doing a lot of research, especially if that information will help make you a better person.
But the reality is that we do it all the time. That book that has taught you so much that you love? The author, publisher, editors, distributors and retailers are all making money off the information inside of it. You ARE paying for the privilege of learning about the Craft. I’ve talked before about how our elders and clergy don’t have the means to support themselves by their service alone, but must find other outlets to make money. I myself am working on a book and an oracle deck that I hope will make me a great deal of money, so I can continue to provide the services I do and still pay off my student loans, which allowed me the background to provide you the services that I do.
Why shouldn’t people be compensated for their time, expertise and effort? When you call a mentor or elder in the middle of the night with your problems, do you ever stop to consider that they have to go to work in the morning? Or that you are running up their phone bill? Or that you are using their expertise that they’ve spent thousands of dollars cultivating? They help you out of the kindness of their hearts, out of duty, oath and responsibility and friendship–nothing you can put a price tag on.
Money is energy. In particular, it is static earth energy, captured in paper and metal which symbolizes an assigned value. They say in order to receive you must give, and people do really pay more attention when they are paying for something. They expect more because it already has a manifest monetary value. If you went to a psychic fair, and a psychic cost $10 a reading, and another cost $60 a reading, which do you think is a better psychic? Never mind the better value, who would you trust with your problems? In reality, just because it costs more money, doesn’t mean it is better.
It works the other way too. A person getting paid for their services is likely to do a much better job, do it correctly and on time and to the best of their abilities. After all, you want this paying customer to come back and give you more money in the future! As a community, you’ll weed out the amateurs because you won’t pay for their shoddy services again, and word of mouth can go really fast.
But lemme tell you, friend. If you want quality clergy, if you want hospital, military and prison chaplains, if you want someone who can marry you and perform last rites, you should be willing to pay for it. It doesn’t have to be a lot–it should be what you can genuinely afford. When I go to a ritual and they pass around the tithing cauldron (often to pay for the use of the space, the candles, incense, communion, etc) I always put whatever is in my pocket, be it a $10 bill or a handful of quarters and pennies. Anything is better than nothing. When I can’t afford something, I’ll volunteer, and use my sweat and talent energy to contribute to the cause instead of money energy.
All this positive stuff we’ve built as Pagans–these rituals indoors and out, religious tolerance, the tools of the trade, the talented elders–this didn’t come for free. Whether you know it or not, you are paying for your Pagan education. You vote with your dollars and volunteerism. I can’t tell you how many Pagan magazines and newspapers have gone out of business because of lack of one or the other. I miss Widdershins.
In this blog, for example, there will likely come a time when I’ll put ads on it, and I’m currently building a webstore with stuff I think you’ll like. I already have the bookstore with books I strongly recommend and value (find it under the Witchful Thinking Store tab above). I’m doing this to support the blog because I believe it is a valuable service for the community. And if it weren’t for those pesky bills, I could set my heart and time to this and do something really wonderful. Until then, this work has to take a backseat to every day concerns. That is the sad reality.
To have Spirit, you must have the elements in balance. That means earth–that means money, work, prosperity, abundance, food, shelter, practice, skill. Showing up to ritual is not enough to balance the energy. You know what you need to do. It doesn’t have to be much. Remember that what you send out comes back to you threefold, so honestly, tithing is in your best interest all around.
I probably haven’t changed your attitude about money, but I hope you’ll keep it in mind the next time an event charges, or you find a magazine you like, or go to an especially good ritual.