A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.
Money for Magic
On one of my Pagan groups, someone brought up the topic of accepting money for helping others with your spiritual gifts, skills, and services. In reading the ensuing heated argument/lively debate, a lot of people were flat-out against taking money for any services that bordered on the spiritual. These services include, but are not limited to:
- psychic readings of any sort (including tarot, runes, etc.),
- any kind of spiritual healing,
- spiritual counseling,
- teaching (any religious topic or spiritual path, including Witchcraft), and
- any kind of magical workings or spell casting.
Most people did agree, however, that there was some fair game. If you are creating an astrology chart, for example, or making religious tools and items for the altar, it is acceptable to charge money.
Cross My Palm With Silver
I Got to Thinking . . .
When it comes to spiritual services, there seems to be a good portion of our community against it, even saying a good indication that someone is a 'charlatan' or 'con artist' is if they charge a fee beyond the cost of essential supplies that it would take to do the job. Some were more comfortable with accepting donations, bartering/trading for goods/services. But everyone seems to have some idea of where the line is crossed, or where it starts to become blurry, and for some people, it seemed accepting cash for magic or spiritual services bordered on heresy.
It really got me thinking, why is taking money seen as such a terrible thing? Is charging a fee for services automatically equivalent to corruption and ripping people off?
Being a writer to the core, one of the best ways for me to sort out my thoughts is to start writing. Sometimes I'm not even sure of my own opinion until I read them as words on paper (or on a screen, as the case may be). Here's what I came up with: I don't think it's wrong to charge at all.
What Is Money, After All?
Let’s face it, little slips of paper and coins have no inherent value. They have value because a society agrees upon it, not because they’re gifts of the Gods. Currency has been around for more than 4,000 years. It started back in ancient Sumer, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Originally it was in the form of hunks of metal or shells, but people began using markers to expand trade options.
It really was ingenious, you know? Geb is a farmer, but he needs some blankets to keep his children warm. All he has to trade are bushels of wheat. Akum is a weaver, and has blankets to spare, but his family keeps their own crops and he needs no food. What he does need, however, is some new pottery to store his food in—but alas, Geb has no pottery.
Geb and Akum cannot strike up a trade. Rather them both going without, Geb gives Akum some currency in exchange for blankets. Now Akum can take that currency over to Uko, the local potter, and trade it for some of his pottery. And Uko can now go to Geb, or some other farmer, to buy his bushels of wheat.
That’s all money is—it’s a marker for the trade of goods and services. It was such an ingenious and convenient idea, that it became the primary form of trade for goods and services—which is why when you go to the supermarket or call a plumber, you hand them some markers rather than a bushel of wheat or a woven blanket.
Is Money Evil?
Money Isn’t Evil
For a long time, because money has been so tied up with power and corruption, it’s been treated as though it’s evil. We forget that it’s really just trade markers for stuff.
The problem is not money, but greed. Excessive greed can be unhealthy. When people were willing to give up anything for money—including their own honesty and integrity—it certainly became a problem. Corrupt holy men who tried to swindle innocent people in their desperate moments certainly disgust us all, and history is littered with examples of how that kind of greed brought despair and destruction. That’s where these simple ‘trade markers’ began to get a bad rap.
Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I don’t believe it always has to be that way. I don’t believe everyone is corrupted by money. I don’t believe hard-working people who give their time, effort, skills, and experience to help others should be deprived of these trade markers just because some people might be corrupt. Ethical practitioners are not going to swindle people by convincing them their family will die if they don’t purchase $2500 protective candles. Those kinds of con artists should certainly be held accountable for their actions, but that doesn’t make the mere participation in trading for services (or using ‘trade markers’) a violation of any ethics.
Read More From Exemplore
Too Pooped to Pop
People Are Better Equipped to Use their Gifts When They Have Their Needs Met
I personally want talented people to be compensated. When they are, they can do even more.
Let’s say someone is a very gifted tarot reader. The tarot reader needs to earn money one way or the other. Ugly and unromantic as the idea of cold, hard cash is, the tarot reader needs to pay rent, buy food, pay bills, maybe send their kids to ballet class or pay for art supplies—she needs those trade markers, somehow.
The tarot reader decides it’s nobler to share her gifts for free. But, she can only help one or two people per week because she’s spending 40–50 hours on her feet supporting her family by waitressing at the International House of Pancakes.
Alternatively, she could be helping 40 people per week if they paid her modestly for her services, because then she wouldn’t have to work at IHOP and be exhausted. She could devote much more time and energy towards developing her gift and helping others.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see the tarot reader being paid and helping many, rather than struggling to survive and squeezing a couple of people in here and there on her day off.
Is it really nobler to decline payment, when by declining it she has to deprive so many people in need of her gift?
“As We Take, We Freely Give”
This sentence is part of a prayer I say when I perform my daily devotionals and make a small offering to my Gods. The sentiment, however, is essentially a core tenet of not only Wicca, but of most Pagan religions. All of life is something of a dance, an exchange—we’re always giving, we’re always taking.
To give more than you take is an imbalance. It leaves you in need, tired, exhausted, drained, overworked, and even sometimes it can lead to being taken advantage of.
Which brings us to the ‘Takers’. The Takers feel they are simply entitled to what others have to give. They do not value things because they do not pay for things. Takers think free resources are theirs to suck dry—they want to get as much as they can get, because, hey—it’s free! They don’t really care, or think about, what it’s cost the giver. They’ll take it, and often waste it—like taking a ‘free reading’ slot, only to show up 20 minutes late and ignore the advice given anyway.
Not everyone is a Taker, but they are out there. People are more likely to jump to the conclusion that someone willing to take cash for services is prone to corruption; but someone willing to take services for nothing is probably more prone to corruption.
To take more than you give is also an imbalance. So why is it so wrong to ask for payment when you give something (fair exchange), when it’s not wrong to ask others to work for free (one-sided)?
I don’t think that having good, valuable talents/skills make you public property to use as others wish. By requesting even a small fee, you can immediately weed out a lot of the unethical Takers who would abuse your generosity, take you for granted, and lack appreciation.
We Are a Circle: An Endless Cycle of Exchange
All Gifts Are Worthy
Everyone has gifts. Spiritual gifts are great, but let’s face it—they’re no more valuable than any other gift. The world needs people gifted in plumbing and engineering as well. The world needs artists and musicians. The world needs doctors and lawyers and scientists and teachers. Let’s not belittle other people’s contributions by acting like our gifts are greater just because they deal with spiritual issues.
I think it’s an insult to expect people to help without thinking they deserve something in return. If I’m going to take someone’s time and effort to help me, I’m going to offer something in return. If someone has worked years to learn and become an expert at something, and I value their service/abilities, I want to be able to offer something in return.
Trading and bartering are good, but frankly, I think money does just as well. As long as it is a free and fair exchange, I say have at it. If someone is offering their talents and you don’t feel their fee is worth it, simply move along.
No One Is Saying It's Wrong to Give
It Doesn’t Have to Be Either/Or
I’m not saying everyone should always charge money—I just don’t see anything inherently wrong with doing it.
All of us should be willing to give sometimes without receiving something in return sometimes. And by all of us, I don’t just mean Wiccans and Witches, or those with spiritual gifts; I mean every human being on the planet.
When someone is in serious need of help, and we can offer that help, then it should be offered. I’m all for people opting to volunteer their time to those who would need it and appreciate it. Whether you’re a plumber or a Witch, a lawyer or a doctor, a teacher or a laborer, an artist or a scientist, I think there will always be a time to give selflessly to those in real need.
And guess what—remember that tarot reader who could have helped 40 people per week by accepting payment? That spare time on Saturdays could have gone to offering free readings to those who couldn’t afford the payment. By participating in the free exchange, she is able to keep more balanced and provide even more services—even charitable services—to others.
Participate in the free exchange is not wrong; it’s the vital essence of the web of life—to take as you give; to join in that universal dance of exchange. In modern society, the most popular and convenient way to do that happens to be little bits of paper with numbers on it, but it’s essentially the same thing.
The Debate Continues
Just because the matter is settled for me, personally, doesn't mean it's settled in the greater Pagan or magical community. We all have opinions, and they're all worth being spoken and heard.