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.
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.
Participate in the poll below and let us know how you feel. If you have your own thoughts on the subject you'd like to express, please post them in the comment section.
Your Opinion Matters!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Chris Aldridge on January 19, 2019:
No, because they still have to eat and pay rent, and they should be able to expect reasonable support for giving you their time and energy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where everything costs money. You can't go and perform a service for someone if you can't travel there, or if you can't eat or have a place to live. In many ways, people are forced to charge reasonable fees because the Pagan community has been robbed and oppressed for 2,000 years. If the Christians had left us alone, we'd probably have so much wealth in our community that we wouldn't have to charge for anything anymore. The reason places like the Catholic Church don't have to accept money for things is because they've plundered the world for 2 millennia. Their organization has a net worth of 30 billion dollars. It's easy to say, "we don't charge" when you are the richest organization in the world. With that being said, I do think service fees should remain reasonable. People who tell you you're cursed and it's going to cost $1,000 to break it, are charlatans. It's not hard to spot those who are making an honest living and those who are trying to exploit and defraud. Besides, in ancient times, priests and temples would be given financial support and donations for their services to the people and the state. It's not like it's out of character for a community to be grateful and supportive toward their religious leaders. The Parthenon and the Oracle of Delphi weren't financed by facebook likes and chucky cheese tokens.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on August 13, 2016:
Hi AlluriMaahiSharma, sorry to be gone so long from Hubpages! I didn't get your message.
I would say to look at what you've done in 2 years; how much have you studied the philosophies behind magic and how it works? How much time have you spent on a daily/weekly basis mentally disciplining yourself-- improving your focus, your ability to alter your states of consciousness, to manipulate energy, etc.? Getting these basics down is usually the foundation upon which you build your practice. Some people jump into spells and things, following scripts without really knowing why they're doing this, without having trained the mind. That's usually when the results are not going to be so hot.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on August 13, 2016:
Hi Kalumae; I'm sorry to hear about that horrible experiences. Like I said, personally I don't see anything wrong with people charging what they think their services are worth. But there are con artists who take money from people unethically by preying on the person's insecurities and weaknesses. I agree it is easy to be taken advantage of, and like all things in life it's important to remember smart business practices-- whether it's spiritual services or used car salesmen or whatever, there are always going to be unethical people out there and you have to look out for yourself.
This person charged you for a natal chart and never delivered, that obviously is a legal issue. I hope you've been able to either get your money back, get what you paid for or have taken some kind of action against the person.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on August 13, 2016:
Hi WhiteOwl; there can be greedy people on both sides who would take advantage of any situation; as I understand it, meetup.com is not about starting a business, the money used toward the group is meant to go toward the group. If someone is taking profits from that, I guess that would be a violation of contract there. So while asking for money isn't necessarily a red flag, there could certainly be abuses of the system and I'd be cautious of that.
Frankly, though, I try not to judge. I leave it to the laws of consent and contract. If someone wants to charge to run a group, that's fine. I have the right not to attend, or to even start another group where the only costs requested are to cover the costs of the group. People have the right to decide which group is more worth their time.
Thanks so much for your comment, sorry so late in getting back.
Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 10, 2016:
@Kalumae - Wow. That's the kind of person who gives psychics a bad name. If anything, I try to give my clients more than they pay for, rather than trying to upsell. And that's a heck of an upsell! One of the artists at the cafe I work at recently got "attached to" by a psychic who told her she was "surrounded by negative energy" and kept pressuring her to come back again and again, to the tune of several hundred bucks. Me and one of the other cafe psychics eventually helped her realize that "negative energy" is unethical psychic speak for "pay me big money to light a candle." Good for you for getting out of the shop!
@Alluri Start by reading everything you can. Also get out in Nature. She will teach you many of the lessons you need. Start small with a devotion or two. You're learning patterns and habits that may possibly be lifelong, so take your time and don't overwhelm yourself. As for a mentor, IF you need one, they will come at the proper time and place.
Pratibha from Chandigarh on March 02, 2016:
Hey sage , i have a question for you. I have just started practicing witchcraft, i am an ethical person and want to know more about it. i don't know how to cast spells and how to use the inner power. Can you please give a some brief tips , what should i do. I have no gift like you have but i want to learn it and do it by myself. I am doing it from 2 years but may be a am not successful because i have no mentor
Kalumae on January 07, 2016:
I have seen a lot of different prices for readings and such. I am not against it but I have had my fair share of poor experiences. A couple of months ago my fiance and I went into a new psychic shop that opened up and we both got our cards read with a "personalized aura reading". Altogether it cost something around $400 together. She also wanted to do a natal chart, which is awesome because I have only had mine done online and I don't really understand it. That was an extra $175 up front and I gave her my information for it and she told me to come back in a couple of days. I am a 24 and a college student, I saved up this money to hopefully get some insight into understanding myself better. I get back and she talks to me for 10 minutes about having a healing session with her. Nothing about the natal chart. I come back again after doing what she instructed me, and after talking to me about it she tries to talk me into cleansing my chakras- $700. I kept saying no and that I don't have money like that. She wouldn't stop, and me being too polite basically slowly backed out of her shop. I didn't say anything to her because I was not getting the best vibe from her, sort of intimidating. I hate leaving it opened like that but I am still upset.
I am trying to unlock my own spiritually and practice a bit of magicks. Things like this make me a little wary of practicing The Craft. It is so easy to be fooled.
WhiteOwl87 on December 19, 2015:
You have made some great points here Sage, thank you. I was against the wall about bartering and accepting money for magical services but you've helped me see more clearly. The only thing that continues to get my goat are these groups on meetup.com that charge people to meditate together. I think it costs something like 30 a year to be the host of your own meetup. So I understand there are fees that the host has to pay but charging 5-$10 to allow someone to join a workshop and meditation session seems wrong. I mean if a host has only a few people to show up each week after they have provided beverages and such to potentially 20 guests then they should stop spending their money in hopes that the RSVPs will actually show up. I see it happen a lot on meetup. What do you think?
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on October 07, 2015:
Thank you very much for your input, Lionrhod. You make some excellent points, and I do agree with you. ~Sage
Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on October 04, 2015:
I'll agree that $90/half hour is more than a bit expensive. BUT that also depends on the location of the psychic and living cost in that area.
At the cafe I and several fellow psychics work at we recommend $15-20 as the average tip. Typical readings there range about 10-20 minutes. My hourly rate for private readings is about $60-$75 depending on whether I need to travel or not, and my prices are considered somewhere between "quite inexpensive" to "average" for the area, depending on who's talking.
Also consider that any psychic who works out of a metaphysical shop she doesn't own may be paying a percentage to the owner. And if they own the place they have rent/electric, etc to pay.
And while we're at it, consider the many years and dollars that these psychics may have put into their training. I've never sat down and done the math, but I'm fairly sure that between hours, books and money spent on classes, my education would be at least equal to what I'd have spent on a better-than-decent college education.
Funny enough, if I market my services as a hypnotist, no one blinks at the cost, but if I market as a psychic suddenly I'm charging too much. Meanwhile both clients are getting basically the same service, and the psychic clients get a reading as well, so perhaps a better deal for the dollar.
Meanwhile, if either of us need to go to the doctor, it's going to cost upwards of maybe $75-200 for what might amount to 10 minutes of the doctor's actual time. How is it that my time as a doctor of the spirit is worth less than his as a doctor of the flesh?
While I am certain you didn't mean it that way (and apologies, it might be that I'm reading this during Mercury Retrograde) it comes off as just mildly insulting to suggest that psychics should have to go and write a book or open a store or get a real job to pay for their ability to read for clients. We could easily reverse that, and say that if you feel having a psychic reading is necessary, you should perhaps get a part time job to pay for it.
Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on October 04, 2015:
Well said. Yes, I'm a professional (and ethical) Tarot reader. And yes, I take money for my services, and have since around 96 when I was first invited to, "get paid for what you're great at."
I don't mind doing the occasional barter, I'll happily work on a sliding scale for those who can't afford a lot, and I do quite a few readings for free, just because I feel someone needs a reading whether they can afford it or not.
I never charge my close friends or students for readings because that sort of friendship is a mutual situation. One day I might help you out, the next day you might help me out. (That doesn't mean I won't take a few bucks or give a few bucks to a friend.)
I also teach classes on various metaphysical subjects, and I do charge for those as well.
Remember this, folks, I'm taking time out of my day (or evening) potentially spending gas money to get somewhere. I could be spending that same amount of time and gasoline to go to a "real job."
And yes, there are those folks who won't appreciate the information UNLESS they pay for it. Sad but true.
Where I draw the line is that I never charge my personal students to learn the Craft (the religious and spiritual growth aspect of what we do). My reasoning here is that in teaching the Craft, I will not guarantee enlightenment, title or even initiation.
When you pay for something, you expect to receive services. When I read the cards you get by-the-hour of my time. If you take my public classes you expect me to be there for the duration of the class. If you paid for learning the Craft, you might expect to receive initiation/a diploma or some other compensation.
However your growth as a witch and priest is based on your own spiritual growth and the effort you put in. I have little control over this, and I can't promise when/if you'll get there, nor will I sell it to the highest bidder.
Some things are actually "priceless." This is one.
And despite the multitude of hours (which I refuse to try to keep track of) that I put into my personal Wiccan students, I get much in return - the joy of watching them grow, the many things they teach me, our mutual hours of celebration. I'm well compensated without trade markers changing hands.
But readings (or plumbing or other services) public classes and physical objects such as books are fair game. The supermarket doesn't (unfortunately) say, "Oh, you're the local witch HPss. Here, just take that bag of catfood."
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on March 19, 2015:
You bring up some excellent points, Dizze, thanks for sharing. It was like that even up until recently-- where the town takes care of their magical people, doctor, minister, teacher, or anyone in a place of doing service for the whole community. They'd provide room & board, and if not money would at least bring goods or offer services in exchange. Times have changed.
Nalani Sanderson from Oregon on March 18, 2015:
For me, it always comes down to this: once upon a time, when our "spiritual leaders" were medicine men and women, were shamans, were witch doctors, the first to use herbs and magic and associate with spirits by whatever name, they were taken care of by their community. They were wise individuals who had a deeper understanding of the world and offered spiritual guidance, healing, divinations, and more. In exchange for their role in the tribe, the builders built them a house and the farmers and hunters provided them food and the warriors protected them. The tribe provided for the tribe, and the spiritual leader role was a full time position unlike others, so while the spiritual leader was occupied all the time with providing the tribe with spiritual guidance and healing, the tribe provided for their need of food and shelter.
If someone is offering these same "spiritual" services, be them any form of magic, herbal healing, divinations, what-have-you, then their needs should be provided for. As you say in your article, money is just a trade marker, one that allows trading for needs. I can offer to take someone out for a meal, or I can pay them $20 for a service; in the end, it's not much different to my trade marker count, but one is much more convenient, maybe for both parties especially when they don't need food right now, but need to pay the electric bill.
It's traditional for seekers to come with an offering or gift, offerings or gifts that would feed them or clothe them or shelter them or provide tools for their trade; seekers no longer have this understanding, but that doesn't make it wrong to ask. In fact, it makes it necessary because they expect to be "charged", and they expect that if they aren't charged, they have no obligation to pay or feel bad for not paying.
Of course, if someone is not able to pay because their needs are not being met (thanks to our non-tribe-like modern community), then it is good and necessary to provide for them necessary services without charge. But then, everyone always has something they can offer in "payment", even if it is babysitting.
Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on March 15, 2015:
Thanks for your insights, Carolyn. I do think you're right, there is a point at which people can be ridiculous with their prices, or at least it can seem ridiculous to someone who doesn't have that kind of money to burn. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the people who charge modest fees and do it out of a desire to give back to the community can be hard to find if one is not part of the local Pagan community; they don't tend advertise and such and it can take a lot searching and asking around to find that kind of person. We don't have churches generally because we're too small a minority, so it's hard to find. Meanwhile, the people who take the more 'professional' route and get a business license, rent an office, build up a clientele, hire a secretary, advertise and all-- they're more visible but they have higher overhead and have to charge more. They're more visible, get more attention.
Carolyn Emerick on March 14, 2015:
Great thought provoking hub. I'm like you when it comes to sometimes working things out in my mind through writing about it :-).
Well the way I feel is that if someone works a day job then they can help less people with their gifts not only because so much time is spent at work, but also because a full time job is draining. So I can see charging a fee in order to do this work and support oneself.
However... There are so many psychics, healers, and so on, out there who charge ridiculously high prices! Take me for an example. I've had chronic pain and a lot of life changes because of it. I'm having difficulty working, and could really use some psychic healing and guidance. But I just can't afford a $90 fee for 30 minutes! And many others charge much more than that!
If they feel they need to charge $200 for a consultation because they don't get very many consultations throughout the week, I would suggest doing other things on the side to balance it out. Like a part time job for a steady regular paycheck, and then charge a more modest fee for services. Or write books related to your talent and either find a publisher or self publish on Amazon (it's easy!). Possibly have a small gift shop wherever you give your services so if people CHOOSE to spend more money and can afford to do so, they can. That would be a great way to sell copies of your own book, as well. If someone is happy with your services they will probably want to buy your book.
I do think there are a lot of charlatans out there. But that doesn't mean there aren't good and honest people, too. But, it does make me question the ethics of the pagan community when if I was a Christian I could go in for healing services or spiritual counseling with someone at the church for free.