Friday, June 29, 2012

PBP: Money in Paganism

[This post was first published in the Summer 2012 issue of Little Witch Magazine. Read the original version here.]

Pagans of all denominations seem to have a problem with money. We struggle to bring it in, don't like to give it away and, perhaps most importantly, we tend to ignore it until it becomes a problem. 

Most Pagans get by. They're not well off, but they manage. Authors, lecturers, workshop organizers, blog writers... all do what they do out of love, devotion and the crafting of skills, but very few actually pay their bills with their 'pagan job'.


There are a few difficulties in the Pagan community that make 'profitable Paganism' virtually impossible. For one, money is such a terribly mundane thing to be worried about, it takes away from the transcending nature of many (religious Witchcraft) Traditions. As Pagans, there is nothing worse than going to a retreat, fair or other religious even and coming home to debt. Yet, that is what many of us do regularly; we have our religious and spiritual awakenings somewhere else and then pay interest on it for up to several months. 


Money is a dirty word within many branches of Paganism. When you're striving to leave the toils and troubles of daily life behind and to focus, instead, on the Divine, nothing is more difficult than subjecting yourself to a job you might dislike just for the money to pay for your mortgage, your food, your utilities and still end up with nothing to spend on the things you like and a lot of time seemingly wasted. This is problem number two; most Pagans have no drive to get rich or even well off because it takes them away from the things they love to do; explore nature, participate in ritual, meet up with friends and the community, work in the garden, and so many other things.  

Issue number three comes in the form of guilt. As Pagans, those of us with a skill worth selling will have no problem charging the non-Pagan community but somewhere, somehow, it became a practice to identify with your Pagan patron's plight and knock a bit off of the price of a service of product 'because we practice the same faith and we should support each other'. It's a wonderful idea, and if everyone had money to spare, it would even work, but currently this just means that Pagan artisans, diviners, writers and healers are doing a lot of work for very little money. And they are supposed to be grateful for the little they did receive because it was a gift. Those who do charge a fair and universal rate for their work are often met with little patronage and judgment. They have broken the super secret Pagan code... because the want to stay out of debt. This code is especially prevalent in (Neo-)Wiccan circles and the majority of Witchcraft Traditions. It's rarely found amongst the Reconstructionist faiths like Asatru, Hellenismos and Kemeticism. In fact, the Reconstructionist faiths tend to be very open to a monetary reward for services rendered or items bought. That's what used to happen in the Olden Days; someone crafted a vase, another person saw the vase and liked it, so they bought it, or they traded it for something of equal value. Everyone went home better off at the end of the day. If the patron could not afford the vase, they didn't get to take it home. Priests in Ancient Greece oversaw ritual sacrifices and got to take home a share of the meat. They were paid for their services because priests, like anyone else, need to eat.

Paganism doesn't have paid clergy. This is issue number four and it's a difficult one to tackle. Research into the (American) Pagan community has discovered that the majority of questioned Neo-Pagans would like to have paid clergy available to them. Yet, they are are still not there. A major issue seems to be the fact that Neo-Pagans are scrooges when it comes to money. We don't have much of it ourselves and if we do have it, we will only spent it on things that will buy us something, be it an item or knowledge. Any money we part with needs to be met with an equal pay-off. This is in part to do with the fact that there are no Temples to tithe to. Most of us aren't raised with the request to donate money to a religious cause on a weekly or monthly basis. Those that were, often have turned away from those places and any tithing will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. Because of this, there is no money to pay for someone to take up the role of community priest or priestess. Often, the closest we get to it is charging admission to public rituals and feeling guilty about it. But paid clergy can be so much more and there is no need to model the job the Christian way. 

Paid clergy is an ever-available listening ear to the beginning Pagan or the Pagan with (religiously fueled) marriage problems. Clergy can organize regular rituals, lectures and workshops which tighten the community and push Paganism forward. They can get certified to legally perform marriage ceremonies and can be hired to see to Pagan funeral rites, something that is becoming an issue now many of the first and second wave Pagans are reaching the age where they pass over. 

Money can buy a lot and it is not evil, or even mundane. It's part of our spiritual practice and should be seen as a blessing, not a curse. There is nothing wrong with striving for riches. These riches support your local Neo-Pagan shops, support the information sources you frequent but are charged nothing for, support rituals and fairs you can attend and, mostly, they help you invest in the future of Paganism. A future where skills and crafts are valued fairly so those who can do, get to focus on it full time and teach these skills to others so they don't get lost (again). Money helps us be better Pagans and it's time we started acknowledging that.

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