Spiritual work is not the Polytheist or Pagan equivalent of free cycle. Do take note.
So once again the issue of whether or not to pay our religious professionals has arisen, this time in an article on wild hunt. Really? Of course you should pay your specialists. I can’t believe how often this comes up. I think it’s indicative of the deeply unhealthy relationship our communities have with money. It boggles the mind.
I’ve written about money as a powerful and sacred tool, of how to develop a working relationship with the spirits of exchange and transformation here. I’ve even taught a class in how to develop a healthy working relationship with money. I’m not going to repeat myself here. Instead, I’m going to speak bluntly on the matter (and if a healthy dose of profanity offends you, best leave now).
I simply cannot believe this is coming up again. Seriously, I should hope people wouldn’t quibble about paying a doctor or hairdresser, a tailor, or computer programmer. Your spiritual professionals have worked long and hard to gain the skills they possess. We’re not christians. Why the fuck are we deifying poverty as something holy? Why the fuck are we demeaning exchange and wealth? (a term i use loosely to encompass all the good things that enable life to be enjoyed sustainably, that enable us to reach out to others, that enable us to live in a way that’s something more than subsistence). Why the fuck are we demeaning the very people who have the skills, training, and knowledge to see our traditions forward in a sustainable way? People bitch and whine about wanting “Leaders”, wanting “temples”, wanting structure. Exactly how do you think those peole and things are going to function? Grow up. There’s no money fairy coming down out of the aether to drop sustainability on people, places, and things in our community.
When the news first broke about the Asatru temple in Iceland, there was a conversation I dropped into on fb. People were talking about how they wanted temples and wished we could have them here. Based on the tenor of the conversation I asked one question: “Are you willing to pay the clergy and administrative staff to run the temple?” The response: “of course not, we’re not a charity.” Well, children, neither are we.
Those of us who bust our ass doing sacred work, be it counseling, divination, ritual work, initiatory work, etc. grow weary of would be clients who think they’re special fucking snowflakes, who constantly want something for nothing, using up their specialists without a thought never giving a god damn thing back in return. Frankly, I think it speaks loudly and clearly as to how too many people in the community have absolutely no respect for the sacred and those who work with it.
The work we do as diviners, spirit workers, priests, etc. is demanding and took years of training. We are working within a set of protocols that allow us to engage with Gods and spirits, ancestors, and other powerful beings in ways that have the potential to nourish our communities and Gods know we do a ton of shit for free (I’ve forked out several thousand dollars on prayer cards over the past two years, out of pocket, with no expectation of ever seeing that money again. I do occasional divination for clients in need for free. I rarely charge for ritual work. I won’t even go into my expenditures for the ordeals that enabled me and gave me the right to divine, or the expenses for rituals — out of which I get very little but those coming to me gain a lot–or offerings done at others’ requests, or offerings done for Gods and spirits at Their request, for the communities in which I work. ETc. etc. Et-fucking-cetera.
There’s an African proverb that applies rightly and well here: “you have to give ashe to get ashe.” Until we as communities comprehend that, we’re just spinning our wheels. One of the things left out of discussions of community resources, temples, structures, and clergy is that there was an entire economy in the ancient world sustained and sustaining these things, an economy which benefitted the people and into which the people paid.
As Dver said in one of the comments to the above article:
“Until we have established communities willing and able to support their priests, diviners, etc. (as they do in many other religions), those religious specialists usually need to charge for their services. It seems ridiculous to me to expect someone to put in the amount of time and energy that competent spiritual and magical work requires, for no compensation. Remember we are paying not only for the service itself, but for the years of work and study and practice that went into attaining the skills. If we truly value that work being done on our behalf, we will be willing to give something valuable in exchange for it – money usually being the simplest way to do this. Just because this has the potential to be abused, with practitioners asking for insane sums of money, doesn’t mean that *any* requirement for monetary compensation is somehow a scam or unethical.”
One of the biggest things crippling our communities is fear, and the mentality of poverty that goes right along with that. There’s a lot of healing to be done here. Maybe you can find someone willing to play doctor for free.