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.

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Posted on April 1, 2015, in community and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I charge minimally for most of what I do, and rarely get requests for any kind of ritual stuff which I have never yet charged for…..but the pay off though is that everything is done at my convenience or the time frame I am able to get to it since I do have to hold a full time day job in addition to trying to work time in for my writing, research and devotional art. I rarely am able to write on request, and certainly can’t afford to travel to various conferences and functions. So ya….money is necessary, and whereas it would be nice to not have to worry about an exchange of money, the fact is that bills have to be paid and food be bought. That anyone sees that this conversation has to go round and round continuously is just exasperating. I have seen someone suggest once that art should be free to everyone….which as an artistically inclined person makes both eyebrows go up cuz well if you want it to be free you are going to be waiting a *looong* time for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your beautiful artwork is already too cheap, Lykeia. But I totally understand where you and Galina are coming from. When I do artwork in public I have strangers coming up to me again and again asking for me to paint something for free or suggest a stupidly low price. It’s insulting.

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  2. When I was vending, the New Agers would not quibble about my prices, but Pagans would. I had handcrafted items from several artists that I vended for, as well as my own creations. I was aware to have a price range for everyone. I had $US 4 animal charms for children, that were quite popular. I also did pet readings as well. There were always be at least someone who whine about wanting something for free, since we were fellow Pagans. I would point to my charms, but they wanted the stone carvings ($US 100) of dragons. Ugh.

    I often wondered about that idea of barter or giving up stuff for free. In my area, the elder Pagans were more hippie like and interested in running communes. They encouraged the attitude of money being dirty and that it soiled Pagans. However, they were not above charging for Tarot readings.

    The other attitude that I encountered was the idea that we should support local Pagan businesses regardless of whether they provided solid customer care and quality goods. I know of two businesses who kept harping about how they were not being supported like they wanted. One person kept closing her store days at a time, whilst the other had a dirty establishment. In another case, the Pagan business nearly extorted funds from people through making them feel guilt for wanting better customer care.

    In other words, we should give up our hard earned money to keep fellow Pagans in business in spite of bad business practises. While on the other hand, when we want something, we should get it for free. Small wonder, people are totally confused about money and Pagans.

    Personally, I think that there are a sizeable minority of Pagans who whine about money, but are actually quite greedy. Their greed shows up in these conversations about getting things for free or expecting unlimited support just because.

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  3. I know there is a *specifically Gardnerian* taboo on charging for teaching, part of that is that initiation is not guaranteed, and they don’t want a you pay = you get initiated thing going on. That is fine, but I wonder if this one taboo from one tradition has been spread to everything else because Pagans suck at boundaries and distinguishing one context from another. There is a huge spectrum from charging the going rates for readings, art et al to being James Arthur Ray. For that matter, there is nothing wrong with making a living with an ordinary job. Most people are going to do that, wanting health insurance and retirement benefits and security does not make you “Less Spiritual” or whatever.

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  4. I would love it if art was free (re: Lykeia) as well as if spirit work or other religious professional services was free to whoever needed them… but if and only if there were the necessary institutions to support those professionals. But really that just means that the professionals would be supported in another, less direct, way. Most churches tithe, synagogues have membership fees, and taxes go to public education. People do pay for such services, but in large part because they don’t do so immediately, people don’t think of how they’re paying for it.

    An interesting trend I’ve noticed, however, is that folks who are already poor or struggling with money are often MORE willing to pay for services. It’s folks who aren’t struggling as much who tend to assume they deserve services for free. And part of that is usually that they think very little of the professional providing the service. Admittedly, this is just in my own experience.

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  5. What? You don’t have a trust fund too? That is so sad. Give me back my bong…

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  6. When I was a bead artist I used the highest quality lead crystal and Bohemian Glass as well as semi-precious stone and fresh water pearl beads in addition to the best quality wire made. It took me quite a while to design the jewelry and various prayer beads that I did. I did not use pewter, I only used sterling (14K for special orders). Nothing came from the PRC (China). I priced my pieces appropriately (3X-4X my cost). People thought I was out to rob them! Everyone thought my work was beautiful; but, they did not want to pay the price for an exclusive piece (I only did one-of-a-kinds).
    Specialized religious services and the maintenance of a temenos is the same thing. We have to be able to put our money where our mouths are. Eventually the neo-pags will die out because they really do not want roots. The Humanists, Ecologists, Atheists, etc. may give some lip service for awhile. There need to be more sacred spaces which are acknowledged as such even though the temples might not yet be built. We should probably be starting to take those few tottering steps.

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  7. While I do think a few forms of spiritual service should be free, I can’t agree more about how diseased people’s attitudes about spirit work and money have become. Some people are so against the idea of paid clergy that it would be almost humorous if it wasn’t so pathetic.

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  8. The others professionals you mentioned are accountable, we pay just as much for that as we do for the training and experience. Spiritual practitioners do not have any legally binding reassurances to offer clients and civil disputes are often dismissed as clients having high or unrealistic expectations.

    The more steps are made to governance and ethical regulation the less money will be a point of contention

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      I would never want the government involved in my spiritual work.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Spiritual practitioners do not have any legally binding reassurances to offer clients” – erm… appart from the fact they’re not exempted from basic consumer and trade laws regarding fair and legal trading. Obviously if you’re not paying for a service these things do not come into play. In short, if you want a professional, accountable service, pay for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If practitioners charged basic consumer rates that would be fine.
        What do we have to assure us of the basic difference between a legitimate practitioner and a scammer?
        Base rate for a psychologist (for example) starts at $90 – that’s someone that had to get a degree from an accredited organization and obtain a license which will be subject for review over time and will be revoked for malpractice, a spiritual counsellor may not have any serious qualifications and no accountability to maintain practice yet often charge comparable rates.

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    • Reputation and experience – and not promising anything other than your experience – is the best regulation in this context. Many people expect the impossible for their 60 minute fee. It’s about understanding what you are seeking – e.g spiritual counsel or training and having good critical thinking when relating with a teacher or reader. Regulation inhibits to a small degree but does not stop abuse, incompetent, negligent or just ineffective ‘legally regulated’ therapists, medical practitioners etc. There are charlatans and reckless people who will rip you off in all spheres of life. It is a bit of a myth that regulation works as effectively as people think. It’s usually community that tips of government about dodgy doctors or public servants. No different in any other sector of life.We don’t legislate to regulate performers, artists, poets, philosophers etc – it is the wrong system for the service. But if you are a poor dancer, are too drunk to play, abuse your audience etc you don’t get booked again. I do empathise that there are some extremely predatory people calling themselves ‘spiritual’ but those bastards will go anywhere there are vulnerable people. Part of being community is protecting each other – not gossiping/flaming comment box but observing and speaking up/questioning things that don’t feel right. If you get a NO feeling listen. We need to teach others this & remind ourselves.

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      • If I there more legitimate operators complaining about the frauds and scams then arguing their right to charge fees your point might have merit

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      • I focus on my work not critiquing others unless it comes up naturally. I don’t need to be a campaigner for my work to legitimate. I can’t do the work I do unless I charge fees, just like everyone else in any other industry.

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  9. Is it a religion or a business? Is it for spiritual purposes or to make money? Money corrupts despite sometimes being necessary.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      Money is sacred. It’s transformation in action. Money is what enables a person to put food on the table. I think it’s important to honor the spirits of exchange. And frankly, no one is entitled to anyone’s expertise. Those who offer their spiritual services work long and hard to attain skill. they’re providing services that the client cannot provide for him or herself. No one is entitled to that for free. If there’s respect and value, there should be compensation. I don’t expect artists or massage therapists to work for free (two other holy vocations that are often devalued), and I certainly don’t expect it of spirit workers. The idea that money is somehow corrupt is a nice excuse to avoid payment.

      Liked by 6 people

  10. It’s not just Gardnerians who are forbidden to charge for doing spiritual work. No branch of British Traditional Wicca permits it. If you don’t see why that’s important, just pick up a copy of one of those New Age newsletters at the health food store and look at the listings for classes, workshops, and ‘initiations:’ elitist, smug, and tragically equating high prices with high spiritual value.

    Handicrafts and works of art are another matter. The same set of rules that forbids us to charge for spiritual teaching or initiation also forbids us to haggle when purchasing our ritual tools & regalia.

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  11. I should have said, too, that the BTW attitude of not charging for Craft spiritual work is not about any ‘taint’ to money. We believe that it’s not ours to sell. We were given it freely by our teachers and initiators and are using it while holding it in trust for those we teach and initiate.

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  12. Deification o poverty is the celebration of mediocrity. It is a sign of our times where no child is left behind in a world where really the throw backs DO need to be left behind

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  13. Most forms of occult practice coming from the British Isles where practiced by those with a guaranteed income. Gardner was a retired civil servant, with a pension. One of their reasons for not charging was because they didn’t need to. And it also kept the Riffraff out.

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  14. Reblogged this on The Adventures of a Bohemian Lokean and commented:
    I frequently cringe when I read something Ms. Krasskova writes. There’s something about her tone, no bullshit-no holds barred-that sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I’m not entirely sure what it is, maybe something in myself that shies away from being especially assertive that I frequently note as missing from my daily interactions and this woman has it in spades. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I genuinely DON’T agree with her, but today I do AND I don’t.

    We need financed community. I’ve been saying this for years. As Heathens/Pagans/whathaveyou we simply don’t have the network other mainstream religions have to provide safety for our communities. We can’t organize efficiently enough to oust predators or provide safe havens in quite the same way that others do-even when they bungle it-and a lot of that is because of money. Covensteads are wonderful, but they are small, and they are frequently not open to the public unless the area where they are found is extremely small and “the public” might be a grand total of about six pagans in the area. What I’m getting at here? Yes. Yes we need financing. No, we can’t expect people to work their ever loving balls off for us without anything in return. I’ve watched the collapse of my local pagan community due to similar things. Everyone always wants something for nothing. The few people who have money end up footing way too much of the bills.

    BUT, here’s where I’m seeing a different side from Ms. Krasskova. The pagan community doesn’t have a huge problem with giving money because we’re all stingy miserly assholes, I think the pagan community tends to attract people who askew mainstream living, which quite frequently correlates with poverty. I haven’t had a traditional paycheck in over a year, and that leaves me wildly grasping to fill the money void from time to time with normal every day essentials. There are frequently times I couldn’t pay someone for anything even if I wanted to. And yes, there were times in the past when I didn’t receive medical care I needed because I couldn’t pay for it either. If we had a stronger community, a FUNDED community, however, people would still have something to fall back on even when their own finances were in shambles. I’m lucky enough that I have a kindred, whom I love like my own family, so when I have troubles it’s to them that I head and I hope I keep my own door open wide enough in return.

    There’s something to that-the community of people who simply help one another, but there are times when having a temple to flee to, to make offerings to, to simply sit in, would benefit everyone. I don’t know what the answer is, honestly. You can’t take a culture of people who askew authority and make them fund it, even when they’re clamoring for it. I suppose on a personal level, as a practitioner at least make sure you’re covering your own expenses and time whenever possible and when the people you are working with clearly have the means.

    Money is such a tough thing to work around when someone simply doesn’t have it.

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  15. Reblogged this on Our Secret Existence and commented:
    Expecting something done for you for free is just wrong.

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  16. So I’m not a pagan and probably don’t have standing to weigh in here, but I have worked as a shamanic practitioner and accepted money for it sometimes and sometimes not. I don’t have any problem with spiritual practitioners charging for the work they do. It seems reasonable and fair to me. It does lead me to another question though. When we pay a spiritual practitioner, what is it we are paying for? Are we paying for the effort, regardless of the outcome? If we are paying to feel more clam and relaxed after a session and we fell that way, then we should pay for it. If we are paying for clarity in a counseling session and we experience more clarity (no matter how the practitioner claims to have brought us to that clarity) then we should pay for it. If we are paying to be healed or cleared of something that seems no different after the treatment than before, are we okay paying for the effort, or do we expect relatively predictable results?

    I ask because there are a lot of people who hang up their shingle as a spiritual practitioner of one sort or another that seem to produce wonderful, predictable, and replicable results for people who are predisposed to believe in what they do, but strike out rather consistently when asked to work beyond that circle of belief. Of course one could make the argument that a great many traditionally trained therapists are pretty miserable at what they do as well and we are still expected to pay them, so maybe the model is you pay for the effort and the degree the person has and hope for the best. In my life and in my work with others, if I’m going to expect reasonable compensation for what I offer, then what I offer needs to be fairly consistently replicable across a wide variety of people. That may not be a typical standard, but because the field of spiritual healing or counseling is such a mash-up of traditions and belief systems, I think we need to hold ourselves as practitioners to a higher standard.

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  17. Energy (that of the healer, ritual leader, divinator, teacher) must be met with energy (a payment that is adequate compensation), or both will become congested, stuck, depleted, and/or sick.
    Keep it clean.

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  18. Not all BTWs are forbidden from charging for work. I am only forbidden from charging for healing work. I do not charge for teaching and will not for Craft training in my tradition but fir Tarot, Reiki, etc, other spellwork I’d expect a donation. A past life reading? You bet! My civen members, never. But I am not obliged to serve the general Pagan public, and I charge for rites of passage and other things similarly. My prices are cheap compared to others. A Jewish rabbi did a marriage for $700 I was willing to do for $250 at the most.

    Until we find a way to have people value our work, we will not be respected enough for people to offer reasonable funds in return. If I was a BNP I could get more $$ for reading runes or Tarot…

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