Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spirituality, Magic, and Money

The current topic lighting our little blog-cabal on fire was started by Kenaz Filan who posted on the topic of compensation for Pagan Elders. Since then he as chimed in twice more. RO has chimed in thrice more. POS and  Jow have made one comment a piece.

Since I make money through magic, you would think I cared more, yet I don't. I make money by writing books, teaching an online course, giving lectures and workshops, providing magical products and services, and actually using wealth magic itself to generate money through investments, assets and so on. You either want to buy what I am selling or you don't. I respect your decision either way. 

Still, I have a few thoughts:

Isaac Bonewits gets brought up a lot because he has been an advocate for paid pagan clergy for a long time, and because he has been known to send around e-mails to the pagan community every now and than asking for money. I like Isaac, but you ain't gonna get paid for being clergy in a religion that has no congregation. Its just simple math. Besides you had ample opportunity:

You graduated with a BA in Magic and Thaumaturgy from UC Berkeley. The novelty alone could have gotten you into a great Grad school and you could have had a lucrative academic career. You didn't

During the height of your career you had the opportunity to write your ass off and have tons of books that would have been out there for decades now. You wrote one.

You started your own religion for crying out loud! Who can't make money starting a religion?* 

I bring this up not to pick on Isaac, but to illustrate the opportunities that people DO have to make money doing what they love. They just need to work. Hard.  If you do not want work your ass off to take advantage of opportunities to make money doing what you love, or just desire more job security, than get a day job. If the issue is that you just don't want to work than I have no sympathy. No one is going to pay you for being an "Elder", which basically amounts to dude that has been around a while that might deign to answer a few questions if you corner him at a Pagan festival.

Jow makes an excellent point in that you can either be paid as a Priest or a Tradesman. Possibly both. 

If you want to be paid as a priest, you have two choices. Become clergy in a religion that has paid clergy already OR start one. Figure out your take on spirituality, write a liturgy, start a church, spread the word and either pass the hat or charge at the door. Usually a bit of both. 

Most Christian Churches pass the hat. They can afford to do so. "How can they afford it you ask? Volume!"
Besides, there is that whole "Simony" thing. 

In Buddhist circles there is a combination of the two. Centers get supported by donations like a church and traveling Lamas offer specific teachings that will draw in a lot of out of towers for specific "requested donations". 

If you are a tradesman than you charge for your craft like I do. Specific teachings and or services for specific fees. 

Vodou is an interesting combination of both, and a model that I always though would work well for Witches. Take donations or Dues from the Coven, but charge for your WitchCRAFT when working for the general public. 

There are of course various taboos that people have on charging for magic. Strangely the same people that do not want to be charged for magic have no problem charging for readings or reiki sessions. I guess those don't count. It's a shame because sometimes a reading reveals a problem that could be avoided by magic, but if you are against paying or charging for spell work you probably are not going to receive or offer that help.

I occasionally get interviewed by someone that is amazed that I do magic for money. They treat it like it is a real novelty or going against tradition. Most Neopagans and Mages are sheltered from the way that magic operates in the rest of the world. The reality is that outside of very modern western neo-paganism and ceremonial magic, charging for magic is the norm. 

*If I ever start a religion, I promise you that I won't be all L Ron Hubbard about it, but I will also make damn sure that it sustains me financially in some way. 


St.Balthazar said...

Another important thing about this occurred to me. It's cynical and a little bitchy, but here it is: I think the reason so many pagans balk at the notion of charging for spell-work is because when someone pays for something they expect some sort of result. That puts one on the spot magically. And if you aren't sure of your abilities or deep down you are not convinced, you know, that your magic actually works - you might not be that willing to expose yourself and possibly get called on your bs.

You are right about pagans being ignorant about what is standard practice in living magical traditions around the globe.

Alexandra said...

There is a difference between charging for spiritual "services", such as spellwork, cleansing, spiritual supplies and so on and charging for religion or spirituality as a whole. Kenaz seems to think the Pagan community needs to support Elders. He gives the example of an Elder who showed very little ability to plan for his future and not a lot of personal pride nowadays.

I have no qualms to pay for the first. IT's the second that irks me.

Kenaz Filan said...

@Alexandra: Honestly, I'm sorry I used the example of Isaac, as he's obviously such a polarizing figure.

Another example might be Starhawk. On another list someone quoted an e-mail wherein Starhawk said that she could not afford to pay for badly needed dental work because her spiritual duties didn't pay enough.

Now, here's someone who is unquestionably an elder, someone who has put in time not just in writing books but in doing real-world actions. I don't agree with some of her conclusions and I don't consider her one of my major influences, but I would definitely say she has touched the lives of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Pagans.

Were Starhawk a guru of comparable stature in India, there would be no question of her receiving appropriate medical and dental care. Her devotees would be fighting amongst each other to see that she received the care she needed. But here she is not receiving that kind of respect, even though she has definitely put in those kind of hours and done that kind of work.

Anonymous said...

I think that, on the coven/congregation end, depends on what people want.

If someone wants a full time Clergy who spends a lot of time doing their practice and are available most of the time for counseling, then we need to start giving money.

On the other hand, if the same person is ok with part time Clergy who doesn't spend as much time with their practice and whose primary allegiance is with what will provide their retirement and medical insurance then not giving money will be just fine.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite cynical about the "Elder" thing.
I've been to a few gatherings that had special "Elder" housing and events, and that always means some complete .. self-declaring hirself an "Elder" in their own self-made tradition comes trying to con newbies.

The groups I know who have rules against charging $$ for religious teachings - the teachers still charge for seminars, workshops, etc. etc. etc. and require dues and various other kinds of supports. What is actually forbidden becomes damn near nitpicking.

Ron said...

The Pagan community will have to resolve these issues if it is to survive and grow. If not, it might fade.

I have a friend who has researched and practices Pow Wow of the Penn. Dutch. It appears that they don't charge for their magical services for the most part. But I understand people tend to compensate them when possible for their help.

Gordon said...

If I may use an analogy from my own career... I've spent the better part of a decade doing digital strategy for newspapers around the world.

Newspapers are dying. And their websites don't make enough to offset their horrendous print losses.

Well, that's too bad. The world changes. Seth Godin says

"Nobody has a right to a business model".

If people aren't buying what you're selling then that's how it is. There is no such thing as a 'malfunctioning business model' (Murdoch's words). There's nothing to 'fix' at a community level or wherever.

@Kenaz brings up a fantastic example of the guru model in India. If Starhawk lived in India she would have teeth like Heather Locklear. But she doesn't.

The solution in this hypothetical example is
1) move to a market with a guru/elder economy. (India)
2) monetize something else that you do. (Day job, readings, whatever)

Which is my way of saying I think Jason is spot on here.

PS - Ironically, Starhawk should look at getting her teeth done in India, anyway. They have a world class international dental trade that costs about 10% of what it does in the US, plus you get to convalesce in a four star resort.

Ariel said...

Charging for spell-work, healing or teaching shows that one does not trust in the universal law: whatever you give out freely, will return 3-fold.

I belong to a teaching circle where there is but one small joining fee that is placed in trust for circle expenses - and the profits belong to all.

Today there are so many 'commercial witches' that it is degrading the reputation, spirituality, and validity of the craft. Therefore true and honest practitioners need to operate at the other end of the spectrum ...