Paying the Price

If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling

If you follow Patheos Pagan on Google+, Facebook or Twitter you know that I generally post some Pagan music and a quote each day. Sometimes it’s merely Pagan-ish. I needed some unapologetic rock this morning, and the best I could drum up was Jethro Tull. We really need a Pagan equivalent to Green Day or Aerosmith. As for the quote, I’m peckish for some Kipling today and thought I’d find a lovely nature quote from him, but instead I was struck by the above quote.

Sure Kipling might be talking about buying socks, but his quote has deeper, spiritual implications. Let’s look at the quote again:

If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” – Rudyard Kipling

This quote is kind of knocking my socks off and leaving me speechless, but I’m going to do my best to expand on it.

In studying Thelema I am revisiting the idea I first encountered in Witchcraft, that your Will is different from your whim. When we want something, we have to decide if it is our Will, or merely our whim. A lot of Pagans struggle with this.

Devotees who find themselves called to serve a god. Women who find a deep conviction to veil. Anyone who leaves the faith they were raised in. Pagans who find themselves called to some form of leadership and are unsure of what that means in communities who find themselves conflicted regarding authority. Pagans who come in our communities through one of the more sparkly gateways, and then find themselves hungering for stronger meat. Pagans who want more, and don’t know where to find it. Pagans who need more, and find they have to create the things that they need from scratch.

I admit many times I have found myself in a place of deep spiritual hunger or altruistic ambition, and I have balked at the price. There are a lot of things I need or want that I don’t think I can afford. I can’t afford the time. I can’t afford the stress. I don’t have enough optimism, energy, tact, compassion, endurance or material resources to get those things. Unfortunately, for many things which are truly important, you cannot bargain over the price.

You will never find peace of mind on the clearance rack. You won’t get a deep, supportive sense of community Buy-One-Get-One-Free. There are no coupons to clip for spiritual fulfillment.

So not only can I not afford the individual things I need, I can’t afford all the things I need. If I budget carefully, I can get my basics taken care of, like my personal practice and some long-distance fellowship with Pagan friends. But I can’t always afford to stretch beyond that. It’s not enough, but it’s what I’m able or willing to pay the price for.

Of course, we can always pool our resources. We can split up the stress. We can divide the time. We can each donate a bit of energy. We can each pitch in a smidge of optimism. We can each reserve just a touch of compassion. We can realistically plan to spend a little of our material resources.

We could do this, but we often don’t. Sometimes we find we don’t really want it. Sometimes we simply aren’t actually willing to pay the price when it comes down to the wire. But often, I think it’s because we don’t understand the price to begin with. We don’t respect the price. Not the full price. Not the sweat, energy, tears, compassion, optimism and other payments that are not so obvious from the outside. We don’t take these costs into account. We don’t know our own capacity and income and reserves, so we don’t know what we can really afford.

I feel like there’s a good meditation here. A good spiritual and mundane exercise. What do you need? What can you afford? What do you find you don’t really want after calculating it’s true cost? What do you find important enough to re-budget your life so you can pay the price?

And here is the big one: can you afford what you need if you can share the cost with people who are equally informed and committed to the price?

We can’t really bargain over the price of the important things. We as individuals can’t afford everything. It’s important to recognize the full price, and to know what we can afford.

Mishap, Magic, Minneapolis and Mabon
My Hopes For The Future of Paganism
Just Like The Christians: An Interview with the Emperor Julian
Being Negative Is Healthy; Or It’s Good To Be An Ass Sometimes
About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Philip Posehn

    Regarding Pagan hard rock, best I can suggest is TYR:

  • Brian Rush

    Nice article, Star. I’m not even going to disagree with you about any of it. ;)

    One thing I’ll add here is that Paganism, a very young religion, tends to lack a serious deep esoteric layer compared to some other religions. There’s nothing in Paganism comparable to the Sufi within Islam, the tradition of renouncing the world within Hinduism, the monastic orders within Christianity, etc. It’s a part-time, workaday religion for most Pagans, as of course religions all are for most of their followers. Those who want to delve deeper often must, as you say, invent the way for ourselves.

    I guess this is part of the reason why I am in favor of eclectic borrowing not only within Paganism but also from outside it, remembering that all paths lead to the same place and that the Truth is universal. There’s a lot out there that we can learn and adapt, just as progressive Christians seem to be learning a lot from us these days.

  • T Thorn Coyle


    and interestingly, the book I just turned in is threaded through with this topic)

  • PhaedraHPS

    Everything has its price. Everything has its trade-0ffs. So much does not get accomplished because its felt that there should be no price for it.

  • Kilmrnock

    Not  really pagan but quite Celtic i can suggest Enter the Haggis  or Albannach which is pagan[has pagan members] or Blackmores night which is also pagan , or atleast Candice Night definitly is . If you’ve never seen Blackmores Night i can  strongly recommend them and wear your ren faire garb , those in costume get better seats ………right up front no additional charge . and yes that is Richie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Rainbow . The  Music is quite interesting sort of middle ages, renfairish .As for rock Rush and Yes are Pagan , not to even mention Godsmack. Quess it has to do with my age i personaly can’t get into the Goth pagan death metal that most norse pagan rock is these days , but to each his/her own .   Kilm

  • Vision_From_Afar

     Turisas, some of Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, and if you want to get really hard, Amon Amarth.

  • John Beckett

    A very appropriate follow-up to yesterday’s post.  When you declare “this is who I am and this is who I am not” it starts to get clearer what is Will and what is whim.  And as that Will starts to get clearer, so does the price you must pay to achieve it. 

    If the Will is strong and the whims are kept in their place, the price becomes irrelevant – it is simply what must be done.

  • Eric Scott

    Definitely Tyr. My favorite in the Viking metal subclass is Enslaved, but Tyr is awesome and is closer to hard rock than most.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     I wouldn’t call Amon Amarth *that* hard/heavy.

    Besides, last I heard, they aren’t Pagan. (Johan, their lead singer, for example, is an Atheist.)

    I’d suggest something like Jotunspor or Burzum (that last could be a touch controversial for some). If that is a bit much, or you prefer something a bit more Celtic, try Waylander or Cruachan.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     Those other religious systems tend to have an organised system that collects monies from its followers (tithes) which can fund the monastic existence of the few who choose to dedicate their life to their religion.

    Without that, I am unsure how any Pagan could hope to take up that level of commitment.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “Pagans who find themselves called to some form of leadership and are
    unsure of what that means in communities who find themselves conflicted
    regarding authority.”

    For me, this is the biggest challenge modern Pagan paths have to face. In society the individual (rarely) holds power. It is the groups that wield the power.
    Pagans want meaningful change in society, they have to accept that groups are needed and that groups need leadership. (You will, of course, note that a leader does not automatically hold the power, but simply is the mouthpiece of the collective.)

  • Moria Vulcanus

    Forgive my ignorance, I have come to enjoy being a hermit witch so I miss out on most behind the scene discussions. I have a real question & am not trying to be contrary. Some of the comments here make me wonder why there is so much talk about witches needing leadership. What is missing from what already exists? What do people want these leaders to do? I do hear this mentioned everywhere in the parts of the Pagan community – that leadership is lacking, so I’m not singling anyone out.

    I do not understand what seems to be a great need for hierarchy. Maybe it’s because I have always had issues with authority. Maybe it’s because I was not initially raised in a religion that had much hierarchy – I realize many Pagans come from Christianity & that’s what I’m missing. Again, what do we need these “missing” leaders for?

    We already have coven leaders. We have people who organize festivals & organize websites. We have our “celebrity” witches. Do people want one large ruling organization? Do they want very visible political leaders? Do they want gurus to they everyone a clear path to enlightenment?

    I don’t even understand those who say “you’re not a real witch unless you are a high priestess.” Not merely a priestess but a high priestess. Again hierarchy. To me that’s like saying you’re not a real Christian until you become a bishop.

    Again, maybe I’ve just missed out on something critical by being solitary (though I’ve been with groups in the past). How is my worship not “real” unless I’m leading a group? Just something I’ve been wondering. It does seem a bit related to discussions of a more esoteric path of the Craft.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     You are basically right. It is political.

    There is no need for leaders or anything beyond the ‘solitary’ in an ideal world.

    However, in order to be taken seriously as a religion in the modern, ‘real’ world, organisation is needed and organisation requires ‘leadership’.

    At the moment, the term ‘Pagan’ is almost meaningless to anyone who isn’t self declaring as one. Simply because you cannot properly explain it to someone else.

  • Lamyka L.

    I wish people would realize just how mind-blowing what you just said is Phaedra. You’d think Pagans of all people would understand that you don’t get something for nothing.