We live in a capitalist world. Today, every aspect of our lives is expected to be monetized, one cannot even have a hobby without being expected to put a price tag on it. It stands to reason then, that something that is as large a part of our lives as our Craft would be no different. Frankly I think this stems from a few problems (all of which we could spend paragraphs on), from living in a world where every moment must be monetized to survive, all the way down to the fact that people think Witchcraft itself is a hobby, rather than a spiritual practice.
An article titled “Paying the Priestess” jokes, “What’s the difference between Wiccan and New Age? Answer: one decimal point. If you haven’t spent a lot of time around New Agers or, you may not get this joke. But if you have ever forked over hundreds of dollars for a seminar at a growth center and then, a few months later, went to a Wiccan event where all you did was bring the candles or the wine, you start laughing.”
Let’s Talk about Spiritual Opportunism
Every now and again there will be a scandal in my own trad community that someone has broken one of the rules-that-shall-not-be-broken and has begun charging for Gardnerian training. Instances have been anything from hundreds of dollars per month, to demands of work-in-kind.
So let’s take a moment to talk about spiritual opportunism, which is when someone exploits their spiritual authority for personal gain. This is what is happening when mega-churches demand massive donations of their members, and it’s no different when a Gardnerian coven charges a monthly fee for training. Both of these examples are religious exploitation, taking what should be freely given to those deemed worthy, and making a commodity of it. Jason Mankey put it best when he said “an initiation (should be) earned, and a teacher should not profit (from) bestowing one.” We pay forward in love and trust what we were given freely.
Membership Fees and Classism
One of the bullet points issues for reducing classism is to “make membership fees and events available on a sliding scale with a low or no minimum threshold to join or participate.” Though we have other challenges to entry, income isn’t one of them. We can easily vilify founders of Gardnerian craft a million ways from Sunday, but one thing remains true – they made occultism accessible.
There was a time not so long ago when only affluent Caucasian men had access to occult communities and information. When Gerald Gardner and his contemporaries brought Wicca to the world, they broke down many (but not all) of those barriers to access and helped make occult knowledge, and the empowerment it brings, accessible to all. For all of Gerald Gardner’s flaws, in a world ruled by men, it was a Priestess upon whom he placed a crown. Suddenly it was possible for any person, from any walk of life, to attain acceptance into the family of the Wicca; and I for one won’t stand by for anyone attempting to rebuild one of those walls between people and the Gods.
Does Income Equate Worthiness?
I grew up desperately poor, and I’ve known struggles as deep as diving in dumpsters for food and clothing. My life now by contrast seems… well, I find it difficult to express the cognitive dissonance of having enough, but that doesn’t by any stretch mean I have extra. What I mean to say is that if income stood between me and initiation, I would not be a Gardnerian. Even now a couple hundred dollars per month would be the difference between keeping my lights on or not – and that’s a simple reality.
Today, I am the High Priestex of a working coven with a little craft family of my own; but I wonder as I write this if my inability to pay be a measure of my worthiness, were there no taboo against charging for Gardnerian training. Truly, I just couldn’t imagine taking advantage of the people I call family to make my own life easier.
What I Won’t Charge For (Ever):
- Training in My Coven, and/or Initiation: To pay for training, to pay for initiation, is tantamount to asking a child to pay a family to adopt them. Who would wish that on a person? When I bring someone into my coven I invite them into my life, my home, my family. That is a gift that should be given freely.
- Clergy Services: I am a clergy person by virtue of my Gardnerian training, and consider it an extension of it – therefore, I will never charge to provide services to a funeral, hand-fasting/wedding, and so on (that said, it’s nice to tip your clergy person if you have the means to do so).
- Knowledge and Information: I’ll never have a Patreon, and the reason for that is that I don’t think there should be a paywall between anyone and what I have to say. If I say something super spectacular, you feel like it was worth something to you, and you have the means to do so? I have a donate link on my about page, as well as a wish-list of books for our coven library.
- Magic: Never, for any reason, would I charge someone money to do magic for them. Full stop.
What I Do Charge For:
- Workshops on non-Wiccan content: I would not charge for a class on any Wiccan topic, and likely not teach one to a non-initiate, but other topics are fair game.
- Magical Items: Occasionally I am asked to make objects such as sigils, talismans, and so on. As these items have actual material cost, depending on the circumstance I may ask for the cost of those materials and any necessary shipping.
- Divination: Divination is something that is disconnected from my Gardnerian practice, and therefore, I have no qualms about charging for a reading.
- My expenses: I’m generally pretty excited to get asked to come help out, teach, or attend an event; but the reality is that my budget doesn’t always allow me to foot the bill. As such, sometimes a caveat of my attendance is free registration to the event in question, somewhere to sleep, and so on.
A Last Thought
A big reason why I don’t charge for these things, and why there’s such a taboo against charging for Gardnerian training, is that we need to be able to say no; money muddies the waters, making it much harder to do that. I don’t do every spell that’s asked of me, don’t teach every workshop or attend every event, and most importantly – don’t accept every person that seeks training from me.
But not wanting to monetize my craft, make a living as clergy, and so on, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to live a ritual based life. However, rather than make a living at my craft, I seek to find my craft in the places that I earn my living. Magic lives everywhere. When I care-take the dead and dying, I do it in service not only to a paycheck, but to the gods whom I serve. But Gardnerian training? That I pay forward in love and trust, because there’s nothing wrong with charging for your time, but making someone pay to be family? That’s just wrong.
I use familial language a lot to describe my relationship to other Gardnerians. The people I train, the people who trained me – and other Gardnerians, well, to me they are family. I know that isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.