Poverty of the Mind
I am constantly hearing people say “Pagans are poor”. While I have known more than a few low-income Pagans, I am not sure how broadly true this is. It’s very difficult for us to have a accurate survey of the socio-economic status of Pagans in a given country, particularly most people are rather hesitant to identify both their religion and where they are financially. But the impression I get at least, is that Pagans who are poor (or at least say they are) tend to be loud about it, and the Pagans who have more reliable sources of income are quieter about it. (See note below)
Many clergy, Tarot readers, astrologers, alternative health practitioners etc are often expected to offer their services for free, or for less than they can afford. Some claim this goes back to the Gardnerian taboo against teaching witchcraft for money. But that is a more specific situation: there is a rightful concern that people would pay to be initiated, who did not really merit it, and priest/esses would become too motivated by profit rather than spirituality. That is different than charging some money for a class that does not lead to initiation/dedication or for spiritual services. And no one gets wealthy from theses things, and most of these people need other jobs to support themselves. So what are the real reasons for this? Are we just stingy? Not exactly…
One Reiki practitioner I know says she often gets people coming in who are covered in jewelry, and whine about how they can’t pay her fees. It’s your money, but don’t use overspending on pagan-y or geeky toys to justify stiffing others who are offering quality goods & services. Another factor is the counter-cultural ideas that many of us espouse. We reject the workaholic, keeping up with Joneses mentality, instead focusing on our spirituality. But sometimes we take that to the point where exchanging money at all isn’t spiritual, it’s unclean almost. But money at its most basic, with all is spiritual too. When you look at a dollar bill, forget the dead president on it, and visualize a loaf of bread. That’s what it really symbolizes- The words economy and ecology have a common root- the Greek ekos meaning house. Ecology is the science of how our house fits together, and economy is the science of how we manage (or are managed by) our households. So the problem isn’t the bread- it’s collecting bread for its own sake, or avoiding it as much as possible just because it is bread- and food is bad. We literally see the results of this in our society with obesity & eating disorders- which really are emblematic of how we relate to material things, including our bodies. The more we say “we’re poor” the more we psychologically reinforce this idea, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
(Note: in this post I am targeting mainly people who choose bad attitudes towards money & jobs, regardless of the options they may have (and often have a fair amount of privilege even if they’re “oppressed pagans”), not people who have very few opportunities based their backgrounds or difficult life experiences.)
The bottom line is, we really need to develop a healthier, more mature and balanced attitude towards money, that fits with our respective cultural & spiritual values, in order to be whole people and move forward together as a community (or rather overlapping communities)