"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. "
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Money Makes the World Go Round...

By Galina Krasskova

I had not intended to focus on this particular topic in my very first post here, but it’s been coming up quite a bit with clients lately so perhaps it’s time.

I recently attended a Pagan Gathering in CA and once again I was astounded by the aesthetic so prevalent in Pagan and Wiccan circles: doggedly downwardly mobile, and once again, I had to ask myself why this is. Is it any wonder that these religions are not taken seriously by the mainstream when their adherents parade around looking like poverty stricken members of some cracked neo-hippie group with a fetish for Renn Faire clothing? The gathering that I attended was not only Pagan, but academic (i.e. professional) and yet the same aesthetic prevailed.

Lest I seem the total snob, let me be clear about something: I could care less how a person chooses to dress on his or her own time. Be comfortable. However, as I myself have so recently learned: in the professional world appearance is…while not everything, a valuable tool in presentation and marketing. What we choose to wear and how we choose to present ourselves speaks volumes about who we are, our perceived competence, and our professionalism. Clothing, make up, good grooming are all tools that one can use to affect the way people respond: it’s the most basic level of magical glamour-work. It’s a hell of a lot more effective than lighting a candle! Part of the problem is knowing what is appropriate and when: long flowing tie dye may be fine during a ritual but in a professional setting: not so much. I also strongly believe that part of the reasons for this dominant aesthetic is the communities’ attitude toward money: what it is, what is says about a person, what having it implies.

I’ll tell you something: money is sacred. Yes: MONEY. One of the Gods that I serve is Andvari, a God of money, resources, and craftsmanship. He demands, first and foremost, that we deal with our issues around money and learn what belongs to us by right and what belongs to us by accident. In American culture, people will discuss the most intimate details of their sex lives openly but cringe in shame at the mere thought of discussing their finances. The learning curve as the current financial crisis shows, is pretty pathetic. Andvari teaches not only that money is a sacred thing but that it is a living thing worthy of respect. As we honor spirits of the land, of the elements, of our dead, so we should honor the spirits of money. If we respect money, it will respect us in turn. Part of that respect means dealing with any ambivalence, fear, and tangled issues surrounding our own finances. I believe this ties in strongly to what I termed above, the downwardly mobile aesthetic of modern Paganisms. Money, after all, represents “the man” and we all know that Wicca and other Paganisms came of age in the 60s when everyone was revolting against “the man.” What no one seems to consider is that money has the power to transform into things that can better our lives. Money is not the problem. The problem lies with us.

How does this all relate to spirit-work and shamanism? Those that don’t respect money often have trouble setting the appropriate fee for their services. Witness the ongoing debate in Wiccan circles over charging for one’s work at all. To me, this is a ludicrous debate: of course we should charge, unless the Gods tell us otherwise. We are providing services, like divination, that we have worked long and hard to master and gain skill in. We are providing services that our clients cannot provide for themselves. I doubt many would balk at paying their therapist, or dentist, or doctor. Yet time and time again I have not only had clients balk at paying me as a diviner but have seen my colleagues struggle with setting and maintaining appropriate fees. It all comes down to learning to value who we are and, moreover, what we do.

Maybe it’s just that there is still too much hold over from Christian attitudes toward money. Christians serve a God of holy poverty and that is a wise and honorable thing. I belong to Odin, however, meaning I serve a God of kings. For those not owned by Christ, money should not carry any onus or taint. We have a right to be successful. Being spiritual need not mean abandoning earthly success. As my spiritual mother pointed out recently: Jesus may have been a God of holy poverty but when He died, He was given the honor of an appropriate burial in a sepulcher because Joseph of Arimathea had money!

Until we learn to value money and its power to transform a life, until we learn to see it as something as equally spiritual as nature we’ll never be perceived of as anything more than a group of ridiculous fringe cults. Nor will we ever succeed in having what we do, our skills, vocations, and talents afforded the respect that they deserve. We need, across the board, to lose the fear of appearing professional. As my colleague Anya Kless said recently:

"They (Wiccans and Pagans) should do more to recognize that not everyone is a leather worker, farmer, bard, or IT person who works from home. Wiccans (and Pagans) exist in different facets of the work force, and the witch in a suit is just as valuable (if not more so)."

We need to bring our religions into the modern world, a world in desperate need of many things, including financial wisdom, respect, and, dare I say it, spirit workers. After all, part of our job is restoring balance. If we want to be taken seriously, we first have to take ourselves and our skills seriously. Pagans have long understood that there is absolutely no shame in being poor. It’s time we learned there’s no shame in the opposite either.



  1. I think there are a couple of issues addressed here:

    --What we wear to festivals, and the nature of festivals. Are pagan festivals really "professional" in a mainstream sense of the word? I wouldn't necessarily agree. While I went to PCon with the intent of doing some networking on behalf of my publisher and my own business, I also went to have a weekend off. Therefore, there's a mix between business and carnival. However, there's no clear delineation between one and the other--it's not as though from 8 to 5 I'm networking, and then afterwards I get to party. I can be en route to a workshop and have a friend I haven't seen in years come up to me, and I can be in the Green Fairy room that evening and talk to a potential author about their manuscript. I really don't want to wear professional clothing the entire time I'm there, and additionally, *it is understood by those in attendance at this convention that this is primarily a come-as-you-are event*.

    PCon isn't Pagan Pride Day; while you are of course going to get non-pagan folks who happen to be staying at the hotel that weekend, it's not specifically an event meant for greater community outreach in the same way PPD is. While it's arguable that we should present ourselves because of the presence of nonpagans, it's also worth considering that this is often vacation time for many folks.

    --The attitude towards money: I have no argument with you here. I completely, totally, and fully agree with you that there is too much adherence to the "poor pagan" stereotype, and the backlash against perceived religion-for-money models supposedly espoused by mainstream religions. Too many pagans use "virtue" as an excuse for being financially ignorant and phobic.

    (My husband actually wrote more on this than I did a while back, the second essay at http://www.twpt.com/magick.htm . It's also what motivated him to put together a "Manifesting Prosperity" anthology, to go beyond the money spell and into attitudes about money in paganism and occultism.)

    But where do the two intertwine? There's the assumption that one's appearance automatically correlates to one's attitude towards money. Much of this is due to mainstream assumptions (though I bet the average person has no idea how much well-made Faire garb actually costs...). How much, though, do we need to conform to mainstream values in order to be deemed acceptable?

    I would argue that it is not just my responsibility to conform to the expectations of mainstream society where it may be appropriate (and I would consider a festival to be less worrisome than, say, an academic convention), but for mainstream society to also break out of stereotypical assumptions based on appearance. The former, of course, is far more under my control than the latter. OTOH, because of my training in cultural competency in my Master's counseling program, I'm also more inclined to favor honoring peoples' expressions of their social locations, including with regards to spirituality, rather than pressuring towards assimilation.

    While I agree we need to learn as a general group that there's no shame in being financially secure (and that we aren't sellouts), there are other factors as well, both for us and for "them", as it were, including how to deal with assumptions based on appearance, and when to allow these societal assumptions to affect personal decisions.

  2. I lived in a large midwestern city with a large and active pagan community. At the time I was active in this community there was not only that social fear about money but somehow to be pagan meant to be poor.

    Pagans with financial security and/or money were looked down at. Almost like they weren't living down in the dirt with Momma earth then they were not true pagans. I always found this attitude strange and off putting.

    I agree with you on clothing. While there is a time and place to let your hair down. There's is also a time and place to put your best foot forward. The attitude was just like the financial attitude if you were dressed in flowing Ren Faire dress or black attire somehow you were not one of "us".

    I did not find these trends in the Asatru community. And maybe that's the difference. It is certainly one of those things that sets the Norse aside. At least in my opinion.

  3. Hi, Lupa and Micalela,
    You raise many good points and I want to take the time to respond to them here.

    I don’t think that good presentation ought to depend on the presence or not of non-Pagans. That’s certainly not why I choose to dress fairly professionally on a regular basis. I just question why the dominant aesthetic within Paganism and Wicca is one that sends the message that it does.

    I completely agree with you, Lupa, (and you said this better than I did) that far too many Pagans and Wiccans use "virtue" as an excuse for financial ignorance. I think that there are a number of social factors both internal and external to Paganism that influences that.

    In fact i would go so far as to posit that financial literacy is the bete noire of the 20th and 21st centuries, just the same way that sex was in the 1950s. I mean would you sit down with your girlfriends and comfortably discuss your financial debt? most people couldn't. I've been fortunate in that i was taught the principles of financial literacy by a very determined Swiss woman and one of the things that I found most helpful, was open discussion of the issues, problems, successes and failures. I mean, in this country, most youth are not taught anything about this in school, nor are they necessarily getting it at home. They're bombarded with consumerism run rampant. When I worked on Wall Street, a co-worker ran a program that would go into urban schools and teach the principles of financial literacy. What horrified me was when she said in passing that at least 80% of the teen agers that she deals with (high schoolers) thought ATM meant 'all the money.' There was no concept of the connection between one's bank account and one's paycheck. This is only one example of many that i could name. So...i'm none too sanguine about "mainstream" approaches to finance and professionalism. We can all see where that's gotten us.

    I hadn't actually given much thought to the interstices between appearance and attitude toward money until I began writing this particlar column. A friend pointed out to me that people pay good (and often excessive) money to look like what i initially termed 'downwardly mobile neo-hippies' (and i say this with the understanding that original hippie fashions were a revolt against the rigid, restrictive, and strongly gendered fashions of the 1950s. We really owe the hippie movement an incredible debt when it comes to clothing comfort! Without them, we'd likely all still be wearing girdles). That being said, i don't think that mainstream values toward money are all that healthy either. If they were, we'd not have been living on a credit based economy and we wouldn't be in the current financial crisis that we're in as a nation. So I"m certainly not calling for a blanket embrace of mainstream values.

    What i am calling for, is an examination of how our religions as a community approach the process of recreating ancient beliefs in a modern world with radically different ethical structures. How are we moving our religions into the future? If someone wants to dress in tie-dye and live simply: that's certainly their perogative. What i am against, is someone feeling that they have to do that in order to be a "real" Pagan. Why is the concept of wealth and professional status so ignored and undervalued in our communities? (I mean, take the concept of Pagan Standard Time. It's pure BS. Be on time. period. otherwise you're wasting my time. it's common courtesy and anyone who's worked in a professional environment hopefully knows that. Yet something this fundamental escapes the communities--but that is a rant for another day!).

    And while i think in theory, it would be nice to say yes, everyone should have the right to dress the way they want; in reality it doesn't work that way. I prefer to wear sweat pants and tank tops and no make up. I've learned however, that if i want to advance professionally and be taken seriously from everyone from my bosses, to my academic advisor, to my financial advisor i need to utilize garb, make up, posture, language, and courtesies rather like war paint. They allow me to project the image that will be most beneficial to the circumstance at hand. It's a matter of knowing what is appropriate when. I think that there's this dogged resistance to that lesson in the community at large. I'm a pragmatist: i'm about getting things done effectively. I may personally hate the fact that i'm judged on my appearance but knowing that this is so gives me a certain amount of control and power in my interactions. There's another bete noire in the community: power...maybe something I'll write about in a future article. Anyway, I'm rambling now and I can only ask your indulgence for this. I'm glad you posted. I think this dialogue can be very beneficial all around.

    btw, Micalela, i don't find this same attitude in the Heathen community. There's a different dynamic going on there that in its own way is equally troubling.

  4. To continue for a moment, i also think that by embracing this downwardly mobile Weltanschauung, it allows one to take no responsibility for one's lack of success. It's like the old Aesop fable of the fox and the grapes, "well, i didn't want them anyway!" If you want nothing, you don't have to work for anything, you don't have to struggle to realize your dreams, and you don't have to embrace the discipline of mindful responsibility. I think this entire attitude, particularly including hostility toward money can be one hell of a social cop-out. But then perhaps i'm just an old cynic!

  5. I wouldn't lay as much of the blame at the foot of lingering Christian sentiment toward poverty as you do, but I also see where Eastern traditions have had their influence in Western paganism. They took the spirit-body split and ran with it to a place that Western traditions wouldn't recognize without their binoculars. Throw in how the hippies idolized Eastern traditions, especially Buddhism and its insistence that all material wealth is a hindrance to enlightenment, and we as a social movement are effectively cursed with a set of conflicting impulses. The gods of old in Europe weren't big on poverty on the average. I'm in an Irish-focused Celtic tradition, and the number of times their myths speak of beautiful people draped in fine cloth and adorned with shining gems says a lot about their opinion of wealth.

  6. Hi, Lysana,
    I hadn't even considered the Eastern influence! I think you may be on to something there.

    I know what you mean about the Celtic myths. I'm Heathen and gold runs through the norse myths as a powerful symbol, both for good and ill. Success, including financial success may have traditionally carried obligation but certainly it didn't carry any onus.

    The Scandinavian kings were sometimes referred to as 'Gold Haters" but that wasn't due to any belief that money was bad, but rather due to the fact that they had the cultural obligation to bestow wealth and gifts upon those in service to them.

    really good point about Eastern religions....

  7. A bit belated, but I just found the link to your blog, and reading this: "What i am against, is someone feeling that they have to do that in order to be a "real" Pagan. Why is the concept of wealth and professional status so ignored and undervalued in our communities? (I mean, take the concept of Pagan Standard Time. It's pure BS. Be on time. period. otherwise you're wasting my time. it's common courtesy and anyone who's worked in a professional environment hopefully knows that. Yet something this fundamental escapes the communities--but that is a rant for another day!"

    ... I just have to say that I love you. This. So much. I love my business-casual clothes. I love the impression it gives, and I love how a silver Hammer or Valknut look with it. I worked hard for my degree and while yes, that sort of professional world has a lot of unwritten rules, I love that, too. Even my casual clothes, while always bought in outlets or on sale, still give off an impression of mainsteam fashion and status. I don't spend that much on clothes, all in all, but I pick what I wear damn well. It doesn't make me any less of a Heathen or Pagan. It just means that I'm a bit of a Gucci Heathen.

  8. Gucci Heathen..i love that. But seriously, these things are tools: our make up, clothing, carriage...they are professional tools and as such, we need to respect them. there's nothing at all wrong with that! I'm really glad you enjoyed the article. Be well. Gk