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.