If you’ve been following this blog, you can probably guess my thoughts on this concept, but I’m going to talk about it anyways because, hey, it’s Thanksgiving and I don’t feel like doing a whole lot of anything (and before you ask, I had a horrible Thanksgiving dinner because my dumbass brother decided to tease me re: my unemployment, cue the waterworks and me shutting myself in the computer room and playing Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura to death, no, I don’t want to talk about it).
Anyways, this is old news by now, but the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge deaths prompted a slew of posts on cultural appropriation as well as paying for praying (some commentators noted that sweats are offered free of charge by actual native people, not all of them are open to non-natives, of course, but they do exist). More recently, eBay has banned the sale of curses, spells, and other intangibles on its site and, of course, we’ve all heard of the
charlatans sort of people who claim their courses will prepare you for a Third Degree initiation when their courses actually teach the same basic stuff you could find in any Llewellyn book.
Anyways, for the longest time I sided with those who claim that you SHOULD NEVER PAY MONEY FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS, EVER! Money is the root of all evil! Money cheapens things. If you pay money for intangibles, you are an idiot who deserves to be parted from your money. Some may feel that its wrong to charge for basic information that you can get in any 101 book, or may have been instructed by their deities not to charge for particular services.
On some level, I can understand this view. The joke that I hear a lot is: “What’s the difference between a New Ager and a Witch? A decimal point,” and in my experience, this is true. When someone starts charging $60 for a quartz crystal point that I used to be able to get for free on the path near my house (they sanded over the good stuff years ago) that’s when I start rolling my eyes., just to put this in perspective, the story on the James Arthur Ray case I linked to mentions that attendees were charged around $10,000 for this “spiritual warrior” weekend thing, the kind of thing that actual native groups (from whom Ray
stole appropriated the sweat lodge in the first place) do for free.
It’s fucking heinous, that’s what it is.
What changed my mind on this subject, however, was the simple realization that “people need to eat” and that includes religious specialists, and I don’t see anything wrong with compensating people for their time and effort (especially if I want them to take time out of their busy schedule to do a complex ritual for me). Kenaz Filan wrote an excellent piece on paying for initiations at hir blog which I encourage everyone to read, as it really illustrates the point that you honestly can’t expect so many people to give of their time and effort without some sort of compensation.
I definitely support people thinking long and carefully about where their money’s going. Do you really need to pay someone X amount to do divination for you when you could spend $20 to buy a tarot deck and do it yourself? (Yes, it’s hard to read for yourself, but with a bit of practice, you can pull it off) or even better, do you know someone who would do a quick reading for you for free? Do you need to take that course, or can you just buy any old 101 book and get the same information for a fraction of the cost? Do you need to go to that convention? In all honesty, as much as I’d like to someday go to a convention, I really can’t afford it , and I hate having to stay overnight and sleep in a strange bed (it’s. not. my. bed. dammit!) so I’d just as soon do without it. If you decide that Vodou is absolutely, 100% the path for you, be prepared for the expense required to be initiated into that tradition, and for the love of everything, DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE COMMITTING TO SOMETHING! Unfortunately, there are a lot of frauds out there who are eager to part unsuspecting spiritual seekers with their cash, so this is why it’s so important to talk to other people about these sorts of things.
At this point and time, I’m honestly not confident enough in my reading skills to charge for readings, so I don’t, maybe in the future I’ll charge a nominal fee (or perhaps I’ll just request pictures of cute baby animals) but not at the moment. You will notice (if you go back a few posts) that I also put up my short stories for people to read. Do I plan on doing this forever? Well, no, at some point I hope to make a bit of money off my writing (maybe I’ll even do a giveaway, winner gets a signed copy of my book, ooh, wouldn’t that be exciting???), but for right now, I like sharing my writing with everyone
someone’s probably stolen my stories already anyways.
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Unfortunately, charlatans don’t have signs around their necks advertising them as such, buyer beware.
Talk to other people about the product or service you are considering, don’t just rely on “testimonials” and the like.
When all is said and done, I don’t think you can really put a price on a religious experience, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to expect to be compensated for the expenses that they accrue in bringing that experience to you.