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Charging money

Page history last edited by Yvonne 8 years, 10 months ago

Towards an ethic of charging


Yvonne Aburrow 2006


It is generally accepted that it is OK to charge for work. But in my view, training people in the Craft is not work, it is a duty (an honour even), an offering to the gods, those who have gone before in the magical tradition, and the Craft itself. Also, one's "payment" for it comes in the satisfaction of bringing in new people and having a coven / small group as a result of the training process. And the benefit of the insights of one's trainees (if one picks the right trainees).


Services to the community, on the other hand, are chargeable (even if only in kind, as in travel expenses plus board & lodging) as one doesn't get anything out of it in return and it costs time and effort to do. These would include reiki initiations, divination, house cleansing, handfastings, bellydancing workshops, correspondence courses, etc. Though one would rather not ask for money, just wait until it is offered. And of course one wouldn't charge friends, as it would be a gift to them (and an honour to perform the ceremony for them).


Apparently some traditions in South America charge for their teachings to Westerners, as this benefits their poverty-stricken community. I think this is fair enough, as there is no continuing relationship between them and the buyers of their knowledge. This is similar to publishing a book or giving a public lecture series - the teaching is all one-way, from teacher to student, whereas in a small-group situation the teacher learns from the students.


In my view, one of the key reasons for not charging is that the exchange of money ends the subtle relationship of obligation 1. It's analogous to charging for sex - once money has changed hands, that's the end of the process, and the money is in lieu of the pleasure that ought to have been experienced by the one being paid 2. Whereas in the gift-exchange process, stasis is never reached, so the relationship continues. Of course, some people might prefer there not to be an ongoing relationship of obligation, in which case they might be better suited to a system where dues are paid. And the relationship of obligation is open to exploitation by the teacher (but so is the money scenario).


There's also the argument that some people do not value what is given freely because they only understand things in terms of money. That is rather sad, but I do not think it applies in the case of training for the priest(ess)hood, as most trainees understand that they are training to serve the community (of deities, humans, wights, plants and animals), and not merely for their own gain or growth.


Of course, a part-time priesthood is different from a full-time one, but I think it is interesting that in the case of Christian priests, the community contributes tithes to the Church, and the Church pays its priests out of the tithes (and presumably the income from the property they own); so the community doesn't pay the priest directly (except for things like weddings which are outside the normal usage).



1. This insight stems from some archaeological stuff I was reading about the economy of gift exchange (Danebury by Barry Cunliffe), and also some anthropology stuff about the Trobriand Islanders and other gift economies. Also the Norse stuff about "a gift for a gift" and reflecting on the process of exchanging birthday presents.


2. NB - no disrespect intended to sex workers.


Original blog post with comments


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