Doreen ValienteEnlightenment and spirituality doesn’t require a price tag – that is a personal journey and cannot be given to you, although it may be guided and supported. Knowledge should freely available, but the providers of knowledge should not be expected to devote time, skills and experience for free. So here lies the constant, and often heated, debate about paying for training in Witchcraft, Wicca or Pagan Spirituality. On one side, the argument that all aspects of spiritual education should be freely given; on the other side, that every practitioner is entitled to a fair compensation of their time, experience and skills.

This argument rears its ugly head time and time again in the Pagan community. What amazes me is the unhealthy fascination that we place on very specific forms of training – namely eclectic Wicca training courses. No one seems overly concerned with Pagans who charge for classes, courses, workshops or services such as Tarot or Astrology. No one verbally assaults Pagan Celebrants who charge for handfastings, baby blessings or funerals.  No one insults the professional Pagan who writes for a living, owns a store or holistic centre, or operates a retreat centre. In my understanding, the debate really heats up when offering a year and a day training in Wicca that combines a variety of skills and teachings that people would otherwise be happy to pay for should it be provided in bite sized pieces. The debate about Wica vs Wicca, Gardnerian/Alexandrian vs other initiatory systems such as Odyssean or more eclectic Wicca aside, the idea that any Priest/Priestess/Coven or Mystery School would charge a fee in exchange for education seems abhorrent to many practitioners.

Gerald GardnerFor many, the idea of spiritual teachings been bought or sold raises the concept of profit before authenticity. For others, the concern over laws like The Fraudulent Mediums Act come into play. Some of this debate revolves around the Gardnerian view that Wica or Witchcraft should not be taught in exchange for money. Interestingly enough, Gerald Gardner came to this view later in his own spiritual development. It was noted that Gardner, upon receiving an O.T.O. Charter from Aleister Crowley, asked Crowley how much he should charge for initiations. Obviously, at that time, Gardner not only felt that it was acceptable to charge for training, but also for spiritual initiations. So Gardner changed his mind at some point for some reason, and that is understandable and acceptable. Those who are initiated into the Gardnerian or Alexandrian traditions are oathbound, a part of which is an agreement that they will not teach Wica for money, and if that is what you agreed to then that is what you should stand by. Oaths are not to be broken. However, Gardners altered view does not beholden the rest of the Pagan community.

Dr. Mikao UsuiIn fact, many other spiritual paths mix money and spiritual services /training quite comfortably. Dr. Usui, the granddaddy of the Usui Reiki tradition, insisted upon some form of exchange (monetary or otherwise) for Reiki healing or training so that recipients respected the value of the healing services given and would therefore take a more active role in their own healing process. Many Voodou, Santeria, and Hoodoo practitioners are comfortable charging for their time and services, and consider themselves a tool wielded by the client and the clients personal needs. In many Shamanic traditions, the apprentice exchanges hard physical work, materials, food, time, and money for the period of their training. Most orthodox belief systems have clergy that are salaried and given accommodation, so that they may devote their lives and skills to service of their communities. Higher education – whether it be to better oneself or to teach one to be of service  – is paid for, and we do not belittle the teacher for wanting enough recompense for their time and skill to keep a roof over their family’s head and food in their bellies.

Sangoma Blessing

Sangoma Blessing

Some Western practitioners find themselves walking a fine line between making a living with their skills, and offering certain training for free. Alexandrian trained Janet Fararr provides paid for, months long, magick courses, but makes it very clear as to the content she excludes from training so as to not break her oaths. Some Pagan practitioners offer so much of themselves to others that they make little provision for their own well being and struggle financially – making money a very difficult and embarrassing topic. I have yet to deal with an electricity provider who accepts Reiki in exchange for providing power, unfortunately. Exchange (monetary or otherwise) is not a dirty practice, it can in fact be very helpful in defining boundaries and expectations for both student and teacher. After all, if you cannot offer a good, comprehensive service as a teacher or practitioner, students will simply stop paying you for your services. Conversely, if you offer a great service then people will happily support your endeavours and recommend your services to others. If you are seeking a fair exchange for your services that allows you to devote your time and energies into your craft and into the service of others, then people respond to that honesty. Sure, some people will grumble about the pricing of things, as they do in all walks of life, but value is a matter of personal perspective. It really does depend on what you are receiving for your exchange and whether you consider that worth the cost. Of course, just because the exchange of fee for education appears to have value, doesn’t mean that the training itself has value – that is a separate issue.

I do feel that charging specifically for initiations is poor practice. One may learn the skills and techniques of spiritual practice, but sometimes it takes time for those theoretical or practical lessons to actually manifest within our lives, and it is the practical application of living these lessons that leads to spiritual growth. Just because someone has completed the appropriate course content, does not mean that they are ready for an initiation – that comes with their connection to the Divine – and the teacher, mentor or guide must be aware of that. Buying and selling initiations can be misleading to the individual and to the wider community. Initiation is a deeply personal experience and accessing the deeper mysteries of life comes through experience – if the student is unprepared for the impact of an initiation because it was perceived as nothing more than a certification of course completion, it can be very emotionally and mentally challenging. Many experienced Mystery Schools are very aware of this distinction, and part of defining boundaries is making the distinction between class based learning and spiritual initiations clear to students.

Dancing with the Sangoma

Dancing with the Sangoma

If I want to learn Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation or Martial Arts, I am happy to contribute by paying towards the venue and the teachers time and skill. If I wish to learn photography, creative writing, or business administration, I will certainly pay towards the adult education course that provides such training. In my opinion, any educator and professional has the right to receive fair compensation for their time, skills and experience. I do not expect any teacher, practitioner, artist or tradesperson to devote their time and experience to the betterment of my well being at the detriment of their own lives. I cannot in good conscience expect someone to hold down a job (or two) to pay their mortgage and bills, devote time to their family, to themselves, to their own studies, and then devote time to me for free. No one should be expected to devote time to the influx of willing students who are unwilling to compensate for the time they are given, or the knowledge they are offered, or the skills they are taught. That is a fast way to stress and unhappiness. If teachers have the time and ability to volunteer their skills, then wonderful, please continue to do so. However if they cannot do so, then I should not add pressure through expectation or abusive attitude. Granted, I may not always be financially able to contribute due to life circumstances, but whenever I can afford to I have no issues buying great books, paying teachers for great workshops, financially supporting great teaching communities, shopping at ethical businesses, or paying out to receive the knowledge and experience of others – knowing that it is my exchange of energy and money that allows such wonderful people to devote their time to teaching others. If I can support them in doing what they love, what they are good at, and help them to balance their spiritual lives with their financial responsibilities then I feel I am contributing to the wider community and I am ‘fairly taking and fairly giving’. If my regular financial contribution enables a teacher to support someone less able to contribute in the same way, then my willingness to provide fair exchange goes far beyond its original concept. I can enjoy not only the fruits of my own study, but also feel blessed that I am, in some small way, supporting the system and its mentors, which then supports others. In contributing to the community of pagans, I make it possible for the community to contribute to me, and my experience and skills can then continue to contribute to the community. Together the community grows.

There is no shame in providing Pagan teaching for free, donation, suggested contribution or fixed cost. There is no shame in wanting to earn a living wage doing something you love, something you are good at, and something that people want to learn from you. There is no shame in providing a good quality service to others. Live and let live. Personally I am happy to fairly take, and fairly give.

For more views on the paying for Paganism debate:

  1. Reblogged this on Shauna Aura Knight and commented:
    I’ve been working up a blog post of my own to discuss some of the issues addressed in this post, but this post articulates some great points about that whole challenging question in the Pagan community of charging fees for teaching or not charging.


  2. […] is a contentious issue at the best of times, let alone when you mix it with spirituality. I have blogged before on the concept of monetary exchange within spiritual paths, and many others I know have discussed […]


  3. Google says:

    Awesome article.


Please share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s