Dirty Money: Transactional Pagan Writings

Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.

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Terence P Ward

Terence P Ward

Terence P Ward is a business writer and journalist who blogs under the rather cumbersome moniker of True Pagan Warrior.  He can generally be found at home, tending to his gardens and the many demands of his cats; in the alternative, follow TPW on Facebook

The Maetreum of Cybele is seeking donations to fund its continuing legal fight to have its tax-exempt status recognized by the Town of Catskill.  I was in court when a panel of appellate judges (New York's second-highest jurists) heard testimony which led to a ruling in the Maetreum's favor, one which was covered by the likes of Forbes and the New York Law Journal.

Like many small towns in this state, Catskill is apparently loathe to take a property off the tax rolls.  Both state and federal governments continue to heap unfunded mandates on local municipalities, which must also manage rising health-care costs and a tax cap which ensures that the revenue will never keep up with the costs without cutting what the law will allow, such as programs for senior citizens and other "discretionary" expenses.

Perhaps that is why Catskill is appealing -- despite the fact that their legal bill is likely to be significant either way.  The Maetreum of Cybele is looking to raise $15,000 for its defense, and I can't imagine the town will spend much less for their part.  Details on how to support the cause can be found on the group's Facebook page.

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Pagan savings challenge, week sixteen:  other voices

Discovering what other people are saying about the Pagan savings challenge is a source of joy for me.  Case in point:  this PaganSpace.net discussion about different savings strategies.

The original poster says, "I'm not going about it the same way he did just because I don't think it would work for me to be putting more than $5 a week away into savings is practical for my low income family."  I agree!  The level of savings should be challenging, but not impossible.  I'm glad e is adapting the challenge to fit eir own circumstances, because any savings is better than no savings, and developing a saving habit will serve you for life.

Some of the other wisdom shared is also sound, like capturing money saved by being frugal and using only cash.  Anything to get the saving done is fine in my book, even lying.  I use many tricks to stay on track (and I have stayed on track, despite the challenges I have documented; the original PaganSpace poster was left with the impression that I have not hit my goals each week, and I apologize if I have been unclear in that regard.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Charting a new course with money

A few months ago, my fellow blogger Deborah Blake wrote about establishing a daily divination practice, something which I have have been doing, first with my personal coin divination system and more recently by using the Lymerian oracle. Recently, in response to the question of, "What will today bring me?" I drew kappa, which means, according to the translation of Apollonius Sophistes, "To fight with the waves is difficult; endure, friend."

Usually that one doesn't give me a super-good feeling.

Not everything is as it seems, though. That evening, I attended an information session for the Hudson Valley Current, a complementary currency that I am helping to beta test in my neck of the woods. This event was to get more participating businesses for when the currency goes live on May 1.

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Pagan savings challenge, week fifteen:  secrets

There's been a lot written about the culture secrecy lately.  In the Pagan community, many people are questioning whether a culture of secrecy perpetuates bad behavior, and in the broader United States, the President is seeking to dismantle the culture of secrecy surrounding salaries.

In both of those cases, secrecy can lead to advantage being taken, but secrecy has its place.  When it comes to money specifically, even if we develop a culture in which we all feel comfortable talking about money, we don't necessarily want people to know where we stash our cash.  That's why I was delighted to discover a post on creating a money jar for the Pagan savings challenge, the image for this very post was nicked from Mistress of the Hearth to show what one might look like.

As someone who is saving this money in cash, and particularly since I make a habit of taking pictures of my savings for most of these posts, I appreciate this form of secrecy.  My money is protected by the gods of my household generally, the gods of wealth and thievery specifically, and the best locks and methods of hiding that I can muster.

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Pagan savings challenge, week fourteen:  what women want

I heard an interesting story on NPR about women and investing the other day.  The points which jumped out at me were:

  • Women are more risk-averse when it comes to investing, and testosterone plays a part in the gender difference;
  • Fear of an impoverished old age -- women generally have more time as senior citizens -- adds a layer of paralysis which amplifies the hormonal factors;
  • In heteronormative relationships, women are more likely to let the man control the money, even women who are the primary wage earners; and
  • When they invest for themselves, women tend to be better at it than men.

More than a decade into the 21st century, we haven't reached gender parity in how we relate to money.  How much of that difference is cultural and how much is biological isn't clear to me, but differences there certainly are.

Whatever the reasons, each of us have different strengths.  Gender is one way to describe those differences, but what's important is to recognize that we can support one another in saving for the future (which can include investing).  Some of the ways I have touched upon in the past, such as Pagan investment clubs and community savings groups are more likely to be successful the old-fashioned way, face to face.  Groups of people working together can shore up weaknesses and amplify strengths.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Denouncing capitalism

I have a real problem with capitalism.  I get this little twitch whenever I see it in action, an urge to rise up and say, "NO!  This is wrong!"  Each year that passes I see capitalist forces making deeper inroads into our culture, and at times it's simply infuriating.  Of course, given the mind-boggling diversity within the Pagan movement, capitalist forces see opportunity around every corner, and seize every opportunity that presents itself.

I fear that we are losing to the capitalists, and I think it's time to rise up and loudly denounce everything they stand for.

Capitalism was extremely popular among the enlightened thinkers who helped cobble together the United States of America from its colonial progenitors, a fact which is easier to see when reading their original words, rather than the memes which disseminate pithy quotes these days.  English has strong German roots, and German is, hands down, the most capitalist language of them all.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Nice one, Terence. You got me!
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Internet and universe are two words I dig in my heels and refuse to capitalize because they're both, well, universal. I think the
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    When my grandmother learned letters, all nouns had capital letters. I suspect that changed because the invention of typewriters a
Pagan savings challenge, week thirteen:  lies we tell

One of the gods I regularly worship is Hermes, who among his other associations is god of the marketplace, and god of lies.  If you've ever purchased a car, the link between the two shouldn't come as any surprise; lies are part and parcel of what makes money work.  In fact, it's reasonable to argue that money is itself a lie, or built on one.

That does not erode money's influence or role as a holder of energy (value), although the fact that some people avoid money entirely is understandable.  Rather than resist the lies, I prefer to use them to my advantage.

Savings, at least for people like me who spend money like it's going to buy happiness, is all about lies and self-trickery.  A friend of mine recently told me that he's hesitant to get a second job because his track record was to be less responsible the more he makes.  For him, that meant socializing, likely with alcohol.  Endorphins running high can make spending easier, with or without alcohol, so I counsel a few well-placed lies to stop behaviors before they start.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    I always round payments UP to the nearest dollar in my checkbook. Meaning a bill payment of $128.35 gets rounded up to $129 in my
Pagan savings challenge, week twelve:  looking back

I called this post "looking back" because, scurrilous wag that I am, I wrote it a week later than the date it was posted.  Oh, the technology!

My week twelve savings:  $78, 15% ($12) of which I added today.

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Pagan savings challenge, week eleven:  reflections

I've imposed some rules upon my own interpretation of the Pagan savings challenge, some of which are probably going to fall before long.

  1. I'm using the smallest bills possible, because I'm posting a picture each week and want that image to express abundance.  The envelope I use is pretty much maxed out as of this week, and my money shrine isn't large enough to support a larger one, but I still like the look of the growing pile of singles.
  2. I'm also replacing the cash entirely each week before I add new, to keep me mindful of the flow of money.  As the numbers grow higher, the practicality of doing so will drop, because . . .
  3. I am performing this savings challenge in cash, because talismans are powerful.  While there are security concerns for this practice, I have put sufficient safeguards into place that I feel confident continuing in this manner, even if I can't comply with the first two for much longer.

These rules are part of ritual which surrounds my savings, the ritual which places this work into religious context.  While I won't be dogmatic about them, I do believe that rooting work with money in one's faith practice will make it more powerful, more successful, and more valuable to the whole person than a wad of cash can be in its own right.

My week eleven savings:  $66, 17% ($11) of which I added today.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Moneyworking

For all that I write about money, I've never summarized how I work with it, in a religious sense.  In part that's because I only set up a formal money shrine recently, and having that around has caused me to step up my game.  Here's a snapshot of my money practice as of today.  I'm actually hoping that I will come back and read this in a few years and be amazed by it.  Who knows, maybe this will chronicle practices that I will forget, and then reconstruct based upon my own ancient writings!

But even if the internet archaeologists don't find it interesting, I hope some readers will.

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Pagan savings challenge, week ten:  hardships

This past week has been a tough one on the household budget.  If money flows, then my household was at the top of a hill watching it flow down and away at an alarming rate.  When money is leaving faster than it's arriving, it can lead to some interesting reactions . . . such as a stronger urge to spend what you've got, to stock up for bad times.  Or to choke off the flow entirely and preserve what you've got, even though this will also likely stop the inward flow as well.

It's hard to save money when it feels like you don't have any.

On the other hand, it's a good week for this moneyworking Hellenist to continue saving anyway.  Last week found me saving on Noumenia, and today is the eighth day of the Hellenic month, sacred to my patron Poseidon, who is the financial securer.  I needed this reminder that money's flow cannot be stanched in one direction only, and that security should not be confused with stagnation.

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Eschewing money

Money is a power that we have given disproportionate influence in our lives.  One of the ways that some people -- Pagans and others -- try to deal with that is through voluntary poverty, avoiding the stuff entirely, or as much as possible.  It's a choice that is controversial and poorly understood, and its impact isn't entirely clear.  As part of my money ministry, I'm trying to wrap my head around the many ways we can relate to it, including its rejection.

One thing that has become apparent to me is that there are limits on how much one can change through voluntary poverty or other money-avoidance schemes, such as simplicity and joining an intentional community which doesn't use it internally.  That limit is explained nicely by Lynne Twist in her book, The Soul of Money.  In the first chapter, Twist tells the tale of Chumpi Washikiat, a member of the Achuar people of the Amazon, who has been designated by his community to go out into the world and learn about money.  He moved into the author's home in the United States to do so.  Twist writes,

"His education about money was more on the level of inhaling.  Everywhere he went, the language and meaning of money filled the air, from billboards, advertisements, and commercials, to price cards on muffins at the local bakery.  In conversations with other students he learned about their hopes, dreams, and prospects for life after graduation, or as they put it, 'life in the real world' -- the money world.  He began to see how it is in America:  that virtually everything in our lives and every choice we make -- the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the schools we attend, the word we do, the futures we dream, whether we marry or not, or have children or not, even matters of love -- everything is influenced by this thing called money."

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Addendum: my source would like to clarify that e considers eirself to be one of the poor people, not apart from them. "Also, the
  • guy fawkes
    guy fawkes says #
    What strikes me about this whole discussion is that people never stop to question what money is in the first place. For instance t
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I don't think money is a mass delusion at all. I do, however, think that it's one of many ideas that we have intellectualized so
Pagan savings challenge, week nine: Noumenia

This week, my Pagan savings challenge reflection goes all Hellenic, for today I celebrate Noumenia, the first of the month.  (Specifically, it's the first of Elaphebolion, 698th Olympiad, but I wouldn't have known that without checking.)  It's a time to honor all the gods of the household, and good for fresh starts in my experience.

Have you stumbled in your savings?  This happens, and it's okay.  It's time for a restart.  What that means is your choice, but here are some suggestions:

  • Track your spending.  Are there sacrifices you can make there so that the money is available for saving?
  • Reevaluate.  Are your goals too ambitious?  I think starting with as little as a penny is appropriate, depending on your income flow.  Be honest, and track your spending before you make that determination.  (And if you think you are not saving enough, feel free to bump it up!)
  • Catch up.  If you have missed a week or more, particularly if you're saving more each week like I am, it's probably not too late to add what's been missed to the pot.
  • Remind.  If you're having trouble remembering the weekly savings, try harder.  Write it in your calendar.  Put a reminder on your phone.  Subscribe to my posts so I can nudge you (also available via email, but you'll need to click the link above yourself for that).

For me, the new beginning is a bit pedestrian:  I've run out of singles, so this is the first week for which my savings is not entirely in dollar bills, despite my fondness for George.  I still like the idea of the volume of bills growing faster and faster as the year progresses, though.

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Back-door benefits to divination

Some months ago I decided to set aside years to skepticism and conscious non-attunement in the interest of developing my divination skills.  As I mentioned to one of the other bloggers on this site, part of that practice is by using the Lymerian oracle daily, to get a sense of how an established system works, particularly one that was used by my Hellenic ancestors.  However, I'm a money guy, so I've also been trying out coin divination, with interesting results.

That journey began with the purchase of a copy of Raymond Buckland's Coin Divination.  It's available for as little as one cent on Amazon, and my initial impression was one of being had, since there's only about six pages of original information in the book, and even that was pulled from previously-published works by the author.  Nevertheless, the few pages which aren't a rehash of the I Ching or an awkward attempt to use coins as if they were a tarot deck have some intriguing possibilities, so I have been exploring them.  It's been a very slow process of discovering a system for myself, and it's long from over, but it is has had unexpected benefits.

Beginning in early November, and concluding today, I have flipped a single coin from a set I put together and asked one question:  "Will I have more cash in hand at the end of today?"  I use a total of seven coins (one was added later in the process, after the picture was taken) in rotation, and I have recorded the results of the coin flip and the answer to the question for each day.

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Are you poor on purpose?

The reactions to my post voluntary poverty last week have one striking commonality:  we're talking about the voluntary poor, but no one has stepped forward to speak for the voluntary poor.  I am hoping the readers of PaganSquare can help me find at least one representative of this choice.

Do you presently know someone who is poor by choice, spiritual or otherwise?  Can you point them to this post or, if they're not a user of the internet, act as an intermediary?  Anyone interested can use this contact form.

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Pagan savings challenge, week eight:  negative savings

My brother once likened debt to a negative savings account.  It's a good analogy:  debt is money you've spent before you saved it, and both will accumulate interest if arranged through a formal financial institution.  Of course, with debt the interest is being paid to someone else.

Paying off debt is a valid way to meet the Pagan savings challenge.  It could take the form of simply using the weekly savings amount to pay off a bill faster, or the money could be allowed to build over the year and used all at once for that purpose.  Either way, it strengthens the discipline of building energy through saving money.

My week eight savings:  $36, 22% ($8) of which I added today.

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Pagans and voluntary poverty

A few weeks ago I wrote a post inspired by a conversation I had with an indebted Pagan, and one idea that came out of it -- that of a Pagan credit union -- really caught fire.  The level of interest made writing a follow-up post on your reactions to the idea of a Pagan credit union the next logical step.

Comments are a double-edged sword in the blogosphere, but I've learned a lot from the ones I have received here.  In pointing out what he or she thinks is the fatal flaw in any plan for Pagan financial infrastructure, Kveldrefr got me thinking about one of the underlying beliefs about Pagans, that they want to be poor:

"I would think that part of the issue regarding credit unions in particular is that many Pagans make a virtue of poverty, taking pride in their lack of concern for "material things." While anyone should be allowed to make such decisions for oneself, all too often those same individuals insist that others should share that attitude, and attack those who are successful.

"Until and unless the 'virtuous poverty' syndrome is dealt with, Paganism will not be able to mature in the ways you suggest, because it quite simply won't have the resources to do so. You can't pay mortgages for temples and hofs [sic] with piety and selling handmade soap."

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    I am both poor & privileged- I work retail, but I have a bachelor's, and the social connections & cultural knowledge/capital of a
  • Dver
    Dver says #
    I wouldn't describe myself as voluntarily poor, but I fall somewhere between that and the usual materialistic approach in this cul
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Wow, so much to say in response. This is a very succinct post on such a complex issue and I support Alley's response, with some di
Pagan savings challenge, week seven:  parting of the ways

I feel a certain obligation to post weekly about the Pagan savings challenge, if only to remind readers that I am still plugging along, and to cheer on my fellow savers.  This week I did not have a topic at the ready, so when in doubt, do some divination!

Using the Greek alphabet oracle, I drew tau, the parting from the companions now around you.  I drew this tile separate from my daily divination, and despite carefully shaking the jar of letters, I got the same one both times.  Given the growing stream of money that is being diverted from my wallet to my savings, I believe the companions I am parting from are all named George Washington.

However, I am cheered that this parting is not forever, and that my army of Georges will return to me in less than eleven months, ready to do my bidding.  What orders are you readying for your army?

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Saving money as a community:  the sou-sou

As the Pagan savings challenge progresses, I'm aware that there are Pagans who are not participating because my weekly (and impersonal) posts aren't motivation enough to keep it up.  The pressures are many, and my voice is small.  But my belief in the power of savings is strong.

  • Savings is a discipline, as surely as devotion and magic are, and discipline is its own reward.
  • Savings transforms one's relationship with money, changing it from one of reaction to one of intention.
  • Savings results in a pile of money that literally wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been saved, which is the sort of reward that even the most right-brained among us should appreciate.
  • Savings requires the right mix of patience and attention, which in proper measure can nurture virtually anything.

So in keeping with my sincere belief that each and every Pagan should have a savings plan as part of their spiritual practice, I present an alternative for working groups:  the sou-sou.  It is one of the simplest savings programs to understand, but challenging for the typical American to participate.  It came to the United States from West Africa, and is most commonly used in this country by populations who are on the edges -- or outside -- of the traditional money system.

You know, kind of like some Pagans.

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Pagan savings challenge, week six:  cold and contemplative

I've noted before that I am devoting the money I save during the Pagan savings challenge to buying and installing a fireplace insert.  This week, my family was reminded that this is a really good idea.

We've had all manner of severe winter weather throughout the United States this season, including a cold snap and foot or more of snow in my area.  It was during the cold and dark of that heavy snowfall that my wife realized our heat was no longer on.  We tried hitting the reset button, but no dice.  We called our amazing heating guys, who talked me through several other troubleshooting steps, all which failed to solve or diagnose the problem.  He agreed to come out as soon as he confirmed that the parking lot of his shop had been plowed so he could get the work truck.

It hadn't, and it wasn't until the following morning.  Our fireplace, with some assistance from an electric mattress pad, was our only source of heat.  It was bright, cheery, and reassuringly warm, but it takes a lot of effort for a central fireplace to warm even a modest home.  The fire needed to be rekindled the following morning from cold ashes.  Our house is nearly a hundred years old, but its original primary heat source was a coal furnace, not the fireplace.

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