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.
I've imposed some rules upon my own interpretation of the Pagan savings challenge, some of which are probably going to fall before long.
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.
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....
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."
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:
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....
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....
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.
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."
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?...
When talk is not enough, it is time to build.
This month, with the Claremont Conference on Contemporary Paganism and PantheaCon, I’m taking the month off from my regular blog post to announce the formation of a new Pagan service organization: the Pantheon Foundation.
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....
I'm a bit of a currency naturalist: I round bills up, mark them, and release them back into the wild. That even goes for two dollar bills, which many Americans believe are no longer made (they are; in fact, series 2013 is in print now). Because the two is in such low circulation, if you ask for them at the bank like I do, you will see some very old, very well-preserved currency.
Only on a two did I have much of a chance of finding this story. Everything I know for a fact comes from that very bill, which I have pictured here. A two from series 1976, in fairly crisp condition, with a note scrawled across it in black ink. The handwriting crosses over dark portions of the bill's design, there's at least one word crossed out, and it's not very legible in the first place, but this is what I think it reads:
"To the [Checkers or Cheeses or Russo or something] Deli
Congrats on Year #1
Best of Luck For the Future"
[squiggle or signature]
This week I received an unpleasant surprise in the mail: a parking ticket. Apparently I had failed to hit the meter quickly enough one time while waiting for the Maetreum of Cybele's day in court, but the ticket itself didn't manifest until four months later. What would have been a $65.00 fine (outrageous in its own right) has now been hiked to $115.00, plus the usual warnings about me never being able to park in this town again.
Honestly, the things we go through for our work . . .
Approaching this in the context of the Pagan savings challenge, the money that the city of Albany is demanding is more than eight times what I have tucked away during this project. However, in just ten weeks (that's less than a season), I'll have that socked away, and five dollars to spare....
As 2013 was winding down, I put out a call for indebted Pagans who would be willing to be interviewed as I began exploring our relationship with debt. One brave Heathen, Melanie Swaim, was willing to do so, and the post I wrote after we talked blew the doors off the Witches and Pagans Facebook page, garnering (at last count) 1,137 likes and 162 comments. I'm told it was, to date, the most liked post on the page for this site. That deserves some serious unpacking.
First things first: I took one idea from the many which came out of my conversation with Ms Swaim, and ran with it: that she had to seek out guidance and support for her financial challenges in a religious community other than her own, because hers does not have that type of infrastructure. To be clear, I interpreted this is simply an observable fact, not an incrimination of Heathens in any way. Most, if not all, Pagan religions have a fierce independent streak running through them. Anecdotally, it seems that individual responsibility is a more important value across Paganism than even community.
Developing institutions in Paganism, financial or otherwise, is going to run into conflict with these dearly-held values. Add to that the very small number of people in Paganism as a whole (and the smaller numbers practicing any particular faith in the community), and it's not surprising that the organizational maturity isn't quite there to develop safety nets for each other yet....
Not every Pagan prays, but I do, so I have included it in my own practice of the Pagan savings challenge. Each week I recite this original prayer:
Xaire, Poseidon Asphaleios,
guide the tides around me
so that my efforts here
will secure my future.
As pictured here, I wrote the verse on the envelope where I'm storing the money; I may add additional prayers if I'm so inspired....
There has been some excellent online dialog recently around the question, "Should I charge for Pagan spiritual services?" Most of the posts I've seen have been in support of money changing hands, but the comments usually show strong feelings on both sides. Answering her question of, "Money is Bad, Right?" Shauna Aura Knight posited that the reason for this division is that, "Pagans (and people, for that matter) have a really unhealthy relationship with money."
As tantalizing that quote is to me, I have to lay it down for now. Observant readers will already be wondering who the woman in the picture is, because it is clearly not Ms. Knight.
In fact, I'm not even going to jump into the debate about whether or not oracles, priests, shamans, spellworkers, dowsers, and whoever else I missed should be charging money or not. It's already going on, so I'd rather focus on how to apply business practices to these esoteric services. The opinion I have formed is that a lot of Pagan businesses (as opposed to businesses owned by Pagans) could benefit from better marketing....
When it came time to make the weekly donation to my Pagan savings challenge envelope, instead of just adding the money, I also replaced the cash that was already in there. I've been reading The Soul of Money, particularly a very thoughtful passage on the flow of money, so I decided to incorporate that into my weekly offering to help me explore the idea. I will replace the entire amount each time I add the weekly allotment.
This week, the growing pile of cash is pictured on my shrine to Hestia, for the hearth is going to get an upgrade with the assistance of this money. Fireplace insert, here we come.
My week three savings: $6.00, half of which I put there today.
There has been some wonderful online discourse about the role of institutions in modern Paganism. There are those who believe the price -- of leaving behind our counterculture roots -- would be too high. Others believe that this is the only path to a mature religious movement, and still others propose solutions that include both. I believe it's important to include the idea of financial institutions in this dialogue.
I'm not necessarily talking about banks and credit unions, although nothing is off the table. While Pagans are frequently loving, giving people, our community lacks any institutional ways to support one another financially. A credit union would certainly fit part of that bill, but not every problem can be solved with a loan. Each of us face challenges and opportunities that could look very different with a bit more money: wardrobe for a new job, affordable day care, credit counseling, even basic money management skills. These challenges are quite effectively addressed by some religious communities. Should they be in ours?
"There's a certain amount of self-reliance expected by Pagans," I was told by Melanie Swaim, a Heathen who accumulated a large helping of medical debt that she's trying to pay off. "I had to go to another religion to get help with my finances."...
My posts in 2014 are finally going to start focusing on one of the most important money topics, debt. However, before we talk about what we owe, I'd like readers to join me in expanding what we save. I'm laying down the gauntlet: can you raise as much energy as I?
Fans of the internet may be familiar with this post's graphic, which I believe originates here. This is a simple, elegant way to save money, and one that should work well for Pagans. If you're the sort that includes magic as part of, or in conjunction with, your worship, then as I said, it's simply raising energy so you can work your spell. If your Pagan path has no truck with that sort of thing, pick an appropriate deity, force, or cause, and make this an offering. I will continue to refer to it as raising energy, because you can just as easily use this energy for an offering as for magical work.
This is going to require discipline. Money is quite tangible energy, and the bigger the pile, the more tempting it will be to use some of it. Depending on your money boundaries, you may need to set up systems to ensure that you put the money away, as well as hold onto it throughout the year. Here are some suggestions....