My Pagan savings challenge post generated a lot of discussion on the Witches & Pagans Facebook page. I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the questions and comments, in the form of a Q&A.
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....
I took an unscheduled blogbatical as we moved into the darkest time of the year, but I have emerged excited that I missed celebrating perhaps the most important historical festival for my patron deity.
Today is when the festival honoring Poseidon, called Poseidea or Poseidonia, was celebrated in antiquity. It's a reconstructionist's nightmare, because virtually no record of what went on has been discovered, but the good folk of Elaion put together a Poseidonia ritual based on their understanding of what festivals were usually like. I didn't see the announcement until just after the agreed-upon time to practice apart together, and I was already late for Quaker meeting, so I had Poseidon close to mind as I joined my local Friends in worship. (I am not a Quaker, although I attend meeting for worship; I have pondered how Quakers and polytheists fit together for awhile now.)
When I sit in the silence like that, it is an opportunity to complete the conversation. Maybe I'm too busy with orthopraxy, or I can't multitask well, but I don't often get messages when I make offerings to my gods. To put it simply, ritual is the way I talk and meeting is when I listen. Today I listened, and pondered how important Poseidon was to the ancient Hellenes. The sea was vital, not only as a food source but as the primary medium of commerce....
Time is money, so they say, and I seem to be more on the "money" side of the equation this month. Money to buy gifts for loved ones and strangers, but the act of earning it has left me very short of time for the other important things, like wrapping gifts and writing blog posts. So here's a few quick ideas about using time or money to prepare for Giftmas in all its forms, since few of us have both:
- Wrap presents with string instead of tape. Save some plastic and add a layer of wonder to even the simplest gift.
- Open a bank account for someone who often comes up short.
- Make some wassail to lure in carolers, or show them how it's really done.
- Cash in the change jar for a gift certificate to a restaurant.
- Quit smoking and invest the difference. Next year celebrate the difference in your finances with a big party or a smaller mortgage.
That's it for now, and two of my paid jobs and several people who want me to take on additional volunteer obligations are all awaiting my attention.
The beginning of shopping season may be blurry, particularly for those whose traditions include portmanteau neologisms, but it's safe to say that it's in full swing as I write this on December 2. The convergence of the gifting culture and the end of the tax year in many locales also makes this the time when many charities make their year-end pitches. Likewise, this is when tax-free gifts to family members are often delivered, stocks bought and sold to maximize profit or minimize taxable gains, and people who participate in pre-tax health savings accounts and the like are making sure that they've spent everything they're required to.
So there's a lot of money on the move right now, a lot of energy flowing. I'd go so far as to say that December is to money what October is to the spirits of the dead: if you want to work with money, this is one of the best times to do so. Spells and prayers for abundance and prosperity, as well as workings and offerings which are released through the movement of money, are worth incorporating into one's practice at this time of year, when the secular cycles are so strong that they reveal the unseen powers which shape them.
When I read about holiday shopping madness, I liken it to someone who draws down a deity without training or preparation, insofar as the damage comes from a lack of respect for, and comprehension of, the powers involved. We presume that, because we invented money, that we understand and control it. Perhaps if we approached the "holiday season" with the same deference and study that some Wiccans apply to preparing for ritual possession, we'd all have a healthier relationship with the stuff....
Seeing the Maetreum of Cybele win its tax fight was satisfying: justice prevailed, a small Pagan congregation gets treated with respect, the separation between church and state is preserved (if not strengthened) by a decision that basically said that local governments don't get to decide what religions look like.
The underlying principle -- that religious institutions don't get taxed -- is being upheld in a fair and consistent manner. But in the belief that a good idea bears up under examination, all this hubbub inspired me to ask whether or not it's a good idea not to tax churches in the first place.
For the sake of clarity, I'm following the IRS usage of the word "church" in this post -- it's a broadly-defined term that includes all manner of organized religious activity, including circles, covens, temples, and other terms that Pagans use to describe how they worship together. It's similar to how the God on money is secular, so at least the government is being consistent....
On this day of remembrance of those fallen in war, it seems appropriate to ponder one of the ways in which war has impacted our money, the addition of the motto, "In God We Trust." The phrase was first included on US coins in 1864, perhaps to show that God sided with the North in the Civil War. Paper currency was given the message in 1957, after Congress made it the official motto of the country, to set us apart from godless Communism.
In short, the motto was born of, and fed by, war.
What's perhaps more interesting are the battles which have been fought over the phrase since. These have been in the courts of law and public opinion, and put followers of this deity in a peculiar position: to keep God on money, God must be secular....
Spare change is one of my favorite forms of money, because it's just so obviously pulsing with energy, the elemental energy of earth. Coins are often shiny, they have a weight that conveys value, and there is power in the jingling of money. It's solid enough to decorate a bathroom, but it's also liquid enough to imagine swimming in it.
And pocket change seems linked to its own pocket universe, too. Who hasn't searched the couch cushions for some? A good cushion-hunt can mean clean laundry or a week's worth of ramen dinners for a college student. On the other hand, coins can definitely burn a hole in your pocket; research shows that we don't like to spend big bills, and coins are the other end of the spectrum.
I don't like carrying change, but I don't spend it, either. I walk with the Fellowship of the Change Jar. My pockets are emptied for stealth and speed, and my hoard grows nightly. Our nemeses, the Clan of the Exact Change, take a sadistic pleasure in getting in front of me at the checkout counter and saying, "Oh, I have the eighty-seven cents at the bottom of my purse!"...
There's been a lot of talk about money in the Pagan blogosphere in the past week, so much so that I wonder if it would be a service simply to round up those links once in awhile. I'm barely making my self-imposed "money Monday" deadline this week as it is -- missed it, in some time zones -- so I won't be giving that idea another moment's thought quite yet.
One of the posts that really caught my eye comes from my fellow blogger here, Carl Neal, who cajoled readers to contribute to your favorite Pagan efforts. One of Neal's personal favorites is the Wild Hunt blog, which is presently running its annual fund drive. With four weeks left in the campaign, 108% of the needed funds to pay for servers, columnists, and administration have been raised. In an early thank-you note, Jason Pitzl-Waters remarks, "Fundraising is a spell." I agree, but I'm not sure it's the kind of spell most people might think it is.
There are many money spells. Spells to draw wealth, build business, protect the money we already have from thieves and spendthrifts. Spells to hunt money and spells to protect it from swindlers. The one common thread that runs through virtually all money magic is that money is the target: bring it, multiply it, protect it, find it, hide it....
I loved reading the tarot so much I carried six decks with me at all times. I gave readings in restaurants, in class, outside Starbucks, at parties, in the park, over the phone, even by instant messenger. Reading tarot connected me with Spirit. It was sacred to me, even if most of the people I read simply found it entertaining.
How could I charge for readings when giving them brought me so much pleasure? Could I really refuse someone a reading because they didn’t have the $20 I felt bad about charging? Should I read some people for free even while charging others? Were free readings worth less than paid ones?
Every few months I paid a friend of mine, a professional psychic, $20-$40 for a reading. I recorded the readings either on tape or in my notebook, and I referred to those notes frequently as the events of my life unfolded. My friend made her living reading tarot, and I wanted to make my living the same way. I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t find enough clients, and ohmygods, what if I couldn’t read someone who paid me?...
One of the things that troubles me about money magic is that all the spells are focused on getting some more of it in my pocket. That may be reflective of how most people approach money (something which must be acquired to achieve security or happiness), but it falls far short of what this medium of exchange is capable of in spellcraft.
This weekend I had the pleasure of leading a group of people through a magical ritual designed to help them forgive those who have wronged them, and I used money as the method for gathering and releasing that energy. It worked as I expected it would, but there were also some educational surprises along the way. Some results were immediately felt, while others may take some time to manifest.
Such is the way of magic....
Risking charges of cultural appropriation, I'm going to come right out and say that I thinking tithing is a wonderful idea that Pagans should borrow and embrace . . . with some modifications to fit our diverse paths and beliefs, of course.
Tithing is the Biblical tradition of skimming ten percent off the top of one's income and giving it to one's church. This was an effective way to provide for priests and ensure that charity stays local, but there are a number of reasons why its literal application won't work for most modern Pagans. A few that come to mind are:
Whether it's your local metaphysical shop, farmer's market, or hardware store, buying local is an easy path to intentional spending. The 3/50 Project is my preferred method of encouraging local spending, because once you get past the sometimes-confusing name, it's an easy way to redirect existing money to local businesses.
The 3/50 concept is this: take fifty bucks each month, and spread it around three local businesses instead of using it at chain stores, franchises, or online. The project has a pretty specific definition of local business that focuses on the amount of money which stays in the community. One thing I like about the concept is that it stresses balance -- don't avoid big-box stores entirely, if that's where you get the best deals on some items, but do spend some money in businesses owned and operated by your neighbors.
The equinox is upon us, bringing light and dark again into balance, so it is again time for us to turn our minds to our toothbrushes.
That's right, toothbrushes.
I'm a big believer in using visuals to honor the change of seasons, and changing my toothbrush has long been part of my personal practice. Dentists think it should be changed every three months, and what do you know, seasons happen every three months, as well! My hygienist friends are pleased because I remember a task that many people don't, and it's also helped me remember that I really ought to respect the cycles of nature as the flow past me, so it's a win-win. And if you factor in the environmental and social factors that I lay out below, it's either a win-win-win or a win-win-win-win....
The term grey charges is new to me, but the concept isn't: these are financial parasites that suck off your bank or credit card balance for as long as you don't notice them. Like living parasites, they succeed by staying small and not hurting you too much at a time, costing the average consumer less than $350 per year but banging the entire economy for about $14.3 billion in 2012.
Grey charges depend upon us not spending with intent. Some of us can't be bothered to look at our statements, but it's just as common to be afraid to look at our financial situation. Either of these extremes is the opposite of living a life of intent, because earning and spending are part of the intentional life.
For those who find visualization to be a powerful tool, I have used the mouth of a parasitic lamprey to be used when imagining grey charges. These are the free trials that turned into charges because cancelling turned out to be harder to do than signing up; the innocuous little subscriptions that you don't use anymore; the official-sounding charge you're too embarrassed to call about because you don't know what it was for in the first place. They exist to slowly suck you dry....
I've been studying the nature and value of money for awhile now, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what the stuff is. Here in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, philosophical and economic discussions about money are hopelessly entangled with political philosophy, which makes it all the harder, but I think I have a grasp of what American currency is, and how it got there.
Barter was the first way humans exchanged things they had for things they wanted. It works well when two people each have something they other wants and they value it equally. Otherwise, the trades can become inordinately complex, such is the stuff that fiction writers love to illustrate, because wacky hijinks ensue.
That kind of trade can be simplified if there's a medium of exchange which both parties agree has value. Early media of exchange were things that, if you didn't exchange, you could use yourself, like a sheaf of wheat. Cigarettes are often used for exchange in prisons, where money isn't permitted, because you can always smoke your extras....
Debt counselors like it when their clients use cash for all of their transactions. That's because they understand that physical currency connects us to the power of money. If you've noticed that most money-drawing and prosperity spells use a couple of bucks as a material component, rather than a checkbook entry or ATM receipt, you're seeing the same idea in action. We don't fully realize the power of money if we keep it in the realm of bank balances and automatic bill payments.
This is no accident: money is the earth element, so by definition it's a material component. The fact that we've made various representations of money, from bills of credit to checks to a jumble of electron, obfuscates this fundamental truth. Money is physical, and forging a relationship with it is going to be much more difficult if you can't feel it in your hand, hear its clink, or smell its peculiar, musky odor.
Although I grew up in a community with a strong Jewish presence, I never really delved into the wisdom of that path; therefore, I was completely unaware of the wisdom of Maimonides and his views on charity. The philosopher laid out eight levels of giving which observant Jews should follow as a tenet of their faith. I can't think of a reason Pagans shouldn't adopt something similar.