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The Art of Career Occultism

Witchcraft gets romanticized a whole lot.  Just look at my picture of the Charmed sisters.  They're off solving problems in mid drift tops living in a huge house, learning about love and sisterhood.  My first reaction is much like yours, it can be summed up as sigh.  But.  If it wasn't for Charmed, my mother and I would be locked in the same stalemate we had been locked in since I was 22.  Charmed made modern Witchcraft accessible to my mom and made her less afraid of whatever I was doing.  

Romantic witchcraft isn't reserved for non-Pagans though.  In Paganism, being able to be a career Witch/Occult Shop Owner/Pagan Writer/Special Shaman Who Talks to Ponies/Whatever has become the dreamy eyed ideal.  And why shouldn't it be?  There's enough of us now to actually support career minded people who want to support themselves off their Craft.  I know a few people who I'm incredibly jealous of who are doing that very thing.  It's not exactly a new concept, communities generally supported an occultist who lived on the fringe of society/in the weird house at the end of the block for ages.  

Let me ask you, how do you see a career occultist?  Do you see her as someone who gets up and does sun salutations, writing in her dream diary over herbal tea and an organic scone, sauntering through a field with an animal companion as she chooses herbs to harvest while wearing something fabulous and floaty, coming home to her gorgeous dedicated workshop for afternoon sketching for new designs?  Because . . .if so, you're going to be greatly disappointed as to what's actually the job.  

I mean, yes, that can be part of it and sure, no one likes to work for a jerky boss and it's the new American dream to support yourself doing something you love.  But frankly that image?  Has not been part of my experience in the last year I've been diligently working on becoming a career Occultist.  If you're smart though, that's what everyone else will think you're doing because selling an enviable lifestyle has been the cornerstone of marketing since marketing began.

What's Actually Involved in Becoming a Career Occultist

1. Don't Quit Your Day Job.  You're going to need it.  The Pagan community is not known for being a moneyed people on the best of days.  We love rags to riches stories but they rarely happen in the real world.  The reality is working two jobs to help fund your supplies for your dream and for paying your bills.  At best, if you sign with a famous Pagan publisher you'll get a $5K advance.  That won't last very long at all.  Crafters, Tarot readers, etc. don't get advances and if you want to open a brick and mortar store you need a lot of money for start up because it's hard to get investors involved.

2. I Hope You Like the Post Office.  And Answering Emails.  Because you're going to spend a lot of time shipping and responding to clients. Your packages needs to be reliable, professionally packaged with a receipt and shipped when promised.  You need to be able to get back to clients within two days.

3. You Need a Plan, Man.  What's your brand identity?  What's your plan for sales venues?  What's your wholesale prices?  If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's going to be a big problem.  You need to start learning about profit, sales and marketing if you ever want to get anywhere as well as a fresh, professional website and logo related items such as business cards.     

4. People Need to Know Who You Are.  It used to be that meant your local community, and while that's definitely still important, we're a global community now. You need to be blogging at least twice a week with between 500-1,000 words related to spiritual practice so people can get a feel for who you are and what you do.  People aren't going to buy your book unless they are interested in who you are and what you do.  You need to be all over the place, too with articles everywhere.  With Etsy and so many online shops there's only two ways to compete in the Occult market; by price and racing to the bottom or by personality.  Racing to the bottom is inadvisable for a lot of reasons.  So you need a brand and personality to get people interested in your wares along with key people in the community publicly cosigning on your book or products.  Networking and speaking at events is helpful as well. 

5. Prepare for resistance.  You need to be able to take constructive criticism on everything from your grammar, your beliefs and your font.  You need to be able to deal with events with no sales, rejection letters and working ten hour days without much sleep.  Sometimes it can feel futile, like you're drowning in an artistic ocean where no one cares about your wares.   It can get depressing and discouraging and sometimes even when you're doing everything right, the math still isn't there.  This is not reserved for struggling unknown artists, even when Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars for her artistic project, she's still boned on the math.  People have a nasty tendency to undervalue art because that's the way our culture works.  It's a special client who's going to spend $25 on yarn that I made using local fiber, hand dyed myself and hand spun myself over going to Walmart and spending $2 on acrylic yarn that was made in a factory in China.  We all need to value art whether it's local cheese, a book, a song or candles if we want to change our economy and that starts with valuing it for what it's worth over what the cheapest production rate is.

It's not impossible to do what you love.  It's not impossible to support yourself as a Career Occultist especially if your needs are simple and your skills are diverse.  But it's a lot of work and it's really hard to have enough time, effort and energy to make a living that way while you're working on moving from a day job to Career Occultism as your main income.  You may always need another little job doing something to get a regular paycheck.  There are easier career choices to make, but if you're a passionate artist, don't let other people tell you what to do.

You can't tell that pig what to do.

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Deborah Castellano is featured in the 2015 Llewellyn Herbal Almanac. She is a frequent contributor to Occult/Pagan sources such as Witchvox, PaganSquare and Witches&Pagans magazine.

Deborah's book, The Arte of Glamour is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid and The Crow (www.mermaidandcrow.com) specializes in Hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers, euphorically scented mason jar beeswax candles, tempting small batch ritual oils, Dream Ambassadors (tiny sheep to help you sleep!), lofty unique nuno felted scarves, airy hand painted silk chiffon scarves and more.

Her Craft shop, The Glamoury Apothecary (www.etsy.com/shop/glamouryapothecary) specializes in handcrafted Occult and Magical items such as gods and goddesses vigil candles, loose incense and hand rolled chime candles.

Comments

  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch Friday, 21 September 2012

    Ah yes, as a fellow Etsy seller and writer I can definitely relate to everything you say here! The occult marker is a difficult nut to crack, as is the fiber arts world; in both of them, you have to be around long enough for people not only to start recognizing you but also to trust your work. It's very difficult to find a balance between getting yourself "out there" and still having enough time to make and write stuff. Quite honestly, it's a balance I'm still working on myself. There is nothing glamorous about having fibro and shorting yourself on sleep, and there are only so many hours in the3 day!

  • Tom Terrific
    Tom Terrific Tuesday, 25 September 2012

    I find it difficult to keep separate the idea of devoting oneself to the occult as a career and that of being a priest or priestess. Of course, my concept of priesthood is a bit off the beaten path; I see it as a life of surrender to one’s gods, to be used as they see fit, in the same way that a ritual tool is devoted to ritual service. The key element in both cases is consecration.

    Do any of you who have made the choice to devote yourselves to the occult as a career see the two paths dovetailing in your lives? Has the path become larger than you anticipated?

  • Deborah Castellano
    Deborah Castellano Tuesday, 25 September 2012

    I don't really see myself as clergy really so it's not really an issue for me. But I know there are people who do both, hopefully someone will have some insight!

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