At the Crossroads: Anyone Bring a Flashlight?

A day in the life of one witch’s attempts at community organizing, group leadership, public Paganism, and joyous shenanigans. Balancing inner work with external obligations, a professional career with public Paganism, and a full social calendar with gratuitous amounts of sleep.

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Day in the Life

Most Pagan clergy do all of their work for free.

Too bold?  I take it back.  Let me try again:  “Probably all Pagan clergy do all of their work for free.”

Of course, the definition of “work” can be quite nebulous and is often debatable.  This is the same with the word “free.”  What’s “work”, if not something that takes up our time/energy/attention/resources that we do on behalf of others?  Does something count as “free” if we get immense emotional and spiritual satisfaction for all of our time/energy/attention/resources spent in service?

But when I mean work, I mean the stuff you do.  And when I saw free, I mean that we don’t get any money for what we do.  I know, I know.  So controversial!  Don’t forget - every few years there is a gigantic hubbub in the Pagan blog-o-sphere about the ethics of getting paid for work/services/goods/etc.  I’m not trying to resurrect old debates.  This post is just coming from a very personal place, and I know I’m not alone where I am.

I work two jobs.  Well, really, I have one part-time “real” job.  As in, the agency I work for gives me money for (some of) the work I do.  My full time, for realsies job, is the work I do as a clergy person, high priestess, pastoral counselor, and spiritual mentor.

Disclaimer - my intention with this article is not to say “oh, woe is me” or have a pity party about my life choices.  I just want to draw attention to the fact that your community leaders, your high priests and priestesses, your clergy people, are working their butts off for very little (or no) pay.  (And, I hate to admit it, but sometimes very little gratitude, recognition, or appreciation).  It’s important for us, as the community they serve, to recognize the fact that these kind and talented folks expend a huge amount of time/money/energy/resources doing the work they do, all in service of the community and the Gods.

Of course, our priests, priestesses, mentors, and clergy folks work so hard because they love us, they love our community, they love their land spirits and their gods, and because they have a calling, or a desire, or a need.  Folks like me (and probably you) - this is what we do.  We love it!  It’s wonderful and it’s exhausting.  And sometimes we get burned out and resentful, and those are really dark moments for us.  So thank you, friends, for your love, your patience, and your support.  Thank you for your donations of time, resources, or money.  Thank you for being patient when we are forgetful.  Thank you for helping out with setting up before rituals and cleaning up after.  Thanks for bringing real food to a potluck and not just a bag of chips or container of hummus.  Thanks for being mindful of your RSVP, so we know how many people to expect and aren’t scrambling for supplies or aren’t feeling duped for buying too many supplies (out of our own pockets) only to have no one show up.  Thanks for loving us and trusting us.  We’re just human, and humans make mistakes (and how!).  So thank you.

Thank goodness for my teachers, mentors, and magical and professional training over the years.  These folks are magical educators who have taught me about ritual, energy work, and divination.  This also includes my bishop who has taught me pastoral counseling and mentoring skills.  And I can’t forget my academic and professional professors, supervisors, and mentors who have taught me interviewing skills, counseling skills, and clinical mental health training.  My high priests and priestesses over the years have taught me about Gods, spirits, ancestors, energy work, and the fundamentals of quality ritual facilitation.  I also need to include a special shout-out to all of my witches, conjure friends, sorcerers, and others who have brainstormed with me and expanded my horizons.  All of these talented and patient folks have put me into the position of where I am today – a social worker, a therapist, a clergy person, a witch, a high priestess, a mentor, and community leader and resource.

I adore my life, and I’m proud of what I’ve built with the help of my community.  But I admit, sometimes I’m very tired (like now.)  Sometimes I’m burned out (and how!).  And sometimes I’m broke (who isn’t?).  Confession - I’ve been sitting on an incomplete draft of this post for about two months.  I’ve honestly just been too busy and stressed out to write and edit!  But also, I wasn’t sure how to put these thoughts into words.  And also, I think part of me didn’t want to face the reality of my situation.

I’m too busy.  But it’s hard to let go once a momentum is built up so much.  And also, I love what I do!  Which includes but is not limited to:

 

  • writing and officiating weddings
  • emailing other folks in regards to consultation for future wedding
  • reading and editing a chapter for a friend’s dissertation on Paganism
  • trying to dig through data for my own book (work-in-progress)
  • trying to update my personal blog
  • trying to keep my Pagan Square blog updated
  • brainstorming and outlining documents for future articles
  • writing in my book of shadows, journal, dream journal, gratitude journal, and spirit book
  • trying not to ignore my familiars, Gods, spirits, ancestors, guides, allies, etc.
  • studying tarot for tarot study group
  • reading tarot for friends in crisis
  • reading tarot for on-line clients
  • reading tarot for myself
  • thinking about ogham and the Greek Alphabet Oracle and how I’ll never have time to study these
  • trying not to forget the runes
  • rituals with my coven (full moon, new moon, high days, special events)
  • rituals with my Circle (full moon, new moon, high days, special events)
  • planning/writing/facilitating/organizing/promoting various other events for groups I’m involved with
  • witchcraft for friends who need spell-work done
  • witchcraft for myself
  • building altars
  • maintaining altars
  • cleaning altars
  • helping a friend grieve over the death of her mother
  • helping a friend grieve through their divorce
  • helping a friend process a sexual assault
  • helping a friend cope with unemployment
  • helping a friend cope with a mentally ill mother
  • helping a friend cope with psychosis
  • helping a friend fill out paperwork for disability insurance
  • helping a friend work through their questioning gender/sexual identity
  • helping a friend work through their Pagan/witchy identity
  • helping a friend process a negative experience they’ve had with another local Pagan group
  • helping a friend process a negative experience they’ve had with our Pagan group
  • helping a friend who is in love
  • helping a friend who is falling out of love
  • helping a friend who is having issues with spirits and ghosties
  • helping a friend who is having issues with immigration paperwork
  • helping a friend who is having issues with fairies
  • helping a friend manage their grandchild’s sever behavioral issues
  • helping a friend manage spirit gates and/or portals
  • helping a friend through the ethics of cursing
  • helping a friend through the ethics of cursing a rapist
  • helping a few (dozen) friends through the ethics of cursing Donald Trump…
  • attending local Pagan meet-and-greets and moots
  • attending other people’s events/rituals/gatherings/workshops
  • writing/facilitating my own events/rituals/gatherings/workshops
  • replying to emails from prospective Circle members
  • replying to emails regarding house cleansings and other spell-work
  • replying to emails regarding referrals to local witches, root-workers, priests or priestesses, tarot card readers, Pagan groups, or other talented professionals
  • and, my personal favorite - replying to 50000+ emails, texts, or messages sent to me regarding the recent global ritual to curse Donald Trump.  (Yes, I have heard of this ritual and yes, thank you for thinking of me when you saw the article about it.)

 

And that’s just the stuff I can remember right now!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a lot.  I don’t know.  It’s hard for me to put into perspective.  But lately it’s been a bit overwhelming to me, especially because I sometimes feel like I’m always “on.”  I’m a social worker and therapist by profession, and a natural helper to my friends and community.  Friends and community members reach out to me at all hours of the day, for a mélange of reasons (good/bad/ugly/weird/fun).  And I love being there for them.  Sometimes I’m just tired, though.  I have a friend who is a non-Pagan, who doesn’t know anything about Paganism or what it is I do, and spending time with them recently has been amazing because I don’t have to be priestess/mentor/clergy/witch.  I’m just me, and that’s nice.  We talk about very boring things and sometimes it is such a relief.  But at the end of the day I can’t escape who I am – that archetype of priestess and advocate is just too strong in me.

So… what is keeping you busy these days?  How do you deal with burnout?  What services do you provide?  Do you charge for your services?  How do you maintain healthy boundaries while still making yourself available for your community?  How do you keep up with your Pagan community expenses?  Please comment in this article or feel free to contact me directly.  I’d love to start a dialogue with other community leaders, not only for my own sanity, but also to let folks likes me know they are not alone.

Calling all busy, overworked, and underpaid witches and Pagans!  How do you do it?  Please, tell me your rants, worries, and woes!  (As well as your secrets!)

(And in the meantime, this is your monthly reminder to make sure you engage in plenty of self-care!)

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Trivia is a social worker, freelance writer, minister, and priestess. She loves to have a good adventure. Follow her exploits on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TriviaXRoads) and on Tumblr (http://triviaxroads.tumblr.com/)!

Comments

  • Tara Waddle
    Tara Waddle Tuesday, 14 March 2017

    I 100% agree with what you are saying. Pagan Clergy work is more than a full-time job and not only do we not get paid for it but there is also a stigma when you say "I am a Pagan Clergy" People look at me like I am talking crazy because that job doesn't really exist. Even those who are close to me often have to be reminded that I am not sitting home all day doing nothing, aside from taking care of my small children. When I am in my burn out moments and I ask myself "Why do you do this" I am reminded by the Divine that this is my purpose and to hold fast I will get through this moment.
    I try to speak out to people when the should/should not get paid conversation comes up. The reality is this: If this was 1000 years ago as Clergy we would have been fed, clothed, housed, and taken care of by the community we supported. When you went to your shaman, priest, etc you never came empty handed and out of respect and honor, you always offered them something in return for the work they did. Now we live in a society where money is the currency it only makes sense that we get paid for the work we do. I know this is a touchy topic because of the whole personal gain thing, but one of the first things as a healer and caretaker we learn is that if we don't take care of ourselves then we will burn out and we cannot help others like that. When we have to work several jobs to make ends meat and also support the community we are not at our best for clergy work. Also, what does it say about the value you put on spiritual work when you go to a Shaman without offering anything in return.

  • Trivia at the Crossroads
    Trivia at the Crossroads Saturday, 20 May 2017

    Hi, Tara. Thanks for your comment! I've been meaning to reply, but sigh! I've been too busy (of course!)

    You're so so very right about reminders from the Divine. That is -exactly- why I do this work! Sometimes we just need those little nods and nudges... but it still isn't easy!

    Also, YES! "If this was 1000 years ago as Clergy we would have been fed, clothed, housed, and taken care of by the community we supported. When you went to your shaman, priest, etc you never came empty handed and out of respect and honor, you always offered them something in return for the work they did. Now we live in a society where money is the currency it only makes sense that we get paid for the work we do." OMG SO TRUE. If jars of homemade pickles paid my bills, I'd gladly accept! But until someone buys me a house... pickles, no matter how good, aren't going to cut it!

    And you're so right about burn-out - I've been feeling it bad, but I feel like it's getting a little bit better, little by little. Those boundaries are hard to draw! But you can't serve anyone if your own cup is empty!

    Anyway, thanks again for taking the time out to reply, for sharing your thoughts/opinions/experience on this subject, and I FEEL YA! Glad I'm not alone in this!

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