Money for Old Pagan Rope?

In some quarters, there’s a stigma around doing Pagan things for money. Be that teaching, writing, celebrant work, leading workshops or providing events, there are plenty of people who feel that Pagans should do it for love, not money. To seek payment is to cash in on spirituality. There may be a subtext of, really spiritual people don’t charge, only frauds want money.

It’s not a Pagan specific issue. Creative people get it too. Music, fiction, writing, films, games – plenty of people feel it’s wholly legitimate to pirate those, that creatives are unreasonable in wanting to be paid and that art should be free.

We all have to eat. There are only so many hours in a day, and most of us cannot run flat out all the time. Can you run workshops in the evening regularly and sustain a full time job? Part of the problem, I think, is the assumption that artistic and Pagan work are fun and easy, and therefore do not need paying for. Doctors, lawyers, shop assistants, road sweepers, those are ‘proper’ jobs. It’s a masochistic culture that says if you like what you do, it has no financial value. Don’t tell me those highly paid solicitors don’t get a kick out of writing each other snotty letters!

Running an event is exhausting, and requires a lot of attention on the day, plus vast amounts of preparation in advance. Then there’s the learning and study that enables you to do it when you show up – more parallels with creative industries, where you can be paying for twenty years of experience, even with relatively young creators. Some of us start young and work hard from an early age. Anyone who thinks celebrant work, or writing a decent book, or giving a talk, is fun and easy to the point where it should be viewed as a hobby and not charged for, really ought to try it some time.

I’ve experience of being a performer, author, workshop leader, public speaker and celebrant. I’ve also run the kinds of events where I needed to pay folk to turn up. Where I couldn’t find enough money, I would try and offset that by being at a convenient point in the tour – a gig and a bed when you’d be driving past anyway are not such a bad deal. I’d feed people, and if I could pay more than I’d thought, I’d pay it. With that work, I took no money for me at all. I’ve given away my time, I give away my writing, but if I did that with all things, I would not be viable and neither would anyone else.

Service is a wonderful thing, but should not automatically imply doing it at your own cost. Especially not when the people you serve could perfectly well afford to pay. I will charge with an eye to what’s manageable. For local places that have little resources (schools, for example) I’ll do things for the cost of getting there. If someone wants me to travel to a venue and be their celebrant, after they’ve booked the hotel and bought the wedding dress… why should I be the one freebie in the mix? On the other hand, if someone comes to my Grove and asks for a handfasting, informally of an afternoon, why should I charge?

For all of us, the choice as to what and when we give freely, and what and when we need to charge for, should be personal. It then falls to others to decide whether they want to pay. Give me a free venue I can walk to, and I won’t charge tickets, but I may bring some books to sell.

There is no shame, or disrespect, in either charging for professional Pagan services, or seeking them. There is no requirement to seek them, which is important. You can do it yourself. There are plenty of things in life I could have learned how to do, but haven’t, and prefer to pay for. Boat electrics being a case in point. There are things I have learned how to do that other people may find they want to pay me for. We can figure something out.

The thing people forget is that Paganism isn’t all spirituality and esoterica. It is full of other things too: Intellectual stuff, philosophy, history, biology. Performance skills. Admin and organisation skills (try running a Pagan organisation some time!) Much of this is done for love because we remain a small community that cannot really afford to pay its people properly.

There would be something to take pride in, should we get to the point where subscription magazines can pay their authors, organisations can pay something to the staff who work for them in vital roles, and our teachers, celebrants and facilitators are not frequently working themselves into the ground because they’re doing the job alongside another, paying job. It is not an insult to ask for fair recompense. It is an insult to stand on the outside, with no idea how much time, energy and personal resources people are putting in, and demand that you do it for free, and suggest that if you don’t, you are dishonouring the gods. Shame on those who think that way! Are we afraid that money corrupts us? Should we not consider that in most aspects of life you get what you pay for, and that expecting a high quality of resource for free is laughable. And yet so many people deliver that, out of love, while the community around them will spend money on alcohol that it would begrudge paying to support the work.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “Money for Old Pagan Rope?

  • redgriffithshaynes

    So interesting you should write on this now. I am considering the exact same issue. The serrendipity of the internet, or perhaps just discussions on Facebook! 😉

  • Sylvarwolf

    Some well-said heart-felt words! Thank you

  • kelibrown

    Thank you for writing this 🙂 I’m currently on the cusp of trying to start offering my own services and finding the confidence to charge anything – even just enough to cover room hire etc – is really difficult, because I am so used to this ‘Real Pagans don’t charge’ mentality. It is a relief to hear someone reassure that it IS not extortion to charge for the service you offer but a vital part of expanding the Pagan community. If we can support creatives/workshop leaders etc to offer their services to us then surely we will all grow and flourish as a result.

  • Wakeful Priesthood | The Animist's Craft

    […] no different and coincidentally, I note that Nimue has been motivated to write on a similar subject here with a slightly different slant. It is an issue I have considered and grappled with for a few years […]

  • rookseh

    Reblogged this on Rook's Lookout and commented:
    Seriously, read the rest of the post!

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I have never understood why any service should be free. How many people who show u at work if there was no salary? Show me where you can pay you bill by giving them a smile. You would be amazed how many things not charged for are not appreciated by people. Free is often considered worthless in our society. Now you can go to the opposite extreme and charge an exorbitant price for something, but that does not seem to be a major Pagan failing.

  • lornasmithers

    At present I’m involved in performing at local free poetry events and I’ve also run free workshops. I see doing such things voluntarily partly as service to my land and my gods and partly as practice. However I am hoping that once I’ve established a decent reputation my work will be valued enough for people to be prepared to pay.

    • caelesti

      It’s tricky to do that because once you’ve become known to do something for free, people may take that for granted. A little different, but my dad (who works as a professional non-profit fundraiser) has tried several times to start his own non-profit consulting biz, and done pro bono work to try to promote himself. Everyone was happy to take that, but weren’t willing to actually pay him.

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