Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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What Does it Mean to be Prosperous


b2ap3_thumbnail_bullcoin.jpgProsperity - a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects

We all want to be happy, and see those we care for to be happy as well. To be successful at what we do, to flourish and thrive is what all humans hope for. But why does it so often involve money? To be sure there are tribes that do not use money. The Bushmen of the Kalahri are happy to be eating ostrich eggs and boar’s heads, cooked in hot sand and embers, and feel extra privileged to get a bite of mostly cooked boar anus or a roasted beetle. Jakob Malas, a Khomani hunter from a section of the Kalahari that is now Gemsbok National Park says "The Kalahari is like a big farmyard, it is not wilderness to us. We know every plant animal and insect, and know how to use them. No other people could ever know and love this farm like us." * They do not feel poor. They have few material possessions, but they dance and sing.

And we might envy that happiness, that simplicity. Life in the Western world is hard apace, and filled with choices and conflicts. We lack the deep knowledge and support of each other that comes with living closely in groups. Modern economists call this social capital. And money can be very hard to think about. My mother, raised during the great depression, used to agonize over balancing her checkbook to the penny. She would sit at the kitchen table and moan and swear. The consequences for not thinking about money are high. We can loose our mode of transportation or our home. But it is worth noting that the consequences for the bushman who fails to think ahead are even higher.

In truth, even in the developed nations, we have the option of checking out of the economy. People have been making communes for generations, some of them non-monetary where resources and labor are pooled for a common goal. And yet only a small portion of the population chooses to do this at any given time.

There was no shortage of prosperity deities on the ancient pagan world, and plenty of places where their names are even now remembered and honored. The idea that wealth was related to a lack of spirituality is not unique to Christendom, but that religion has informed western civilization for a long time, and we cannot escape its effects. But the gods and goddesses of prosperity are not solely about wealth. Many have other functions including: healing, fertility, earth, luck, rich harvests, and good counsel, and all of these things can increase prosperity. So perhaps the resentment of money, and the attempt to flourish without it is one we created, or were taught.

Money is an idea, an agreement, an understanding of value. If we were taught to seek out money, it is worth remembering that were money is not readily available, that people have a very different standard of living. There are fewer things to go around, including those things that make life easier and less labor intensive. Labor can replace money in such places; if you don’t have something, you might be able to make it if you have the skill. My husband and I don’t earn a lot of money, but we are pretty skilled at construction, and good at using things others don’t want, and so we have a very nice kitchen. We used labor to make up for money.

We also used time. Had we hired someone to work full time on making our kitchen, it would have been done in a few months instead of the year it actually took. I don’t grudge that year. I like that we made it ourselves because it connects me to the house, and I enjoy projects. And if I had actually had to do without a stove or sink during the process, I’m sure I would have felt differently! My husband however, does electrical work for a living. He did the labor of building the kitchen because he had no other option. I am certain that if we could have afforded to pay someone to do the plumbing, that he would have done so in a heartbeat. He hates doing plumbing and swears a lot during the process. I’m glad he has that skill and I’ve learned how to handle PVC from him well enough to use it for some garden projects. But for me it is optional, I have a choice.

And perhaps that is what prosperity comes down to: having choices about how you spend your time, your labor, and yes, your money. This is because each of us, given those choices, would choose a bit differently, and those choices are an expression of who we are. My husband would prefer to be at his keyboard making music. I prefer to write, and do creative projects, and teach. And yet, even though we don’t get to do what we love all the time, we do feel prosperous because both us are able to express our creativity and unique being through the paid work that we do. He constantly solves problems, and finds solutions to lighting issues.  He helps create beautiful spaces and makes his customer’s lives easier. I find where my clients hurt, and with massage and movement, ease that pain. Both jobs require unique and creative solutions every day, and that is satisfying. We are both good enough at what we do that people reward us for our creativity. This is our prosperity.

What is yours?

*Mark Dowie. Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples (p. 19). Kindle Edition.


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Tagged in: money Prosperity
Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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