This week I received an unpleasant surprise in the mail: a parking ticket. Apparently I had failed to hit the meter quickly enough one time while waiting for the Maetreum of Cybele's day in court, but the ticket itself didn't manifest until four months later. What would have been a $65.00 fine (outrageous in its own right) has now been hiked to $115.00, plus the usual warnings about me never being able to park in this town again.
Honestly, the things we go through for our work . . .
As 2013 was winding down, I put out a call for indebted Pagans who would be willing to be interviewed as I began exploring our relationship with debt. One brave Heathen, Melanie Swaim, was willing to do so, and the post I wrote after we talked blew the doors off the Witches and Pagans Facebook page, garnering (at last count) 1,137 likes and 162 comments. I'm told it was, to date, the most liked post on the page for this site. That deserves some serious unpacking.
First things first: I took one idea from the many which came out of my conversation with Ms Swaim, and ran with it: that she had to seek out guidance and support for her financial challenges in a religious community other than her own, because hers does not have that type of infrastructure. To be clear, I interpreted this is simply an observable fact, not an incrimination of Heathens in any way. Most, if not all, Pagan religions have a fierce independent streak running through them. Anecdotally, it seems that individual responsibility is a more important value across Paganism than even community.
There has been some excellent online dialog recently around the question, "Should I charge for Pagan spiritual services?" Most of the posts I've seen have been in support of money changing hands, but the comments usually show strong feelings on both sides. Answering her question of, "Money is Bad, Right?" Shauna Aura Knight posited that the reason for this division is that, "Pagans (and people, for that matter) have a really unhealthy relationship with money."
As tantalizing that quote is to me, I have to lay it down for now. Observant readers will already be wondering who the woman in the picture is, because it is clearly not Ms. Knight.
When it came time to make the weekly donation to my Pagan savings challenge envelope, instead of just adding the money, I also replaced the cash that was already in there. I've been reading The Soul of Money, particularly a very thoughtful passage on the flow of money, so I decided to incorporate that into my weekly offering to help me explore the idea. I will replace the entire amount each time I add the weekly allotment.
This week, the growing pile of cash is pictured on my shrine to Hestia, for the hearth is going to get an upgrade with the assistance of this money. Fireplace insert, here we come.
There has been some wonderful online discourse about the role of institutions in modern Paganism. There are those who believe the price -- of leaving behind our counterculture roots -- would be too high. Others believe that this is the only path to a mature religious movement, and still others propose solutions that include both. I believe it's important to include the idea of financial institutions in this dialogue.
I'm not necessarily talking about banks and credit unions, although nothing is off the table. While Pagans are frequently loving, giving people, our community lacks any institutional ways to support one another financially. A credit union would certainly fit part of that bill, but not every problem can be solved with a loan. Each of us face challenges and opportunities that could look very different with a bit more money: wardrobe for a new job, affordable day care, credit counseling, even basic money management skills. These challenges are quite effectively addressed by some religious communities. Should they be in ours?