On this day of remembrance of those fallen in war, it seems appropriate to ponder one of the ways in which war has impacted our money, the addition of the motto, "In God We Trust." The phrase was first included on US coins in 1864, perhaps to show that God sided with the North in the Civil War. Paper currency was given the message in 1957, after Congress made it the official motto of the country, to set us apart from godless Communism.
Spare change is one of my favorite forms of money, because it's just so obviously pulsing with energy, the elemental energy of earth. Coins are often shiny, they have a weight that conveys value, and there is power in the jingling of money. It's solid enough to decorate a bathroom, but it's also liquid enough to imagine swimming in it.
And pocket change seems linked to its own pocket universe, too. Who hasn't searched the couch cushions for some? A good cushion-hunt can mean clean laundry or a week's worth of ramen dinners for a college student. On the other hand, coins can definitely burn a hole in your pocket; research shows that we don't like to spend big bills, and coins are the other end of the spectrum.
There's been a lot of talk about money in the Pagan blogosphere in the past week, so much so that I wonder if it would be a service simply to round up those links once in awhile. I'm barely making my self-imposed "money Monday" deadline this week as it is -- missed it, in some time zones -- so I won't be giving that idea another moment's thought quite yet.
One of the posts that really caught my eye comes from my fellow blogger here, Carl Neal, who cajoled readers to contribute to your favorite Pagan efforts. One of Neal's personal favorites is the Wild Hunt blog, which is presently running its annual fund drive. With four weeks left in the campaign, 108% of the needed funds to pay for servers, columnists, and administration have been raised. In an early thank-you note, Jason Pitzl-Waters remarks, "Fundraising is a spell." I agree, but I'm not sure it's the kind of spell most people might think it is.
I loved reading the tarot so much I carried six decks with me at all times. I gave readings in restaurants, in class, outside Starbucks, at parties, in the park, over the phone, even by instant messenger. Reading tarot connected me with Spirit. It was sacred to me, even if most of the people I read simply found it entertaining.
How could I charge for readings when giving them brought me so much pleasure? Could I really refuse someone a reading because they didn’t have the $20 I felt bad about charging? Should I read some people for free even while charging others? Were free readings worth less than paid ones?
One of the things that troubles me about money magic is that all the spells are focused on getting some more of it in my pocket. That may be reflective of how most people approach money (something which must be acquired to achieve security or happiness), but it falls far short of what this medium of exchange is capable of in spellcraft.
This weekend I had the pleasure of leading a group of people through a magical ritual designed to help them forgive those who have wronged them, and I used money as the method for gathering and releasing that energy. It worked as I expected it would, but there were also some educational surprises along the way. Some results were immediately felt, while others may take some time to manifest.
Risking charges of cultural appropriation, I'm going to come right out and say that I thinking tithing is a wonderful idea that Pagans should borrow and embrace . . . with some modifications to fit our diverse paths and beliefs, of course.
Tithing is the Biblical tradition of skimming ten percent off the top of one's income and giving it to one's church. This was an effective way to provide for priests and ensure that charity stays local, but there are a number of reasons why its literal application won't work for most modern Pagans. A few that come to mind are:
Whether it's your local metaphysical shop, farmer's market, or hardware store, buying local is an easy path to intentional spending. The 3/50 Project is my preferred method of encouraging local spending, because once you get past the sometimes-confusing name, it's an easy way to redirect existing money to local businesses.
The 3/50 concept is this: take fifty bucks each month, and spread it around three local businesses instead of using it at chain stores, franchises, or online. The project has a pretty specific definition of local business that focuses on the amount of money which stays in the community. One thing I like about the concept is that it stresses balance -- don't avoid big-box stores entirely, if that's where you get the best deals on some items, but do spend some money in businesses owned and operated by your neighbors.