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.
The term grey charges is new to me, but the concept isn't: these are financial parasites that suck off your bank or credit card balance for as long as you don't notice them. Like living parasites, they succeed by staying small and not hurting you too much at a time, costing the average consumer less than $350 per year but banging the entire economy for about $14.3 billion in 2012.
Grey charges depend upon us not spending with intent. Some of us can't be bothered to look at our statements, but it's just as common to be afraid to look at our financial situation. Either of these extremes is the opposite of living a life of intent, because earning and spending are part of the intentional life.
I've been studying the nature and value of money for awhile now, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what the stuff is. Here in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, philosophical and economic discussions about money are hopelessly entangled with political philosophy, which makes it all the harder, but I think I have a grasp of what American currency is, and how it got there.
Barter was the first way humans exchanged things they had for things they wanted. It works well when two people each have something they other wants and they value it equally. Otherwise, the trades can become inordinately complex, such is the stuff that fiction writers love to illustrate, because wacky hijinks ensue.