Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ageism and Pagan Elder Abuse, Part 2

"Hi, I'm Morning Raven Fluff and I've decided to be one of your priestesses, here is a list of the things you have to change for me."

I hope this sounds as ludicrous to your ears as it does to mine but it reflects the attitude more and more younger Pagans seem to approach  established groups with.  What the hell is going on here?

What's going on is a generation of over protected, everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, "you're special" even if you never actually did anythings have entered Paganism and Feminism and the world in general.  The dominant attitude is "my totally uneducated opinion is equal to your educated and experienced knowledge base".  This is accompanied with "more victim than thou" and what I started calling years ago, the Oppression Olympics.

You really don't have to look very far in Pagan discussion groups to run across multiple "so and so isn't an elder in MY tradition so I won't listen to anything they have to say"  Their tradition often is a tradition of one.  In a time where the internet makes connections easy that used to be almost impossible, when Pagan groups should be flourishing with ever expanding numbers, they are dying on the vine and unsupported by groups set up to actually support them but apparently actually set up to support someone's ego and pocketbook.

If this continues you can kiss Paganism goodbye along with the environment, women's rights hard fought for and won by those  awful second wave feminists and we have already lost most of our civil rights in Amerika where standing up for them is now considered terrorism.

And it is ageism.

Most Pagan traditions trace some of their sources to societies where the elders were respected and cherished but today elders are dottering old fools with dinosaur ideas and I've personally been told, "I cannot wait until you die and take your ideas with you."  Because a couple of elder men have been exposed as sex perverts recently within Paganism, all elders and in particular elder women are under some form of attack in some twisted return to the Crone as the evil Halloween witch.. in Paganism!   Wannabe Big Nose Pagans are writing blogs with titles implying all elders are essentially bullies and abusive.  Saying no to these idiots is considered abusive as is refusing to accommodate their every whim.

"You must change your tradition to fit my desires"  Or what?, you won't join?  "Your opinions are oppressing me"  So wipe the dust from your feet and move on darling.  "Your tone is angry"  Really?  I was trying to have a discussion with you thinking you were an adult capable of a spirited debate.  "You are difficult to work with"   Because I didn't give you a trophy for showing up or tell you your opinions were brilliant when they weren't?  

I ain't your grandmother without opinions who just sticks around to hand you a cookie.  I am a woman who fought more damn battles in a long lifetime than you can imagine and stood up for mine and your rights.  I've been kicked and beaten and even raped more times than you can imagine.  This is why I don't run around taking your money to teach you in some Pagan festival workshop or online scam school.  You want to learn from me, you come to me and I share freely.  That's what I do.

If it hadn't been for our legal battle for equal rights under the law and our need to raise each year twice than our operating costs for legal fees, you probably would not have heard of us at the Maetreum because we know what we offer is not for the masses who want quick answers without work.  We don't give answers, we just help you find them but if you are not willing to do the work, we have nothing to offer you.  We don't need you, you need us.  We do the work of taking in women in need and helping them get back on their feet without preaching or requiring they join us and have been doing so for over a decade.  We never asked the greater Pagan community for money to do this.  We do it because it is the right thing to do.

If this youth culture crap continues in Paganism of all places, you will all wind up sitting under a tree alone gazing into your smart phone instead of your navel.  It makes me want to cry.....and feel I wasted a lifetime fighting for rights and equality and respect for women when it wasn't valued enough to just keep the victories won in the past.

But for now, I'm still here and I still share freely with those who actually want to learn something and expand their horizons and get in touch with the Divine within themselves but I am getting old and won't be here forever.......  You cannot make someone respect you but you sure as hell can demand they not disrespect you.

You are throwing away the greatest treasure of all with your ageism, the access to the wisdom that sometimes (not always) comes with age and experience.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ageism and Pagan Elder Abuse Part 1

Elder abuse is usually associated with caretakers abusing the elderly in nursing homes but it actually goes much deeper and further than that.  When you are older but fail to be the grandma with cookies type of older woman you will experience ageism big time.

Normally I don't like airing our dirty laundry here at the Maetreum but we recently had a multi level example of both ageism and elder abuse happen here starring that crusty old crone, yours truly.

We had a priestess who's involvement in the Cybeline Revival went back to it's near beginnings but who only actually showed up or participated every couple of years or so.  Up until a couple of years ago, she did keep in fairly regular touch by phone but that suddenly came to a halt about 2 and an half years ago until this spring when she descended on us full force telling everyone here I needed more looking after.  I didn't think much of it at the time but then the return in June put everything in an entire new light.

She and her daughter and partner are living in an older home they just moved into to "help" an older gentleman who's family allegedly was not looking after.  This is the second time she has moved into a property to "help" someone and took it over.  He has family, but she somehow arranged power of attorney for his healthcare and finances.  Recently he was moved into a retirement home but they are still living in his house.  Now understand that this sort of house stealing is becoming more and more common and the law hasn't really caught up with it.  Essentially it is a type of con aimed at elderly home owners.  Her own mother has early stage Alzheimer's, something I noticed several years ago on the last whirlwind visit with mom in toe.   She took over all her mothers affairs as well and cleaned her out.  To make a long story short, she's figured out the jig is up on the free housing and planned to move here and take over.  Moving here would not have been a problem but I told her that her mom could not be part of the package as we simply are not equipped to deal with an Alzheimer's patient.  

When I did that, it hit the fan.  She was already telling me my advisor, a woman I literally trust more than anyone else on the planet, had an agenda and I shouldn't trust her.  She'd had a facebook account for ages but never used it at all.  Suddenly she is friending everyone associated with us.  At this time a younger Pagan woman who was to start her novitiate training with me was moving into the Maetreum with her multiple partners.  Our novitiate was zeroed in on.  Then she started telling everyone associated with us that I was showing signs of early dementia, naturally with nothing to back that up because their isn't anything to back it up.  She started working the younger women against the older ones, pushing for major changes in everything about the house.  Not directly, but through the younger women.  My advisor actually overheard her doing this.

The tactic switched to early signs of dementia to full blown very quickly and the rest of the priestesshood realized we had to do something quickly because we'd been down this road years before.

Unlike many other Pagan traditions, we have a blueprint for dealing with conflict and running and living as a community.  This document has been online since 2004.  The last time we had an attempted schismatic takeover of the property (it's always about our property) it was slightly modified to empower an individual Battakes (Rev. Mother of a specific Phrygianum or convent if you will) to simply expel a priestess working to undermine her.  It has further safeguards against just a personality conflict.  Under our rules I could have just done this but I did not.  Instead the priestesses who were aware of the situation, all but two living outside the US, conferred and collectively and unanimously decided to tell her she was no longer a priestess and must leave immediately.  We knew there would be blowback from this.  The rouge priestess was informed she needed to meet with me and my heir for a discussion.   That's where it hit the fan big time.

Apparently she started texting everyone in the house that she was being set up by demented old me and calling for an intervention to prevent the meeting.  We have very specific rules for calling a house meeting and this violated most of them.

She did not show up from her RV until she had it all in place unknown to my successor and myself who walked into an ambush.  When I saw what was happening, I announced this was a priestess only matter and I was speaking as the Battakes.  Not only was I ignored but the novitiate announced she was mediating this and I was physically prevented from leaving the room.  It was two against seven... and clear the agenda was me.  No personal boundary of mine was left intact or respected.  Yes, I yelled but I never threatened even verbally while I had been forcibly stopped from leaving myself by a large younger male we were letting stay with us.

The offending priestess left but not without arranging considerable chaos in her wake in the form of half the downstairs of our home turned upside down and pretty much unusable.  The Noviciate decided I had somehow "triggered her" by yelling and she and her partners decided not to move in and break all the promises they had been making.  Ok, bad situation but resolving itself except they left all their things filling the rest of the downstairs and two bedrooms and the main hallway for six weeks not to mention a dead car in our driveway at a time we were having a battle with the local code office.

The former noviciate was left an open door to come back.  She was in charge of the Albany summer Pagan event and I was supposed to be "honoured" as a crone at that event.  I told her under the circumstances that I considered that inappropriate and I would not be even attending absent an apology for basically total disrespect of the priestesshood and myself in our own home when we were trying to deal with a very difficult situation under our rules and blocked by her, not a priestess, from doing so.  We recognized she was suckered into it by an expert con artist and cut a LOT of slack for her because of that.

Still with me?  This is where it gets interesting.  Apparently I have become a Name Pagan due to our multiple year battle with the town of Catskill and apparently that has made other Name Pagans nervous despite the fact I don't do the festival circuit or hold court like many of them do.  Frankly, I've been far too busy keeping our place going and fighting bigotry to even think about it.  Our former Noviciate does do the circuit and likes to schmooze with the Big Nose Pagans and the BNP wannabes.  I have been trashed to pretty much all of them at this point as an abusive and angry bitch.  All at a time that three separate legal actions with Catskill have been coming to a head and thus cutting off support we badly needed to raise the needed legal fees.

One of the wannabe BNPs is a woman who runs around the community giving "leadership" workshops even though she has never, to the best of my knowledge, ever actually led anything other than a workshop.  She also makes her living writing soft Pagan porn.  Almost exactly a year ago the Albany Pagan group had her come do a workshop and it was done here at the Maetreum for free.  We hostessed the workshop and put this woman up for the night and fed her.  That night she and I sat down to have a chat and were quickly interrupted by a vandal throwing rocks through our windows and screaming anti Pagan and anti LGBT slurs and then threatening to come back with an AK 47 and shoot us up.  The cops did show but did not even bother to do a proper interview with us.  That was the sum of my contact with this wannabe with a couple of very brief FB encounters afterwards.  After being contacted by our former Noviciate, suddenly we were being accused of being transphobic and our wannabe blogged about what a terrible leader and abusive angry person I am being extremely careful not to mention my name but giving more than enough details about the Maetreum and myself that no one familiar with any of this would not know exactly who was being talked about.  I was linked to the recent paedophile and the Frosts.  Also to Z Budapest.

I am writing this because I am seeing evidence my experience is not an isolated one and my next blog entry will deal with the widespread in general disrespect of older women in particular in the Pagan community.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tired of Waiting for That Next Witch Hunt, Pagans Start Doing it to Themselves

TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!
I have been known to speak bluntly and some overly sensitive idiots take that as "too angry". If you are afraid the blunt opinions of an outspoken crone might somehow harm your fluffy bunny, well tough toenails darling.


In full disclosure, I am descended from Salem witchcraft trial victims on both sides of my family, Susanna Martin on my maternal side and Sarah Good on my paternal side.   I grew up with tales of Salem as well as an uncle who used to show me the fertile farmlands near the mouth of the Merrimack river that were stolen from us (his words) of William Wood, another ancestor who wrote the book "New England Prospects" but committed the sin of marrying into a local tribe.  The damn Puritans took it from him.  I grew up with "haunted" pre-revolutionary houses in our family and no one from the family ever told me "there's no such thing as ghosts" because every damn one of us knew the family ghosts on a first name basis.

With others, I reclaimed an ancient Mother Goddess tradition with an actual, traceable heritage, which I suspect pisses off those without those roots.   I have been a practising Pagan for more than fifty years, long before it was "cool", and I spent part of my teenaged years in India, just before the Beatles made that cool.

I've played my part in every major civil rights battle since the mid sixties as a passionate activist.  Every single one.

But apparently I am too hard to work with and too angry to work with on the major Pagan legal battle of the past 30 years, our right to equal treatment of our "church" (IRS designation).   WTF?????

The past year or so has seen revelation after revelation of sexual misconduct and out and out child abuse in the Pagan communities by some of the biggest names in Paganism and covered up by other big name Pagans.  No accountability for that.  Nope, instead we claim the Maetreum of Cybele is transphobic, Z Budapest is a terrorist and evil person for speaking out about sexual fetishism at Pagan events and wishing to keep her group for women born women, which is her absolute civil right under the 1'st amendment to do so.  I keep reading that Z doesn't have the right to call herself an elder, and apparently neither do I.  

Do I agree with Z on everything?  Oh hell no but I would love to sit down with her someday over a pot of coffee and have a lively debate as she is a crusty old crone same as me.  And if she isn't a Pagan elder, then 'taint no such thing.

I've read a number of articles lately about walking away from the term Paganism as well.  I've been told the Maetreum should move somewhere where it would be better received by cowardly asswipe Pagans who apparently are afraid to be called Pagan.

To them I say, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.  I am a proud Pagan and I am sick to death of the cowards in Paganism who's response to challenges is 'run away, run away'.

Susanna Martin laughed at her accusers during her trial and pointed out their fears.  Sarah Good cursed her judge on the gallows to die with blood in his mouth and he did.  These are the women in my personal history.  To hell with the cowardly Pagans like the Lady Liberty worthless League, to hell with those "leaders" who knowingly covered up the sex crimes of their peers like some Pagan version of Ratzinger, the nazi pope.

The Goddess is angry, I'm angry.  If you cannot deal with that and do the right thing and fight the good fight, go join the Baptists cause there is no room for you in Paganism any more.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Open Letter to the Greater Pagan Communities on Transphobia

From About News Civil Rights section, 

Definition: Transphobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms. Because lesbians and gay men often transgress gender norms, it is often associated with homophobia.

The most direct victims of transphobia are people who are transsexual--those who are labeled one sex at birth but transition into another sex later.


Pay attention to that last part because it is true even among the so called trans communities.  Most non trans people (I refuse to use that ridiculous invention word "cis") would take it as evidence of transphobia the refusal to accept the womanhood of a transitioned transsexual and they would be right.  Where they get suckered is when some random trans-person makes such an accusation against the very people who are the poster children for "trans", post surgically corrected women of transsexual history.  And this is not only common, it is practically universal with the current generation of so called trans-activists.  They flatly refuse to acknowledge the womanhood of those with female bodies and identities who were born transsexed or intersexed.  They will tell her she is forever male because she has an Y chromosome, that her vagina is just an inverted penis, that she can never be a "real" woman because she lacks a uterus and more.  How can I say this?  I can because this has happened to me, not once or twice but literally hundreds of times and I have personally witnessed it done to dozens like me in public blogs....by so called trans activists who actually hate post surgical women for escaping the "transgender" pot.

Amazing isn't it.  But it is true.  Let a post surgical woman say she has now cured her transsexual condition and is just plain woman like every other woman and these trans-activists will move heaven and earth to deny her that.  Violence is common, death threats are common, attempts to utterly destroy her life are common.  This would include physical abuse, verbal abuse, "outting" to spouses and employers, slander, libel and much more.

So when you hear someone called transphobic, stop, ask yourself what is behind it.  If it is a woman of transsexual history being called transphobic, the real transphobe is likely the one making the accusation, not the victim.  Ask yourself can it actually be more gynophobic as well as transphobic to do this to a post surgical woman and if they are willing to do this to them, what are their true feelings towards non trans women?

This issue is much more complicated than most realize.

I founded the Cybeline Revival with a woman of transsexual history.  I was born a true hermaphrodite and surgically assigned male at birth and had to correct that later in life.  I, personally, recovered the role of the transsexual priestesses in the Mother Goddess traditions of the ancient world and wrote about it........ now I am a transphobe?   Really?  You bought that?

Who's the real transphobe here.

I did not want to have to write this, I left the trans battlegrounds years ago but when this crap is spreading within the Pagan communities and tearing them apart, I cannot maintain silence.

Post Script added 9/4

We have been trolled here and on Facebook because of this accusation that the Maetreum of Cybele is transphobic.  To be perfectly clear, the Maetreum has always welcomed all trans and gender queer people and men to participate fully in all our rituals and events since it's founding.  At issue is one of the requirements to be a priestess in our tradition is being female bodied AND identified.  That anyone feels they have the right to dictate to us who we accept into a very limited sisterhood of priestesses is beyond offensive.  Half of that circle of priestesses consists of women of trans or intersexed history.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Catskill Steps up it's War on the Maetreum of Cybele; Fighting A Town run by Outlaws

Most of you are aware the Maetreum has been involved  in a seven year plus battle with the Town of Catskill, NY over our religious property tax exemption.   Last fall we won in the Appellate Court of New York and this made the town powers that be very nervous because they no longer had any basis to deny us that exemption.   They filed an appeal to the highest NY court and that is now ongoing but they did not ask for or were granted a stay on our victory.

What's a Catskillian bigot to do?   Why dig back into the bag of tricks that did not work in 2009, that what!  Code violation, yeah, that'll work so they scheduled a “fire and safety” inspection to take place a mere two days before the deadline for filing for this year's exemption.  Trouble is we saw through this immediately and refused the inspection.  You see for all those years Catskill's legal position is we are “merely a residence” and not a real church....until it's inspection time, then we are the real deal churchwise.  All well and good except for one thing.  We do live here.  Most people are unaware you can invoke your 4'th Amendment rights to refuse a safety inspection of your home and we did so in writing but we have additional legal protections under a Federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).  That law was written specifically for cases like ours and shifts a very very high burden of proof on a town once invoked.

Unless you are a town run by criminals that is.  Not yet convicted criminals mind you but that may change soon.  Let's be kind and call them scofflaws instead, an older term that fits perfectly.

So, two exchanges of letters with the Code office and we invoked all our rights in both.  Mind you, there are two different US Supreme Court decisions that make it clear that once 4'th Amendment rights are invoked, the town must get a warrant to do an inspection and the second of those two ruling also made it clear that no legal jeopardy can be attached (no charges of any kind) until that happens.  It also raised the bar on proof to get that warrant.  RLUIPA raises that bar WAY the hell up from that.

Ok, now the Board of Assessment Review (BOAR) hearing is almost upon us, what is a Catskillian bigot to do when the first move was countered?  Why issue a third letter demanding the inspection or else, the or else being that very legal jeopardy that the Supremes says is a no no....  But we must inspect before the hearing, find them in violation of something and use that as cover for denying the exemption!  Wrong again moosebreath, in order to make it stick you have to actually cite the section of code we were in violation of and when we checked it out with the legal definitions, it doesn't apply to us at all!

What's left to Catskillian bigots ordered to deny us?  Out and out breaking the law and that is exactly what Catskill opted to do,  break the law.  In open defiance of the second highest court in New York, they denied our exemption without giving a single reason at the BOAR even though I carefully spelled out that legally they were out of options here.  Ok, we saw that one coming but the next move beyond belief.  We were cited for a code violation and ordered to appear next week in town court in front of the town judge to the charges.  We had responded to the last threat in writing spelling out how the code we were charged with violating does not apply and why complete with legal citations and even a link to an article by the Counsel General of the State of New York.  We once again invoked our 4'th Amendment rights and our additional rights under RLUIPA.  Mind you charging us is illegal and an actual violation of our civil rights.  In the very first letter in the exchange I explained that their only legal action was to get a warrant after meeting an extremely high burden of proof to do so.  We twice offered a compromise that was ignored both times.

Deprivation of Civil Rights Under Color of Law is a federal felony and the code nazi violated that law.

This town trial should be most interesting indeed.  Stay tuned.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Rant

I need to vent a bit. I've been a practicing Pagan for 50 years now having studied in India as a teenager. I've been involved in Pagan community for about 45 years being a community leader and out Pagan spokesperson when it was dangereous to do so in central Ohio back in the mid seventies. I founded a unique, scholarly researched historic reclaiming of what was the most prominent Pagan religion of Rome that was subjected to wholesale erasure from history by the catholic church.

We built an actual Pagan infrastructure dedicated to charitable works and community service. Throughout all that the "movers and shakers" in Paganism have almost totally ignored us. Multiple contacts with COG totally ignored. Our legal battle, covered multiple times in the large Pagan blogs and even written up in the New York freakin' Times and one of only TWO major legal battles in the past decade ignored by the Pagan legal crowd despite our reaching out multiple times.  One self styled Pagan legal "scholar" did us actual, real world harm with a badly researched article about our initial loss after out and out refusing my offer of background material.  Raising the money for the winning appeal became almost impossible as a result.

I've tried to avoid anything that remotely looked like a witch war but I am sick and tired on being silent about the relentless self promoting "leaders" of Paganism who are all self promotion and no action. I'm sick and tired of watching our path being written out of Paganism by Wicca style Pagans who seem to think they own the word Pagan when arguably we have a much better claim to that label historically. We won a major legal victory for minority religions in general but when it looked like we lost, that was all over the place and the final victory ignored by the greater Pagan community.

All to often Wiccans dismiss us as some sort of Dianics. Dianics don't like us because we are open to all genders. Others dislike that we have reclaimed the original monotheistic Mother Goddess tradition. Others freak out that we are supportive of LGB causes. Sometimes I think we should just ignore the rest of the Pagan community and just do our thing. Ok, venting over, thanks for reading this far.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Paganism: Money is Bad, Right?

Reblogged from http://paganactivist.com/2014/01/14/paganism-money-is-bad-right/


–by Shauna Aura Knight
The question, “Should Pagans charge for services/rituals/events/classes” comes up with some frequency within our community. One of my activist goals is looking at underlying difficulties and assumptions in our culture and how that impacts us.
Pagans (and people, for that matter) have a really unhealthy relationship with money.
It’s one of our cultural “shadows.” Any shadow causes us communal grief. For me, activism is about looking at those cultural shadows and working with them. What are our current assumptions about money? How do those assumptions get in the way of healthy communities and future community resources?

Underlying Assumptions
“Pagans are broke.” What I think is actually means is, “Pagans have a complicated and unhealthy relationship with money and get recalcitrant about paying for things.”
There’s a spectrum of assumptions about money. On one end, you have the idea that “Charging for spiritual work is bad.” On the other end, “I should be paid reasonably for my time.”
What I’m not addressing in that spectrum is obvious extortion and unethical practices, including people who charge exorbitant money for a dangerously-facilitated sweat lodge, or people who say, “You’re cursed but I can lift it for a mere $1,000,” or people who embezzle, or manipulate people.
Now–while I’m not addressing the unethical folks, they impact our assumptions. Many Pagans fear donating to a group because they’ve seen the largess and corruption of the churches of their youth, and, they’ve seen various Pagan leaders fail to ethically handle money. 
I’m focusing on ethical Pagan leaders and teachers who feel that they should be able to charge for their time. After seeing several online discussions basically saying that anyone who charges for spiritual work is bad, or that spiritual work should always be free, I thought that a deeper discussion on money would serve.
The idea that “money is bad” shackles the Pagan community, holding us back and making us less effective in the kind of work many of our groups would like to be able to achieve.
What is Money?
A root challenge with this issue is that we need to define what money actually is. In the dominant culture, money is power, certainly. Big corporations, banks, and rich politicians control our laws. Religious institutions like the Catholic church have vast amounts of wealth. It’s no surprise that many have a knee-jerk reaction that “money is bad.”
But what is money? Money is, in essence, energy. It’s a representation of time and work. Ignoring income tax, if you make $10 an hour, then a $5 cup of coffee reflects a half hour of your effort.
Money is neither good nor bad, it’s simply an easier exchange rate than a chicken and a basket of tomatoes. Barter is, at its core, money. It’s resources being traded for other resources. Money isn’t inherently bad any more than the chicken you raised is bad. It’s just an agreed-upon exchange rate.
But “Real Witches” Never Charged
Completely untrue. If we look at our ancestors, the Witch/Shaman/Druid/Priest/Healer of the tribe was paid in the form of a tithe from the tribe. It might be a chicken, fur, or seat at the dinner table, or help building their home. It’s still payment. They couldn’t have focused on serving their community in that capacity without their community providing their upkeep.
Money is not a dirty thing. Money represents time spent working.
What Do Pagan Events Cost?
Let’s start with supplies. Candles, herbs, printing out handouts, food for the group. Is it fair to ask the group leader who’s already spent time organizing rituals and classes to pay out of pocket for all of that? Many people feel even charging for supplies is bad. Imagine a small group or a public ritual; perhaps money is donated, or members donate the supplies. It’s simple–those are hard costs, someone has to pay them, it’s just a matter of whom.
If it’s a public ritual, like my upcoming Imbolc in Chicago, money must be raised to pay for the $300 daily rental. We haven’t even gotten to additional costs, like a Meetup.com group, a web site, or printing flyers.
When talking about teachers charging, that’s usually where the fisticuffs begin.
What do I Charge?
For a public event like Imbolc, which has a ritual and workshops, I ask for a sliding scale donation, $5-$25, no one turned away for lack of funds. I feel it’s important to make these events open to people regardless of ability to pay.
At the same time, I can’t afford to foot the bill if an event doesn’t break even. It’s utterly unfair to ask clergy that have put in hours to plan, host, and cleanup an event to also spend money to cover the costs.
Traveling Teachers
The subject of money and charging for events and classes is very much on my mind because of recent events in my own life. I was recently in a car accident, and without getting into insurance details, the accident was not my fault but I won’t receive any money for a new car.
How is this relevant to charging for classes?
At least 75%-90% of what I used my car for was to run Pagan events in Chicago, and, to travel and teach at Pagan events. Now I have obligations to travel and teach at several events in the coming months, and many of these are not events I can now easily get to.
Let’s take a step back to assumptions like all Pagan authors are getting rich off of the community, and Pagans who teach at festivals make a lot of money.
When I travel to larger conferences and festivals, I pay my own travel and hotel costs. At some festivals where I’m headlining, I get gas money. I teach weekend-long intensives where I get gas money, and maybe a $200 stipend. However, looking at all of these, I’m actually operating at a loss. Why?
Car repairs.
If I drive 8 hours to teach for a weekend for gas money, I’m out the cost of an oil change. Add in $300 for new brakes and other car repairs…it all adds up. The past years I’ve paid thousands of dollars in car repairs for the pleasure of spending hours on the road to teach mostly without pay.
Why Would I Do That?
It’s the calling of my soul. There are so many groups out there desperate for help with leadership and community building, or learning to facilitate more potent rituals that will inspire their community. I’m a total sucker for a leader who messages me and says, “I loved your workshop at Pagan Spirit Gathering, and our local community is having so many problems but I don’t know if we can afford to pay you…”
So I tell them I can do it for gas money. Often, it’s that leader who’s paying my gas money out of pocket because they are afraid to charge anyone. “If I charge, no one will come,” they confide.
I admire the folks who do this–even while I regret that they continue enabling a dysfunctional pattern in our communities.
Consequences
I’ve been writing topics of Pagan leadership because I think they are crucial. For instance, this blog post now. Am I getting paid for the 3 or so hours it takes me to write one of these? Nope. I do it because I’m called. I think that’s the essence of any deep calling–we’d do it whether or not we’re being paid.
I have done this work without pay for years. I’ve managed by living simply and other creative means. But it’s put me, financially, where I absolutely can no longer do this work without pay. What I charge is not enough.
Here is the crux of the issue. Many Pagans whine about not having access to things that other faiths have, but there’s a core reason for it–they aren’t willing to pay for it. Pagans are starting to want access to leadership training, and I’m thrilled to offer that. However, taking my time to offer that–driving 4-8 hours–my time spent teaching–preparing for the workshop–it’s rather a lot of time. It’s a part-time job, full time if you add in writing articles, blog posts, answering leadership questions on email or skype.
It’s work I love, but if I can’t make a living doing it, I can’t continue.
Do you get excited when Circle Sanctuary takes on a local school principle discriminating against a Pagan student ? Good. But, where do they get the time to do that? How does Selena Fox have the time to call people going through a crisis, or go to their hospital to sit with them while they’re dying?
Circle charges money for events. The money they raise through events, and through donations, allows them to pay staffers to do this work full time.
Fear and Values
This goes back to values–what we value. What we spend money on. I get frustrated to tears when I see Pagans attend my classes and not donate anything, or donate on the lower end of a sliding scale ($5 for a full weekend of instruction, where the upper rate would be more like $150 a person) and then drop $5 on coffee, $25 on lunch, and $40 on a couple of books at the Pagan bookshop.
I don’t expect everyone to drop $150 on a weekend. That’s why it’s at the upper range of a sliding scale, which functions like a tithe. Those who can pay $5 are welcome. Those who can pay $75-$150 are paying into the scholarship fund, helping the less abundant to be able to attend.
If there’s 20 attendees, gas money is $100, and the space rental is $200 for the weekend, and I get $200, that means two things.
  1. Each person needs to pay around $25, but sliding scale means that folks who can only afford to pay $5 can attend as long as a few people are paying at the middle or top of the scale ($75-$150)
  2. It also means I’m making about $100 for four days of my time. Figure in an oil change, car insurance, and some money for inevitable car repairs. One day is spent traveling to the event, one traveling home, and then 2 days I’m teaching. That doesn’t count the hours spent working with the event organizers consulting on what classes to offer, crafting class descriptions, helping promote the event via Facebook and Email, or the time it takes me to prepare the classes.
That makes it maybe more like $100 for one work week. Still think I’m charging too much?
I know that most groups out there can’t afford more. But if I can’t charge for my work, I can’t afford to do it. This isn’t about me and my challenges, this is about money and what we as individuals and as a community have decided we value, what we are willing to pay for. It’s about what resources we want for our community, for our future.
“If you charge for your work you aren’t really being spiritual.”
Having gone through several years living below the poverty line to be able to bring this work out to my community, I have a few four-letter words in mind for that sentiment.
There are many of us out there that just want to run an Imbolc or Beltane event without panicking the whole night before about whether we’ll break even on space rental. Others of us who want to teach and write and offer our skills up but we need to make a living if we’re going to devote our time to it. 
“If you’re trying to get paid then you aren’t in it for service.”
“You could be doing other things for money and still serving your community.”
“If you were really dedicated to spirit, spirit would take care of you.”
“You shouldn’t expect any money for your work.”
“All spiritual work should be free.”
“If you’re really serving spiritual community, you wouldn’t need to advertise your services.”
“You should just be motivated by love for your community, not a paycheck.”

Would I do this work without pay? Yes, absolutely. I did, and I have. Where did it leave me? Financially stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yes, I made those choices, so I bear that responsibility, but, it’s not something I choose to do going forward.
What do you Value?
If you want to see the Pagan community mature, if you want more services and education available, or Pagan-focused meeting spaces and community centers, if you want advocates for Pagan rights…they have a cost. Do you value some of these things?
Think about your relationship to money, what you value. Begin talking about money in your community. Let’s move past this myth that Pagans are broke and explore our relationship to tithing, donating, and paying for needed services.
There’s the saying, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” I think that we can build amazing resources for future generations, if we can get past our shadows around money.
For further reading:
Here’s a blog post that I wrote going into more depth on this topic.
In the next days on my main blog http://www.shaunaaura.wordpress.com  I’ll be posting a series on Pagan leadership, with several articles focusing on Pagans, fundraising, and paying for events.