“Magic always has a price, dearie.”
Paganism is not without its conflicts. Gods and Goddesses, does it have conflicts. Two Jews, three opinions, is an old Jewish saying. Well, 2 Pagans, 24 opinions would not be inaccurate sometimes. But I have to say one of the oldest ones is probably about accepting payment for doing magic.
Now, I’m going to state this right out. I believe that one can, and even should, be paid for the magic we do for other people. Some people feel this is unethical, though that camp seems to be split between those that believe you cannot do magic for another person, and those that think it is wrong to accept payment for a spell.
Of the fist camp, I really have a hard time believing them. Magic is energy, it is light and darkness, life, death, fire, etc. Magic is in all things, the energy of all things, and the art of bending that energy to one’s will. So to say that one cannot cast a spell on or for another person is like saying you cannot give that person hope, sorrow, food, shelter, or protection. It, philosophically and physically, is an ideology that makes everyone an island that can never be reached by anyone else.
The second camp, I think, probably has a lot to do with Christian ideologies about charity and how goodness = antimundain, along with general views on capitalism making bad. “How dare you ask for compensation for some holy deed, that’s evil!!!!”
Here’s my thing though. Magic is energy, it is time, and very often it is materials. Not only is it years, even decades of study, it is often hundreds, thousands of dollars of books, materials, travel, and so forth. And that’s if you’re a solo who never really went to classes like me. Now, if I am doing a job for someone that required time, energy, and materials, I normally can expect to be compensated for that work. In fact, many of these same Pagans who insist magic should not be charged for, are likely the same people demanding a higher minimum wage, because people shouldn’t work for less than they are worth, right?
To me, magic is no different. I have done magic for pay before. Some of it was divination work, and some of it has been other spells. Nothing over large in pay, but still. To do divination work requires tools, which cost money (even if you pirate them off the net) to either buy or make. In fact for the cheapest runes, even if you find the wood for free, you’re still looking at at least 20 bucks for the most basic of tools to make them. Most tarot decks cost closer to $30. And that doesn’t count the costs of space, gas, marketing, and missing out on other jobs that could pay money.
For most other spells, you’re looking at a rise in material costs, and exponential costs in terms of energy. Take a house cleansing and warding. Material costs, you’re looking at at least $50 dollars of materials for the basics (sage, a lighter, chalk, paper, markers, containers for holy water, and whatever other materials your path requires such as wands, staffs, rattles, drums, etc, which can raise the cost higher). Yes, some of these materials can be reused at a later date in other jobs, but the initial cost is still there. My own staff probably cost me about $80 or there abouts (30 for the initial staff, 15 for the wood burner, 4 for the cordage, and then the rest on meals to get the bones needed because i was trying to save money and get food and materials rather than spend that on materials).
And that doesn’t even account for the energy needed to cleans the house (which depending on the house and its history can be substantial, even to a highly trained magi) and then the further energy needed to ward it not only from outside attack, but re-infestation by presences you cleared out (which is often at least 3-5 times the amount needed to cleanse the house). Given that a warding is supposed to last the lifetime of the occupancy at least…that’s a lot of work and energy.
So if you were going to have a maid come clean your house, and then a carpenter repair the walls, doors, and windows, would you expect them to do it for free because you “need” your house to be sanitary and whole? Of course not. You would recognize that they put a lot of effort and in the case of the carpenter, had years of training to do his job right. And the fees reflect that cost that the skilled laborer paid to get those skills. Magic is a skilled labor trade at its heart.
If people want to do magic for free, that’s fine. I have no more right to tell them they should charge than they have right to tell me I can’t. But here’s another though.
We judge something’s value by its commercial value when it comes to labor. The more we charge, or better, the more we are paid, tells us how much people value not only their work, but the work of others. So if someone says it is wrong to charge, they essentially are saying that it is wrong to place a value on magic. Magic has no value then.
But what does this say to those spirits and gods you work with? “Hey, I need to do this spell, but I don’t think it’s worth anything.” Well, they are going to look at you and either think you’re an idiot (because, after all, do they not charge you offerings, prayers, and time to have their support, knowledge, and time) or they are going to hold that whatever you’re trying to do isn’t worth putting anything into..because you don’t. And in a way, it’s insulting to Them because that’s like paying thousands of dollars to learn a skill from a master, and then turning around to that master and saying “this skill is so worthless that I’m just giving it away for free.”
Sure, doing it every once and a while, with their permission to someone who can’t afford the price is good and acceptable, but to do it all the time? History and myth is repeat with the recording of Gods and spirits demanding a price for their blessings and spells. It is also filled with stories of those who took those gifts without paying, or treated those gifts as worthless.
Because magic always has a price.