Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Etiquette Lesson: Magic Is Not for Free (Sometimes)

Maybe because we still, like it or lump it, come out of the hippie movement as Neo-Pagans, there's still this bizarre belief with some people that magic should be free and taking money for magical services is dirty and wrong. Well, that's fine, as long as you think that it's dirty and wrong to pay for doctors visits, lawyers services, handmade goods, herbs, massage, magazines, books, movies, etc. and are currently managing to live completely off the grid in a barter/trade society where you can trade for all your goods and services. All of this, obv, is my opinion.

Unless you are bffs with a srs magical worker or a magical worker yourself, why would a service be free? I mean yes, when I get some queries from WitchVox I will often suggest a small working to assist but that's because (a) I have a soft heart for sad ass stories and (b) I'm also lazy and busy and I can cross post it here and show that I do have a magical thought process when my brain is not pre-occupied with more pressing matters like Dance Moms (which, btdubs, makes Toddlers and Tiaras look like a goddamn afternoon teaparty with stuffed animals and cake) and dodging writing a book. But, small. Basically here's the distinction to me between paid magic and unpaid magic:

Unpaid magic when requested and not offered by the provider as a free service (which I certainly would do for my closest friends and family but YMMV) is like bitching to your friend instead of seeing a shrink. Or like asking your friend who is an excellent amateur baker to bring a cake to a party instead of going to a patisserie. Or you have a friend who is a volunteer EMT and s/he assesses if your cut will likely need stitches or not. Unpaid magic is like a favor, something that's not too big of a pain in the ass for the witch in question but takes some time and energy to do. Something that the witch knows off hand or has a lot of experience with and can answer without it being A Whole Thing. Generally speaking, I will offer some practical advice and offer a small spell working for you to do yourself when I am giving free advice. If you want The Whole Thing - divination, a consultation and then me constructing a whole magical working for you and performing it for you, that is not for free because that is now taking up my time and money as well as my energy and my magic. I have found (and this might sound mean and catty) that when you just lead the horse to water, there's little follow through. When someone has to put their money where their mouth is and be willing to have me shove your face into a gallon of Poland Spring that's when you really wanted this working with all of your little heart. In most (not all) cases, that's when I'm willing to get involved personally because then it's a Practical Magic scenerio:

Aunt Jet: Sally, you just stay right there. Keep working on your spells. Just keep working on your spells.

Aunt Jet: Get the bird.

Aunt Frances: Get the book.

A woman: I want him so much, I can't think about anything else. I don't sleep. He has to leave his wife. He has to leave her now.

Aunt Jet: Perhaps you might find one better suited.

A woman: I don't want anyone else. He's all I think about. Why the hell else would I come here?

Aunt Frances: Take the money, Jet.

A woman: I want him to want me so much he can't stand it.

Aunt Jet: Be careful what you wish for.

You're going to give your money to someone and if I don't have any personal ethical quandaries with what you want, then I may as well do it and take the money.

If you want The Whole Thing, ladies and gentlemen and you want to show that you're mannerly and not an oaf who expects an acquaintance or party friend (or even less of a connection) who doesn't really know anything more about you than you like the Yankees and you don't drink red wine to outline your legal defense for you over hors' d'oeuvres , or diagnosis your sore throat in the spare room at a dinner party or ask for your book to be reviewed at a con party where everyone's drinking test tube shots or expect someone to do illustrations for your album cover because you ride the A train together every day, you need to expect to pay for it. When you are expecting favors for free when it comes to any kind of service, consultation or artistic work you are implicitly (if not explicitly) saying what you do isn't worth anything of value, really. Also, super important? In most Neo-Pagan cultures? Don't haggle. It's rude and insulting to the provider. Don't get nasty with the provider about their prices, that's ridiculous. Take your business elsewhere

If you would like The Whole Thing whether it's massage therapy, book proofing, magical services, event planning, knitting or whatever and this service has not been offered free of charge to you by the provider, here are some gracious ways to see about receiving the Full Blown Service:

1. Say, "I need a love spell/an hour massage/candle work/curse work/an illustrator for my magazine/legal counsel. What is your going rate for that?"

2. Say, "I need X, but I only have X amount of money. What can you do for me for that?" and that gives your service provider a chance to decide for herself as to what she is willing to do for that.

3. Say, "I need X and I have Y and Z that I can barter for it if that's an arrangement you would find suitable, if not thank you for considering it."

If you would like to partake of my services my list can be found here


Ember the Muse said...

That is a very valuable point you bring up. In the last little while, I have noticed that people (young ones especially)like to offer up other peoples services and that when there is a refusal or request for compensation it is followed by scoffing, laughing and name calling. There is nothing selfish about compensation for work done. It is not paying your dues, especially since the person offering your services does not have the ability themselves. The world is changing, becoming tougher and tougher to remain thick skinned. This article is perfect and well timed as a gentle reminder that we are worth our salt.

Rufus Opus said...

Another thing I like to point out to people who think taking money for magic is wrong is that everything I know, everything I've learned is available online for free at They're free to find the magical processes and do the magic the same way I did for free. To skip ahead to getting the benefits of the magic without having to study and practice and fail and learn, they pay cash.

~*Rhi*~ said...

So wonderful! I am SICK TO DEATH of people thinking it is wrong to be paid for services. Every moment of magic takes at least 100 moments of dedicated service & learning (if not 10000000). So, to think that it is ok to simply ask me to give all my time & energy away for nothing because I happen to know a person causally really irritates me. It isn't all that different from my "day job" though. As a nurse, people are asking me for medical advice all the time. Here's what I say: "Oh, I'd love to help you, but my malpractice insurance company won't let me. I think you should make an appointment with your physician." I really wish I had that line as a witch!

Unknown said...

As another professional witch I must say, this is an excellent post! Thank you so much for writing it!

Unknown said...

I totally agree with everything you said. We provide much needed spiritual services and it all takes time, knowledge and money (if you need supplies). Why shouldn't we be paid for this? You don't see a Church service (at least in England) without the donation plate being handed around (and the congregation being asked to fund the reverend with their 10%).

I wrote about it here - - after my husband got labelled 'pure evil' for specifying an hourly rate!

Katie Masters said...

I agree that asking for monetary compensation is perfectly fine and acceptable. The only thing I DO tend to get a bit angry over is asking for a large sum of money for things that don't necessarily require THAT much time and energy. I feel that sometimes witches do overcharge when there is really NO reason for it. As a witch who reads tarot cards for others, I am constantly annoyed at seeing other pagans asking for money ranging from 50 to 120 dollars an hour. That in my mind, is completely unfair. But other than that, we SHOULD charge some money (or if you want, to barter for your services), since in this world we witches need to live too! :)

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