One issue of spirited debate in the Pagan and Wiccan communities is that of whether or not it's acceptable to charge for teaching classes or performing services. One school of thought says it's never okay -- after all, knowledge is something that should be shared freely, at no charge to a student, because you can't put a price on spirituality. Another group argues that of course it's fine to charge - after all, teachers need to make a living too. Many people fall somewhere in the middle of all this and say it's okay to take money for teaching, as long as it isn't an exorbitant amount. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of charging for one's services, in a spiritual capacity.Clergy Services
Let's say you're looking for someone to perform a Pagan clergy service for you. Perhaps you're being handfast, or you need a clergyperson for a memorial service or a baby blessing. It's reasonable for the individual to charge you. After all, they are entitled to be compensated for their time and skill, just like your accountant or your mechanic are. In addition, someone who is Pagan clergy has undergone a significant amount of training to attain that position - being paid for their services validates their training and experience. If you think the individual's rates are unusually high, do what any other consumer would do -- comparison shop. Find out whether their rates are comparable to other people performing a similar service, or if they're overcharging. If the going rate for a handfasting or wedding ceremony is $250, and your clergy person wants $500, ask why.Divination
So you go to a Tarot reader or a medium, and they want to be paid for doing divination. While some people feel that it's unethical to charge for divination, the fact is that Tarot readers need to pay their bills too. If someone is taking time out of their day to sit around for an hour shuffling cards on your behalf, they are entitled to be paid for it. They've earned it. Again, however, as a consumer, it's okay to ask around and see what the going rate is. For divination, this tends to vary by region. In California's Bay Area, a Tarot reader who asked to be identified as Lady Z says it's easy for her to collect $250 an hour for her readings. One very well-known psychic who appears on television regularly collects $850 for a reading done over the phone. However, in the Midwest, some readers charge as little as $30 for a half-hour session. Find out what the rate in your area is.Classes
Knowledge is available to everyone, but not everyone is qualified to teach. Is it ethical to charge someone for a Wicca 101 class, or a Tarot class, or a workshop on some other aspect of spirituality? Again, the individual is entitled to be compensated for his or her time, experience, skill and knowledge. Also, if supplies are needed, worksheets, handouts, the cost of renting the classroom space, etc., those are all reasonable costs being incurred that will be passed along to the students.Spellcasting Services
Here's the thing with people who perform spellcasting services in exchange for money -- whether they're online or in person. You not only have to worry about whether or not they're a competent spellcaster, you have to evaluate whether they're an honest businessperson. Are they going to charge you $100 to cast a spell, only to call you a month and tell you it's worn off and needs to be "recharged" for another hundred bucks?How to Decide
If you're a Seeker looking to gain new knowledge, or a consumer looking for a service, the bottom line is that you need to figure out for yourself whether or not what you're getting is worth what you're paying. Is the service something you could do yourself? Sometimes it's not -- you can't perform your own handfasting, for example. Or perhaps you'd like to have a reading done, and you don't yet have the skill to do it yourself. That's fine -- as long as you're not being ripped off by some greedy scam artist.
Also, ask yourself if you can afford it. If someone is asking $850 for a telephone reading, and you've got money problems, is this worth it? On the flip side, if a $50 Tarot class fits into your budget, that might be just the thing for you.
Finally, figure out if the person is qualified to lead/teach whatever it is you're interested in buying. In October 2009, three people died after tragedy struck a sweatlodge retreat in Arizona. Self-help guru James Arthur Ray had placed 64 people in a plastic sweatlodge for over two hours -- to the tune of almost $10,000 apiece. Here's the kicker - it wasn't the first time someone had become ill during one of Ray's sweat lodge activities, and Native American leaders quickly chastised Ray for trying to lead a ritual he knew nothing about. Although this is an extreme example of things going wrong, it's a good thing to keep in mind when you start putting your trust -- and your safety -- in the hands of others.
The bottom line is this: people who have knowledge and experience are entitled to collect payment for what they do. What they're not entitled to do is take advantage of those who are hoping to gain spiritual growth. Be a smart consumer, and do your homework, just as you would with anything else.