Wednesday, 29 April 2015

REAL Pagans and Witches

Often I see some comment to the effect of "A Real Pagan wouldn't say/do/behave like that" and it both baffles and annoys me.  Almost as much as "A Real Witch" does.

Pagan is an umbrella term, a genre if you like, that describes a wide variety of beliefs and specific religions.  It is vague at best and completely unhelpful when trying to narrow down anything.

Often there are pretty platitudes and memes to say that Pagans have no doctrine or dogma.  The sun, rain and wind write the words of our religion on the pages of the clouds, trees and earth.  Or Nature is my church.

So I'm sure you get the idea.  We have no rules, we're free spirits, following nature blah blah blah.

Right up until you say something that they disagree with.  If you don't follow karma or the threefold law, if you have absolutely no issues with hexing and cursing, if you don't like the outdoors except as a place that separates different indoors, if you call someone out on their stupidity, if you expect people to use logic and critical thought, if you don't follow exactly their path - then you are breaking the rules that they said we don't have.

I spent years rejecting all labels because I didn't want to be associated with people like this.  I can honestly say I have faced more harrassment because of my beliefs from other Pagans than I have from any other faith.  That might be because I discuss them more with other Pagans than I do with anyone else, although I've had some lovely chats with Jehovah's Witnesses who ended up being more interested than telling me I was wrong.  I managed to deal with some Born Again Christians who couldn't fault anything I said when they came specifically to harrass me and tell me where I was wrong.  I never lied to them, although to be fair, I didn't necessarily tell the whole truth either - but they couldn't fault it, they found nothing worthy of bugging me any further.

In something else I saw recently, someone told a Hard Polytheist who didn't identify as Pagan that they needed to learn what Pagan meant because "duh, you're Pagan".   Given that the old and out-dated (according to modern dictionaries) definition of Pagan was anyone who wasn't Christian, Jewish or Islamic, this could be vaguely true, but in a derogatory sense.  It's certainly offensive to many of those Hard Polytheists and worse when it comes from a Pagan.

This led to a discussion about defining Paganism.  I've found the only useful way to define a Pagan is "someone who identifies as Pagan".  Everything else is going to exclude some Pagans.  So who is a Real Pagan?  Someone who calls themselves Pagan.



Monday, 13 April 2015

Vent Groups

As I'm sure most of us know, there are a lot of facebook groups that form for Pagans and Witches.  There are various sub-groups, there are some that are open to everyone and others that stay closed to and have criteria for joining.  Some have a specific focus, some don't.

I am a member of a few that are amongst other things, a safe space to vent about things members have seen in other groups.  Someone will ask a really silly question* or will ask a sensible question but get really silly comments and answers.  Let me provide one simple example.  Yes this really happened.

Q: What does it mean if you can smell sulfur?

There a couple of answers that were sensible - check gas lines, check any eggs in the house, where are your matches kept could they have gotten wet, do you live near where there may be geothermal activity?

The majority weren't sensible - OMG it's a demon, you need to smudge with sage.  Carry a rose quartz with you at all times.  Do the LBRP to banish the demon.

My response was that it means there's a source of sulfur nearby.

The original poster claimed that they were outdoors walking the dog when they noticed it, but also claimed that every possible physical source had been checked and discounted but at the same time, they didn't know that sulfur is a component in many fertilisers.

It went on and on, seemingly the wanted response was demons.  Why? No idea - well actually I have a few ideas but I would be guessing.  Anything that suggested a common sense approach was rejected and then complained about as "negative".

* I used to say when I was training people in the workplace that the only silly question is the one you didn't ask.  But having spent time in fb groups where people are expecting everything to be spoonfed to them and can't even be bothered running a search on google for the simplest things, I have come to the conclusion that there really is such a thing as a silly question.

There comes a point in discussions like this where I give up.  There is clearly no point in continuing the discussion, nothing sensible is going to be heard because it's not feeding the drama or validating a self-important delusion.  This is when I do go into another group and vent.  I will snark about the people creating the drama and I will snark about those feeding it.  I will also snark about those who complain that anything that doesn't validate what they want to believe is attacking and negative. Including asking questions for clarification - I've been told I'm trolling on several occasions when I was simply trying to understand where they were coming from.

I vent and snark in this group because no one's feelings are hurt, no more drama is created and the other members get it and can sympathise.

Sometimes there is a meme that is completely vacuous or filled with assumptions that many of us find offensive.  These sometimes get shared into the vent groups as a bit of comic relief.

Sometimes there are screenshots that are members asking "Was I out of line?"

Sometimes someone has something like the picture below come up on their news feed and cannot believe that it actually got shared.

On the odd occasion, there is a screenshot from another group shared because just giving the general gist of a conversation is open to interpretation and abuse.  A screenshot allows everyone to have the whole story.  Never is anyone targetted and often names are changed.  I've shared screenshots where I've changed the names, many others have names blanked out altogether.  Occasionally, names and groups are left in, but these are the exception.

Typical Screenshot example - For the record, most of the responses were "Yeah - me!"

To be fair, there are a few members who can be somewhat like terriers on certain subjects.  Plagiarism, sharing free copies of e-books that are still under copyright, and a few well-known Big Name Pagans who have behaved in intolerable ways (doxxing an entire group because they wouldn't support his attempt to buy credibility for his partner) are the kinds of things to get them going.  They'll keep going until the group either does the right and legal thing or boots them.  And in the case of plagiarism etc, they'll already have notified the authors and artists.

Apparently the "bad behaviour" of a few members makes the entire group a bad thing.

The owners of a couple of large groups on facebook have decided that such a group is bullying and harrassing their members.  I must say the distinct lack of any logic or common sense in such a stance staggers me.  These are supposed to be Elders in the wider Pagan Community but I have to wonder who makes sure they put their shoes on the correct feet in the mornings and then ties their shoelaces.

To be bullying and/or harrassing people would require those people to be facing it directly.  There really is no difference between what goes on in this group and conversations held everywhere at coffee meets and festivals.  You know the ones where someone says "You are not going to believe what I heard today..." No one is intimidating the person being talked about even if they take the time to figure out who it is.  The people mentioned or whose words are screenshotted don't know about it at all until some little shit-stirrer passes it back to them.

On the topic of some little shit-stirrer - I've heard a number of people tell me categorically that in this group we make fun of beginners (Nope - they get a free pass.  No one is born knowing it all.  We differentiate between beginners and fluffy bunnies), that we pick on people with mental health issues (Nope - that's generally pretty obvious and they usually get a free pass too, unless their mental health issues are something like extreme narcissism) or those for whom English is a second language (again Nope - again we sympathise and will make the effort to understand what is meant) and on one memorable occasion, I've been told we were making fun of someone with cancer (No idea - been in that group since it started and I have never seen anything like that and would stomp on it fairly quickly - unless it was a case like one I have seen, where someone was a complete arse often and publicly and he also happened to have cancer.  The cancer wasn't raised as an issue or anything to poke fun at).

Two things become clear from this - people are lying and making it up to create this drama.   I have seen several (who were booted from this group quite quickly) talk up what goes on in there.  They claim to have seen this and that, sometimes they even claim to have screenshot proof that they won't share because that would be "sinking to their level".  I'm afraid that in order to be credible, you need to back it up.  If you make a claim, the burden of proof is upon you.  If you say you have proof but won't share it, then your proof is nothing more than hearsay and as such is completely worthless.

Secondly, people are paranoid and/or know they've said some stupid stuff but thought they could pass it off as wisdom.  If you don't believe you've said anything stupid, or you make sure you don't, then you'd have no reason to worry that such a group might be laughing at you.

I've also been told that we target specific people and we're always on about one person in particular and the large group he owns.  He has made demands to be allowed admission or to have the group made open so anyone and everyone can see what happens in there.  He banned all members of this group from his groups and made everyone guilty by association.  He goes around multiple other groups stirring shit and trying to garner sympathy for his view.  Usually with lies and drama and accusations of harrassment.

Because he bans anyone from his group who is also a member of the vent group he's targetting, there is no option for the members of his group to see for themselves for fear of getting banned.  They have to take his word for it or risk being seen as one of the bad guys.  I believe that's called bullying when that type of restrictive behaviour is demonstrated in the workplace.

The truth is, with the exception of sharing his announcement that anyone who shares screenshots from his group with the vent group will be banned, his name and his group hadn't even been mentioned in months.  No one cared what he was doing, no one cared what was happening in his group, they weren't even the faintest blip on the radar.  He and his group can't accept or believe this however.  He started a campaign in his group where he called upon all of his members to report the group for harrassment.  When facebook rejected their reports - quite quickly I might add - he's now saying that facebook suggested he start a petition to have the group removed.  Which he has now done.  I call bullshit on facebook suggesting he start a petition - if it violated the terms and conditions it would have been removed, since it doesn't, it won't.

Somehow though, he's managing to sell it to folks that he's the victim of bullying and harrassment, instead of clearly the instigator of such behaviour.

Sad and tragic really.  This is what Paganism is coming to.


Apparently we have new terms.  I think it's important to share this, because it highlights the problem.  This was posted by the chap who has started the petition.

Now, I have shared this because I think it highlights the depths of stupid we are dealing with.  Or to be honest, I believe this fellow has a few mental health issues.

Firstly, he thinks it's reasonable to be able to monitor what goes on in a group that isn't his and has nothing at all to do with him.  Will he next be expecting to monitor everything each individual member does on facebook?  Or outside of facebook? 

Secondly, we're a facebook group made up of people.  We have no leaders, we're all individually responsible for our own actions.  Why does he think that any one of us would be able to control the actions and behaviour of others.  He seems to think he can control his group and whatever they want to do and that is scary.

I'm disturbed that this is being treated as right or reasonable by anyone, let alone by the special snowflake who posted it.  I'm disturbed that people who believe they are 'Pagan freethinkers' have been sucked in by this.



Monday, 23 March 2015

Week 12... I think: Home and Hearth

Happy Equinox Everyone. I wonder what you all got up to. If you completely missed the Sabbat, if you had a huge celebration or if, like me it was more subdued. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

I had planned a few small celebratory activities and observance but decided against it as I just wasn't 'feeling' right. As I sit here today reflecting on another Sabbat gone past (the days just run away with me) I've realised that I actually did spend the weekend in very autumnal activities anyway. Just like with Spring cleaning, Autumn cleaning is important. The change in seasons is a great time to physically cleanse the house in preparation for Winter. I cleaned this weekend and let a very gusty (and cold) wind blow through all corners of the apartment. After cleaning came the cooking. Cooking for family on both days and also preparing meals for future dinners and lunches. Though it's not quite the same as preparing for the scarcity of winter, it was a nice time to reflect on the changing seasons. Especially with the break in the heat with the cool wind.

Of late my pagan celebrations have been less overt but I like to spend some time reflecting on the meaning of the day and how it is relevant to my life. It might seem simple but I like that it can be like that. Big elaborate rituals are great but sometimes the more intimate personal thoughts can be just as powerful.

Oh and you may have noticed I've been a little slack with blog updates. It's not that I've thrown the New Year initiative out the window but rather I've amended it so that I'm not filling this blog up with inane junk. Also I've been rather busy with work and life so much so that while I still am writing (like that would change) I've not had the time or inclination to edit my writing to a standard that I would be happy to share it with the wider public. I'll get back to that when everything settles down here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pagan Unity and Councils

Yet again there has been a Council formed to represent Pagans and Witches.  Another American Council, planning to revisit the 13 Principles of Belief that was the only outcome of the 1973 Council before it fell apart due to internal divisions.

This one didn't make it that far before imploding it seems. 

You can see all the drama on this blog.  There is also a good discussion about it on The Wild Hunt I particularly recommend reading through the comments, although take care not to be drinking anything while using a screen that won't tolerate having liquid sprayed over it.  Repeatedly.  I also feel a need to share this blog because it's awesome and sums up many of my own personal feelings.

History has shown that such a venture is doomed to failure.  Any group that tries to speak for such a varied and disparate collection of individuals would make cat-herding look like child's play.

Not so long ago, there was an attempt to form a Council of Elders in New Zealand.  I received a call from a then-friend and was told I "needed to get on board so I could look after the South Island".  What was meant by "look after" was attempt to control.  I didn't really understand the purpose of such a group and didn't trust the motives of those who were trying to create it so I never got involved.  It never got past the discussion stage, it would seem because I wasn't alone in my reservations.  I think this is no different from what has been happening in America - just theirs is on a far larger scale.

Pagan Unity

Pagan Unity has been presented as a reason for this Council, or a justification for why it's believed to be needed by some. I'm afraid it just sounds like a cliched catch-phrase to me.

When Pagans cannot even agree on what 'Pagan' means or what it means to be Pagan, how can any kind of Unity be achieved?  Then let's throw in Witches - many of them aren't Pagan for a start - how are you going to gain Unity when we also can't agree whether Witchcraft is a religion or a skill set?

Personally, for all I'm both Pagan and a Witch, I reject unity in any form.  I frequently tell people off for referring to me as their Pagan Sister because that is something that's earned with me, assuming that kind of familiarity based purely on a shared label is something I find to be presumptuous and rude.

"Unification through Diversification" is the oxymoronic catchphrase of United Pagan Radio.  They claim "We CAN be unified as pagans and hold onto our unique diversity."  How exactly is that supposed to work?  Many bash anyone who disagrees with their own narrow view - be it harming none, karma, the Burning Times Myth, Christianity or whether self-initiation is valid - most of the time, agreeing to disagree isn't an option as both sides seem to think that the other has disrespected their path.  When rampant sexism (misogyny and misandry) is treated as a virtue in some paths, racism in others and paedophilia in others still, how can we want to achieve any kind of unity with these people.   I certainly have no wish to be associated with any of those groups, but I would be if this vague ideal were realised.  I have to question the values of anyone who would want that kind of association.

It is also my personal belief that even without the 'fringe elements', unity would mean a kind of homogenisation of belief.  A watering-down and dumbing-down that would render it meaningless.

Now don't get me wrong, I've run coffee meets and festivals, I am not against Pagans coming together, but there is a major difference.  In coffee meets and festivals, there is a place for people to meet and discuss ideas, to learn about each other and perhaps organically form connections with like-minded people.  There is no forced unity, there is no expectation of agreement or over-riding requirement to get along.  There is a requirement for manners, but if you don't like someone's path, you don't interact with them. 

For some people, this lack of unity is seen as a failing and one of the major flaws in the Pagan Community.  I choose to see it as a strength and a beautiful thing.



Saturday, 28 February 2015

Week 9 (and 8 because I was away): Powers and Gifts

I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to a lot of things within the Pagan realm. You'd think someone who works with magic and Gods and other unseen entities would have less disbelief towards others' claims of 'powers' and 'gifts' and yet I often find myself rolling my eyes and scoffing when I hear claims of this that type.

What prompted this musing was a question on a Facebook group about the 'gifts' people have and the ensuing discussion. There were a lot of claims of 'gifts' and 'powers', each one appearing to be a one-up on the previous. I sat reading, shaking my head at the stories people offered up, thinking about how deluded each person was. Then I sat back and wondered, why did I react like that? It's not like I haven't personally experienced many of these things; dreams, visitations, the success of a spell and the fluctuations in energies around me. This got me thinking. Why the skepticism?

Personally I think the experiences are the exceptions and not the norm. I don't mean I'm the exception and I'm not discounting that things can happen, but I don't think they are 'powers' and 'gifts' that a person has. I've been known to ask for rain during a hot, sunny and cloudless day only for the heavens to open up five minutes later. I've also found myself out in the sun with no shade and burning from the heat wishing that the wind would pick up and blow a cloud across the sky to cover the sun, which has happened on a couple of occasions. With this sort of 'success' do I think that I have some special weather power/gift? Not at all. I'm inclined to believe it's a happy coincidence. Yes I believe words/thoughts have power, but my ego is not big enough to think that my thoughts are actually going to change the weather, regardless of how strange and closely correlated the events are.

Do I believe some people have talents that can be learned and exercised like any other mundane talent? Sure. I've seen some great tarot readers who have had to learn and hone their craft. Do I believe people who have psychic talent are crackpots? Of course not. Many of my friends have psychic leanings and of those I would trust a few with my life so if they see/feel things then I believe they see/feel them.

I wonder if my skepticism at someone claiming to be a great and powerful XYZ is that I'm really a scientific girl at heart. If a claim can't be quantified and verified then it is harder for me to accept it happened and wasn't a part of an imagined experience. I sometimes wonder if my own experiences are imagined because of this same skepticism. Is that something that other practitioners experience? A self doubt? I'm not talking about bringing doubt into spell work because I never doubt that. Doubt leads to failure. I mean that after you get good results, or after you have an 'otherworldy' experiecnce, do you have a moment of doubt where you wonder if it is just a coincidence or perhaps you just imagined it happened?

I will say though that I should be more tolerant when someone makes a claim of having experienced something. Sure it might not be verifiable, and could quite possibly be a coincidence, but does their believing it actually hurt me? As for my own experiences, why does it matter if the end result is the same? Do I really crave validation that my experiences are real? And real by what standards?

Unfortunately today's post is loaded with more questions than answers and crazy idle thoughts.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Week 7: Fiction - Introducing Charlie Turner

This is the beginning of a story about Charlie Turner, a young witch with a secret that she's kept to herself for most of her life, partly because she didn't think it strange in the beginning and then because she was worried about being thought of as a little too weird (and considering she's a witch in a predominantly Christian small country town that's saying something).  The story is only partially written as I got pulled in another direction. Perhaps, I'll be able to finish it here.

Breathe. Nice and slow. In through the nose. Feel the air as it revitalises each cell it touches. See the light of life flowing with that air. Breathe. Out through the mouth. The used toxic breath leaving the body, its task complete. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. Slowly energy rises and the circle traced around me begins to glow, gently at first, and illuminating more and more with each breath taken. Roots earlier sent into the Earth, draw living energy from the Mother to aid in the task that lies ahead.

To the outside observer I’m merely sitting cross legged on a brown corduroy cushion, eyes closed, perhaps meditating, not unlike a myriad of devotees at some far eastern ashram. The small room devoid of furniture is lit barely by the soft flicker of a single black candle that sits slightly raised on a stack of books before me. The sound of a pan flute probably played by some java swigging hippie as he sits on the bank of a river, disguises my structured breathing. Completing the scene is the sweet aroma of clove incense, fingers of fragrant smoke curling through the air, dancing into each corner of the room.

Smack dab in the centre of this is me. Charlie, well Charmaine if we are being accurate though only my gran calls me that, Turner. Long black hair hanging freely past my waist, where a purple cord is tied around a well worn and wash discoloured white dress. Charlie Turner. Plump first year law student, who turned 18 four days ago. Charlie Turner. Witch. Yes that’s right. Sitting there on the set of what could be a very cheesy porno flick is a witch. I don’t look like what you might expect a witch to look like if you've never met one before. No I don’t have the hooked nose with the wart on the end. I don’t wear flowing black robes (often) nor do I wear (or even own for that matter) a black conical hat. But regardless of Disney stereotypes, witch, I am.

There's no significant calendar reason for tonight's activities. It’s not a Sabbat or a pagan holiday; and by the enveloping darkness outside it certainly is not a full moon. What I’m doing is something I’ve done many times before, and will probably do many times again and though how I do it has changed since I was young it always seems to start the same. Earlier this evening, I began by cleansing myself, which tonight was a long languid soak in a bath richly scented with home blended oil. As I lay there, relaxing in the warm, but rapidly cooling water, I let my worries drain from me. I pushed outward any negative thoughts and feelings that rose, letting the water wash it away. In addition to bathing in the cleansing water, I was surrounded in a soft white light, which came from within me to settle just around my body, leaving an iridescent glow. When I felt that I was ready, that I was cleansed and pure of mind and body, I rose from the water, towel dried off and donned the loosely fitting white dress.

The dress isn’t anything special. It’s not something I have had made just for ritual. It’s not even something I wear exclusively for magic, though it is getting to the stage where I doubt I'd wear it in public. I found it at a thrift store about a year ago when I was looking for furniture for my future student flat. The dress just caught my eye, and I couldn’t believe when it fit so well. It's the same with most of the tools I use for ritual. Each item has multiple uses or began life as something else. My censor is just an old beat up brass pot-plant holder I found at a country fete, the dishes that hold my water and salt are similar garage sale discoveries and the altar cloth is an old scarf I wear from time to time. I didn’t intentionally set out to find these items; to be honest I think they found me.

The censor is the only tool being used tonight. It sits on the stack of books beside the candle and from it incense swirls upwards. Right at this moment though, I don't notice any of it. I cannot see the candle. I cannot see nor smell the incense. I cannot hear the pan flute in the background. If you look closely you would see that my breathing has altered and is no longer a controlled and deliberate breath but has become soft and barely audible. My eyes no longer move beneath eyelids that also remain still. All tension has gone from my body and it sits there, completely relaxed in quiet repose, barely a whisper from sleep.

As the candle flame flickers in a fiery dance, one realisation would come over you.  I'm not moving because I'm no longer in my body.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Charging for Services

Recently there was a discussion (read argument) started about charging for magical services - tarot readings were included in this.

The person who started this discussion claimed that if someone comes to you in need, you have an obligation to do what they need and not charge for anything more than materials.  She did also go on to say that anyone who charges in that situation is an asshole and not a Real Witch.  Someone else said all people who charge are fakes.

The inevitable back and forth between several people followed.  There were several points raised though that I would like to explore further.

Magic For Personal Gain

There seem to be a few firmly held beliefs regarding the morality of using magic for personal gain.  Some seem to believe that there's some Universal Rule against this and that using magic for (any) gain is black magic or dark and evil.  However, their idea of what constitutes personal gain seems to be limited to monetary gain, love spells or power over someone.

Others hold that no personal gain is like a selfless act - there is no such beastie.  No matter what you do, you will be gaining from it in some way and that to tell yourself that you're against it is delusional.  They often also go on to point out that this "rule" has come from the tv show Charmed.

The Wiccan Ordains or 161 Laws based on Gerald Gardner's Old Laws was raised.  Specifically numbers 119, 120 and 121.  They read as follows:
119. Never accept money for the use of the art, for money ever smeareth the taker. 'Tis sorcerors and conjurers and the priests of the Christians who ever accept money for the use of their arts. And they sell pardons to let men escape from their sins.
120. Be not as these. If you accept no money, you will be free from temptation to use the art for evil causes.
121. All may use the art for their own advantage or for the advantage of the craft only if you are sure you harm none.

A commentary on the provenance and validity of these Rules can be found at Wicca: For the Rest of Us .

Interestingly, using it for your own advantage is not a problem - just money.

I learned that even Gardnerians don't necessarily agree fully with them or follow them - that comes down to each individual coven.  But even if they did, these Ordains or Laws apply to Wiccans and cannot be assumed to cover all who use the word Witch.

It was pointed out that Cunningfolk and Traditional Witches (Pre-Wicca) would expect payment.  If you didn't pay, you didn't get the work done.

What Constitutes Payment?

A further point in this discussion was about what constitutes as payment for services - trade, barter, gifts, donations (or koha as we'd call it in NZ).  No real answer was given from the Soapbox shouter.  

Someone raised using spirits, Gods or ancestors in magic or calling upon them for help.  In many traditions, the spirits demand payment - in some, they set the price.  That payment may take the form of specific foods or beverages as offerings, some valued item as sacrifice or time spent in praise and worship.  They may require that you charge $X and that half of that is to go to a certain charity.

As many wise folk have said repeatedly, it is foolish to constantly beg for favours from your Gods and Spirits and do nothing in return.

In the case of the person who raised this topic and used it to insult everyone who charges, she gets paid in warm fuzzies for having helped someone, testimonials and a sense of moral superiority.  These are all still payment for services rendered.  She benefits from her acts.

Value and Worth

Frequently raised by those defending their right to charge was placing value on yourself and your work.   This was countered by asking for payment "cheapens" or "prostitutes" magic.

For some people, tarot readings and magic for others is their livelihood.  This is what they do so that they can afford to live, eat and have choices in their lives. 

For others, charging separates those who seriously have issues from those who are just time-wasters.  I know someone who will now only take a booking with a deposit.  She's had too many people make a booking and not turn up for it.  She is turning others away because she is booked at that time.

In my own experience, I have learned that generally people don't value what they can get for free.  There have been a rare few that have valued and appreciated the things I've done purely out of the goodness of my heart.  More commonly, it becomes an expectation that I'll keep doing it whenever and wherever they happen to need it again.  I had a friend who asked for a reading on a fairly regular basis.  It got to the point that she'd come and visit me or I'd go and see her, we'd have coffee and a chat and I'd time how long it would be before she asked for a reading.  I was also always having to rescue her from some magical drama.  After a while, I said I couldn't read for her anymore because I knew too much and didn't trust that I wasn't just projecting my own crap into it.  I haven't seen her in a few years now.  I guess my friendship was all about doing things for free.

There is another woman who calls me every so often.  She almost demands (in an emotional blackmail, terribly desperate, so much drama way) that I drop everything and do what she needs.  She ties up my phone line for ages, not hearing me when I tell her I can't talk right now, or that I can't do anything at the moment.  She seems to have no concept of boundaries either - she's even asked if I had a spare room she could stay in.  She treats me as if I have nothing better to do with my life than step in and solve her latest drama.  Now to clarify, I've never actually done anything to help her in any of her dramas except listen to them a couple of times - it's not an expectation that has any basis in historical actions by me.

Another chap used to ring me up with some drama.  I did a couple of readings for free and offered some simple and common sense advice for his issue.  I found out he'd done the same with a friend who offered the same advice and gave him the same answers in a reading.  He called me about a month later to rave over a reader he'd paid who gave him this wonderful advice - which was exactly what he'd been told for free by me and the other friend.  He didn't listen to anyone but the one he paid.

I choose to place some value on myself and my abilities.  I value the wisdom I have gained and the time it has taken to get there.  I believe that anyone else can get to the same place with time and a little effort.  All the knowledge is out there, it just takes work to turn it from theory into practice.  I will not be treated as a doormat by someone who believes it should all be free.

Knowledge and Wisdom

I don't know why the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom is still so hard to understand for so many people.  One of the arguments in this discussion was that knowledge should be free.  Knowledge is free.  Wisdom is different - no one can give you wisdom, you need to understand the knowledge before it becomes wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting tomato in a fruit salad.

This argument is also used as justification for illegally pirating books.  But it misses that in the back of those books is usually a bibliography - effectively a list of sources ie. where the knowledge came from.  However, the author took those sources and created something new and different with their own wisdom and bothered to make that wisdom available for others.  That effort deserves compensation.

Doing Tarot readings or magical work for people is no different.  Anyone can pick up a tarot deck and tell a story.  Anyone can learn all the book meanings for the cards and how laying the cards out this way means x, y and then z.  Most tarot readers take this to a deeper level.  Their experience in reading is not something you can just pick up from a book.  You aren't just paying for someone to flip over some cards and recite an arbitrary memorised meaning - you are paying for the wisdom and experience that recognises this card in this position with that card over there has usually meant something deeper. You are paying for their talent and abilities to hear other messages, to recognise patterns and to relate that to you.

A Need for Magical Intervention

Another point raised by the poster was how she'd never turn away anyone in true need.  When someone knocks at your door absolutely beside themselves, crying, shaking, hurt, scared and so on, you'd be a cold-hearted person indeed to demand payment before doing everything you could to help them.

At no point however, was she able to give us an example where a spell is needed as a first response over say, Police, Ambulance or some other form of professional help.  Only after a lot of questioning did she say that she recommends counselling or does any form of divination, digging or fact-finding to find the truth of the matter.  It had been directly asked enough times for me to wonder if this is true or if it was something she said to shut some of her detractors up.  She just said over and over that she'll do her spells for free for people in need and that anyone who turns away someone in this state is an asshole.

I have had close friends and family come to me in this state.  I will always do what I can for them.  Unless they're always in this state and it's time for a harsh life lesson about standing on your own two feet and not needing to be rescued repeatedly.  I think that's a completely different thing from having a random stranger knock at my door wanting or needing my help. 

Still, I can't think of a single situation that would require a spell first or in which a spell would be a good idea.  I can think of situations where I have called in magical help but only because I knew the back story and it wasn't a sudden out of the blue random visit.

Frauds and Scam Artists

Apparently, in the eyes of several, anyone who does ask for payment is a fake, is scamming you or is purely in it for the wrong reasons. 

No one disputed that there are fakes out there, there are people who'll take your money for little to no real work done.  However, to tar all who charge with the same brush is unfair and ill-informed.

I certainly wouldn't pay anyone online to do any work for me even if I wasn't perfectly capable of doing it for myself, unless they had come with strong recommendations from people I trust.  I've seen one crazy lady share photos of a curse that she was allegedly casting on our group.  Funnily enough on her blog, the description of the curse her husband was casting on another group altogether fit the pictures she sent to us.  Wow, multi-purpose curse, that's some talent.  And I certainly hope it had any effect on the other group because none of us have noticed anything at all.  My point is, how could you know that the work you'd paid for had been done?  If a photo is sent to you, how would you know that it isn't the same photo sent to every other sap who's paid for work?   There can be no guarantees, there is no way of separating the real from the fake.

Just as in any case when you are spending money on something you can't get a guarantee for, use your common sense.  If someone does a reading and then tells you they'll remove this curse/bad energy/negative spirit/some other terribly scary sounding affliction from you that you'd never previously noticed for a sum of $X - you're being scammed. 

The Conclusion of this Discussion

At the end of it all, the Original Poster claimed it was just a troll, lots of laughs and she learned a lot.  Thanks to everyone for handing her her ass on a plate.  Still somewhat cynical about this sudden back-down, but hey, it gave me food for thought.

The general consensus was that if you want to charge, then charge.  If you don't, then don't.  If you're willing to pay, then go to someone who charges and if you're not then go to someone who doesn't.