When the discussion topic of “can I charge for the reading I did” comes up in most forums, it really turns into a free for all fight. There are the proponents of “yes you may” and the opponents who say “no you may not”. I can see both sides of this discussion and I offer my own humble thoughts here.
First, the side that opposes payment.
Most often they point out that you are using a gift from the deities and that, as such, you will “contaminate” it by having money change hands for using it. They point out that since the future is always in flux and you could be wrong, that it is impossible to guarantee that you are accurate or that what you state will happen. They also (if they know their craft history) might point to the “ardanes” and show that Gardner didn’t want the Arte being sold, meaning that by his rules that one could not take money in exchange for the casting of a spell. They also point out that it’s traditional.
Next the side that proposes payment.
The proponents will point out that it’s only fair to exchange money for the work of readings or spells. I mean, they worked for the money; therefore it’s an energy exchange, them giving their energy (money) for yours (spell). That in those who have used their spells or their readings to make a living, that it didn’t corrupt them or make them less of a priest or priestess. There are assertions that you can exchange service for service, mowing a lawn, cooking a meal or what have you.
I will accept money for my service. I may not do it for religious services, like a Handfasting or a Wiccaning, definitely not for a Sabbat or Esbat, but I will take money for a Tarot reading (as shown by the ads I have for just that service). My reasoning is simple.
One goes to a lawyer to have legal documents drafted. It is his skills that create a binding legal document that says what you want done after you die, or that you have now set up a trust fund and so on. You pay him. You go to a doctor for medical treatment. You give your money to him, he gives you medicine and he tells you if you need to lose weight. You take your car to a mechanic. You give them money, they repair your car and give it back to you. You buy food from the grocer who takes your money and gives it to a farmer who gives him the fruits of his land, which the grocer gives to you so you may eat.
Where is it mandated that these professions must give away their skills or their knowledge or their components? Why should the doctor fix you for free? Should the mechanic expend several hours of work on your car and use many, many parts to correct a problem in your car for free?
It would be nice to have a communistic society where that happened, but it’s not reasonable. Greed and sloth, many human failings as well as the need to acquire all conspire to make most communistic groups fall apart fairly quickly. But this is neither here nor there.
Selling professional skills is a normal part of society. An author would count it theft if you took their words and republished them without his permission and without royalties being paid to him, after all, he wrote those words. The Music Industry has a long history of going after people who take their work and who don’t pay for it. So why should I, as a Tarot reader, be expected to give away MY professional skill?
It is a skill. I may have a talent for reading the cards, but there still has to be a connection to the Universe, an intuitive link, that will help me interpret the card correctly when they come up in a reading. I also must study and learn not only surface meaning of cards, but their deeper symbolism, expending my time and energy, something of value to me at least. I have to be aware of the cards, I have to be aware of the client, I have to be aware of the connection to everything, and I have to know when to depart from the “book standard” reading. I also have to supply my cards, replace those cards when necessary and invest in books to give nuances in meaning and so on. This is a pursuit that could take quite some time and significant amounts of energy and money.
Shouldn’t I be reimbursed for all that?
Gypsies certainly were. They would refuse to do a spell or a Tarot reading without an exchange of money first. Temples did this also. There were some temples in the past that would do oracular readings for money (or other service) for the clients. The Witches of the past did this too, taking their “payment” in many forms, just one of them being cash.
It is true that in a village, one can do a reading for someone in need and let the community take care of you in exchange, that the reading would be your contribution to the whole. I can see this happening in a coven situation where there are only a few members and each of them contributes to the health and welfare of the whole. I can see the one who is talented with the Tarot cards giving readings to the rest of the members of the coven, just as the High Priestess gives her home for the Covenstead, the High Priest supplies the candles and other alter items, the Maiden prepares the feast for everyone. I can see that and understand it totally.
I can also see in the “brotherhood of card readers” one that is skilled at doing readings being generous and allowing another who has a similar set of skills to do a reading for them. I exchange my Tarot readings for a rune reading or a dowsing. That is an equal exchange of effort and energy.
Those special cases are fine, but to believe that because I am Wiccan I must give my skills (which have taken me a lifetime to learn) to whoever asks, for nothing more than a smile, is asking me to bastardize my skills as nothing more than a sideshow trick.
Part of human nature is to value little what comes for no cost. The car that Mommy and Daddy gave to their child has little intrinsic value to a teen; therefore it is of no consequence when it is wrecked. But the car you bought for yourself is taken care of, it is pampered, it is treated like it was a one of a kind vehicle. Because YOU paid for it. It was your talents, your skills and labor that gained you the money to purchase that vehicle and therefore you prize it. That is the way it should be.
A reading or a spell is one of the most personal things one can do. A spell to protect, a spell to bring revenge, a spell to help someone over come an inhibition are all very personal and the person requesting them MUST hold them in value, pamper them and so on. But more often than not, if the spell is cast for free without the expectation of return, then they will go “Oh, pretty lights” and do nothing more with it, negating the spell in its entirety and thus “discovering” that magick is nothing more than mystic passes with the hand and chanted phrases.
But if you ask money for it, then they pay attention. They have ritually infused themselves into the spell or the reading. They have taken their labor and their effort, their sweat and blood, made physical by the money, and they are now completely and totally tied into that reading. They pay attention to each word, each hesitation and they hold onto that reading. They invest their soul and their energy into the spell, and by god they want it to WORK, therefore they believe in it. After all, they gave MONEY for that, they can’t buy that carton of cigarettes or that tank of gas. That’s a valuable reading now.
Because of this personality infusion in the process, because of this energy exchange, I believe that more people should charge for readings and spells. That any time a Tarot card is turned or a prophesy is spoken or that a stick of incense is lit, there should be an energy exchange of SOME sort, be it in labor, food, or cash.
If Priests, Monks and ministers in the churches (including Buddhist and Hindu) are willing to take money for prayer (through the medium of tithing or donations, which pay for their upkeep), then why can’t we for the same reason? It doesn’t make sense.
Oh, you can say that it cheapens the gift that by charging and that the person will feel ripped off. To that I say the only person who can cheapen it is the person who refused the money. When you are giving it away, you are inclined to do less than you may normally do, simply because you are getting no reward. So, asking for and receiving money is a way to make you work harder to give good value to others.
I know when I started Tarot readings, I gave them away. I did readings and I didn’t take any money. It was easy for me and my talents to do so. I did the minimum I could to answer the question, never really delving into the problem the person came to me with. And I did regret it.
When I started taking money, I knew the value of a dollar. I know what *I* would expect were it me paying for the reading, and I make sure I give value for that money. One reading I do costs $90 and takes about an hour. I had one lady purchase one from me, and I didn’t feel that I had given her full value for her money since one HUGE question went unanswered in my mind. So I did another reading for her while she sat there, answered that question and did some more explaining. That I felt was good value and I performed to my best. She commented later that she was satisfied with the first reading, and that the rest was icing on the cake, unnecessary but really good.
This philosophy can be applied to any discipline, not just to Tarot or divination or even spells. It can be applied to writing, singing, playing an instrument, teaching, computer work, secretarial work or anything. ANY professional skill and manual skills can be seen in this light. Paying for something makes it valuable, if SOLELY for the fact that one has given money for it. That is the textbook definition of value. That which has value is treated differently and is treasured. That which is free is treated as less and with no value, thus is treated with contempt.
I know that when I get done with a reading, I feel a sense of satisfaction in the reading, that I did my best. I want the other person to value that reading as well since I worked my backside off. To see my effort and energy treated with contempt makes me mad. To see them take what I have said to heart and believe it, to see them put what I advised into practice, well, it makes me very proud.
And if I have to take a few shekels or tuppence for that, so be it. I’ll take it gladly and use that money without shame.