Curse of Cash review

On its face, The Curse of Cash is an argument for morality: criminals use cash to operate in the shadows, and there’s nothing an honest citizen can’t do with money electronically; therefore ridding our society of physical money would make for a more virtuous, safe, and honest environment. Physical currency was an absolute necessity to simplify a world of barter, but now technology makes it possible for money to be entirely electronic without that bringing disadvantage to any honest person.

Notwithstanding the numerous flaws and fallacies presented as part of that argument, it’s also not the real reason why the author would like to see pesky cash eliminated. The truth is far more insidious, and essentially boils down to this: the existence of cash makes it more difficult to steal on behalf of a government. That’s because currency serves as a backstop for interest rates, to wit: if central bank governors lower interest rates into negative territory — which means that one’s bank balance could shrink over time, even without the application of monthly maintenance fees — then more of us would resort to shoving big bills into our mattresses. Without those big bills, a whole new realm of possible ways to separate individuals from their money becomes possible.

The notion of negative interest rates is novel enough that when first confronted with it, many people don’t even understand the concept. It’s a sweet deal from the perspective of government, though: just like inflation (which is an intentional act, not the mysterious and uncontrollable force it’s presented as in many news reports), negative interest rates allow money to be scooped up without the politics of raising taxes. Negative interest rates, however, are the scalpel to inflation’s chainsaw. What they have in common is that they are tools used to reduce the value of money, which makes it easier to pay back loans for the people who created that money in the first place, who happen to work in government.

Most government spending is paid for not through taxes, but through bonds, which is how governments (and corporations) borrow money. With inflation, the trick is to add more money to the supply, knowing that each dollar will purchase less as a result and thus the dollars used to pay back the loan will actually be cheaper; this is why people who live on borrowed money such as farmers prefer inflation. Negative interest rates, however, remove money from circulation and transfer it back to the government for essentially the same purpose. Both are nothing but sophisticated ways of stealing, but negative interest rates would specifically punish the people who try to save for the future.

don't stealThis entire book uses bait-and-switch, dangling a carrot (the fear of the faceless criminal) to get readers on board before acknowledging the true intent of the cashless strategy proposed, which is stealing more efficiently than any criminal could.

I like cash because it’s how debt-elimination programs work, and because it’s how magic works. I’ve yet to find a viable system for reigning in spending and paying off past debts that doesn’t begin with the participant converting to a cash-heavy or all-cash lifestyle. That’s because bills and coins are tangible reminders of the cost of any purchasing decision, and because there’s a much better chance that cash in one’s pocket is not borrowed, and thus not accumulating interest in favor of a creditor. Debit cards are marginally better than credit cards — if one turns off “overdraft protection,” a fancy term for “borrowing money from the bank,” at least — but I find it’s much easier to spend with the click of a mouse than with the opening of my billfold. Electronic money is always out of sight, and therefore it is out of mind even for a thrifty fellow such as myself.

Magically it works much the same way: a physical talisman is a powerful tool to focus one’s will, and it makes spending money with intent a whole lot easier if one has to physically hand it over. Many people write spells or wishes directly on paper currency. Cutting us off from a physical representation of money is a very effective way to cut us off from any control. It’s downright diabolical.

I now seek hundreds out, because I think normalizing the use of the largest-denominated bill in the American money system is our best defense against these and similar shenanigans. Sooner or later government officials, if faced with a populace of people who prefer cash, will have to reissue some of the larger ones, as well. That, or stop inflating currency, which in case anyone reading this blog doesn’t understand yet is entirely intentional and entirely controllable; inflation is increasing the money supply by issuing more money, and no complicated economic explanation will ever change that.

Do not buy this book. The author should not be rewarded for this diabolical scheme of eirs, which is why I have neither linked to it nor even mentioned the author by name.


Raymond Buckland wasn’t the first writer about Paganism that I read; that designation goes to Margot Adler.  My early teachers didn’t use books, and by the time I was starting a library, I already knew that I was not a really a Witch.  While I knew his name, I didn’t actually pick up one of his books until I found the one on coin divination, which fits my work.

That said, when he consented last year to let me interview him, it was a big deal for me.  This is Raymond friggin’ Buckland!  It doesn’t matter what Pagan or polytheist practice one feels called to; in the United States he was one of the trailblazers who made it possible to openly practice and share information about it.

Our impetus for wanting that interview was practical:  he was in his 80s, had eliminated public appearances from his schedule, and had recently suffered a heart attack.  As a journalist, the best thing I can do to serve this community is elevate our elders before they become ancestors.  Was it really necessary to get an interview with someone who had already written millions of words about his tradition?  I certainly think it was.  If nothing else, what we know about people in their own words — and the recollections of those closest to them — informs our ancestor practice.

Regarding honoring Buckland’s life now that it’s over, there has already been a “cyber-wake” on Pagans Tonight, Selena Fox will also be dedicating her show to him tomorrow night.  Participating in that first podcast, I was joining people who set the foundations of contemporary American Paganism, including Fox and Oberon Zell.  It was humbling, because these are the people who got it all started, the people whose lives I’d like to help chronicle.  Even having lost another of their number, that brain trust inspired awe in me.

I really only talked about one way that Buckland inspired me, his Coin Divination.  Readers of my occasional book reviews know that I take some of the more extreme suggestions as challenges.  In this book, Buckland references a set of small gold coins minted in Singapore late last century, each with a different animal associated with the Chinese zodiac.  What a wonderful divination set those would make, he mused: “For the serious practitioner, this provides beautiful divination tools and is also a wonderful investment.”

Challenge accepted.  Using solely the money I earn writing for the Wild Hunt that I saved for more than a year (because saving money is my most powerful magic), once I finally chased down what these coins were called (not an easy task in itself), I have tracked down and purchased all but one of those coins.  That wasn’t a stretch, because even if it doesn’t work out for divination I still have gold which can be sold should my family need the money.

Based on the ideas Buckland offers for divination boards, I’ve designed a cloth which I am embroidering when the cats allow.  Telling him about my plans was the one fanboy indulgence I allowed myself, but since the work is as yet incomplete, I wonder if I should ask Buckland if he’d like to aid in readings I do with this set.  He can always say no, after all.

Dollar Dwolla divination

I was pleased to see that one of my favorite bloggers is back from his retreat from the internet, and is now performing pay-what-you-will Tarot readings.  I like the idea of trial offers like that, and encourage people to give it a try.  I’ve been mulling over doing something similar for quite some time, and I am now taking the plunge, but my approach is slightly different.

Because I enjoy exploring how money influences every aspect of our lives, I am going to be performing dollar divinations with Dwolla, an oddly-named payment service which doesn’t get much press but is much less scary than PayPal.  For one, PayPal’s fees would eat me up, but Dwolla charges just a quarter no matter the amount of money moving about.  For another, PayPal has been known to freeze accounts now and ask questions later . . . often months later, which can totally screw the schlub who needed that money.

Practice makes perfect, but giving away something for free sends the message that it’s worth what you pay for it.  Charging a dollar now only encourages people to use this nifty payment system (it’s the only one I’m accepting), it also is sound marketing.  If you don’t know the quality of a service, you may be reluctant to purchase it, which is why it’s a good idea to give a small taste for a nominal fee.  Easy-peasy.

Some basic rules for this offer:

  1. This will be for a limited time, but I haven’t set an end date yet.
  2. One question only.  If you need more, you’re going to have to pay again.
  3. I am using my own coin divination system or the Lymerian oracle for these questions.  If the system is not specified, I’ll be using the coins.
  4. Answers will be emailed to the address provided.  If none is provided, both question and answer will be posted on the TPW Facebook page, without the querent’s name.
  5. Requests for divination may be made here.

Yes, no, maybe so?

So I find myself with a bit of a divination dilemma.  I’ve been dutifully practicing coin divination, and to make sure that I’m actually paying attention to meanings rather than assigning significance after the fact, I’m thus far being very careful to do so in a manner that I can test and verify.  Silly me, I thought that would make things easier.

Coins readily lend themselves to yes/no questions, which are often best avoided for divination, so I was willing to use one for these tests.  Because I’m a little money obsessed anyway, the question I have been asking each morning is a simple one:

Will I have more cash in hand at the end of today?

Count the cash at the beginning and the end of the day, and bam! an answer.  Put the results for a selection of coins in a spread sheet, and after awhile I should be able to see if any of those coins are better at answering the question.  Simple, testable process.  Easy peasy.

My problem stems from having multiple money-focused activities going on at once.  Today (yesterday, in some time zones), one of those came into conflict with my coin divination, and I think it won.

Herm encircled by ribbons and wreath for Hermaia Agoraia.

What I did today was celebrate the Hermaia Agoraia, a festival of the opening of the markets for the holiday season.  It was a fun time, replete with:

  • decorating my herm (upright stone used as a shrine to Hermes), which somehow made it seem more phallic than ever;
  • buying stocking stuffers for the people in my household;
  • making some tasty no-cook mints as an offering to Hermes; and
  • ensuring that my family’s anonymous gift jar got to its recipient.
It’s that last one — the gift jar — that screwed me up.  You see, we’ve been putting cash in this jar for almost a year, a little at a time, whenever the mood strikes us.  For me, whenever I had a stroke of luck or some extra change, it went into the jar, which was then wrapped up like a present and delivered.
So I have no clue how much money was in it.  That didn’t matter to me one whit — I knew it was going to a family that could use the money — until I started on this divination project.  I chose my daily question because it’s easy to measure how much cash goes in an out, if you just pay attention, but the jar defied that attention.  I know cash left my possession today, but by the very design of the thing, I don’t know how much.  It’s supposed to work that way, and it did.
So now I’m stuck, because I was clever.  I know that if you don’t understand that the results to divination, you can look for a sign or ask another question to clarify the result, but that still won’t give me the dry, academic datum point that I was hoping for.  I’m fairly certain there’s a lesson in this, and absolutely sure that I deserve it, but the best thing that came of it was a topic to use for the letter “Y.”

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter Y.

Bathtub assignment: coin divination

A bathtub assignment is a task that pops into one’s head fully formed while one is in the tub, shower, walking a balance beam, speed skating, or otherwise unable to write it down.  Today I got a pretty complex one requiring me to do a lot of coin divination, all because I want to review a book.

The book is Coin Divination: Pocket Fortuneteller by the inimitable Raymond Buckland.  I was excited to find a book that spoke more broadly about divination with coins than the I-Ching alone, but for various reasons, I found myself disappointed with it.  I thought to review the book for Dirty Money, where I blog about Pagans and money, but I’m hesitant to give an unfavorable review unless I know what I’m talking about.

So I’m going to start practicing coin divination.  It’s the reason I bought the book in the first place, and I’ve been selecting coins for my set for over a year.  I have grandiose plans of embroidering a cloth with a design that could be used for a variety of throwing methods, which in itself belies my feeling of disappointment from the book, but I want to start simply and work myself into a frenzy over months or years; slow magic, if you will.

To start, I’m going to add divination to my morning routine, starting tomorrow, so I can get in some practice.  This is going to be a problem, because I never know what to ask; my approach has always been more Foolish than insightful, Epimethean rather than Promethean in its scope.  I might just come up with a list of questions based on the method to be used; for example, if I am just going to flip a coin, I could ask, “Will I have more cash in my pocket at the end of the day than I do now?”

In a few weeks, I’ll start taking requests, because by then I will 1) have some practice at interpreting the throws and 2) will probably have gotten over the I-hate-asking-questions thing, and there comes a time when you can’t get any better reading for yourself.  And accountability and accounting come from the same root, so if I’m interested in the mysteries of money, I ought to be willing to make an accounting of my path.

I’m thinking of announcing that divination requests are open at my Tumblr, True Pagan Warrior.  It’s a little-used social medium for me, one that has a built-in “ask” feature that I might use for taking the questions.  I can either post my reply publicly or send it as a message back to the recipient.  My Tumblr following is only a dozen as of this writing; perhaps giving it a niche role in my life will help build that.  It won’t be seen here, but everything I post ends up on Facebook.