Mystic South workshops

It is my honor to be presenting this year at Mystic South, rubbing elbows with people far more learned than myself.

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On my slate is a workshop and two rituals:

  • Thrifty Pagan Workshop.  Spells, rituals, and prayers around money are incredibly common, but if they work, why aren’t all the people who use them wealthy? Some money magic just doesn’t keep it real because it doesn’t allow space to act in accordance with the will. Perhaps it’s difficult to act accordingly when it comes to money because very little is taught about how to handle and manage money in the first place.In this workshop, learn about the thrift. The word is now mostly associated with discount stores and boy scouts, but as a value it can provide a sound basis for money management and magic alike.
  • American Flag Blessing.  The American flag is a powerful unifying symbol for the United States, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a boost from time to time. This ritual is intended to bless official American flags in the hope that all who see them will also see what they have in common with their neighbors and others who live in this country. Lore about the flag will also be shared.Participants are encouraged to bring American flags — any that has ever been the official flag still counts as one — for this blessing. Terentios will also accept flags which cannot be repaired for respectful retirement in a Pagan ceremony which will take place later this year as it requires fire, not a good fit with the inside of a hotel.
  • Quaker Worship.  In Quaker practice, no tools, rituals, or leaders are required to commune with the divine. Instead, they gather to worship in silence, which is broken occasionally when spirit moves someone to share a message aloud as vocal ministry. Join Terentios, a “convinced friend,” who will facilitate this deep and powerful form of worship.

Real money magic: thrift

In a fascinating post that examines the impact of free events on the economic viability of the Pagan community, Sable Aradia uses the tongue-in-cheek subheading of, “Pagans are . . . Thrifty” to drive home a point about one of the ways we struggle with financial issues. What she means is that we’re cheap. While I won’t take exception with that — heck, I come from a long line of tight-fisted folks which I could probably trace back to the invention of money itself — I do wish she would take another look at what the word actually means.

I think she would find that thrift is a sincerely Pagan value.

The word stems from þrift, a Norse word meaning “thriving condition, prosperity.” The Institute of American Values defines thrift as “the ethic and practice of wise use.” Intentional spending falls under its purview, but the word includes all manner of disciplined conservation of resources. While the thrifty person intentionally chooses when not to spend eir money, the cheap person chooses not to spend even if it is to eir detriment, or that of those e cares about.

Thrift is a value which encourages more savings and less accumulation of debt. The result is more money at one’s fingertips, where it can be channeled into projects which reflect one’s values. It flows into another value that I daresay is near universal under the umbrella of Paganism: supporting community.

Thrift also inspires recycling, upcycling, reuse, and living outside of the purely consumer culture. Spending more on a higher-quality item because it will replace many inferior ones that would be tossed in the trash over its lifetime. Not buying something at all if the perceived need is based purely in an emotion of the moment. Tree-huggers are thrifty, and so are adepts. The roots of the word are Heathen, and the practice is very much in keeping with the Delphic maxim, “give a pledge and ruin in near,” among many others. Magical and earth-focused Pagans deepen their practice with thrift; I can’t think of any sort of Pagan who couldn’t do the same.

I support the idea of a healthier relationship with money in the Pagan community. Many of use have seen money used to work serious mischief, and some of us want nothing to do with it. While I respect and understand that choice, I walk a different path. I have felt shame when I have needed to ask for a scholarship to a festival or money to solve a serious domestic problem, but no more: that shame stemmed from my lack of generosity when times weren’t so tight, from judging others who needed a hand, from being cheap, not thrifty. I am not controlled by fear of scarcity any longer. I am thrifty, but I am not cheap.

The Boy Scouts listed “thrift” first among its values when the organization first formed. It dovetails quite nicely with leave no trace, a value which the scouting movement shares with many Pagan ones. Isn’t it time we reclaim this value as our own?

A version of this post appeared on pagansquare.com in 2014; it has since been removed by the publisher.

Real money magic: respect

Respect is one of those values which often feels lacking in our society. There is too little respect for human life, and there’s also not enough for the non-human lives lost due to human needs. Respect for the environment — whether untouched wilderness, urban streetscape, or anything in between — also frequently falls short of the mark. Self-respect, for many of us, is completely out of the question. Some people have no respect for education, or the experience of others; some withdraw it wholesale from entire swaths of people: the young, the old, women, those with too much melanin, those with disabilities, those who can’t speak the local language without a strong accent. It’s no wonder that respect for unseen spirits and beings without a voice is hard to muster among many populations, given the number of people who struggle with giving it to other human beings.

I cannot solve the problem of respect overall. Each of us must begin by cultivating it within ourselves, for ourselves. The tide will turn if and only if we choose to turn it.

What I would like to have, on the other hand, is a conversation about respect for money. How we value money and how we value ourselves are related, but that relationship can vary. For most people on the planet, it’s extremely difficult to have no relationship with money at all, but how emotionally invested an individual is in currency depends on eir experience and values. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that money, once it touches a life, rarely leaves it unchanged.

Many people loathe money, or fear it, or crave it, or would do terrible things to obtain it. Sounds a whole lot like alcohol or heroin to me, and the problem is the same: a lack of respect for the relevant spirit, often due to a lack of understanding. Indeed, addiction can be one of the ways an unhealthy relationship with money manifests, just as it’s how it can manifest with the spirits of those powerful drugs. On the other hand, complete avoidance without reason might result in benefits being missed out on, just as a teetotaler won’t gain the benefits to heart health of drinking the occasional glass of red wine.

The comparison is by no means perfect: a gambling or shopping addict likely cannot practice the complete avoidance that an alcoholic should for booze; in that sense it’s more like a compulsive eater’s inability to swear off food entirely. I do not know if it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with opiates any more than it is to have a healthy one with poison ivy. Some spirits are just so strong that they lay waste to humans. There is certainly an argument to be made that money is one of those spirits, but I’m still in the camp that we can find a healthy way to relate to money.

Lack of respect for money in part comes from the assumption that it’s actually a human invention. That’s true in one sense, just as it’s true that the barometer is a human invention, but I don’t think anyone has made the logical leap of concluding that just because we can measure air pressure means we invented weather. Money is a construct, but as such it manifests spirits which existed before humans were ever aware of them. Belief that we invented money is part and parcel with the lack of respect with which we provide it.

To the extent that it is a human invention, what does our use of it say about us? Are you giving money to people to get them to debase themselves, whether it’s shoving it into a g-string or demanding superior table service for your meal? Do you ever give money to a beggar on the street? Whether or not you chose to, how did you feel in that moment? Have you ever stolen money? Have you ever had money stolen from you, by force, stealth, or trickery? How does being a victim feel? If you’ve been a thief, what’s it like to help create those feelings in other people? Do you save for retirement, or instead just hope for the best? Do you know how much much you’ve got in the bank? Do you know how much you make in a month, or how much you must spend on expenses?

Whether drowning in money or stripped of it completely, we all have a relationship with the stuff in this society, and how we relate to money is in part a reflection of how we relate to ourselves. Taking steps to mend that relationship may, in time, make changing the answers to those introspective questions easier.

How to show respect for money:

  • keep paper currency neat and orderly. Smooth out the wrinkles. If a bill is torn, tape it. Bank face the money to make it easy to find the right denomination (unless you have a sight impairment that requires a different strategy).
  • don’t walk by coins on the ground. Show them respect by picking them up; even the lowly penny has value. I consider all found money to be a blessing and reserve it for special purchases. There’s no shortage of pithy sayings about those coins; “money on the floor, money at my door” is one that I was taught by an extremely non-spiritual person. In some traditions, it’s believed that discarded money could be carrying with it a malevolent spirit. In my experience, the spirit of money itself washes away that history.
  • one small change might be to respect one’s small change. That includes found money, but also those coins which end up kicking around the floor or piled in the console of the car or otherwise treated like so much garbage. Stop doing that. Value what you’ve got.
  • look at your money, whether it’s in physical form or electronic. Be aware of what you own and owe. You might be in dire financial health, but looking away accomplishes nothing good, heaping on stress about the unknown. We can neither accept nor reshape a situation which we ignore. Look also at how you spend it, and what values are represented in those decisions. Not judgment; awareness.
  • keep a shrine to money. This is a good idea whether you desire more abundance, wish to give some away, or believe you have just enough for your wants and needs. A money shrine allows space to express gratitude for the money that is in one’s life, no matter if it’s enough, too much, or insufficient. I’ve used mine to save money, for everything from addressing household needs to building up a sum to give to a complete stranger. Put your money in a place of honor in your home, and money might honor you in turn.
  • don’t assume money is a whore. Yes, money can be used to make more money, but don’t treat its spirit like something to be used and tossed away after the money shot. All those spells that use money to draw more money make about as much sense as using sex magic to improve one’s chances of getting laid. Money is not your bitch. Recall that the Hellenic god of prosperity, Ploutos, is blind; when you’re not being watched, how do you treat money? How does that reflect on you?

The question remains: why respect money? The answer turns it about: why respect anything? Respect is one of those acts which reflects upon the actor; giving respect garners respect, although not necessarily in the way one might presume. Treating others with respect — including non-human persons — gets one in the habit of self-respect.

Showing respect for money is not a get-rich-quick scheme, any more than showing respect for one’s sexual partner is a surefire way to get laid. I don’t show respect for money spirits because I expect them to put out, and while I am not living in a mansion and wearing a monocle, and find myself regularly thanking them for allowing me to have enough in my life to stave off poverty. What more does anyone really need?

Real money magic: taking stock

The successful money worker is one who is able to look unflinchingly at the money on hand,  or lack thereof, to prepare for the future.  The last day of the standard calendar year is an especially good time to evaluate the situation, as it coincides with other financial milestones for many, such as the end of the tax year.  At first glance, I’m ending the year with almost nothing available to spend.

I consider this a victory, because it means my money magic is working.  Much of it is designed to siphon money out of my day-to-day life, ensuring that it will be there when I need it. Looking more deeply, I discover:

  • My weekly dollars got in an extra week this year, because Dec. 31 is a Sunday, the day I work that spell, which on paper yields $1,431.  That means a fireplace insert, something I’ve been working toward for about six years, will soon be part of our home.
  • That phantom extra week is echoed oddly in my daily cents spell; according to my seemingly careful records of what to save each day, 2017 was 275 days long.  Not sure what actually went sideways there, but it means I’ll have that much more to spend on natural cemetery plots for my spouse and I.
  • I’ve been practicing fiver diversion since March or April, and only in the past few days did I learn that people are using this as a year-long “$5 bill challenge.”  First of all, lame name.  Secondly, I’ll count up now since this money is also going toward the graves; the $400 I now have could have been a bunch more.

Working with physical, tangible money is often a good way to start.  I also have electronic money stuffed in savings accounts, such as everything from years past I’ve saved for the fireplace insert.  I close out 2017 with a good start on an emergency fund, and can focus more in coming years on bolstering a retirement picture which is still pretty scary.

Real money magic: legal tender

“This note is legal tender, for all debts public and private.” That is the message written on all federal reserve notes, the paper currency produced in the United States. “Legal tender” is a phrase used in law to indicate that something without intrinsic value (paper currency) must be accepted as if it does have value; in the U.S., the rationale for imposing that requirement is that the bills are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the federal government.

In the 20th century, currencies around the world were shifted to this debt-backed system (which might also be called fiat currency, non-convertible notes, and greenbacks) from precious-metal standards, which were seen as actually holding back economic growth rather than regulating it. It’s the largest, and arguably most successful, foray into debt-backed money ever attempted. What it depends upon in part to succeed is the confidence of users that the money they accept they will thereafter be able to spend on a comparable amount of goods or services. Calling it “legal tender” is, in a sense, an official vote of confidence. There was a time when such votes of confidence were phrased as a promise to pay the bearer in gold or silver, but now all that’s needed to keep the system moving is that phrase, printed on federal reserve notes.

Thus far, that promise has inspired enough confidence in some Western nations to keep the money usable. Well, the promise and the implied force of law behind it. What happens if that legal requirement is not universal?

It actually isn’t even remotely universal. Most consumer transactions, as it happens, are not debts and therefore don’t count. Judges have further whittled away at the idea by determining that merchants don’t have to accept all currency; a bus driver is thus allowed to demand exact change, and convenience-store clerks are within their rights when they turn away large bills. Perhaps most egregious are local justices who have determined that they do not need to accept U.S. currency for fines, despite these being the very essence of the word “debt.” In those courtrooms, expect to be asked to pay by certified check, money order, or bank card, each of which has its own associated fees.

As this notion of cash having some value is gradually eroded, at what point does the notion of government-backed money simply dissolve with it? If the point of legal tender laws is the force citizens to accept government debt as money, what does that even mean in a world where no one has to accept the stuff despite those laws? What it means is that the notion of what’s valid and valued might be changing: electronic money is still backed only by government debt, and it’s accepted everywhere from people who happen to have bank accounts with which to credit it.

On its face, just having electronic money isn’t bad, but electronic money comes as a cost. As I detailed in my review of Curse of Cash, divorcing money from the physical makes it easier to manipulate, making it possible to get projects such as wars paid for without public outcry. It’s also more challenging for people who struggle with money management.

Nevertheless, the law as I understand it applies to physical, paper currency, at least in the United States. Without it there would be nothing but market forces determining if our cash is accepted, or in fact our electronic credits, either. Legal tender laws are on the books to prevent the chaos of having to figure out if the boss’ money could be used to buy groceries, or the necessity of keep currency-exchange apps handy when traveling across state — perhaps county — lines.

The way American laws are written offers a convenient loophole: it’s only debts for which currency is legal tender. That excludes retail transactions, exchanges of money for a good or service right now. That’s why a bus driver can refuse anything that isn’t exact change, or a convenience-store manager can decline to accept hundred dollar bills. That’s life under a jurisdocracy (government of attorneys, by attorneys, and for attorneys) in action right there. Never a law was written by a lawyer that isn’t riddled with loopholes.

Debt, however, does include fines levied for breaking laws; it’s part of one’s “debt to society.” Give a call to the local court to see if cash is accepted; it isn’t in my town, and in about half of the towns nearby. I’m told that’s because the justices are liable for money stolen, and rather than learn how to stop hiring criminals (or creating a culture in which stealing is okay), they ban the use of money. One justice told me he believes this is illegal, but until my local court is hit with a lawsuit, that’s never going to change. To that end, I am raising money to sue for the right to pay court fines in cash, as the law requires. The situation as it stands now is unacceptable because it hits the people most likely to accrue such fines with additional costs.

Inconsistent enforcement could be a symptom that legal tender laws are unnecessary, but if that’s the case, they can be rolled back. For now, we’ve got laws, and when they are not enforced consistently it ends up being really unfair to the unbanked, the cash-rich, the undocumented, the homeless, the money-workers, the debt eliminators, and probably many others.

Real money magic: priming the pump

What’s to be done when a well runs dry? Here’s a tip: try priming the pump before calling a well driller. The same can be said for when we run dry, creatively or spiritually or even financially: with the right skills and components, even on our worst days we are not lost causes; our pumps too can be primed.

Applying that to money can seem like a catch-22: if it takes money to make money, where in Tartarus should I look if I don’t have two cents to rub together? The fact that this is not an easy question to answer is a deep and enduring problem in our society. Those resources which do exist to help the penniless can be hard to identify, and even when they are known there can be barriers from geographic to bureaucratic in the way. While it’s been decades since I needed to rely on public assistance to pay for rent, food, and medical care, I haven’t forgotten how efforts to prevent welfare fraud made it harder to earn enough to escape that trap. I had to use the most dangerous pump-priming technique available to me: taking out student loans, hoping I’d eventually make enough money to pay them off.

For the most part, I don’t borrow money that I don’t know I can repay. I am risk-averse, which means that my pumps don’t get primed as quickly as some. Priming a pump with borrowed water when there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to repay right away is something I’ve done more than once with dissatisfying results. I understand that there are others for which the combination of timing, circumstance, and personal motivation make this a risk well worth it; recent history is peppered with examples of stupendous success based on other people’s money. Infomercials, too, are filled with those tales, and it’s largely due to that sort of soulless shilling of dream-chasing that I have sometimes nearly come to ruin. Lending that targets the desperate is often particularly predatory. Feel free to borrow if you wish, but it’s rarely something I counsel. If you come to me with a tale of woe, I will listen sympathetically, but when asked for advice to avoid doing to oneself again I will definitely recommend not borrowing more money as a first step.

Borrowing aside, what remains is finding ways to increase income, and, for the advanced practitioner, controlling expenses.

The former, identifying new or greater sources of income, might involve seeking a raise or a new job, find an additional job, joining the gig economy, selling things that are lying about the house, or turning hobbies into revenue streams. It is not the purpose of this passage to give specific tips on doing these things, the specifics of which can vary. (Moreover, my life experience only includes a couple of years surviving solely on thanks to government assistance, and that was before Clinton gutted most of those programs.) What’s important to recognize is that there is almost some level of control over how much money comes in, although making more money usually requires a sacrifice of time spent doing other things. If it means watching less television, that might not be too bad, but if the sacrifice is time with one’s children, the calculus gets trickier.

Find what you’re willing to give up — even temporarily — and you’ll have a sense of how much time you can focus on earning more money. That equation can change from day to day, even hour to hour; sometimes it’s going to be a tough choice between spending time with the kids and ensuring they have food to eat, but mostly not. The key is that we make these decisions all the time, and the challenge is doing it consciously.

In short, working with money is, and always will be, something that carries with it risk. That’s especially true when undertaking new ventures, for which the downside is unclear. Priming the pump represents that initial risk: is the water I have in this container before me going to yield more if I pour it down that hole than if I pour it down my throat?

The answer to that question can only be determined with some discernment, but that’s a big enough topic it deserves a post of its own.

Real money magic: cash money spells

Money spells: who doesn’t love them? From dressing lodestones to scratching off lottery tickets, there’s lots of methods which are supposed to bring money into one’s life. Occasionally I will try out a spell I find online, or actually buy a spell kit, to understand how they’re put together. Along the same lines, I once wrote a column reviewing lottery games; each as is much magic as the other. I find it interesting to deconstruct them, and try to evaluate how effective they are.

There is a class of money spells that I find to be quite effective, to the tune of several thousand dollars that has come into my life because of them. The qualities these spells share include slow development and an emphasis on how money flows. For all it’s associated with earth, money does an awful lot of flowing; whether that’s indicative of water or magma, I’m not yet clear.

Bad news first: if it’s not already clear, lottery tickets don’t make the cut. Sure, there is an opportunity to win beaucoup bucks by playing, but anyone who believes they can wrap their head around just how small that chance is going to be is kidding themselves. I do buy a lottery ticket from time to time, but I do so as an offering to Hermes, and never expect a winner. That way lies madness.

My reference to “slow development” might also be disappointing; if there is magic which showers the user with lots of money within hours or days, I haven’t found it. Money just doesn’t seem to move all that quickly, and it might take a tremendous amount of energy to change that. (I searched high and low for a datum about the physical speed of money to no avail, but I assure readers it’s measured in miles per year, if that fast.)

Nevertheless, there are spells which I have used to good effect in helping me accumulate money. The astute reader might notice a theme.

  • Weekly dollars: On the first Sunday (a day good for money work) of the year, I light my money candle, take out a dollar bill, and recite a prayer to my patron:
Khaire, Poseidon Asphaleios.
Guide the tides around me
so that my efforts here
will secure my future.
I do the same each Sunday thereafter, only increasing the amount of money by a dollar each week. The last Sunday of the year that’s $52 I drop in the pot. Increasing the amount over time makes it doable for me, because I can make adjustments to my spending habits gradually. I’m like the proverbial toad in the pot of water being boiled, and I think most other humans are as well. This is not about ripping the band-aid off; it’s allowing it to drop when it drops. If you’re ready for radical transformation, go for it! This spell is intended for the rest of us.

Spells work better if there is a specific intention; for this one I focus on needs for my home. I am presently working toward a fireplace insert to make a home warmer than 60 degrees in winter affordable; I’m on my fourth annual cycle, and expect to make this offering to Hestia next summer.

  • Daily cents: This is another incremental saving spell, but it focuses on pocket change. I was given a lovely pottery container, and on the first day of the year into it I deposited a penny while saying:
Penny by penny,
cent by cent,
to pay for my funeral
is my clear intent.
I repeat this every day, adding one more cent to the pot daily, meaning that on the last day of the year I’m putting in $3.65. For those not reading closely, the intent I have chosen for this spell is preparing for my own death. First on the list is purchasing plots in a nearby natural-burial cemetery; in future years I’ll set aside money to be used for whatever friffery my survivors decide to put me through on the way to that hole in the ground.
  • Fiver diversion: For about seven months I’ve been avoiding spending five-dollar bills; instead, I put ’em in special money jar I originally prepared for the “daily cents” spell, but proved too small. I have accumulated about $400 thus far, for which I have not stated an intention. Money magic without intention is only for advanced practitioners! Set a goal for every spell; don’t be like me, or you might discover you blow your wad and have nothing to show for it.
  • March of dimes: Pinterest wisdom is that a two-liter soda bottle filled with dimes yields about $700. I haven’t tried this one yet, because we don’t waste enough money on soda to justify the big bottles of the stuff. It’s true that the price per unit is much lower when buying in bulk, but I personally would rather not save money on something this awful. Yes, I drink soda, and I don’t want to have any excuse to think there’s any benefit once it’s past my taste buds. No, I’d rather not feel morally superior about drinking soda, thank you very much.
  • Found money: I pick up pennies in the road. I scoop change out of the lint trap and couch cushions. I discover crisp bills in the pockets of pants I haven’t worn in months. Some of this money was technically mine all along, but either I didn’t miss it or I adapted to its absence. Either way, it’s a blessing to have it in my life and I set this money aside as “luck money,” to be used when times are lean (to counter bad luck) and when celebrating the bounty in life (such as giving to panhandlers or purchasing lottery tickets).

None of these spells have made me rich, but those I’ve used have ensured I have money when I need it most. Some might say that this isn’t drawing money to me, because it’s mostly about money already coming into my life. If capturing the money coming in before it disappears isn’t magic, then why aren’t more people doing it?

Real money magic is part of a wider project, Thrifty Pagan Writings.  If you think this stuff is utterly amazing, please convince me to start a Patreon account.