Updated: Nov 8, 2018
I get met with the assumption that I work for free all the time. This was especially potent when I was first started out (as a professional witch advertising through Instagram). It created an interested in me to work out where this expectation that witches work for free comes from.
I see this expectation of free labour stemming from a lot of things, but especially from two of the most dominant influences on paganism; Christianity and Wicca. I idea of helping others totally 'selflessly' is still a potent one. Women and female-read people are still very much expected to be extremely self sacrificing and nurture others above looking after their own needs. This sexism permeates most cultures, atheist or not, but it also impacted by one of the biggest influences on the world - Christianity.
Though there is a culture within Christian and Catholic culture to serve others beyond what it healthy, even nuns, priests and missionaries don't work for free, they are financially supported by the church. Sometimes they are rewarded handsomely, sometimes they live in abysmal conditions. But even they don't work 'for free', they are supported by this institution and have their basic needs taken care of by their churches and Christian/Catholic communities they work for.
In the pagan world there is further pressure to work as a magickal-nun-fairy on account of the popularly known laws of Wicca that state that people shouldn't receive money for spells and magical services. I'm not a Wiccan, nor am I religious, so I don't ascribe to the moral framework of Wicca nor their laws. I am more anarchistic than that. I let the reality of energetic exchange guide me. Spells are energy work so there needs to be an equal exchange of energy for the pact to be fair. Besides, starving a witch of resources only undermines her work.
Many people who come to me who have a spiritual path or are witches, already understand the concept of energetic exchange very well. It is those with out a spiritual developed life and an un-examined capitalist frame work who often value my work the least; seeing me as a cosmic vending machine. While many people acknowledge their own lack of expertise in the realm of magick, they can often show little respect for my skills, years of study and hard work. Money is even more important to me in those situations as it is the only form of respect I am going to get from such people. Sometimes that is the sad truth about some of my interactions with clients.
It is often from these kinds of people that I meet the unconscious expectation that I will be endlessly available to perform emotional labour for them. Holding space for others, emotional labour, emotional and social dexterity, empathy, kindness and active listening are valuable skills but are so often expected to be done by women for free and on demand. Not only is this sexist but it keeps women in poverty.
I didn't start to value my skills in this area till I saw them in relation to spiritual healing and alternative therapies. That's when I started to understand that my emotional labour and energy shouldn't always be free. That's not valuing myself.
Teaching others about witchcraft and paganism is extremely important to in the pagan community. And making learning accessible is important. But I also want to see the growth not continued poverty of pagans, who often work for very little and have immense knowledge and skill. It's for each individual to decide how they want to operate, but I will say this, women especially, charging pocket money for tarot readings and
spells undermines us all. This keeps us impoverished and in the pink ghetto. So many witches are operating for well below their worth as part of one of the biggest pink ghettos of all, Etsy. (I love Etsy and support many makers and witches on this platform).
I know the tension of wanting your spiritual work to be accessible and charging what you are worth. That's why as much as I have a strong opinion on this matter I emphasis that everyone has to figure out for themselves how they want to use their skills and how much they will charge for them. If you're supported by a full-time or part-time job in the 'mundane' world then there's more flexibility regarding payment. Maybe you barter services with another witch or offer cheaper tarot readings to single mums so that your services are accessible to those that need them most.
I'm a healer, it brings me the greatest sense of fulfilment offering people healing and spiritual assistance. It's my calling. This is what I'm devoted to everyday; perfecting my craft and becoming the best witch I can be. I can't do that without the internet, Dragons Blood resin and electricity it seems. I require an equal exchange of energy for what I do. As I think we all should.