I just want to be clear at the outset here that this blog is not aimed at any one individual, neither am I opposing people charging for ‘spiritual’ services. The mainstream religions all have a fee system for certain services and I don’t see why Paganism should be any different.
If someone wants to spend half an hour being entertained by a Tarot or Rune reading, they want to learn a set of skills, enjoy a relaxing Reiki session or gain some new insight or information about a subject someone is well versed in then I think it is reasonable that they pay for that and for the persons time. Such services can have benefits on multiple levels; a service is received, information imparted and social contacts and connections are forged.
I know that ‘healing’ services can be a bit of a moot point with some, however giving someone a personal treatment which leaves them with a greater sense of well being is laudable, and providing that no one is claiming results that they can’t give then I believe it is reasonable that the recipient expect to reimburse someone for the time and energy they are taking either financially or through a mutually beneficial exchange.
The thing I find harder to accept is the attitude that people can say and do whatever they like with no consideration to the effect that has on others and at times specifically with the intention of making sometimes quite large sums of money out of people who are often quite vulnerable.
Personally I care not one jot if you want to believe you are a direct descendant of Buddha, the Virgin Mary, Merlin, King Arthur, the Faerie Queen or a pink unicorn. I don’t care if you think you are from Atlantis, an alien with extra DNA, an Ascended Master or the reincarnation of Jesus. Frankly, if you want to live a fantasy that’s your prerogative and all the time you are not doing anyone any harm then please do carry on. It lends some extra charm to the town that we all enjoy.
If however it starts to impact on other, often vulnerable people then I believe the line has been crossed. If people offer services based on claims which can simply not be substantiated with the sole purpose of parting people from (sometimes rather large sums of) money, then I think it becomes everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility.
It’s all very well to live and let live but how long is it OK to simply remain silent and support things which could be called unintentionally delusional at best and duplicitous at worst? Part of most Pagan beliefs is that of ‘service’ – service to one’s community, to the land, to the Earth and to Gods and Goddesses (in some cases). How is it of ‘service’ to anyone when we fail to challenge what could be construed as taking advantage of folks who come here seeking some meaning or deep truth?
I know plenty of people in town who have refused to give services to people, which has ended up costing them in lost revenue, on the basis of ethics so this is not something that happens across the board. But some of the ridiculously outlandish claims (accompanied by the proportionate fees) coupled with some dodgy pseudo science to back it up with that get advertised in and around the town seemingly with impunity can sometimes beggar belief. Some of these are simply hilarious, but others could actually have some quite negative effects.
It is disheartening to observe that when anyone challenges such claims or asks for an explanation instead of just accepting ‘their truth’ at face value it can often be portrayed as oppressive, negative, nasty and in some cases akin to hanging or burning witches (I kid you not). To make any remark even in a fun or amusing way is potentially to court controversy in Glastonbury in a way that you would not experience anywhere else.
Truth is not an absolute. Often people believe strange stuff – I’m pretty sure I do as far as other people are concerned. The difference is that I accept that these are just my beliefs and I am not expecting people to pay me huge sums of money to perform feats of metaphysical derring-do on the basis of these beliefs.