—Gwydion Pendderwen, The Witch’s Calumny
Traditional Witchcraft is not a business. Charging for the work of Teaching the Art to prospective new Clan members is a violation of Craft ethics.
Last night I was speaking to a Brother of the Art and he informed me that a friend had said to him the other day: “I’m fascinated by the Anderson Faery Tradition, but I can’t afford all the fees required to study and get the Initiation.” I nearly threw up. This is not the first time I have heard such talk, nor, I am sure, will it be the end of it. I find it to be a mark of shame upon the Tradition that in the eyes of many members of the Craft Seekers community, the Faery Tradition has been reduced to a commodity.
Let me be clear. There are individuals who have pieced together their own forms of Craft teaching from various sources and who go into business to sell what they have created. These are entrepreneurs in the marketplace of idea. I personally think this is in many ways a helpful phenomenon. Since the lid blew off the occult cauldron in the 1970s and 1980s, interest in magical practices has skyrocketed. Many, perhaps most, who are curious, are never going to want to make the sacrifices, the commitment, and do the hard work needed to be initiated into one of the oathbound Traditions. But many do have a genuine interest. And the way our capitalistic culture models such things is to attend a weekend (or longer) workshop or camp, subscribe to a series of evening classes in a shop, or purchase a correspondence course (typically online in today’s world). The individual pays a fee, receives a product, and most likely moves on. Some become more deeply involved than others. On a certain level, the transaction is clean; the teacher is a businessperson whose business is teaching something called “Wicca,” “Witchcraft,” “Paganism 101,” or fill in the blank. I personally know a teacher whose livelihood is focused around this, and I regard him as a very dedicated, hard-working individual with a fairly high personal standard of integrity. I’m personally very glad he’s out there doing this. The people who take his classes should not be trying to come to me for teaching.
As I wrote in the previous post, the world of Initiatory Craft is a very different one. Perhaps the forms that are used are by and large of the present day, but the ethos that animates what we do draws upon roots that are deep and primal. If I begin to work with someone who is a prospective student, the evaluation of the relationship is, for me, a long and arduous process. My mind must be clear, my hand steady, and I must strive to maintain the closest thing to absolute balance possible for a human mind. If my teaching of that individual is part of how I pay my rent and grocery bills, for me, objectivity goes right out the window. Is anyone who has read this far surprised that, in fact, I find it ethically abhorrent to consider taking money for a service when I am working with the Power that makes my blood sing?
To further clarify, this has nothing to do with a Witch requiring payment to perform specific types of Work. It is a time-honored custom to cross the palm with silver that reads the cards, that winnows the herbs for the love-spell, or that casts out an evil spirit from the home. I personally have no issue with fellow Initiates who charge for the type of classes typically called “Wicca 101,” teaching the principles of herbs, Tarot, the Elements, or crystals. But to charge when you are beginning the first steps on the road to a ceremony that will bind you to another with a tie perhaps deeper and more intense even that that of marriage–my mind recoils.
Two of my own Teachers did charge. I think the first misunderstood something that Victor Anderson said to him long ago about the acceptability of charging for the kind of teaching I outlined in the preceding paragraph. The second was more or less following the example set by the first. As time went on, however, she came to understand that teaching the work of an Initiatory Tradition in this way is very problematic. In the fullness of time she took what she had worked upon on her own and created her own, very beautiful, teaching modality. I am still proud to call her my Sister.