“Where are all the rich Pagans?” Nearly every single time I hear this, I get the visions of Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder trolling the two Klan members at the end of the queue signing up for Hedley Lamarr’s gang. You know the scene. Gene Wilder hollars to the Klan members: “Hey boys, look what I got here,” and then reaches behind the boulder to pull Cleavon forward. Cleavon then quips the infamous line of “Hey! Where all the white womens at?” The movie, of course, is 1974’s “Blazing Saddles” a deep dig at racial prejudice during the time by Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, along other genius writers of the film.
I bring up the movie, as a point concerning the original question. What is the over-zoomed monocular focus on “rich Pagans?” Yeah, I get it. There’s a lot of folks wanting to see more upper-class, white-collar types within the Pagan community. But is this really where we want to get hung up on the wider community? The monetary earnings of the various Pagans out there? Perhaps, since there’s a desire to do such inane things as looking for folks who aren’t “Pagan Enough”, we can also let the doorman and security know that there are just too many folks below a certain monetary earnings level as well. Too many poor folks in the room. Ya’ll are sucking too much of the oxygen out of the room for the folks with money. Step aside now.
Folks, are we really that fixated on getting Pagans with money into the room, that we constantly have to look around for folks wearing the suits and nice dresses? Let’s not play stupid and look at our feet and say “But that’s not us! We’ve never said that! Money’s not a big issue for us.” Really. I have been in Paganism for close to thirty-five years now. And this question eventually pops up. So do other questions fixated around money, such as a good Pagan never charges for their services. You know, like fortune-telling, tarot readings, crystal-ball scrying. No one should ever ask for a penny for their services, right?
Should people not be paid for their services? Certainly, they can give their services for free, when and where they wish. But that certainly does not give us the right to kvetch when they ask to be paid for their services in some situations and not others. That’s like asking an author to write a book, work with a distributor to get it printed and distributed into various markets…and demanding that the final price of the book be only what the costs of materials were to print it. Those authors, distributors, and all the other people that work in editing, distributing, promotions, etc etc – they need to make some money to be able to eat, and live (somewhat) on those earnings.
Truly, I have never understood the desire of people to just get things for free. And when they don’t, they make it feel like they had a pistol shoved into their ribs with the the threat to buy it or they’ll shoot. Really folks, I’m not made of money either. Sometimes I have to set a book that I want to purchase back on the shelf because my budget for that pay period is too tight to afford it. I totally grok the tight squeeze in one’s personal budget. However, I am not going to complain that the book costs $35.00 and that it should be $2.00 because that’s what I can afford.
Ok, yes I have a few author friends. And yes, a few of them have provided free copies of their books to me. Back when I had a podcast, I would purchase another copy of the book (or album) and give it away. That’s right. I BOUGHT the copy at the regular prices. Why? Because I want those folks to write another book or put out another album. I am happy to get the free stuff from them, but eventually, I buy a copy for myself…so there’s another sales point for them. Because I want to see them succeed at what they do. I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. But I am willing to support the authors, musicians, and even the clergy members that I have had workings/dealings with.
So, where are all the rich Pagans at? Well, much Cleavon wasn’t expecting an answer to his infamous query in the movie, I’m not expecting one to mine. Why? Well, because I refuse to be part of any kind of definition creating part of what constitutes a “rich Pagan.” I could give a shit how much anyone makes monetarily. I am more interested in the manner in which they create in the world around them. Some of my friends write books. Some play musical instruments. Some are clergy members, driven to help their local communities in whatever spiritual capacity that they can. If you really want to find the “rich Pagans”, find those people. The ones that give their gifts back to their community. The ones that strive towards bringing us together rather than driving us apart. They are rich in spirit. They are rich in giving. And that means way more than any check on their bottom line or profit margin. And my life is enriched in knowing them, and occasionally spending time with them.