Emma Kathryn wrote this piece for Gods & Radicals When is Paganism not Paganism?” and I agreed heartily with a part of the message. Being Pagan doesn’t require collecting the most tchotchkes, especially if that means items manufactured in China or ecologically destructive items.
But the line “Paganism is free” made me stop. This statement seemed utterly incorrect to me. In fact, it seems badly misleading, even destructive.
I agree that many of the most rewarding parts of a Pagan path do not necessarily come at a monetary cost. Connection to natural places, connection with other people – these can be gained in ways that don’t take much or any money. We may be able to make offerings, divination tools, or ritual items out of items that are found, scavenged or gifted to us. We may even be able to get books from libraries or friends without exchanging money.
We can also take modest ingredients and add our work to make them valuable. Art, crafts, cooking – these are all tools that can make modest materials into beautiful and worthwhile items to share and to be offered.
But to think that you can get a spiritual path without paying a cost is incorrect. Even if money is scarce for you, you must be willing to make payments in terms of your time and effort in order to gain something in return. And if someone else is paying a cost for your gain, you need to be aware of this and have gratitude.
For those of us who live in cities, just a connection to nature may require some cost and effort. Getting to parks or natural places may take an investment of time and often, money. And shedding the cares and stresses of the modern, disconnected world takes an effort as well.
Finding other Pagans can take significant effort, depending on where you are and what kind of network you have. Even looking up groups over the internet takes the money involved in having an internet-ready device and connection. And many times, Pagan events and groups have costs just to operate public events – space rental, ritual supplies, speaker fees, etc. You may be able to find those that don’t require an admission fee, but you need to understand that someone is paying those costs, and without that, the event or group would not exist, or at least it would not be open to the public.
Even reading a book, given to you or purchased inexpensively, requires your effort and concentration to learn its lessons.
To end on a theological note, Paganism is not like Calvinist Protestant Christianity. Belief is not enough. Faith is not enough. You have to “do” Paganism, which requires effort on your part. And effort is not free.