Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What to do When Trouble Comes Knocking.

A while back I posted an entry about being bothered by locals who want my advice and refuse to take it. There I went through the scenario of what I do when contacted. But I thought, for the sake of posterity and to be helpful to those who aren't familiar with the process, I might go a little more into depth.

Please Help Me.. you just HAVE to!

When someone approaches a Witch for advice, or aid, this is usually the phrase. It doesn't matter what kind of work they want done. Though, occasionally for malefic work the phrase is more like "You wanna make someone's dick bleed?" - which is just another way of saying "I'm hurt, and I need assistance".

My suggestion is always this: If you are inclined to spend the next few minutes hearing the person out, invite them to give as calm and honest an appraisal of the situation as they are able. Listen to their use of words, note their body language, and especially eye contact. For me, I tend to stare off into space when I'm thinking. If someone is spending a lot of time avoiding eye contact, they're searching for words - that could mean they're digging up old memories, or making up new stories to tell you.

Listen to word choice, and tone. Weasel words will come into play if the person's motives aren't sound. "He always", "you won't believe", "he'd, like, (anything terrible)". The assumption is that in order to win your favor and advice, the event/s need to be outlandish and irresistible. Which will lead to embellishment, or outright lies. If he "always", there will be specific citations. If you won't believe, you won't need to be told that. If he'd "like" skin the cat once a week, he'd just fucking skin it, skinning it isn't -like- anything.

Then, get out the cards. Do a simple four-card reading. Do it in front of them, and tell them your exact interpretation of the cards, no matter how golf-shoe-to-the-face it may be. Watch their reaction. People who are genuinely at their wit's end will be exasperated, people who are lying will get defensive and angry. Do another string of four, laid above or below the first. Compare the messages in the cards. Do so aloud, and with honesty.

You just aren't taking me seriously/don't understand/are an asshole.

Then we're done. For every one person who is honestly in need of advice or assistance, there will be a very large number who aren't. That's fine. You just don't need to waste your time convincing either of you otherwise. If your time and energy are met with the above, chances are this is not someone who's business you want to get entangled with anyway. They're an ingrate, and no matter what you do, they will never attribute success to it. Therefore, they'll feel cheated, and may cause you trouble later on.

Follow your reading, if it is taken poorly, with "Well, this is what I'm receiving. This is the information I have available to me. If you had conflicting stories like these presented to you, you'd also distance yourself. I'm sorry, I can't help you."

But... why?

Sometimes your reading will make a light go on. Not that the person coming to you was lying, but that maybe they didn't quite understand the situation in it's entirety. Your reading may flick on a light in a room filled with some uncomfortable things. This is where you have to resort to, in Terry Pratchett's words "Headology". If they are convinced a monster is after them give them a metaphorical shotgun and a large chair to stand on. Give them rituals for protection, for cleansing, and to fortify themselves. Invest their belief fully into it, and it will solve the problem, psychological or real.

If you've just informed them that their lover is cheating, and not really afflicted by malevolent spell-work, give them time to assimilate the data, and come to their own conclusions. DO NOT suggest that you immediately get on a reconciliation spell, or a vengeance spell. That's a dick move.

Is it worth it?

Once or twice a season, in the life of a Witch, someone will come along with work that needs doing. Dirty work. Extremely unpleasant, nasty, dirty work. Curses, revenge, hexing, blasting and even death-dealing. Someone may come along requesting In-tranquil Spirit, or Death Unto My Enemies-related work. Is it worth it?

I don't have the moral compass of some neo-wiccan folk. I see "dark" work (a topic for another entry entirely) as a natural part of what makes a Witch a damn Witch. If we'd concerned ourselves ONLY with healing, fertility of crops, and making folks feel better about themselves there never would've been a persecution. But there also would've been a lot of murderers who never tripped up, a lot of cheating ex-lovers who never got exposed, and a lot of unhappy marriages. The power of the witch lies in healing AND hexing, and our ancestors knew this one in a way we've long-since forgotten. Meting out a little Karma is our natural place, in my opinion. Delivering swift kicks to the asses, or swift (metaphorical) bullets to the head, of deserving individuals who do terrible things is a divine gift we've been given. We'd be morons to ignore it in favor of feel-good buzzwords.

That said, there are times when the vengeance is unwarranted. Joe Schmoe did nothing. Jill Frill just wants to make him suffer because he left her. This leaves the Witch in a position of a difficult decision: Is it worth my time, energy, and financial investment (Regardless of whether I get it back) to make Joe get a wicked case of penile-dripping just because he left Jill for someone who probably isn't quite so quick to -want- his penis dripping?

For some of us, once the palm is crossed with enough silver, the costs are fair. We make the petitioner swear to accept any backlash, be it legal, financial, emotional, mental or spiritual - as this is work for hire, ultimately belonging squarely at their feet. But the toll it takes from us, whatever it may be, is fine and dandy if the bills get paid on time.

For others, no amount of money, no effort, and no compensation is worth it.

A Fair Price for a Fair, or Foul, Work.

Whenever I do Work for hire, I have a scheme by which I calculate the value of the work. This scheme may be valuable for other practitioners to apply to their own practices, and figure out something that works for them.

1: Hourly wages. I expect to make no less than $X per hour for my time, and manual skill, and expect the work to last Z hours in total, over Y length of time.

1a: Energy. What personal toll will it take? Does it involve exceptional risk, or difficult shennanigans? Will it run counter to my usual practices, requiring me to later kiss ass with some of the entities I work with to get things right again? Should I receive any additional compensation for this?

1b: Asshole Tax: How hard is the person to deal with? How much of my time will they take up, in addition to the time spent on the Work itself? How much do I expect to earn per total hour of time spent with them?

2: Supplies. All materials involved, in last known purchase-price, multiplied by one and a half, or two times. This covers not only the cost of getting the materials if I do not have them, but covers any potential price-shift. I also calculate not by the price at which I have to replace them. I.e. I cannot buy one spoonful of Gum Mastic over the internet, I have to buy it by the ounce. Generally, I split the difference between the by-used, and by-purchase price. If I have to buy the supply, or replace my own stock - I shouldn't HAVE to take that hit.

I add all of these totals up, and come up with an estimate. I suggest rounding the estimate to a "round" number, to forestall any curiosity, and coming up with a "payment plan". For trustworthy people it's the supply total as a down payment, followed by the remainder. For others it's half down, or even the full cost, with any remainder upon completion.

An Example

Let's say I expect to make about $25 an hour, which is not unreasonable for a professional in a niche field. Let's say that I expect that, over the course of a 7-day spell, I'll spend about 3-4 hours in total time, including prep, over that 7 days. The person is amiable, and I doubt they'll cause me any problems with additional time. - $75-$100.

I know that the spell will require two figural candles, two medium tapers, and four chime candles. In addition, it will also require three oils I don't have on hand, and an ink that I don't have the time to make, and am currently out of. - $50-ish. Now, because I know I can re-use the oils, I'll give the person a break on it. - $30-ish.

The total I arrive at is a round $100. It's a nice, tight, even, number. I'm taking a small hit on some of the supplies (why the HELL are figural candles so expensive, anyway?) but I'm also going to add several oils to my "inventory" that I'd previously been out of. I decide to split the difference, and ask $50 up front, $50 on completion of the work assuring spell remains will be nicely packaged, and their additional nation sack will be handmade for them and waiting at the end of the Work. Because of the nature of the work (in this hypothetical case a love/fidelity ensuring spell) I can fairly safely assume the petitioner will return and pay the balance.

$50 at least covers the supplies, gas money/shipping to get them, and the time involved in picking them up. If they do not pay the second half, I have at least not -lost- any money on the venture.

I Won't Pay That / I Won't Pay You At All.

Isn't it great to be a Witch sometimes? Someone asks for your hard work, and refuses to give anything in return. Well, if you haven't -started-, don't. Tie it up, pack up your things and send them on their merry, merry, way. You don't have to be a charity, unless you want to, and if you want to - fine by me. If you've already started, silly you for not taking the cash first, but hey... you're a Witch, and you have probably gotten something that belongs to them by now.

If you've completed the spellwork, they've gotten what they want, and you haven't gotten your money, it's time to employ your own skills to get it. I suggest a "Pay Me" hoodoo-style spell. Be as ruthless as is required.

As a suggestion for ensuring payment: Retain the "concerns" involved in the spellwork. Most spells require that the remains be properly disposed of, usually deployed toward the target's residence, in order to work. Reinforce the NEED for this to be done, whether or not that's exactly true, to ensure the person returns, pays you your money, and takes their bundle. Reinforce that for it to do what it's supposed to, the Work needs to be completed, and if "left hanging", will tend to wander of it's own accord, causing strife.

I hope that this post has been informative, even if it's very frankly worded. I also hope that speaking about money-in-craft doesn't turn too many stomachs. Understand, even though I may love the hell out of you as a person, or feel empathy for you as a human being - I don't live on glitter and air. I need food, water, and electricity. If I'm spending an hour a day tending a spell, that's an hour a day I'm not crafting items, or working at a shift-job. It's money out of my pocket, so money has to go back in.


  1. I know that some people are very opposed to taking money for magical work and believe it somehow negates the work (and the validity of the magic worker), but IMO, it is no different than paying for any other service. I don't see physicians or plumbers or mechanics arguing with each other about whether they should charge or not, and although plenty of practitioners in the magic world have spent little time preparing themselves for their work and are more bullshit than craft, many more have spent years preparing. I know I have.

    I also think it's important to be rational about how to charge, as you recommend. Retail prices are typically at least three times wholesale, and I would consider that the cost of items used in spellwork should be considered retail to what you paid for them--and that would include minimums, shipping, etc. Per-hour is a good way, but I think people tend to underprice their time. It is not something most people could do for eight hours straight, five days a week, either. So I tend to think of it like an IT consultant who comes in and straightens out your server. You pay a lot of money but you get a lot of skill for it.

    I like the asshole tax idea. I wish I could impose it on a couple customers who are buying stuff instead of spells, frankly. But with folks who want spells, IME, they mostly are willing to pay more than I ask. And in some cases, they have been paying a LOT more, sometimes to the classic ripoffs who have given magic a bad name. I have more problems with people who want to buy some supplies but also want a half hour or more of free teaching "how do I do X magically?" This irks me, and I haven't figured out quite how to deal with it.

    One thing to keep in mind: if one gets to the point of taking credit cards, while a service can be disputed with the credit card company and a chargeback made, if you charge for the items instead of the work, then it is a lot harder to do a chargeback, especially if you get a signature. A witch can charge for a mojobag or talisman, for instance, instead of for a spell. Custom items typically are non-returnable, especially if you have such a policy stated somewhere, and mojo bags, talismans, special candles, etc., are all custom work. Paypal used to not allow payments for spellwork, but now I think they do. Different processors have different policies, and some, if they discover you are doing spellwork, will put you in a much higher risk category. Most of the time, IME, though, they don't care, especially if you have few chargebacks. They just want their cut.

  2. @Harold - I think the hatred, the down-looking, and the utter -FEAR- of Money that some Pagans have is laughable. Downwardly mobile folks can be rich, sure, but more often than not they've become so wrapped up in Pious Pagan Poverty that they lack the essentials of life and have to go begging to friends.

    Money isn't dirty, it's energy. It's energy given a tangible, accountable, form. It takes a lot of time and energy to do spellwork, and the only persons capible of paying that back EXACTLY as spent, are witches. And Witches do not often go to other witches for what they can do themselves.

    So, I take money. Money is time, energy, effort, all given a nice little shape that can be handed over, clean as a whistle.

    As Kinaz Filan just posted : "Money is the bread you eat and the bread you share. Money is the warm clothes you buy for your baby."

    And with that, I think it may be time for me to have a long, spicy, rant about poor time/money/business management in the Pagan Community.

  3. You're undercharging like a mofo. Niche specialists make about $135 an hour in the tech industry, and what we do is pretty high tech. I wouldn't charge less than $45 an hour if I were you. Hell, tarot card readers in Denver made $60 an hour.

    Clients are also paying for your years of experience and training, as well as renting your initiations for the duration of the rite.

  4. @ Rufus Opus - I said "Let's say". $25 was a "round number" that I used as an example. It depends on what I'm up to as to how much I charge. A candle-burning ritual will be different than a conjuration or necromantic work. Making a Nation sack would be different than crafting a Sword.

    But, in general - yeah, I undercharge. It's something I've been trying to work on, especially when it comes to my hand-crafts.

    I live in a rural area of Oklahoma, folks here don't have much money, and I have to work with that or I get -no- money.

    Incidentally, Tarot readers here, depending upon skill level, charge about the same.

  5. I used to live in Hennessey, Oklahoma in Kingfisher County! Does the waving wheat still smell sweet when the wind comes right before the rain?

  6. @RO - No, it smells like Meth labs. I'd put an "LOL!" but... it's sort of... true...

    I live out near Thunderbird, if that gives you an indication of the "sticks"-ness.

  7. I think a post on Pagans and money would be a good idea. I can say that you've inspired me to finally put up a spellwork page instead of just waiting for folks to bring it up on the phone, which is what I've been doing all this time.

    I chose a different path than the one I was on (ghostwriting, which is pretty lucrative, esp. after academia), so I could put all my focus on things I enjoy (magic, the garden)--and basically *live* my interests instead of having to relegate them to time off. I make a lot less running the shop than I did ghostwriting, but that does not mean I don't think I should be paid for my work. Pricing has remained a problem, as I had to "create" my customers--people who want more than a $5.99 oil made of fragrance oils, dyes, and mineral oil, which has been the norm for magic oils, for instance. They're out there, but the WalMart/DollarStore effect persists just because people are used to wanting more stuff insead of quality stuff. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

  8. I have no idea as to the geography of Oklahoma as most of my knowledge of the place comes from musical theatre.

    But I must definitely agree with RO. You're absolutely undercharging. Maybe look to get some online clients?

    anyway, don't meth cooks make good money? :)

  9. I'm surprised how big Norman is. I'm also surprised there are actual lakes and forests in OK, lol! I always picture it as flat, hot, and dusty.

    Meth labs are big here too, although not so much in my county. Because of NASCAR up in Watkins Glen, the golf classic over in Corning (now discontinued), and the wineries up in the Fingerlakes, there's a little more money here. Still, this town has lost literally half its population since 1970. The jobs have left. Lots of unhappy people. But it's cheap and beautiful, which sounds like the Thunderbird area as well.

  10. Thank you for illuminating us with this great information. I too am a "witch-for-hire" and I was just discussing with my partner the other day how difficult or deranged people should be dealt with if that time comes.