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The Magick of Giving

Author: Jeffrey Pierce
Posted: January 11th. 2009
Times Viewed: 2,823

There was a time, long ago, when a wise American president reminded us that ours was a "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

In our era, our government reflects a country that is of the dollar, by the dollar, for the dollar.

And, as unbelievable as it may seem at first glance, we Pagans are at the heart of that problem.

Imagine that you're a single parent and have two children that you're doing your best to raise on your own. And you're doing it on your own because you have no help from your family, from the other parent, or from your community. Now imagine that you're working full time, raising your children on an income of $8.05 USD an hour (which isn't bad money - the federal minimum wage is $5.85 an hour.)

Let's say that taxes (federal, state, social security, Medicare) eat up 17% of your total check. To house yourself and your two children, you found a bargain and pay $700 on rent. Utilities cost another $294 a month. That leaves you with $164.13 to feed yourself and your children. No car payments or car insurance. No budget for clothing or entertainment. No way to pay for childcare. No money for health insurance. And at $8.05 an hour, you are actually above the poverty line as determined by the United States government for a family of three - so there will be no public assistance for you in any form.

According to the US Census Bureau, 37.3 million Americans were below the poverty line in 2007, an increase of nearly one million people from the previous year. While this may seem tragic in its own right, it has been argued for some time that the income levels that the US Census Bureau uses to determine poverty are unrealistically low. For a married couple with a single child to register as being impoverished, their income had to have been below $16, 689 USD in 2007. If you were a single parent with two children, that amount increases to $16, 705 annual income. For those reading this who call The United States home, imagine trying to raise a child on less than $17, 000 a year. That's not "take home" pay - that's before taxes.

What's simply unconscionable is that while the those living in poverty increased by 0.8 million people from 2006 to 2007, the increase of impoverished children during that same period was 0.9 million - meaning that it is our children in this country that are suffering the most.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Here in the United States, there were 47 million Americans without health insurance in 2007 according to numbers compiled by the United States Census Bureau. Children under the age of 18 account for 8.1 million of those people. It's estimated that one third of the population (90 million Americans) spent a portion of either 2006 or 2007 without health insurance. These people can't afford to pay for medical insurance - and can be denied medical care (except in the case of life-threatening circumstances) unless they can pay the entire medical bill "up front."

Because of this, an average of 22, 000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 die every year because they can't afford medical care.

Yes, this is tragic. Yes, in a perfect world, things would be better. But why is this our issue as Pagans?

According to a survey by Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) , American households spend roughly $1, 200 per year on consumer electronics. About 25% of American homes own high-definition televisions - at an average cost of approximately $600 per HDTV. According to the August 2007 issue of Money magazine, the average American family spends $1, 654 a year on vacations.

Our single mother of two lives on a more lucrative income than more than 37 million Americans and her monthly take home pay is less than what the average American spends on electronics for their home in a twelve month period. The amount spent on an average family's annual vacations would pay her rent for almost a quarter of the year. The purchase price of a HDTV is significantly more than she has to rely on to feed her children, not for a month, but for several months.

Do you see the problem?

Being Pagan isn't simply about working magick or casting a Circle. It's more than taking a magickal name or building an occult library to further our own growth and knowledge. We follow the phases of the moon and the journey of the sun around the Wheel of the Year, we attune ourselves to the cycles of Nature, but we lack any sense of community. Yes, we have Pagan friends - but that meets our needs, not the needs of those who are struggling simply to survive.

Community isn't simply about developing friendships, but putting the whole ahead of the individual. We staunchly argue that it's not how things should be, that we deserve to pursue our individual goals and have earned the material rewards we heap upon ourselves. And yet the ancestral village, tribe, or clan of our spiritual ancestors that we look to for inspiration on our path put their neighbors and their community ahead of their own personal gain.

Not pulling any punches, Malidoma Patrice Somé, an African Shaman, writes in his book, Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community, "The only place where abundance is warranted is in nature. A person who wastes is a person who insults the gods. In light of the waste encountered in the modern world, one wonders if anyone knows that there is a world outside of this abundance where people are aware of priorities other than materialism."

The spirit of generosity, of taking care of those in need, permeates the beliefs and culture of our spiritual ancestors. Ohiyesa (a Wahpeton Santee Sioux who lived from 1858 to 1939) reminds us, "The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have - to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return."

In the book, "Seven Arrows, " Hyemeyohsts Storm writes, "Whenever one gives from his heart, he also receives... The Medicine Power is within all People, and all of the things of the Universe. The Power has been generous in his Giving and has taught us Understanding so that we might also Give. But the Medicine is also the Coyote, the trickster. We must Give to the People, and Give all things of the People, in order that we may receive."

Shamanism is the root of many of our Pagan beliefs. I was trained as a shaman by a Mi'kmaq medicine woman well over a decade ago. From first hand experience, I can tell you that if you want to experience real magickal power, you have to do two things.

First, you have to release all fear and allow love to manifest in your world - not just the capacity to be loved, but the ability to love everyone who comes your way - because you see them as part of your extended family. Second, you have to release all ego.

It's actually a very simple equation. By its very nature, the Divine has to be composed of love. The more we allow love to manifest in our lives, the more we allow the Divine to manifest through us. Divinity is power. The two go hand-in-hand.

As Pagans, many of us label ourselves "eclectic" as we draw the inspiration and material for our spiritual and magickal paths from a variety of sources and Traditions. We open ourselves to the wisdom of many paths, finding the truths that we integrate into our own practice.

"It is not enough to be compassionate, " the Dali Lama reminds us, the leader of one of those paths that many Pagans draw upon. "You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved.

Following magickal principles, we don't need to rush out and donate to the nearest charity. We are Pagan. We are the descendants of our spiritual ancestors, the grandchildren of shamans and mystics, of holy men and village wise women. Ours is a path of understanding, of appropriateness and the conscious weaving of our world. We start with ourselves, cultivating a heart that is willing to give. Then we move to our family, whether they're related to us by blood or by spirit, and we tend to their needs the best we can. With our family at our side, we extend our circle of community, reaching out to like-minded folk, those who are willing to engage in community with us. We don't need to cross cultural lines; we don't have to seek out those in need - they are all around us, part of our path and our practice.

The next time you find yourself preparing to purchase a new piece of electronics equipment, ask yourself if you know someone who is struggling to put groceries on the table. Before you plan the big vacation, ask yourself if you know someone who is worried about keeping a roof over his or her head. Maybe you don't have a lot; perhaps your one of those who is just squeaking by. Maybe your abundance is measured in the extra groceries in your pantry, in the clothes your children have outgrown. To someone with nothing, a box of your extra dry goods and canned food could mean the world.

Your kids hand-me-downs may be the closest thing to "new clothes" their children ever see. Instead of turning away a client or student, offer to barter - and if they have nothing to offer, give your service to them for free. Abundance isn't measured in dollar signs - it's simply having a surplus when those in your web of friends and family have a deficit they can't fill.

How does the Threefold Law apply to generosity? Do we follow the Wiccan Rede ("An it harm none, do what you will") if we spend a small fortune on a big screen television when we know someone who is struggling to make ends meet? Many of us understand the concepts of magickal philosophy as laid out by Hermes Trismegistus in "The Emerald Tablet." He wrote, "As above, so below..." reminding us of the interconnectedness of physical and spiritual reality. That connection is directly tied to generosity.

We are given physical resources, power in the way of finances, and yet we squander it for our own personal gain and wonder why we don't find more power in our rituals and magick. But if we were responsible with those resources, giving to those in need, how much more would the spirit world open to us and allow magickal resources and power to flow into our paths?

Average rent in the United States

Average utility costs

Health Care

Average amount spent on electronics

Average cost of a HDTV

Poverty and Health Insurance
"Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007" - US Census Bureau

Deaths due to lack of Insurance


Jeffrey Pierce

Location: Salem, Oregon


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