Once upon a time in a land of kings and queens and farmers and priests there was a division. Some people ruled and some people worked. The ruling class went about their lives thinking about the here and now. There wasn’t really any way that they’d be dealt a better hand in the next life or that they’d ever have a chance at enjoying their next life more than their current one because they were in charge and really didn’t have to work. On the other hand, the farmers and merchants knew that they’d been dealt the work card this life and so they worried about doing what was right spiritually in order to have a better next life. They also didn’t really have much else to lean on for happiness because their days were almost always similar to the day before. They didn’t have the money or time to run around the country or going to great balls or anything that the ruling class took for granted. Granted, this simpler life had many good things about it and many of the ruling class would gladly have given up their nobility for a chance to be free from responsibilities other than getting food on the table, but in general the noble class led a far more carefree/workless life and seemed far more concerned with living life to the fullest.
These working class people are what Pagan refers to. The term Pagan refers to the people that dwelled in the hills and still practiced the old beliefs when Christianity had claimed the cities. It seems that this stigma of Pagans never being able to be wealthy has lived on for thousands and thousands of years. It’s really a strange predicament because Paganism requires that the individual study the subject on their own, that they do their own research and look to themselves for guidance. It requires a person to be independent, and yet every Pagan I’ve ever met has had trouble paying the bills at one time or another.
One theory could be that Pagans are not afraid to stand out by wearing Pentagrams or dark makeup or those absolutely trendy cloaks (who knows…maybe they’re hiding their swords under them…) to Wal-Mart to pick up a gallon of milk. Maybe it’s that when people think of Pagans they think about the guys/girls that do this and immediately think that Paganism requires every one of its believers to wear cloaks daily and so they shouldn’t be hired as a doctor or lawyer because they’d scare away the clients. Who knows? There’s a part of me that wants to be the happy idealist and say that a person should be able to wear whatever they want to wear…but the realist in me has to step in and explain that these people aren’t getting themselves anywhere and are definitely not getting the Pagan community anywhere. I just don’t know what to do about that one.
Maybe it’s the fact that people that are raised in middle-class to upper-class families are told that conformity is important and therefore Christianity is brought into the picture from an early age. I disagree that conformity is important but can see where parents would want their children to have an easy life and being Pagan simply isn’t the easiest possibility. I understand this as well as the fact that in our parents’ day there simply wasn’t any tolerance of anything other than Christianity. You were Christian or not, there really weren’t any other religions (other than Judaism I guess).
Then there’s always the option that there are tons of Pagans out there that are extremely wealthy but that know that if their beliefs got out that they’d be ostracized by their circles. I can agree with this because I’m one of these people (minus the extremely wealthy part) and there will be a time in my life where I’ll definitely have no problem paying the bills (woohoo engineering degree…), and the only way that these people will come out of the broom closet will be when the world accepts them for their beliefs. I’d speculate that the current numbers are simply a poor representation of the actual demographics. It’d be more of a Legendary Poor Pagan Who Came Out of the Broom Closet.
Then there’s always the extremely common trend that the lower the income, the more spirituality plays a part in someone’s life. It’s always been this way. Pagans originally were the country folk, and the majority of the Catholic Church was the poor city dwellers. Granted everyone was Christian in Europe because if not you got injured/killed, but the truly spiritual were the poor people and the extremely wealthy (think Tom Cruise…) who didn’t have to worry about anything but the next life. I think that that’s the current trend as well. No one cares what Bill Gates’ religious preference is, and you’d never hear about his contributions to a Church. Not only are the upper classes less spiritual, they’ve embraced science as their religion which is good enough for most of them from what I’ve seen.
The most logical reason I can think of is that Pagan values are different from Rat-Race America. Pagans look for happiness in life more than bigger TV’s and faster cars (though I really really want a viper), and can be happy without one-upping the next door neighbors. I think that this is important, but there comes a time when people have to realize that they really should work towards being able to pay for their children’s college as well as do all the things they want to do. I’ve met far too many Pagans that constantly complain about how they’d love to travel and see the world but it’s just too expensive, and yet they are failing massage therapists because they don’t advertise or do any of the business aspects of having their own practices. People have to accept that they live in a world dominated by good businessmen and that the only way to be a business owner is to be good at it…whether you’re a massage therapist or a Witchy shop owner or you run a massive business like Whole Foods. Sorry for that digression but as I was saying, Pagans rarely feel the need to make enormous amounts of money and are happier working in a field that they enjoy rather than make a big pay check so they can be miserable 70 hours a week at their job. Totally understandable, and I’m not totally sure what to do about this one. I still think it’s got to lie in the business aspect of it.
I don’t really know what to do about this stigma. The only way I can see things changing is for television/marketing/advertising to change and make people more aware of alternative religions/spiritualities much like they did with alternative sexualities. There are still plenty of people that don’t like gay people, but no one can deny that they’re there and in extremely large numbers. People may be looked at differently but there are still doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, and big business men and women who are gay while I really can’t name too many famous Pagan big business people (there may be some in the health food market but I don’t know of any by name). There’s also the fact that many Pagans are Pagan for shock value and that’s absolutely detrimental to the Pagan community as a whole. We are a very intelligent bunch and there’s absolutely no reason why we should be barely scraping by. Not only that, but it makes it harder for Middle Class America to accept that their neighbors are Pagan and that’s totally cool when the only Pagans they’ve ever met are the janitor, the creepy shop owner downtown next to the hair salon, the hippy guy on the street, and the woman working the Wal-Mart check out that wears a Pentagram the size of a small child (Pagan Flava Flave anyone?). Give me some thoughts on this one. And sorry for the length.