Over at Letter from Hardscrabble Creek, Chas Clifton makes a point rarely heard from a modern pagan: namely, that throughout history and across cultures, spiritual ceremonies and services have always come at a cost. Taking money for conducting rites is frowned upon by many neo-pagans (though there always seem to be plenty of them willing to part with cash for "workshops" or to attend festivals where rituals and instruction will be offered). To my mind, having such an extreme aversion to the exchange of cash for services rendered is just as indicative of an unhealthy attitude toward money as would be charging exhorbitant amounts for same. The old adage about fools and their money applies here as in secular life, and if there are unscrupulous charlatans out there eager to part them from it, aren't those fools at least partly responsible for their own actions?
No one likes to talk about that kind of responsiblity, either--and I'll admit to being a bit twitchy myself about banging the "personal responsibility" drum these days, since it's become such a rallying cry among certain political factions that I personally find reprehensible, but I'm damned if I can let people off the hook for making utterly stupid choices. I've made some incredibly dumb-assed decisions in my life, too. Everyone has. But there's dumb-assed and then there's dangerous, and if you're going to go out into the world and call yourself a magician and think you have the ability to shape and change your world, then you'd best be able to demonstrate at least the marginal ability to make rational decisions. It's about the least you can do, and it's a shame that it seems to be beyond so many.