Traditional Wicca does not cost money. This slogan has been going around the Internet for quite some time. It was originally meant as a warning against groups who were charging money, but the issue is not as simple as that. Wicca does cost money, though quite often it comes at the expenses of the coven leaders rather than the coven members. Coven leaders spend money on anything ranging from candles and oils, to the more mundane things like electricity bills and toilet paper.
The origins of the taboo on spending money in Wicca are historical. Gerald Gardner started writing openly about Witchcraft and his experiences as a witch just after the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft act, which made it illegal to perform Witchcraft in the United Kingdom. This law was replaced in 1951 by the Fraudulent Medium act and it is specifically aimed at protecting people from being swindled out of money by fraudulent mediums. Charging money for any form of magic or psychic work became illegal, though you could charge money for ‘entertainment purposes’.
Gerald Gardner never charged for anything related to Wicca and dedicated much of his resources to the Craft. He had no family of his own to support and could well afford to be a generous man. Because he didn’t charge for the Craft, those of the Wicca feel that they should not charge for Craft either. We received training freely and we pass it on as such: free of charge and without the imbalance and power that can come with exchange in monetary form. Priesthood can’t be bought and coven leaders should not let money affect their decisions about whether to initiate someone or not.
Within both Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca people have different views on what is acceptable as far as money is concerned. Some people will not charge money for anything related to magic, mediumship or their work as a priest. These folk wouldn’t charge for a tarot reading, courses of any kind, or for performing handfasting rites and the like. Others are perfectly happy to charge for services, provided the charges are not connected to training or initiation for the Priesthood.
Certain covens do ask what is known as a ‘coven fee’. It is a yearly or monthly contribution that covers costs related to running the coven. Some covens might also choose to put money in a pot for a yearly coven outing, or ask a voluntary contribution when one of the coven members cannot afford fuel or airfares. Such contributions should be reasonable and clearly reflecting the expenses made. Other covens ask for contributions in kind, where each of the coven members takes a turn in providing essentials for the group.
Each coven will handle these issues differently and it is important to ask what the expectations are before joining a coven. If you are not as affluent as the other members of the coven and you cannot make the same contributions as everyone else, talk to your coven leaders. Finances should never be a reason why you cannot join a coven, so you should be able to come to some arrangement that works for everyone.
Most importantly, you should never ever have to pay for training or initiations. If a Gardnerian or Alexandrian coven asks payment for either, you should see this as a major red warning flag. There are no lay people in the Craft: everyone is a member of the Priesthood within their own right. As a result we do not have a congregation that financially supports coven leaders nor should there be. Priesthood means doing the Work that the Gods have asked us to do and not because it will put money in the bank.