First of all, I don’t think this is a controversial opinion. There used to be banner graphics posted on, like, coven Geocities pages that said “Trad Wicca does not cost money,” or some such. (I went to find one today but had no luck.) This debate appears to have been settled, and it might now be common knowledge that teachers of Wicca don’t charge their students beyond small fees to cover handouts, candles, or other consumable items used in the course of classes or rituals. That said, consider the following a position statement.
Traditional Wicca does not cost money.
I’m making flyers for Saturday Night Witchcraft, and on them I was thinking about noting that it’s free to attend. However, I struggle with how much to emphasize that “free” here actually means that money will not be required of you at any step in order to learn Wicca. It’s not “free” as in multilevel-marketing “girl time party,” in which you don’t have to pay anything to get in the door but the entire purpose of the party is to sell you stuff. Neither is it “free” as in “here’s a taste, but I’m holding the good stuff back and you’ll have to pay to get it” — for example, I get mailings from a popular Tarot site that has just rolled out an expensive certification program, and while the free booklet I got for signing up for the mailing list was useful in my study of Tarot, the mailings since then have been nonstop advertisements for this certification program.
This is not what Saturday Night Witchcraft is about. When I say it’s free, I mean I don’t have anything to sell you.
You will not finish my free classes only to find out that the next level has a price. I didn’t pay to learn at any stage; my teachers freely gave me counsel, instruction, coaching, and friendship, as their teachers gave them, and this is what I will pass on. You will never have to pay me or anyone else in order to keep studying Wicca or to be initiated. If you’re considering studying with someone who does charge, think twice and do some research before paying, because this is not common or expected.
Granted, a certain amount of money will be involved as you study. You’ll have to pay for gas to get here, you’ll be expected to have your own set of tools someday, and you’ll probably want to buy books or jewelry or witchy clothes, too. But the key point here is anti-guru. You can buy (or make!) whatever tools you like from whatever source you prefer, not from a charismatic person with a catalog. You can borrow books from the library or from friends, or you can buy them from a local bookstore or from Amazon — your money goes wherever you direct it. Also, you should not have to choose between paying your electric bill and buying some shiny witchy thing. Keep the lights on; the witchy stuff is all optional.
As a side note: If you have plenty of money, buy whatever you want! Have custom tools and ritual robes made by the best artisans you can find. Drape yourself in jewelry and rare stones. Amass a staggering library. Fly to every festival and convention. But the fact of the matter is that you will still not be spending money in order to learn Wicca.
Instagram aside, we don’t judge who’s wisest or witchiest by their clothing, by how many crystals or Tarot decks or altar tools they own, by how big their library is, or by the number of events they can afford to attend. (Have you seen some of the items left behind by Gardner and other elders of Wicca? They’re simple, not flashy.) What matters is the power you can raise and wield skillfully in ritual — and that can be done with dollar-store tealights and a stick from your backyard. Spiral notebooks and a pen to write notes with. The rest is theater.
And you won’t have to pay your Wiccan teacher in order to learn it.