Money. It’s been called the root of all evil and the key to everything. It’s been said that it doesn’t buy happiness, but we know does buy everything else. We often have deep emotions around money that we don’t even know we have and, for many of us, it is a consistent source of stress, wondering where the next bit of it is going to come from and how we’re going to pay for this or that.
Money is always, always, alllllllways a hot topic in spiritual communities, and I’ve heard many remarks in the Ifa-Orisa community (and other African traditional communities) that it seems like “everything is always about money.” And, well, yeah it is, just like pretty much everything in life. But not in the way you may be thinking. I’m gonna break down the Top 5 reasons why (it may seem like) spiritual people (alllllllways) be like “show me the money.”
5 – A spiritual business is still a business
There’s seems to be an unspoken belief being a priestess or other spiritual person is a “get everything in life free” card. Believe me, as much as we wish it was, it isn’t. Those of us who have devoted our lives to the spirits and helping our fellow beings still have to pay for everything just like other folk (ok, maybe we get a few freebies now and then. We ARE praying and serving the spirits all day erry day, after all. Something would be wrong if we didn’t *wink*).
Although we love what we do, and do it for good reasons, it’s still a profession and we still have to eat and pay rent. Just as one wouldn’t pop into a hospital asking for free surgery, or into a therapist’s office asking for free sessions, one shouldn’t ask a spiritualist to do work for free. But people do. All the time. “Can I talk to you for a minute” or “can I ask you a question” easily (and sometimes intentionally, on the asker’s part) turns into a free hour-long counseling session and intuitive reading before we know it, if we let it. Now imagine this happening with every one of the ten (on the low end!) people per day who engage with us and the amount of time we’d spend if we didn’t set boundaries? Just like other professionals, payment is one form of boundary we set which helps to keep us in healthy parameters for what’s “work” and what’s just “a friendly conversation.”
Understand, too, that many of us, especially those of us who consider ourselves under the heading of “clergy” (as I do) will help you if we know you really need something and can’t afford it, but understand that we still have to come out of pocket for the supplies we use to help. Kola nuts, gin and palm oil ain’t free. Kola nuts are actually pound-for-pound more costly than lobster. And MUCH harder to get on this side of the water.
4 – Initiations and training cost us A LOT of time and money
If your spirit worker is worth their salt, they’ve spent time training and/or undergoing initiations, whether formally or informally. Just as my PhD cost money (full disclosure: I had a fellowship and didn’t pay *hands up* but it cost over $200,000) and time (7 years) to get, my spiritual training has also taken time and a lot of money.
To give a sense of it all: time wise, I spent a total of 16 months living in Nigeria (3 short stays and a much longer one), two years sitting at the feet of my teacher every day, and have done continuous reading and self-work over the past 10 years to keep my knowledge sharp and my connection to the spirits open. Money wise, not even counting initiations, 4 plane tickets to Nigeria plus the cost of room and board during each trip, a library of books, continuing education trips and workshops, and a collection of ritual implements that only continues to grow.
Now, should someone be able to just “pick my brain” and get all of that instantly for nothing? Of course not. Just like no one should be able to just get whatever it is you do or create (which I’m sure you’re great at!) just like that. The time, energy, and money you spent getting where you’re at are worth a lot! If you haven’t been valuing your own time and energy properly, now’s a great time to start.
3 – Spiritual folk deserve nice things, too
Look, poverty isn’t fun, cute, or noble. At all. And Ifa says that we should all have the blessings of owo, omo, and aiku (wealth, children, and long life) while we’re here. While I don’t think folks should be living fat buying luxury jets off of your donations to their shrine or church (*cough* Creflo Dollar *cough*) they needn’t be living on sardines and saltines, either.
As much as most of us spiritual folk LOVE what we do, it can definitely be draining and stressful. Who listens to us? Who heals the healer? We should be able to afford to go get a massage once in awhile or indulge in a nice meal without stress or guilt. And, most importantly, we also have to be able to pay for our own spiritual work from our elders in order to keep us in tune for those who we are helping. Sing it with me, “It’s the ciiiiiiiircle of liiiiiife…”
2 – It ain’t really about the money, it’s about the energy exchange
Number 2 and number 1 are very closely intertwined. First, we have to realize that money itself isn’t really anything at all when you think about it. What value to do those little pieces of paper or that plastic card or the electronic bleeps and blips that we call “money” actually have? None. The only value money has is in the time and energy we have to trade to get it. Which is why we are sometimes so reluctant to part with that hard-earned (see the language?) cash. And rightly so!
But understanding money as energy and time exchange, it is easy to see why one would want to joyfully pay for spiritual services. You’re not “giving the spiritualist money,” you’re exchanging some of the time and energy you spent earning your money for the time and energy they’re spending helping you, as well as for some of the time and energy they spent learning how to help you. Returning to numbers 5 and 4, that’s how it works for all professionals and why it always costs more for a trained professional’s time than for that of someone without training.
Let me also add that energy exchange isn’t all about money. For example, traditionally, a babalawo’s students lived with him and served him by cooking, cleaning, and doing whatever else they were asked to do for a period of time in exchange for the knowledge. Real energy for energy, which is still fairly common in Nigeria. Unfortunately the way most of our lives are organized in the west, this isn’t possible, so money becomes the means of exchange.
1 – People don’t appreciate what they get for free
THE number 1 reason spiritual people be like “show me the money” is the very simple fact that people DO NOT appreciate what they get for free. Period. Argue if you want, but it’s true. From the article:
Understand that people value what they pay for. You’re not doing them a disservice by charging them, you’re actually doing a profound service for the people who want to take action.
Let me repeat that, when you charge people you’re actually doing them a profound service: you’re prompting them to value what they’re getting from you just as much as they value the time they spent earning the money. And when people value something, they engage more deeply with it. This is why I set up a paid membership for those who truly want to get the most out of me and Ase Ire. When my students see that monthly charge come out of their accounts, it reminds them of their commitment to themselves (not to me!) to learn more and go deeper.
Sure, I could have made the book club and other things free but, let’s keep it 100, most people who sign up for free things never participate because they don’t feel any investment. And believe you me, noting breeds deeper resentment than offering someone something free because you genuinely want to help them and finding out (like the author of the above article did) that they never even used it once. Why? They didn’t feel pressed because they didn’t pay for it.
As well, not only does giving things away free often result in no money, little appreciation, and no real change for the person getting the free thing, it can actually cost money, as every moment we spend with someone who doesn’t value our time takes away from time we could be spending with someone who does. And let’s not forget those lobster-priced kola nuts and them bottles the spirits expect me to pop every 4-4 days.
Now, all that said… Here are two important tips on how to spend smart with spiritual folk, and I cannot stress these enough:
Use Your God-Given Sense and ASK SOMEBODY
Like it or not, there are charlatans and money-hungry folk in every spiritual tradition, which is why it’s super important not to let your common sense go out the window as my Baba says often happens when people start talking and thinking about spirit. As the (former) homie Judge Judy says, If it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true, so always keep that at the forefront of your mind.
For instance: $50-150 for a 30-minute to 1-hour reading is normal depending on the diviner’s level of experience and the tools they are using. This makes sense partially because it is comparable to what other professionals (like lawyers and therapists) charge for 30 minutes to an hour of their time. If someone is trying to charge me $300 or $500 for one hour of their time, the way my sense is set up, I’d ask if they are putting me on the line with Olodumare himself for that price. Remember that spiritual people do not exist outside the boundaries of what makes sense and also, importantly, just because someone says they’re this or that doesn’t mean they are and that’s why…
Ya betta ask somebody! Look, keeping it really real (as usual), a lot of people who get caught up in these shenanigans of paying thousands of dollars for fake readings and rituals it’s because they were tryina be cute and do things on their own without guidance. It’s 2018, we’ve “come up out of the basement” as the saying goes and there are plenty of people you can ask for a referral. Plenty. If you haven’t found them you aren’t looking hard enough. Failing that, simply ask the practitioner to refer you to testimonials or other evidence of their skill. C’mon, you probably look at 12 reviews before spending $10 on Amazon, why would you give someone you’ve never met thousands of dollars on a promise with no proof? Maybe you wouldn’t, but people have and will again.
Another critical point: Africans are about community, period. So, particularly with practitioners of African spirituality, your first clue as to whether someone is legit or not is to ask them who their teachers are/were and how/where they obtained their knowledge. Anyone who has a problem answering this question should be avoided like the plague.
Just as I will tell anyone who asks (and some who don’t lol) that I went to Harvard, I’ll also tell them just as quickly and proudly that I was initiated by Chief Efuwape Olatunji, have primarily learned from Chief Oluwole Ifakunle, and have studied with and received ritual from Iyalode Yeyefini Efunbolade, Yeye Luisah Teish, and Araba Ifayemi and Iyalode Oyelola Elebuibon, and many others. And if you ask them, they will gladly confirm. If someone says they have no teachers or don’t want to tell you who they are, again, RUN. And, whatever you do, don’t give them a red cent.
Finally, this isn’t about money but I feel compelled to say it: that there is NO RITUAL in ANY BRANCH OF IFA-ORISA practice that will necessitate having sex with a priest or being touched sexually. None. Ever. Period. Again, please, please, PLEAAAAASE always use common sense no matter who or what you’re dealing with. While some things may happen that you don’t understand, if something feels WRONG, it probably is.
Now that we’ve had this little chat, I hope you feel joyful and peaceful each time you pay for spiritual services knowing that you’re not only supporting your spirit worker and valuing her or his time as much as you value your own, but also doing something for yourself. Because, just like everything else in life, you will value what you get even more when it has cost you something.