Last week we were talking about whether or not Witches make money, this week’s question asks about charlatans within Witchcraft. As I hinted at last week for every honest and talented individual there is someone out there looking to make a quick buck and they are not afraid of hurting people as they do it.
Etsy and Selling of Services
In 2015 Etsy made a few waves in the Pagan Community by clarifying it’s terms of service to expressly spell out its rules around the sale of metaphysical services. Their terms now read to prohibit the sale of …
” Any metaphysical service that promises or suggests it will effect a physical change (e.g., weight loss) or other outcome (e.g., love, revenge) is not allowed, even if it delivers a tangible item.”
Simply put, sellers on Etsy could not sell their services or sell kits for people to buy and use themselves. Even though the clarification was specifically aimed at metaphysical practices the rules had always existed. Etsy, through a spokes person went on to state that they seek to…
“protect our community from business practices that prey upon vulnerable and desperate shoppers—such as those seeking a treatment for cancer or infertility, or those with self-esteem issues who are seeking a spell for weight loss or beauty enhancement (think penis or breast enlargement).”
How many private websites out there are offing these kinds of spells and services? Penis and breast enlargement are the bread and butter of these sites, with in/fertility spells being close behind, but increasingly there are people out there offering alternative cancer treatments and healing rituals and spells for conditions which are simply heartrending for those living with them.
I refuse to give these people the publicity and offer links to any of the statements I’ve made above. Google is your researcher and friend.
The opening line of Etsy’s statement reveals the nub of the issue; “to protect our community from business practices that prey upon vulnerable and desperate shoppers.”
These people are sharks. They are con-men, and women, who care nothing for their victims no matter what their services / product blurb may claim. They seek to take advantage of the low self esteem generated by so many industries and institutions in modern society. Those unscrupulous few give a bad name to us all and as such online retailers like Etsy and eBay do not allow the sale of spells in service or kit. This can make it harder for people who maybe feel unsure or feel issolated from esoteric shops in real life to source the materials for their Craft.
There are a multitude of private business that operate their own website which offer spells and services who are genuine and offer services and products at a fair price but there may be risks. Taking recommendations, trusting your instincts and allowing your rational mind to take the lead should provide some protect.
Top Tips For Buying Spells and Services
1. The best spell cast is one you cast yourself. A seeker needs to dip their toe in the water at some point and what better time than with ‘that thing’ you have considered paying someone else to do. Even if you have no desire to become a Witch yourself it is advisable to research the basics of Witchcraft and neo-Panagism so that you have an understanding of what you are buying and whether or not you may be able to do it for yourself.
2. It’s okay to buy kits. I expect everyone has at some stage. They are a great way to learn more about the mechanics of Witchcraft. The downside is you are relaying on the correspondences in the kit to match your purpose. For example the words and actions may be off or the components too generic for your purpose and there is no harm in making changes and substitutions but eventually you will feel confident enough to assemble your own spells from scratch. (Link to create your own spells post).
3. If you do decide to buy a kit then buyer beware. Paying top dollar for something doesn’t make it more effective not mean it actually contains the highest quality ingredients. You should also be looking for ingredients lists. Sellers will hold information back to protect their methods but often they list herbs and pictures usually allow you to identify crystals and candle colours. Price up buying these items yourself remembering that you may be buying in bulk, giving you a stock for future spells, whereas they will only provide you a pinch. It’s not as possible to do the same in person at a MBS fair but here you can look for the effort element of the kit which is a bit more of a gamble in the online purchase. Handmade elements will bump up prices but be mindful that you may be able to make your own version, adding to its power and meaning.
4. Even if you decide to have someone cast a spell on your behalf look at what they are charging you. Reimbursement for time, materials and energy is to be expected but when things start running into double and triple figures it may be time to ask some pointed questions. As said above, paying high prices doesn’t ensure high quality by any stretch.
5. If you’ve done some research don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are buying a service you should know what exactly is being done on your behalf, of you are buying a kit clarification never hurts, especially if you are learning. The response you get will be very telling. The seller should offer some information and guidance, though remember they will hold on to information to protect their product. A helpful seller is more likely to be a genuine seller. If you get blown off with variants of ‘because I say so’ or ‘this is a spell my great great grandma gave me’ take it as an alarm bell that the seller either has no idea what they are doing or are simply trying to bamboozle you in order to part you from your money.
6. Recommendations and feedback from other customers is a good indicator as well. Although a seller using a private website it likely to avoid listing negative comments the total absence of any feedback it not necessarily a good thing either. Ask in your local community where others buy from and there are lots of sale and interest groups on Facebook where you can ask similar questions.
Initiation and Training
So far I have only talked about spells and rites but initiation and training are another two areas where some people seek to make money hand over fist at the expense of the seeker. Firstly it should be made clear that initiation is first and foremost a spiritual transaction and secondly one of gnosis (knowledge). You are initiated into a spiritual collective and shared egregore before that you receive the knowledge that is associated with both. It is *not* a financial transaction. Whilst training may come with associated costs they should be reflect in the quality materials but the initiation itself shouldn’t. Additionally whilst training can be conducted from a distance I do not believe that initiation can occur in that way.
Even if the distance course accurately portrayed there are still things to be wary of, in particular the quality and content of the course. You would hope that people offering such a course would provide original and well presented material in good time but the sad fact of charlatans is that this would not be the case. I am aware of instances where training and associated material has been offered at high cost yet when (and if!) it has been provided is has turned out to be photocopies of published books, articles copied and pasted from the Internet and various other forms of low grade material. Putting as side for a moment the issue of plagiarism; receiving such things after paying tens many be hundreds of pounds is hardly what would have been expected and understandably disappointing. Sadly, in each case that I am aware of the disappointed and out of pocket seeker has then been attacked and shamed by the charlatan and their followers. In one memorable example each ‘lesson’ cost 50€ and consisted of admittance into a secret Facebook group where the charlatan in question would either post a document to download consisting of plagiarised material badly stitched together or link after link after link with the instruction to read, absorb and complete a graded test after a set period of time. No guidance nor suggestions on practical application were offered. Simply put it was a cash farm, not a training circle.
When you get those too good to be true phone calls, letters, emails telling you that you’ve won/inherent vast amounts of money or cam buy a particular profuct for ‘just’ this exorbitant amount you quite often react with suspicion. The skeptical mind is alerted and put into play and may protect you from being ripped off. What is true in mundane life is also true in your religious / spiritual one. Be aware, ask questions and allow yourself to be skeptical of the person talking/selling. Just because they claim a spiritual / religious title doesn’t make them any more honest than the person who has signed that email from your ‘bank’ asking for your account and pin number.
It isn’t often that I will stick my head above the parapet and confront people about their products, charges and/or ethics but I’ve been known to do so from time to time. My reasons often revolve around protecting myself and others, particularly where a person, product or information is being deliberately misrepresented with the sole aim of extorting money from the vulnerable or seeker. This is is not something I apologise for, nor will I regret the outing of false psychics, fake events and highlighting their greed and abuse of their victims. Not for one moment have I regretted any of the grief that people have attempted to cause me because their efforts are wasted; I have no regret in outing them.
On occasion I have pity. Such charlatans often construct elaborate fantasies around themselves, more often than not because they are deeply unhappy in their own lives and are in need of professional help on some level. Sadly such people are all too often facilitated by the Pagan Community, aided and abetted by inaction or the flawed belief that all Witches, Pagans, New Agers (etc) are essentially good and couldn’t possibly be guilty of anything. Social media, for example, creates a veneer of connection which is all too easily exaggerated and all too often exploited.
Unfortunately this means that when people stand up and call charlatans out for what they are they are attacked. No mattered how much objective and impartial evidence you provide a false sense of loyalty will always cause some to leap to the defence of their ‘friend’. At first it is always a mass, and sometimes it remains that way because the charlatan is skilled at bringing people into their circle, but more often followers drift away either because of weight of evidence or they tire of the erratic behaviour. And believe me they can be erratic. A charlatan builds their identity on a lie and ultimately they can trust no one because the other person a) may also be lying or b) may confront the charlatan about their lies. I have witnessed these people cannibalise their own support base through distrust and attack so many times and each time it’s sad because the charlatan displays classic traits of mental health problems, if not addiction, and clearly receive no help or support.
But just because I pity someone does not mean that I will enable them. It does not mean I will stand by whilst they attack me and mine and it does not mean that I will not take action where action is due. Nature is red in tooth and claw,and this Witch has never hidden the fact she has claws.
Again, I name no names. Naming gives a thing power, or in this case the attention they crave. Let them wonder what is being written about them in shadows of the Internet. No search for their name or pseudonym will lead them here and allow them to stroke their ego thinking they are somehow special. My work is done, and will continue each time such charlatans raise their heads.