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1. What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?
I feel really weird answering this one while my partner Chien sits across the room paying the household bills, because frankly he’s the bulk of my financial support system, and he doesn’t believe in divinities of any kind. It feels almost disrespectful to say “Oh, the gods give me so much, look at my life!” when so much of what I have is because of him right now. Chien deserve credit for being the good man he is, and I don’t know how he would feel about my seeming to give that credit instead to entities he doesn’t believe actually exist.
Nevertheless, I do feel that the gods had a hand in it, for two interrelated reasons.
First, Freyr has pretty solidly claimed Chien as His child. He knows Chien will never directly acknowledge Him, and He doesn’t seem to care in the slightest. Chien, for his part, finds the idea kind of amusing, and is on record as having said that if he HAD to believe in a god, Freyr sounds pretty cool. He even occasionally revels in his not-a-Freyrsman role when the mood strikes him.
Secondly, the greatest wealth Freyr and Freyja have brought to my life, as far as I’m concerned, is love. Everyone I have ever loved is still a part of my life today, to some degree. While I have had romantic relationships sour and end, I have never had to banish a former lover from my life. All of my exes are at least amiable acquaintances, and several of them are dear friends.
Similarly, my family, though flawed, is still much more supportive, fair, and open-minded than the families of all too many of my friends, and I have more good and worthy friends than I have time to connect with. Thus I am absolutely surrounded by love, by loving and supportive people. That is my great wealth, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the gold and amber in the nine worlds.
Now, all that said, there are some more practical ways the gods have brought physical wealth into my life.
The most obvious is that my community is very gift and barter oriented. People give me stuff all the time. It’s rarely very expensive stuff (though I’m occasionally shocked when it is), but it’s often highly useful stuff. Any time I need something, I would be a fool to go buying it without first checking if I can acquire it for free via a friend or acquaintance (or even, sometimes, a total stranger) who has it to spare.
Why do I attribute this to the gods? Well, it’s almost entirely the Pagan portion of my community that acts this way. Yes, I find Fandom to be similar, but not to the anywhere near the same degree. In particular, I find individuals who belong to a deity who also dotes on me have the strongest tendency to give me things. There is a Njordhsman in my congregation who happens to just love buying boxes of random shiny things at estate sales. He frequently gives me and the other members of our congregation things he finds this way that he thinks they’ll like. It’s a very Njordh-like behavior, especially where the children of Freyja, Freyr, Nerthus, or Skadhi are concerned!
Another major factor is Freyja’s influence (and to a lesser, but sometimes much louder degree, Oxun’s). Freyja pushes me to accept being compensated for my time and effort. She requires me to acknowledge that I am worth other people’s resources, not just my own self-respect. Freyja has forbidden me to refuse payment, tithes, or other gifts offered to me in my capacity as Clergy, unless accepting payment would put myself or others in some kind of danger (i.e. I’m not obliged to give a creepy stranger my mailing address so they can send me jewelry, but I AM obliged to maintain a PayPal account via an email address I’m willing to give relative strangers.)
Freyja wants me to go further than just not refusing. She WANTS me to overtly charge for my services. Oxun has made it quite clear that She wants me to advertise those services, and make at least a side business of them. I am slowly working on that, but I find the prospect daunting. Most of the time for the kind of help I’m giving and the kind of people who need it, it seems rude, almost cruel, to ask them to give me money they could have spent on medical bills, food, or rent. So I often can’t find a way to bring it up.
Nevertheless, I have worked out rates for readings and such, and have sometimes been asked for readings on those terms. It’s always wonderful to be paid for all the time and effort and I admit, paying me for the time I spend on you turns out to be an extremely effective way to get me to prioritize your requests. If nothing else, I feel terribly guilty not getting back to a client as quickly as possible if they’ve already sacrificed their own resources. (This does not mean paying me without prompting gives a person the right to demand my service, however. I’m not that soft.)
What I find, since this came up, is that at any given time, I do have a client or three who are interested in on-going help, and are willing to compensate me for my time in some manner. As I’ve gone along with various students and clients in this way, they’ve gotten more generous. Lately, I find myself with at least one client who has a very strange talent for dropping a chunk of money on me, unasked, exactly when I find myself thinking, “Damn, I need $xxx that I don’t have, to pay for zzz.” I am wary of developing an expectation that this will continue, for fear that it will stop just exactly when I relax into it, but I must admit that it’s kind of an awesome blessing to have in the meantime!
Lon’s answer: A Wealth of Friends (no, we didn’t plan the titles ;p)