I remember the year I discovered Wicca. I remember the excitement, the trepidation, and the desire. I remember the first books I read–High Priestess? Teachers? Lineage?
Oh yeah. I wanted in on that.
I can’t speak for anyone else when it comes to the choice to be a traditionalist vs. an eclectic, covener vs. strict solitary. I can only speak for myself, and I’m not sure I can really explain it except to state that I knew myself, and know myself. I have always maintained that if I were a Christian, I would be Catholic–I love the ritual, the pomp and circumstance, the sense of partaking in traditions practiced for generations before me and generations to come even knowing that the Catholic mass has changed over the centuries, the philosophies have taken on new incarnations, while trying to maintain the values and core beliefs it was founded on. It’s that sense of being part of something greater than myself. I don’t get that same feeling in most Protestant churches, but I think it’s because in most of the ones I have attended it isn’t as theatrical, the churches are younger and don’t have that same feeling of antiquity (both physically and spiritually), and I just don’t…feel God…like I do in a Catholic church.
But that’s just me. I know people for whom a more modern and casual atmosphere is what draws them to their church. My sister in law places a heavy emphasis on the music of a church because that’s how God communicates with her soul.
But I love tradition. I love robes, and candles, and ritual. I love that sense of learning something–and being able to pass it on to others. And when I found Wicca, I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that there would be a Wiccan tradition that fit me and my beliefs and needs.
I was fortunate. I got it right on the first try.
When people come to Wicca, one of the very first things they read about is teachers. It’s by and large an oral tradition. It is passed from master to pupil, adept to neophyte, High Priestess to coven. There are so many books, so many websites, so much conflicting information, almost every neophyte comes to the point that they want a teacher.
I used to espouse the phrase, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” (Shut up I know I’m a nerd, lol.) There are two reasons for this: 1) Some people are unwilling to put in the effort of self-study and want Wicca spoon-fed to them. This doesn’t work for a path that considers itself The Craft of the Wise. Wiccans need to be able to think critically for themselves, and part of this means doing some research on the basic principles. Teaching is a huge investment, and teachers typically have families or careers–a student unwilling to put forth the effort is aggravating and, frankly, a waste of time. 2) Some students are impatient. They’ve done the self-study, they’re eager and READY…but there’s no readily available teacher, or a teacher who is appropriate for the student. They get aggravated and end up walking away. Part of Wicca is patience, and understanding that being turned down by a teacher doesn’t reflect on the authenticity of their spirituality. There are a lot of reasons it can take awhile for a teacher to appear.
This is all well and good–if you live in an area with other Wiccans, and more importantly, with Wiccan teachers who are worth their mettle. Now I think it’s a phrase to placate people who lack the resources to find a quality teacher who fits their needs rather than anything insightful and wise (lol).
Wow I’ve done entirely too much set up for this blog. I apologize right here in the middle for rambling.
On the flipside of being a student in search of a teacher, there is the position of being a teacher “in search of” a student. I use quotation marks only because teachers don’t typically actively look for students.
I’ve had the experience recently of both accepting and turning down prospective students. I did do a little searching in the sense that I put myself out there, cast a net if you will, and waited to see if any fish would swim into it of their own free will. It’s difficult to pass on a tradition if you don’t make it known in the community that you’re a teacher, afterall. Luckily, I had great success and have a current class of neophytes–the new coven.
But not everyone who approached me was an appropriate fit. It is just as important for a teacher to identify students who are worth the investment as it is for a student to identify a teacher whom they can trust. I already spoke of the latter in ‘How to Spot a Kook,’ but what about the adepts approached for teaching? How do you spot a wannabe kook?
1) They’ve literally done nothing. They’ve never read a book, never prayed to the Goddess, never tried to meditate. They’ve heard of Wicca, they know it’s a religion of Witchcraft, and that’s enough for them, they want in.
2) They have stuff, but don’t know what to do with it. They figured out enough on their own that they have an athame, an altar, and about a bagillion crystals, probably even a cloak (because they’re cool and mysterious looking), but they have no idea how to use them or what they’re for.
3) Money. It’s all about money. This ties in with stuff–they’ve invested an incredible amount of resources to no fruition, OR they say they haven’t had the money TO invest, so they’ve done nothing. Because spirituality comes from $19.95/mo direct to my ProPay account. If you think money will make you a Witch, you are far off the mark, and far from ready for formalized teaching–but you are ripe for the picking for con artists, and at risk for being taken advantage of. I refuse to take money from my coven, even “dues.” Instead we’re going to invest our time and energy in providing legitimate services and products for fundraising for our wants and needs.
4) Power. All they can talk about in when they will be initiated, they can’t wait to be a teacher, can’t wait to lead their own coven. There is no talk about the Goddess, or nature, or that they know it will be a long and difficult path.
5) Sunshine and rainbows. One of my favorite internet Wiccan jokes was a website…well heck let me see if I can find it.
This. Everything about this. It’s hilarious, but don’t get me wrong. If even one iota of this webpage speaks to you, the answer is no. No. Go get yourself a heavy dose of reality first. Spend a day in a hospital. Find a social worker who will let you shadow some in-home visits. Try a rape crisis center. Life is not unicorns and rainbows no matter what religion you follow.
6) Maturity. Look, if you can’t feed and clothe yourself and provide at least minimal transportation to get yourself from point A to point B, you have other things to worry about first. Wicca is about life, but a formal study of witchcraft is a time commitment, and you need to have your basic needs met first. I can’t teach you the Mysteries if all you can think about is a sandwich. For the record, I’m happy to help get you the sandwich, but neither Wicca nor myself are capable of supporting your mundane needs in the long run. Being able to support yourself is a huge marker of the maturity of what I look for in a Witch. That being said, I do take teenagers, but their path to their degrees typically take them much longer than other adults. It took me 12 years to get my Third Degree, and I started formal instruction when I was 16 (with parental permission, of course).
Not all of what I look for has to do with the quality of the student. Sometimes it’s a matter of whether I can meet their needs. For instance, I have four formal students right now. It’s a LOT. I can’t take another one on right now, so my answer has to be no. Sometimes it’s a personality clash—if we can’t get along as people, I don’t foresee us getting along as Witches, and I need Perfect Love and Perfect Trust in my coven. It doesn’t say anything about the student as a Witch, it is merely a recognition that a shared spirituality is not enough of a foundation for the relationship that makes a good working coven. And I don’t want people to change for me, they should be who they are.
I’ve had students walk away, too. In part because I didn’t always have the time to meet their needs—I have two college degrees, a demanding career, and a family of my own. E-mail had to take a back seat, and sometimes for too long. Other times it was distance, and it wasn’t suiting their needs to be based solely on the Internet. Sometimes a philosophical difference was too much to overcome, and we parted with mutual respect and understanding. And sometimes it was the mistake of being a new teacher who hadn’t yet found exactly what it was I was looking for so it was just not a good match.
Teaching is difficult. Sometimes disappointing. You have to be sure you are ready for it, even if by the terms of your coven you are an adept and allowed to teach. Not all people are meant to teach, either—if you’ve ever taken a college course by a professor who is merely fulfilling the teaching requirement of his contract but all he really wants to do is research, you know exactly what I mean.
If you are searching for a teacher, understand that it’s a mutual arrangement. Understand that, despite your readiness, the teacher might not be ready for you. Understand that, despite your belief that you are ready, you really might not be. Keep reading, keep researching, and keep yourself open to possibilities. And if you are teaching, don’t feel compelled to teach everyone who shows a glimmer of interest. You have a lineage to protect, a tradition to preserve, and it will take time and resources to serve your student properly.
When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.