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From 1997... The cry for Unity has been building strongly over the past 13 months in the Witch/Pagan community. This section celebrates our efforts and dreams in this area. Is it possible? Will it be difficult? Do we have some common ground? There is lots of hard work ahead and the Witches' Voice will do its part to both support and evolve this issue. United we stand - So Mote it Be!

Survey Results: Witch, Wiccan or Pagan? ... How Good is YOUR Teacher ... Working with Groups ... A Religion or a Personal Belief ... Out of the Broom Closet ... Witchcraft in the Public Eye

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Initial Thoughts from the Community (the first 24 hours)

YOUR comments on...

Tell us about YOUR Teachers
(as of Friday 9/5/97 6:00 pm)

Survey Sez...

"I was basically self-taught or read allot of books. I found this to be the best approach because it helped me to form my own ideas for what works best for me and also makes me feel that I truly understand and believe in everything I say and do. I have seen people who are part of groups with hierarchy and training systems and found all to be phonies who really didn't know what they were doing or talking about. Their rituals were empty. The best approach for me was to read about allot of different religions and belief systems and combine what works best for me along with my own original ideas and beliefs. I've never been one for believing what someone else tells me in school or religion. It may work for someone but I don't think that blindly following someone else is a valid belief system"

"My five best teachers have been my family from how ignorant they are in their Roman Catholic world my friend Brandy from all the mistakes she made my computer which is one of my best resources nature and natural belief and myself who had the hunger for knowledge and understanding. I've always been alone no people to actually talk to and see but I believe. I believe in the goddess and the god and love and truth. I always will. *Christina"

"My experience with the one and only teacher that I encountered was let us say an eye opening experience. All she wanted was a power trip it was very disappointing she wouldn't let you get a word in edge wise and she belittled any insight we had to offer. I feel that a solitary who reads all that she/he can get their hands on is just a good teacher for themselves as anyone else could be. Not saying that teachers are unnecessary I am striving to someday to be just that but I feel that each and every student has the right to speak their mind and not to be belittled if they disagree with their teacher it is their Gods given right to their own opinion. A good teacher will give of themselves all that they can contribute to a persons quest for knowledge but in the same instance receive knowledge from their students to listen and understand them not to think that you are above them remember that you too were where they are now. They look to you for guidance DO NOT take advantage of their trust in you that I feel is very important. As for initiation I feel that it is a personal choice a practioneer who is self initiated is just as valid as one initiated by a group or coven. A fellow witch and I at Samhain last year went out to the forest which is quite a feat because at that time of year here there is already 8 inches of snow on the ground after 4 years of reading everything we could get a hold of practicing living Wicca everyday understanding our past as well as where we are headed we took our initiation together. There was no script of what we were to say we just spoke to the Gods from our hearts and it was good it was right and I had never felt so revitalized ever. I someday as I said would like to be a teacher because I feel I have much to contribute I would just like to help Prairie Moon"

"Actually I'm a solitary witch so I don't have a story to tell. However I have somewhat taught the Craft through the net to many new Wicca beginners. For me its so important that they experience the witchcraft. Reading is good. I encourage them to read and read a lot. Yet those are other peoples opinions. They need to think upon them and react to those words through experience. And how can you get experience Sit down and stop talking and start doing. Its like looking at someone's BOS. That's great yet its more important that you sit down and do magick of your own. Personally I don't get too much on the philosophical part of the Craft. I'm a practical witch if it works then its good."

"Like any teacher they have been involved in their work their students. They must be a model of what they want to teach or else they do not have students that learn effectively. The only time a teacher should have sexual relations with their student is when they were involved before the teaching wives and husbands for example."

"A Good teacher always listens to their students and compromises. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and should be given the chance to express it. Good teachers must also set an example for their students. What we do is passed down so if its bad it will be passed along as a bad thing. --Sophacles"

"the woman who founded our circle is self-taught and we've learned together from books workshops and just doing. i cannot imagine being in a path that requires formal classes and degrees. that sounds too much like the organized religions my friends and i left behind.I've interacted with a gardnerian coven on several occasions and most of the members seem involved with the form and accessories. there was no feeling of spirituality or energy being raised at their rituals.but whatever works for anyone is okay. being criticized for how and what i believed is a reason i looked for years before finding the right group to be with. we are friends and teachers for each other."

"I'm a solitary I've never networked and never been initiated except by the God and Goddess but nonetheless I respect those who have gone through a formal initiation."

"I have met a lady who owns an occult magickal shop. She is really nice and sweet she is also a high priestess. She I believe is the person I would consider a good teacher."

"I was thrown out of the first-and-only mixed gender coven I was ever in. Great Leader and his wife who had pulled a classic bait-and-switch operation. They said they wanted eclectic power-sharing rotating leadership and they wouldn't mind working with self initiated Womyns crafters.All went well for a few months until few newbies arrived who preferred to be told what to do and how to do it and what exactly to say when and in general to worship the Great Leader. GL and his wife found that to be far more to their taste and threw the rest of us out.Great Leader was the only person in the group who had a Lineage and then passed it on to his wife. The rest of us felt we were fine was we were and still do.I do find though that in so-called leader less groups the strongest personality - ie the person most oblivious to the fact that someone else occasionally wants to talk - can tend to dominate unless there is a conscious investment of in preventing this like only the holder of the feather speaks no interruptions or cross-talk."

"In my world there are two forms of teaching craft. First comes the teaching of someone who hopes to become a HP or HPs someone who wants to be clergy to the greater community. Second comes the teaching of someone who just wants to learn more about spirit and who wishes to have a guide for a while. For the well being of the students I think that there should be unified qualification standards to which these teachers should be trained in least of which is magick. They should be trained in suicide intervention psychology sociology accounting negotiation etc..... I'm sick of hearing about so called teachers that read Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and the index of Spiral Dance and think they are qualified to lead and teach others. This kind of power abuse.. whether intentional or not... is NOT good for our image as a religion nor for the individuals involved. And whether or not we chose to acknowledge that these people exist in hoards does not mean that they do not exist. These are the idiots who get the media attention by dressing weird and doing something sensational. These are the well meaning 20 year olds who get caught in a vortex of personal tragedy because they don't fully respect the Laws these are the lonely middle aged that takes advantage of an innocent teenager because they don't know how not to get sexually involved with them. From these people we get OUR community tragedies that the media so loves to sensationalize. If we want respect we are going to have to demand respectability from those who lead and teach in our community. And the only way to do this is to set standards for our teachers and then keep tabs on them. There are also teachers out there in the international public eye who should not be teaching. These people are almost demigods to a lot of witches because they have been around for a long time and have published some scholarly works. No one seems to be able to publicly say to a listening public that this HPs should not teach because she is spiritually physically and mentally not fit to be out there. She needs some serious counseling before she can be considered anywhere near spiritual enough to guide others. Instead WE let her remain out there representing us to other pagans and non-pagans because we respect our elders just a bit too fanatically. It is our business to see that she gets help before she is allowed to represent us. When she chose to go internationally public she chose to wear the mask of the entire pagan/wiccan community she is no longer just responsible to herself but to all of us. That is what an HPs does when she takes on a third degree. She is no longer herself but she is her community.If a teacher smokes takes drugs or abuses alcohol or food or any other thing that can be abused they should not be out there serving as role models. I mean guys..... come on... would we look up to the Dali Llama if he was a heavy smoker who weighed 300 lbs What would we think of a Mother Theresa who was a drunkard What would you think of an HPs who loudly touted that she was so in touch with spirit that she could smoke and drink heavily while pregnant and still bring about a healthy child by the way she miscarried Should we lower our standards just so we don't seem too Politically Incorrect or maybe hurt some ones feelings Get real... get some standards.... have respect for yourself and the rest of your community.LETS SET UP SOME WORLD WIDE COMMUNITY STANDARDS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE GETS HURT. Unity is the answer. Pass it on...."

"A teacher is just that someone who wishes to instruct others. All deeds and words are potential lessons and that is what a teacher must consider when he/she accepts that role and the responsibility it entails. Our religions must remain religions. To charge money for its instruction makes a business of the heart. We should want to open ourselves to all who wish it not force them to pay for it. My heart is not for sale and I don't believe the gods come so cheaply."

"I think that I was lucky enough - or fated - to have met the best individuals I could possibly have met to become my teachers. They had the right mix of intelligence experience ability to teach and lack of ego that I think makes an excellent teacher. I think this is a rare combination that I sincerely hope I myself have. I think that many I have met do not have the qualities to be a good teacher and that their students suffer as a consequence. I feel that lineage and the degree system is an inherent part of Wicca since the former ensures some continuity of practice and instruction and the latter ensures some standard of ability training and responsibility. Those traditions which lacked those elements while no less valid seemed to me to be less focused less clearly defined and as a consequence less consistent. I see Wicca as a mystery religion and as a consequence new initiates must be exposed to the mysteries of the tradition to be truly part of it. Likewise they must receive the power of the lineage as passed down to them and via the presence of coven join in its group mind. Those who lack this experience miss much of the essence of the religion to me and thus while no less members are denied the benefits and quality of training that is most effectively received in the coven environment. I was for many years a solitary but my initiation into my tradition was far more powerful experience and far more empowering an experience than any of the experiences I had had in the solitary years that preceded them. In short I think that the community needs more skilled teachers and that many who are currently teachers might do well to examine themselves closer to see if they are truly suited to the task in all respects. Students should closely examine those they would have as teachers to ensure that they think the prospective teacher is really suited to the task."

"I have an excellent teacher who comes from a family trad. I cannot believe how much I have learned from him. I know that some believe that it is not necessary to have a teacher in this life. I think each should follow their own path. However we should respect the Elders and the Adepts among us and realize that they have a knowledge that many of us do not have. At times their opinions are more valuable than ours just as any teacher with knowledge can direct us in the right path. A good teacher respects his students. But that does not mean he allows them to do whatever they desire. My teacher guides me in this life. He gives me both spiritual religious training as well as magickal training. There have been times I've disagreed with him but I find that I am more often wrong than he is ... lol."

"A good teacher is someone who knows when to talk and when to listen. If a teacher isn't listening to what the students have to say about what is being taught then he/she has no way to judge the effectiveness of the way they are learning and if they are picking up what is important. The teacher also has to keep in mind that even though they know more they are not superior to the student except in the amount of knowledge held."

"I am a student of many. I have been on a pagan path for over three years. I started out as a solitary wiccan. I have since taught several people about pagan ways. I no longer call myself wiccan. I am more eclectic. I no longer celebrate alone. The majority of my learning has come from books. I also discuss a lot of ideas with other pagans. This helps me see different ways of doing things. I have not had any official teacher. My ideas are constantly changing and evolving. I am always reading a new book or asking another persons advice. I really enjoy the way I am learning. I hope I never stop being a student."

"All paths are valid. If you're self initiated that's great. If it takes a witch to make a witch there wouldn't be any witches because where would the first one of came from Even in our metaphysical world sometimes logic just makes sense."

"With the exception of a few books that I have seen I have been mercifully spared the experience of having to deal with the Bad Teachers out there. I was a self initiated Witch for my first few years and gained most of my knowledge of the craft from books. I was fortunate to have a keen eye and could spot the less reputable books a mile away. After my first few years I found a wonderful coven and a very intelligent teacher who held many of the same views that I did and so I ended up learning many things that I never could have gotten out of books."

"Our teachers should be the pinnacle of what we consider ourselves to stand for. They should have higher ethical standards because in many cases.. they are our leaders. Admittedly.. we are all human.. and thus make mistakes. How the public sees us has become a very important issue. If the public sees phonies.. or poor ethics as judged by the standards of society.. it merely contributes to the labels society enjoys giving us. I see a good teacher as someone that both students and outsiders can look up to. Someone who they wish to be like or admire in some way. And of course.. a teacher must follow the rules.. without exception or bending them while teaching. Even if the situation makes it acceptable.. it may be a poor influence on the student. In short our teachers should also be our role models. The people whom we aspire to be. Both magically.. and spiritually. Blessed be."

"In order to be valid I feel you need to be gut-honest with yourself and know first what you are talking about and second that you are serious about what it is you are referring to. To say anyone is less valid than another due to the fact that they don't belong to a group or coven and are self initiated would be to say anyone who belongs to a particular religion but does not attend the masses and take communion isn't really a whatever that religion would be for them.But in order to educate the people who are trying to find guidance I understand charging a SMALL fee for their time and any materials they are supplying. If they are teaching and charging though yes I feel they should have formal training themselves and be able to listen discuss as well as educate the people interested.Titles should not be needed but should be there to make those valid to teach stand out as perhaps being a bit more experienced."

"I think that a teacher is good if they are kind to their students.-Celeste"

"A good teacher knows when to keep their mouth shut and their ears open."

"A good teacher helps a student to find her own way. A good teacher causes a student to think. A good teacher lets a student find the truth as the student sees it. Too often you are expected to follow one path as if that is the right one. A good teacher knows that there are many paths and helps the student find the path that is right for them."

"I have mixed feelings. I underwent formal training with a High Priest and consider that training to be immensely valuable. I refer to it all the time and used it as the basis for training I have given to others. Yet this teacher later failed to uphold the ethics of our religion in a fairly spectacular way.I now rely on an informal network of experienced Priests and Priestesses who are kind enough to share their knowledge with me and occasionally seek my help. I am lucky to have these teachers to supplement my own learning."

"My training has been years of ... doing what feels right. I no longer read books as I do not believe that I can simply take the words from a printed page and have them be as effective as something that I have made from my heart. No longer do I look for enlightenment FROM others but instead I now look to gain knowledge from working WITH others as we both explore areas that are unfamiliar to us. If I could have my way I would not be a solitary but instead an equal part of a dualitary."

"Our circle learn from each other and from what each brings to the group. I have learnt allot from the other members."

"I was solitary for five years not through choice but because I could not find other pagans or witches in this buckle of the bible belt. The first group I became involved with was comprised of individuals who had all read a lot but had no practical experience. That coven existed for less than a year. When I finally found an established coven to work with one of the things that most impressed me was the quality of the teaching done by its leaders. Although we practice the three degree system of initiation elevation to a higher level signifies an increase in responsibility rather than an increase in status. Our coven is quite egalitarian. The HPS who founded our coven was trained as a Gardnerian but in the bastard branch which is looked down upon by so many thoroughbred Gardnerians. Frankly I have little patience with the snobbery of such traditions. In fact my experience has been that the HPS of my coven has it together head and shoulders above the initiates of the more ahem PURE Gardnerians. I have found most of the Gardnerians I have met to be disdainful haughty and self-absorbed with no evident skill or anything except their lineage to support such attitudes. I have met few Gardnerians who are willing to do the hard work of building community but many who are willing to let others do the work then take advantage of the community created by others to preen and exalt themselves. sheesh. I had no idea I was so scornful of this tradition. I suppose it comes from the experiences I have had that so many I have known have been stingy with their energy and belittling in their attitude when it comes to building community. Give me a bootstrap coven any day over one that can trace an unsullied lineage back to Uncle Gerald. My experience has been that the bootstrappers are also the ones most likely to do the grunt work of teaching organizing networking."

"Good pagan teachers are something that are out there but can be hard to find. Also here the same as with any of the worlds religions there are a lot of quacks out there who have their own agenda instead of the students best interest in mind. I believe that this is the source of some of the incorrect ideas that mainstream society has about paganism and what we are all about. A united pagan community would be a great help in eliminating some of the problems pagans face in finding good teachers. Unity would also be a great help in allowing those with knowledge to share to offer it publicly without fear of harassment. Blessed Be Arcadia."

"I consider myself solitary though I network frequently and participate with local Wiccan groups on the Sabbats. I also belong to a group of Witches who formed after the collapse of another fellowship in which I received some training.I liked my teachers there but feel in some instances I received more from books. As far as initiation I believe that self-initiation is every much as valid as a coven initiation because it is in the presence of the Goddess and in my case I don't need anyone elses seal of approval. I have a relationship with the Lady and the Lord and that is all that matters to me. If I chose to I could be initiated by a lineaged group but I don't see any particular reason to be. So I never pursued it. I do keep in contact with a former teacher who is at this point a mentor to me. I feel he has many qualities that one must have to be a good teacher such as knowledge of the subject patience personality spirituality honesty morals ethics commitment one who listens. These are just a few of the aspects that go into making a good teacher. One must pick their teacher carefully or many problems may arise in the future."

"It would have been almost impossible to have been a personal student of people such as Janet Stewart Farrar Raymond Buckland Scott Cunningham Silver Ravenwolf etc. and yet I would rather learn from people like these through books than not at all. I'm glad we have so many people out there to learn from however for many people who cannot learn and practice their beliefs publicly these books are all they have to gain knowledge from. This is one of the main reasons I feel that self-dedicated/initiated Witches are as valid as any Third Degree Gardnerian or whatever. Solitary Witches have to do twice the work in my opinion first they must study and learn on their own. Then they must apply what they've studied. On top of all that they have no one around to ask if they've done something correctly and therefore many of them will go back reread the material and reapply whatever it was they questioned in the first place. I'm not saying this is right or wrong merely my experience and the experience of other Solitary Witches I've had the pleasure of speaking with.I think part of the self-doubt many Solitaries feel has to do with the lack of unity among all Pagan traditions. We all speak of An it harm none do what thou will but are we all truly practicing this rede Whenever a coven Witch doubts the validity of a Solitary Witch he/she is not practicing the rede. The above is merely my view.Katrina Web-Spinner"

"A good teacher is one who respects his or her students and is willing to help them grow according to their own personal beliefs. A good teacher will not try to force his or her own beliefs and methods on a student and will not hold the students hand through everything. A good teacher is one who will teach the student how to grow on his or her own. I think all Witches should start out solitary because that's how you learn what works for you."

"To me the most effective teaching I've seen has been within a coven setting. If there are but one or two newbies the more experienced members act as a teaching team. Thus they get the benefit of several teachers within one setting. As for more conventional classes I've taken a few classes myself which were good and a few which were not so good. I certainly feel that its ethical to charge for an organized class as there are expenses involved - location materials and the like. Charging for an initiation on the other hand is pushing the ethical envelope a bit far."

"I have been around the Pagan and Witch community for a very long time...since 1968...and I have seen a lot of people and trends come and go in the magickal community. I feel I was very lucky to have received good solid training in the priestesshood of the Craft in my mother coven. Not only did I receive excellent educational background but the priests priestesses and elders of that coven made me work for my spiritual development. A good teacher is a good teacher whether Pagan or not and the same qualities apply. Not only must a teacher have the knowledge to impart but there are personal qualities of dedication and caring necessary to aid in the nurturing of budding magickal talents. As a professional educator and anthropologist as well as elder in our tradition I continue to update my teaching skills through workshops and seminars. I also continue to assess my roles goals and objectives on a weekly basis and take responsibility for fulfillment of my higher purpose. I am not interested in collecting a loyal band of followers slavishly devoted to my every word and whim. I am honored to be a part of the great reemergence of the Craft as a viable living growing spiritual path. It is a great honor and a great responsibility and I do everything in my power to make my work as a teacher an offering to Isis in Her praise. Blessings Marsha Smith Shaw"

"Regarding question 46 I feel that having sexual relations with a student is acceptable only if the sexual relationship was there before the teaching relationship. It would be ludicrous for a married couple to cease sexual relations when she begins to teach him the Craft.Regarding question 53 I feel that our so-called leaders should not be expected to hold to a higher standard of ethics because this implies that we rank-and-file Pagans can hold ourselves to a lower one. Ridiculous. We should all strive for the heights."

"Since the spiritual path is directly linked to the physical and mental well being of the practitioners it behooves the teacher to pay attention to the total well being of their students. Anyone purely in this for money and not interested in passing on their knowledge for the sake of continuing the spiritual growth of both themselves and their students is not serving anyone's interest. Conversely if that teacher is spending their own money on supplies and giving of their time to teach classes open to the general public and not just a select few who are students of theirs then they should charge at least a nominal fee to recoup the outlayed funds and be somewhat paid for their time spent. Even when those select few are the only ones being taught supplies should either be paid for in common or be the responsibility of the student. The instructor should not pay for everything but should not charge for the time it takes to teach."

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