So You Think You've Found a Teacher...
Article ID: 15435
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,310
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Author: Valerie Voigt
Posted: May 26th. 2013
Times Viewed: 4,510
A young woman had done quite a bit of reading and some solitary practice, and felt the Wiccan Path was where she belonged. After some time, she felt she was ready to expand her Craft understanding by studying with a teacher. She had finally found someone who had offered to teach her, but she wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea. He assured her that he was a Lord High Purple Robe Something-or-Other, and therefore well qualified to be a teacher, but this "assurance" didn't make her more comfortable.
Well, just offhand, I'd say the guy sounds like
•a black magician
I've run into people who sounded like him -- claiming all sorts of ooga-booga-type titles, etc.
Some of those were just harmless nut cases, but others were genuinely dangerous (in the sense of physical danger, and sometimes spiritual/magical danger as well) .
There are many things that can be said about the ethics and relationships of teachers and students, but one of the most important is this:
Magical training forges a permanent karmic link between teacher and student.
Therefore, you should exercise caution and judgment when deciding to apprentice with any teacher: their problems, as well as their skills and strengths, will naturally, through the karmic link, tend to get passed along to you. Thus, you want to choose a teacher whom you respect as a person, and who has a reasonably good control over her/his life.
Some things you might want to think about:
•Does this person have a healthy sense of her/his own identity? That is, does s/he seem to have both an honest appreciation for herself and an honest awareness of her weaknesses? (We all have them, and anyone who can't accept that fact will tend to trip her/himself up.) Does s/he like herself, yet have reasonable humility? (If the phrases "power-tripper", "doormat", "egomaniac", "paranoid" or "perpetual victim" apply, the answer is probably no.)
•Does this person handle their life, including the annoying aspects of mundane reality, in a reasonably balanced manner? The inner and the outer often mirror each other, and a person who is continually in crisis mode is not exercising their magic to good effect. This doesn't mean that a Witch should necessarily be rich, or free of problems, or otherwise above the daily work of living; but a Witch should not live habitually in self-generated crisis.
•Do you WANT to share this person's karma, or would you hope that, errr, not too much of it would rub off, thank you?
The late Isaac Bonewits devised a handy little tool for evaluating groups. It's called the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, and it can be found at
http://neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html. I summarize it here:
Rate each of the following from 1 (low) to 10 (high) ...
1. __ Internal control, amount of internal political power exercised by leader (s) over members.
2. __ Wisdom claimed by leader (s) ; amount of infallibility declared about decisions.
3. __ Wisdom credited to leader (s) by members; amount of trust in decisions made by leader (s) .
4. __ Dogma, rigidity of reality concepts taught; amount of doctrinal inflexibility.
5. __ Recruiting, emphasis on attracting new members; amount of proselytizing.
6. __ Front groups, number of subsidiary groups using different names from that of the main group.
7. __ Wealth, amount of money and/or property desired or obtained; emphasis on members' donations.
8. __ Political power, amount of external political influence desired or obtained.
9. __ Sexual manipulation of members by leader (s) ; amount of control over sex lives of members.
10. __ Censorship, amount of control over members' access to outside opinions on the group, its doctrines, and/or its leader (s) .
11. __ Dropout control, intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts.
12. __ Endorsement of violence when used by or for the group or its leader (s) .
13. __ Paranoia, amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies; perceived power of opponents.
14. __ Grimness, amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines, or its leader (s) .
(The ABCDEF is copyright (c) Isaac Bonewits, and may be reprinted as long as it is unchanged and this notice is included.)
Any group, Pagan or otherwise, with an overall high score is bad news: run, do not walk, away!
If you're not sure about a teacher or group, you might seek out some ex-students or ex-group members and learn their perspective. Everyone, teachers included, has his or her quirks (a teacher may be knowledgeable, but not very organized, for example) . Some quirks may be an issue for you, while others are not. I, for example, tend to do some of my teaching in a roundabout fashion, telling lots of personal stories to illustrate different points. Most of my students love it, but it nearly drives one of them crazy because his learning style is more oriented to a linear, logical style of presentation.
If, after considering the questions raised above, you feel that you are comfortable with the teacher, it's a good idea to find out how much experience they have, and how well they know their stuff. This last can be hard for a newcomer to judge. Checking the teacher with local Elders and other Pagans in the area may help. If the teacher is from one of the established, organized traditions (such as Gardnerian, Correllian, and so on) , you can check their credentials with the Elders or officers of that tradition. Teachers from the English traditions (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Silver Crescent, and so on) can usually be verified through the New Wiccan Church or through Amber and Jet, a Yahoo online group dedicated to those traditions.
There's no shame in learning from books, either and most good teachers will expect you to have read a few. There are many excellent books available. Some of the standards include:
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. This one's her basic book, and recommended before her others, which are also good.
Anything by Doreen Valiente or by Janet and/or Stewart Farrar. These are particularly valuable for their English Traditional background.
Real Magic by P.E.I. Bonewits. This little book is entertaining, informative, and very useful from a practical standpoint.
Should you be near a good library, you might also like to take a stroll through the Oxford Classical Dictionary -- starting with the entry for "magic" and going from there.
Well, I hope my comments have been useful. Best wishes for spiritual and personal fulfillment.
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