Training Is For Knowledge, Not The Training Certificate
Article ID: 10777
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Church of the Blessed Moon
Posted: June 4th. 2006
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Although I have been affectionately called by the members of my church “The High Priestess” and on one occasion “The High Priestess with the Magickal Powers,” I am really just a schmoe. That’s right. I, the woman in charge of our area Pagan church, am just a schmoe. I pay taxes. I work 40 hours a week so I can feed my children, pay my bills, and provide my family with good insurance coverage. I get sad, happy, angry, and on occasion confused. I clean my house after work every day and make dinner. I use the bathroom. I experience life as other middle class citizens in the United States do.
How is it then, that a group of 20 to 40 area Pagan families entrust me with their spiritual education, rites of passage, trainings/initiations, all eight major sabbats, esbats, and use me as a community resource? I believe it is because I am a trained and professional Witch.
When I use the word “trained,” do you automatically conjure visions of me being initiated in the woods, blindfolded, by some direct link to Gerald Gardener? Or do you think I paid $50 dollars a month to some online course who gave me my first degree when they received my last new Witch homework worksheet? Maybe, you think I “self-initiated” in my living room naked, after I watched the Witchcraft introduction video by Raymond Buckland, read a few books, watched a crappy movie, and shazam, started my own Pagan church so a bunch of Witch wannabe’s could worship me? Perhaps I am from a family tradition?
None of the above applies actually.
By the time I began my Bachelor of Science program in Religion, History, and Political Science, I knew about Paganism. I had been reading about it for most of my life. However, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I decided to dedicate myself to the Goddess. Dedication was something I thought long and hard about it. I didn’t want to do something as real as dedication without exploring my rationale thoroughly. For me, this was a choice for the Goddess. It wasn’t a choice to do spells, or to dress odd, or to rebel. I can do all of those things without a spiritual connection to the Goddess. For me it was embarking on a quest to find greater purpose in my life. As a spiritual woman, it was a quest my soul required. Even today, I look upon this quest as the search to positively affect the lives of those around me as much as possible with the time I have been given in this incarnation, and within the scope of my humanity.
By the time I finished my B.S., I had extensive knowledge of Paganism, as well as other world religions, and theology. I had also tried my hand at running a Pagan group for fellowship and networking. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that I lacked the necessary skills to manage business, to handle crisis situations, and to practice Paganism. Sure, I had the knowledge of Paganism. I can still have a seriously long and boring talk about Pagan theology. However, to practice Paganism in a group setting is a different story. No book, no video, could have prepared me for running a circle. I just didn’t know how.
So, naturally, I sought out the needed knowledge. I tried an online course. After the first payment and after realizing I would have to be nude (yes, nudity used to bother me), I stepped away. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I began to search vigorously for a family-oriented coven. Eventually, I found one.
I learned more about Pagan practice in my first year with the coven than I had ever learned from all the books. I know for them it was just another ritual, another sabbat, another day. But for me, to circle with others was a phenomenal spiritual experience. It is still a phenomenal experience for me, but from a different perspective. It is my hope that I give that experience to all who come to the circles I run.
Still though, I wasn’t ready just yet. I wasn’t trained enough at that point. I believe that for a greater purpose, I was called to work my first post college graduate job at a residential facility for youth offenders. I became a counselor for teenage girls. I no longer had time for the coven, because I spent 60 hours minimum every week with runaways, murderers, prostitutes, drug addicts, and car thieves. To me though, they were just my girls.
Although the group I counseled never got larger than 13, I helped them learn to work as a team as they worked on the choices they needed to make for their lives. My group therapies were always the best loved, as I did henna body art painting, belly dancing, and tribal meetings after we bartered for goods. We even remembered our beloved dead at Samhain. Of course, I never called it Samhain to them.
There were hard times too, though. I handled crisis after crisis. I stopped suicide attempts, broke up fist fights, and held people as they cried. I handled medical emergencies as well. I resuscitated girls who weren’t breathing, epi-penned those in anaphylactic shock, and all the while kept my cool. Oh yes, when the poop hits the fan, I am calm and take action. On average, there was a crisis or two a day.
After 3 years of counseling, and another baby born, I left my rotating shift for a 9-5 job as a social worker. Well, 9-5 most of the time. I worked in foster care, so there was no warning when something would go wrong. Still, I was learning how to be a business professional, learning how to work the court room, and becoming organized. Eventually, I left social work and moved back to my husband’s home town. By then, I was ready to be clergy.
Could I, at this point, find a Witch who would initiate me in the traditional sense? Yes. But why would I do that? For me, it would only be another ceremony. Who would the ceremony be for? Should I get witnesses to sign off on a license as if it were a marriage ceremony? My High Priestess is there to give me support when I need it and vice versa. The High Priestess’s function is not to hand out initiation certificates.
When I train people I tell them that the goal in mind is educated Witches. Through a combination of private tutorials and self directed research, my trainees learn how to practice well, become more confident in their practice, and how to lead others. The initiation ceremony’s are like a college graduation, a way to say congratulations on their achievements.
Our requirements in training are objective. If you can demonstrate that you can cast and consecrate a circle, than the objective has been completed. All of my trainees are therefore rewarded for the work they put in. They are not dependant upon me to make a subjective judgment call as to if I think they have earned the degree. They either can do the objective or they cannot. Granted, there is some subjectivity. The prime example would be the objective about good decision making skills. If I find out that you are smoking crack, the decision making objective will not be met at that time.
There are times when a Witch will come to me and want to be trained, not because they need the training, but because they want the certificate. When that happens, I start asking some serious questions about their mindset regarding training. Training should be approached as a need for knowledge, not a need for recognition of knowledge.
Fifty, forty or even twenty years ago the Pagan community was smaller. Most everyone knew each other, or at least knew who you were affiliated with. That is probably how it became common for people to ask who you were initiated by or lineaged to. With the boom in Paganism caused by the mass marketing of Paganism and the internet, it is natural for those who come from a time when Paganism was more grass roots, to want to feel some amount of security with the way new Pagans are being taught, and insulate themselves. I completely understand the logic behind the “Keep Wicca Traditional” movement. I understand why groups want to separate themselves from the “wannabe’s”, “fluffy bunnies”, and “Silver RavenWolf-ettes.” They insult us all with the antics of an ignorant and misinformed population of people that have come to learn Paganism from bad movies and cheesy kits.
However, I believe it is our obligation to teach them. I know that not all want to be taught. I know that some want to be the stereotype. But for those who just need a little re-direction, we should take the time to reach out to them. Some of her children are lost. They have been led astray by the books and movies and other stereotypical Pagans, who can teach them to be no better. Although it may take extra effort, to slowly remove the fluff from a bunny, to help the wannabe actually be, is worth the time and trouble. We are their leaders, their clergy, and their resource. If we do not reach out, use our skills, and teach them, what are we here for? Certainly it cannot be the limelight or the large paycheck.
For those who have skills and the knowledge, do not question your integrity because you don’t have the certificate. What you have to teach others is valuable. My Priest is the most learned man I have ever encountered. He knows most everything in terms of Paganism, ceremonial magick, history, etc. He is one of the best counselors I have seen and has extensive medical knowledge as well from his nursing days. When I met him, he had never practiced in a group setting. All he needed was to see and experience it for himself, and his greatness of mind did the rest. I would say, although he will disagree, that he is a better Witch than I. His only formal training comes from a correspondence course many years ago with the Church and School of Wicca. Yet is he highly qualified clergy with a fantastic magickal prowess. Our members were shocked when he told them he had never been initiated. Why? Because he didn’t feel it was necessary. He was already a child of the Goddess and had let her in his life. It took all of five seconds for our members to think outside of the initiation box and tell him that he was the best Priest they could wish for.
I will say in closing, that I do believe there is real value in human to human contact with training. I think all the books, online covens, etc, do a real disservice to people’s experience in Paganism. Paganism is a religion of experience, not worksheets and emails. Engaging in Paganism with other humans in real life, even just briefly, can change the way you think and feel about the religion.
Copyright: Kendra R. Reece
April 30, 2006
Church of the Blessed Moon
Location: Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Bio: Kendra Reece is the Priestess for Church of the Blessed Moon, a group for Pagan families in Southeast Missouri. Ms. Reece is also a career woman, and mother of two children.
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