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Witchcraft vs. Religion
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Beyond Witchcraft 101
Article ID: 14314
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,754
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Author: Willow Moon
Posted: February 6th. 2011
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So you have attended some community classes. Some were good, and some... well, let's just say they were part of the learning experience. So what now? What do you do? And where do you go? This is a good question, and before you don your knapsack, call your trusty dog and go leaping off a mountain, there are a few things you should know.
I would like to begin with some suggestions for the potential student, then touch upon my own thoughts and feelings concerning the general construction of a studentship and finally end with some advice.
When starting out it is important to understand what your personal goals are as well as what is meaningful and sacred to you. Also understand that what is important to you today may not be important to you tomorrow.
Begin by asking yourself some questions. What is it that you wish to study? What calls to you? Where do you see your strengths and your weaknesses? What would you like to learn? Why?
One good idea is to keep a book of mirrors, a journal that can be carried with you. In this book you can keep track of your thoughts, feelings and insights. This is of vital importance. Although some things may not make sense to you today, you may very well need this information tomorrow. Bring your book of mirrors with you wherever you go; the most interesting insights often come at the most inopportune times.
I recommend adding a sealing spell to your book of mirrors to keep other people from wishing to open it (making certain to exclude yourself) . It is also advisable to put a bounce-back spell on your books just in case they go missing; this will assist you in the return process. How you do this, and when, is limited only by your imagination.
When starting your search, it's also a good idea to pay attention to your dreams and the information they help you to bring forth. Keep a pen and notebook by your bed and give yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes each morning to journal dream information.
Consider beginning some in-depth study into the area or areas of your choice. It is a good idea to search for people who may have some authority in the area of study you are pursuing and begin asking questions. Write the answers down and think about them. Decide if your feelings and thoughts match up with theirs, and why... or why not.
Stepping Out of the Broom Closet
If you are not doing so already, attending community functions is a great way to gain some understanding into what type of study you want to follow. Enjoy the festivities and ask questions. Chances are if you hear the same thing from three different people the information is at the very least agreed upon within the open community.
Other resources of information may include pagan stores and E-groups. There are many sources of information available today and it can sometimes be a daunting task to simply wade through lists of sources to find neighborhoods and forums that fit the individual needs of each seeker. I recommend having fun in your search; keep a track record and write down information as you go: “Went to open circle at XYZ today, had a lovely time and felt welcomed”, include dates and seasonal celebrations, this information will assist you when looking backwards from another time frame.
I also recommend community papers and e-zines. I hold the opinion that community publications are probably the single best resource for our communities. Spend some time flipping through the pages and the calendar of events and see what calls to you. Make some phone calls or write an email asking what questions you may have. Please keep in mind that people are busy and you may be required to exercise some patience prior to receiving answers to your questions. This doesn’t indicate that they should not be asked, simply that you may wish to allow time between events for email or voice mail arrival.
As you gather information, begin to open your eyes, ears and awareness. If something doesn't feel right, chances are it isn't. Learn to separate your higher awareness from your lower awareness (your higher self is your higher consciousness, your lower self is critical thought) . Do not second-guess a situation that doesn't feel appropriate simply because you want something.
Finding a Class in Witchcraft
If you feel drawn to take a class in witchcraft, stick with the classes you see advertised once or twice a year. These will either be free of charge or will include a small fee. The fee is usually a "suggested donation" (to cover photocopies, rent and so on) , with no one being turned away for lack of funds. Sometimes these classes are advertised through word of mouth only, so keep your ears open.
Avoid those witchcraft classes you see advertised over and over, several times a year, given by the same individual. It is against the credo of most witchcraft disciplines to charge for classes. Such advertising indicates someone attempting to earn an income from a community need. The motives then become monetary gain and numbers rather than assisting those who wish to learn. Also, for the same reason, higher-priced classes are to be avoided.
Most of the people who are creating a learning atmosphere see nothing wrong with covering costs. If I pay for gas, parking and photocopies to give a community class, there is no reason I should pay for these things out-of-pocket. There is also a difference between classes on witchcraft and classes given in other areas (for example, Tarot) when it comes to receiving remuneration. The distinction comes when a member of the community begins making a profit from the teachings they "give."
If you are interested in a community class, phone or write the person giving the class and ask him or her any questions you may have. Asking for credentials is always a good idea; in other words, feel free to ask, "What makes you qualified to teach this class?" If the teacher is qualified, he or she will be happy to share this information with you. What applies in other walks of life applies here. If you were to take a math class, you would wish to do so from a qualified math instructor, not a restaurant owner.
Be polite and respectful when speaking with the area teachers. Realize that it may take them some time to respond to your questions. A long list of questions may be answered more slowly than a couple of quick questions. This is not to indicate that your questions should not be asked. I firmly believe that the only worthless question is the one that remains unasked.
Definitions: High Priest, High Priestess, and Elder
Before going any further, allow me to define some basic terminology (according to me) .
High priest / High priestess: Someone who has reached the highest degree of his or her particular initiatory tradition and is now able to choose which direction to take studies. The initiation into this highest degree is presided over by a high priest or priestess who has a higher level of education and experience in the same tradition. For instance, a third degree witch initiates a third degree witch. A high priestess or priest may or may not decide to serve the community. Not all high priests and priestesses become teachers, group facilitators or authorities in an area of study. The rest of the community recognizes a high priest or priestess as such.
Elder: An elder is a high priestess or priest within a tradition who has gained and displays amounts of education and experience surpassing most within that particular tradition. To complicate matters, there seem to be two distinct groupings of elders in our community. Firstly, we refer to elders within a tradition; for instance, I am an elder to those I teach, I have elders who have taught me, and like me, they have elders who have taught them. We also refer to "the Elders, " these are the recognized people within our community who are known for their dedication, time, service, wisdom and intellect.
I have heard the statement "elders are those with graying hair" more times than I can count. To me, this is a contrary statement. Although age is certainly a doorway to wisdom, it is not the only entrance. I have known many younger people that I consider to be quite wise, and I know many older people who could benefit from their wisdom. Most of the elders I know are in the middle stages of their lives.
An elder is someone within a community who has been a part of that community longer than most of the people within it. They display a trustworthy nature and hold a quiet energy of having been around the block a time or two. They are usually very free to share wisdom and experience with those who would benefit from it. Elders have gained the respect of those within their community or communities and are able to maintain said respect through integrity of character.
A person facilitating an open ritual or leading a class is not necessarily a high priestess or priest or an elder, nor do they need to be. Many solitary witches are very well-versed and educated and have much to share. There is no place here for assumptions. Ask questions, watch and listen. You are your best source of information. Follow your own sense of what is correct.
Finding a Teacher
So where are the teachers in our area? Many of the qualified teachers in our area are somewhat removed from the eyes of the community. Many have suffered from burn-out in one form or another and are attempting to lighten the load a bit. Also, in this day and age people work, they commute; they have families to take care of, and grocery shopping and laundry to do. More often than not the elders of our community simply do not have the time or energy to “hang out” in town.
That given, how do you find a teacher? It has been my experience that one doesn't actually "find" a teacher. It is more of a "coming together" that happens on a larger scale -- outside the physical plane, initiated and led by Deity. Therefore physical manifestation follows as a means of joining forces. There is an old saying that people are fond of quoting: "When the student is ready, the teacher will come." I also find the following statement to be quite true: "When the student is ready, teaching is no longer required." This seems to be the ultimate truth in my eyes. Studentship requires a maturity and readiness that few hold. By the time the preparedness manifests, the student has often progressed to such a stage as to no longer require teaching. This is one of the paradoxes of the student-teacher relationship.
Realize that while in this search, assumptions and preconceived notions can hurt you. Teachers like all others, tend to excel in the areas that hold the most personal interest for them. There are many branches on the tree we generally refer to as witchcraft. Just because you have found someone who projects what you feel a teacher should be doesn't indicate that this person can teach you what you wish to learn. I remember asking a potential student what that student wished to learn from me. "Shamanism, " that student replied, "well, " I said, "you are in the wrong place."
The magical student-teacher relationship is something set apart from any other type of student-teacher relationship. It is much more a partnership, a marriage, and much less a mentorship. Any time two or more people work magically together toward a common end, their energies blend and meld, becoming a separate, living thing. Magical partners create magical bonds. The bonds that are created cannot be undone. Once a magic is created, it is created. It cannot be called back and uncreated. Just as with a marriage, the energies can be separated, yet the history of the time together cannot be erased.
For this reason and others, the undertaking of a studentship is a very serious process. It should not be taken lightly, nor should those who do not know one another well embark upon such a relationship. Asking just anyone to teach you could have some very serious consequences. Thinking that you know someone well enough after getting to know him or her socially can be a great injustice to your higher self. It can cause a ripple effect into other areas and begin to harm you in other ways. Would you go knock on your neighbor's door and ask him or her to marry you after talking at a couple of community functions? Not only would your neighbor think you mad, but also the rest of the community would hear about it, and it would begin to affect the other areas of your life in that community. Leaping into a studentship can likewise undo any chances you have as a potential student to reach those with the knowledge to teach you.
Be wary of those who are quick to hold up their waving arms proclaiming, "I will teach you! I will be your high priestess!" or "I will be your high priest!" There are usually ulterior motives in such a case, and chances are you will not like them.
I once watched someone speak out against hierarchical structure within witchcraft. This person did so while seated in a chair with a student to either side, seated on the floor, while vocally advertising to a room full of people that there were flyers in the back that told of future classes. This person also made it known that she or he was sexually involved with students. This spoke so loudly I stopped listening to the words.
How can people assist you in your journey when they cannot be honest with themselves?
My primary suggestion is to meditate. Ask yourself what you want, and why, and when you have those answers begin to ponder why you are seeking outside assistance to find these things. What can a teacher provide for you that you cannot achieve alone? Finally, ask your deity or deities for their assistance, ask to be to guided by them... and listen. Take your book of mirrors into meditation with you daily and write your thoughts and feelings down at the closing of each session.
If you are at a loss as to which deities you feel a connection to, or if you are feeling no connection to deity, spend some time meditating on which deity archetypes (god and goddess personalities) your life emulates. Make some comparisons and do some research. When you've found one or more that call to you, begin to formulate a relationship with them by asking them into circle with you. Ask questions and wait for answers; always write the answers down. Find out what types of incense they like in addition to flowers, colors, and so on, and begin to incorporate these things into building sacred space. Doing so will improve your connection to your deity or deities and, as a result, the guidance you are given by them.
Testing the Waters
Generally speaking I recommend an "introduction period" of two years prior to a proposed studentship. If you know someone who feels like your teacher, wait! Give yourself two years to get to know that person. Learn who she or he is as a person. Decide whether you like him or her, and why, or why not. This is not to indicate that you must always agree with your potential teacher as this would not be realistic, but you should respect who that person is. If after two years you are still convinced that he or she is your teacher, by all means approach that person concerning studentship. Chances are, at this point they will also have indication of your pending studentship.
In some traditions it is customary to ask for studentship a certain number of times and be denied. In this case, you must continually reevaluate what it is you are asking before the final attempt with which acceptance is granted. This is a good system as it gives all parties time to reevaluate the situation at hand and approach it with a calm acceptance and understanding. The trick is attempting to understand if you are being denied because you've been denied, because the teacher is too busy to teach you, or because you are expected to come back again later and ask at another time.
Sometimes the potential student is given a token of some kind, usually a moonstone or a piece of copper (often a penny) . This, the would-be student carries for a time and returns to the potential teacher along with the potential student's energy signature. This process assists the teacher in determining if the partnering is a beneficial one.
Another method is for the potential student to come to the teacher with a vision, or a grouping of words, or perhaps a sigil of some kind. This technique allows the teacher to know that the student has tapped into the energy present within the tradition and is a candidate according to the spiritual forces of that tradition.
These are but a few examples with which the partnering of student and teacher may be determined. There are many, many more. Then again, there may be no trial period at all. It is an experimental process in which the potential initiate attempts to find out if he or she possesses what is necessary to find the key that unlocks the door.
In the end, all we really have is ourselves, our deities and the relationship we share.
To show dedication and self-honor, spend time with your deities; open the door and invite them in. They are standing just there, on the other side. Perhaps they have even been knocking and calling out to you. Open the door! Treat them and their emissaries with reverence and respect. Then perhaps after you've become acquainted and they are pleased with your progress, the boon you ask will be favored.
In your quest understand that there are no teachers who can take you anyplace they themselves have not been. Ask your deities which ones are doing their homework. Most of all trust in your own process.
Copyright: October 2002, revised July 2004, 2nd revision November 2010
Copyright © 2002, 2004, 2010, 2011, all rights reserved
Location: Everett, Washington
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