Thea's Inbox: Questions from Beginners
Wiccan essentials for beginning your path or getting back to basics.
How Do I Find a Wiccan or Pagan Teacher?
The techniques for finding a teacher—at least initially—are similar to those for finding other Pagans or Wiccans in your area. Check out my post on finding other Pagans to begin your search. But before you try to actually connect with a teacher, it helps to answer some or all of the following questions for yourself.
Questions to Ask Before Your Search
- What do you want to learn? Are you interested in learning about Wicca or Paganism in general or a specific tradition or path? It’s helpful to do a little research to see what traditions appeal to you, or, putting the egg before the chicken, to see if any of the traditions taught in your area resonate with you. Or are you interested in studying a specific deity or pantheon, a magical system, or a skill, such as herbalism?
- What is your goal in taking the class or working with the teacher? Are you hoping just to gain some knowledge, or do you want to train toward membership in a specific path?
- Are you looking to join a coven or circle, or do you want to practice solitary? Are you willing to practice solitary for a while if you can’t find the right group, or practice with a group for a while if you can’t learn what you need to while practicing solo?
- How far are you willing to travel and how often? If you don’t have your own transportation, is there public transportation available?
- What are the qualities you’d like the teacher to have? Are you willing to work with a teacher who doesn’t fit your preferred profile if he or she is the only one available or is the only one teaching what you want to learn?
- How much can you afford to pay for classes if the teacher charges? Many people charge for classes, but some traditions forbid charging for teaching.
- How much time can you devote to your learning? Can you meet the requirements of the particular classes or teachers you’re considering?
- Are you willing to take online courses if you can’t find a teacher in your area? If so, does online coursework suit your learning style?
Questions to Ask Potential Teachers
Once you find a teacher you might want to study with, ask him or her questions like these:
- What precisely does the teacher teach? Is the curriculum general Wicca or Paganism, or does it teach a particular path or tradition? Is the coursework beginner-level or more advanced? Ask if potential teachers have a syllabus you can read. Also tell them about your studies so far and ask if they think the class is appropriate for you.
- What does the teacher say is the goal or purpose of the class? Does that goal or purpose align with your needs?
- If the teacher teaches a particular tradition, what are some of its characteristics? Is it eclectic or traditional, or somewhere in between? Does it serve a specific deity or pantheon?
- Does the tradition or teacher have specific requirements for people who join? And does the group or tradition bar certain people from attending? For example, does it exclude women? Men? GLBTQ people? Minors? If the group does exclude others, how do you feel about that?
- Is there anyone who has been taught by the teacher you can talk to? It’s great if you can get an idea of what it’s like to be in the teacher’s class or at least get a good reference. Does the teacher have elders or teachers of his or her own you can talk to?
- What is the teacher’s teaching style, and/or what’s the style of the class? Is it lecture? Participatory? Small-group work? Individual work? Does the format meet your needs?
- How many other students does the teacher have, and would you be working with a group or one-on-one with the teacher? Can you meet the other students?
- What kind of time commitment does the class or teacher require?
- What (if anything) does the class cost? Will you need to purchase anything above and beyond the cost of the class (for example, a robe, books, or an athame)? Will you be asked to bring food or ritual supplies?
- Where are classes held? Is the location on a bus line or otherwise accessible by public transportation? Or is there someone in the group you might be able to carpool with?
- What is the teacher’s or group’s policy on tardiness, attendance, or how class members should treat each other? What are the expectations for behavior? Does the group have other policies you should know about?
- Does the work you’d be doing require you to be skyclad (naked)? Do you care? This is a requirement in some traditions. Some Wiccans and Pagans believe that clothes can inhibit the flow of energy, and others just like to be au natural. It never hurts to ask what the reason for the skyclad rule is and make sure you’re comfortable with it. Many groups that practice skyclad give students time to get to know the group before they get naked.
Most Wiccan and Pagan teachers are good, ethical people. However, as with any spiritual path, there are people out there who use Wicca or Paganism as a cloak doing things that aren’t ethical. If you are considering working with a teacher Google him or her and check out social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) to see what you can find out. Remember that not everything everyone posts on the Internet is true, and sometimes people have grudges and publish defamatory statements about others. However, if you see a pattern of good or bad feedback, it’s good to keep that in mind.
And it should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: If any teacher asks you for sex as payment, run. Extorting sex from students in exchange for teaching is absolutely not okay, nor is it common or acceptable practice in our community.
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