What to look for in teachers of the Craft

Posted on January 26, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Many people are investigating the religions of Witchcraft, Wicca and other Pagan Paths today. There are many books and reference materials available, yet after some self study, there are some folk who would like to meet and perhaps work with a physical teacher. This could be a rewarding learning experience – or it could turn out to be your worst nightmare. As such it is essential at the very start to have some knowledge of what is expected so you can exercise some quality assurance.


There are all kinds of people out there today who may call themselves ‘teachers’ or ‘experts’ in Witchcraft and Wicca. Some advertise in New Age shops and publications or over the internet. Some are well known local personalities who offer regular lectures, workshops or Wicca 101 classes. You may hear of a teacher through networking with other Pagans in your area. How can you know that these people are who they say they are? Or more importantly to you perhaps, how can you know that a teacher will be the right one for you?


There are many paths and many different approaches to passing on the Craft. A little prior research into the various systems or traditions in advance is almost a necessity before making the decision to take training in a particular system. We encourage everyone to do as much reading on the subjects as possible. See what interests you and then try to find a teacher that will help you further develop in these areas of interest.


There are some definitive things that you can do to help insure that you enjoy a positive experience before you spend a lot of money in classes or other training. Remember the Craft tradition that all genuine training is given free of charge. The following information has been developed from personal experiences, the experiences of others and various reference materials that may help you to know what you should be looking for and how to ask the right questions that may help you decide if this is the teacher for you. Some teachers may not exhibit all of the signs listed, but most teachers will fall predominately into one category or another.


Firstly they should have a good sense of humour. Human beings do silly things sometimes, and a good sense of humour can help you keep things in perspective. A good teacher will help you laugh at yourself (and them!) but will not hold you up to ridicule.


Secondly, they should have respect for living things. One need be a vegetarian to care about the lives and welfare of animals. Environmental concerns are also important as Neo-Paganism is a ‘Nature or Earth centred’ path. Therefore the abuse if any living thing is pretty much a ‘no-no’.


It is also important that they have a healthy self image. A teacher who realises that he or she can learn just as much form a novice as a novice may learn from the teacher is probably comfortable in what they know, yet open to new ideas and concepts.


They should be kind and compassionate. This doesn’t mean that you will not be challenged or have to work hard, but it does mean that your honest efforts will be met with encouragement and gentle guidance. A good teacher will not ‘look down their noses’ at your sincere attempts; they realise that experience is necessary to gaining knowledge.


They should tell the truth and be direct. This means that you will not be lead astray either by one who is afraid to confront you when you are heading in the wrong direction, or by one who seeks to manipulate you for unspoken ends. They ‘walk their talk’ and do not have a separate code of conduct for themselves while expecting you to follow another.  No 'alternative facts'.


They should be able to teach by example. The good teacher will often tell stories about the time that they really ‘screwed up’. They also can tell you about their successes and failures and do so by neither making excuses nor being overly melodramatic about their experiences. They can offer practical examples and show applications of such examples clearly. They are not ‘mysterious’ so much as they demonstrate the ‘mysteries’ in simple ways to help you understand them.


They should have a global point of view. Local ‘gurus’ may only be interested in making a name or creating a following for themselves. A good teacher will encourage their students to reach beyond the local area and embrace the rest of the world community.


Hopefully they are inclusive rather than exclusive in attitude. Anyone who promotes a ‘them and us’ situation is dangerously close to becoming a cult leader. There are real forces out there to contend with, but a teacher who finds an enemy around every corner should be avoided. Just call them paranoid.


They allow for mistakes and admit they are not perfect. ‘We are all in this together’ is a good statement to hear from a teacher that you are considering working with (although maybe not from the Prime Minister).


They should be flexible, yet honours commitments. Too rigid a set of rules and regulations stifles ‘energy’ flow and the learning experience. Too random a training program may also interfere in the disciplines required for growth. A balance between the two is best.


They should encourage you to do your own research and ask questions. A good teacher wants you to discover and explore new ideas. A good book list should be included in any training program. You should be able to disagree with a teacher without being censored or reprimanded. A well thought out concept should be ‘thought provoking’ however and not just ‘provoking’.


They should gives credit where credit is due. A teacher who is using references or techniques from other sources should plainly state this fact. The use of other people’s work without credit is theft, plain and simple.


They should listen as much as they talk. A good teacher is genuinely interested is your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Feedback is only one way that as teacher can tell how you are absorbing and integrating the materials and lessons. Someone who talks all the time about their experiences is more interested in impressing you with their personal knowledge than helping you to acquire knowledge of your own.


They want you to mature and move on. A good teacher wants his or her students to surpass them. That is the greatest compliment that a teacher can receive. Just as a good parent wants to send mature and well balanced children into the world, so does a good spiritual teacher want their ‘children’ to grow up and leave home.


You should avoid a teacher who:


They should not possess a superior attitude. If a teacher states or implies that they are the sole holder of some sort of ‘special’ or ‘secret’ knowledge disclosed only to a ‘chosen few’, you really don’t want to know what that may be ….really!


They shouldn’t exclude members of any race, sexuality or culture. Bigotry of any kind has no place in spiritual circles.


Avoid people who are attacking or violent. Obviously no more need to be said.


They should not be either overly sensitive or too insensitive. Someone who either sees slights and attacks where there are none or ignores actual tangible problems may not be in touch with ‘reality’. Best to leave them to their own little fantasy world.


Avoid trainers who are ingratiating. Someone who is overly friendly and shares intimate details of their personal life with you immediately may be looking to ‘win you over’. This is a real danger sign that is often overlooked. By ‘bearing their souls’, they encourage you to do the same in return. This ‘instant intimacy’ can leave you vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. It might also be that they are very insecure and need you to prop them up. Go slowly when meeting someone new.


The teacher should not be controlling. No teacher should expect you to abandon your family and friends. Isolation from the rest of society is a classic cult activity. You should not be expected to run errands or perform tasks. Sometimes you and the teacher will work out a ‘fair exchange of energy’ in return for training. Make sure it is fair. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, you probably are.


They should not be continually cancelling classes. This is a classic indication that they no longer care about fulfilling the deal. If they are postponing classes until several months from now, you may well have a problem on your hands.


They should never be-little you or use you as an ‘example’. You deserve to be treated with respect even if you are a novice. No teacher has the right to strip you of your self esteem. You should not be bullied into doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you do not understand. On the other hand, being held up to others as the ‘teacher’s pet’ is also incorrect and this teacher may be setting you up for something you may not want to become involved with.


Be suspicious of those with few or no ‘elders’ in the group. “Where are the people who have been trained before me?” is a good question to ask. Perhaps they did mature and move on…… or perhaps they just ran screaming from the room!!! It pays to check. Talk to anyone you can find who has trained with this teacher before.


Avoid training groups and trainers that have assistants, cohorts or senior students who you are expected to obey. Some groups do have a system of ‘elders’ who deserve respect. However, you are not obliged to accept anyone simply based on their ‘rank’ within a group, at least until you join that circle. If the teacher has an ‘entourage’ which follows them everywhere and seems to ‘cater’ to this teacher’s every whim, watch carefully. You may end up being the next ‘groupie’.


They should not be overly idealistic and impractical. If the teacher has marvellous plans for the world – and especially if they tell you that you will be part of this grand scheme- but they cannot balance their bank account, take care of their children or hold onto a job, you may want to leave now. You may end up not only shoring up these ‘dream castles’, you may end up supporting this person financially and emotionally. Witchcraft is a Path of responsibility and a teacher should be able to manifest this in their own lives.


Avoid teacher who exhibit any of these characteristics…..


Lying, sexual misconduct, theft, physical violence or abuse


Thus the wise man residing in the Tao

Sets an example for all beings.

Because he does not display himself,

People can see his light.

-Tao te Ching


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