Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teaching the Craft

Recently, I have had an opportunity to think about what a teacher of the Craft would need to pass on if they were to teach an apprentice. I thought that the list was interesting, so I thought that I would share it with you.

(These are my opinions of course and other traditions of Witchcraft (remember, I belong to a non-Wiccan, ecstatic, left hand path) may have different ideas- and that is OK. This path is not for everyone and that is OK too. There is room for everyone in all the myriad paths that exist.)

The Tools of Alchemy
My tradition has several specific tools that help transform a person into a Witch, ready to carry the current of my tradition. These tools include a daily sitting practice, working with life force, certain types of energy manipulation to transform the self, and what we call "demon work". These make a person ready to become a Witch. Not everyone can "run the amps" required to be what my tradition considers a Witch. I also differ with the idea that these tools benefit anyone and should be widely disseminated to people who aren't even being considered for initiation. This means that I disagree with some of the most visible Witches in the tradition that we split from*. I think these tools of alchemy are specifically to craft a Witch, not create a "better person". Some of these tools have become very commercialized lately- because they are easy to pass on in their simplest most shallow forms, one-at-a-time, via workshops, books, and intensives and sell them for a profit. That is unscrupulous to my mind. The Craft is not for sale.

The Gods and The Wheel of the Year Cycle
My tradition has specific Gods that it works with, both terrestrial and cosmic, and in order to be a part of this tradition you need to know them intimately and work with them deeply. Many are alien to neo-Wicca or non-initiatory groups of Witches, as they those folks tend to focus on gods in cultural clothing (the Greek or Roman pantheon, for example) or terrestrial gods only (Gaia, The Green Man, the Lord and Lady, for example).

My tradition is polytheistic and does not believe all gods are "the" god and all goddesses are "the" goddess (and we also believe that dualism is a human fiction). But we also simultaneously believe that we are all a part of one thing (did I ever mention that my trad enjoys a good paradox?)- God Herself- and hence all is divine and the divine is immanent. Hence WE (humans) are gods, too- and not just "a spark" or "a reflection" either.

We also teach a Wheel of the Year mythos that is tied to the seasons and the hero's journey- it tells the story not only of the earth's cycles (as most neo-Wicca trads adhere to) but also the life story of the initiate. To understand the Wheel and tie yourself to it is an act of Will**.

Ecstasy and Trance
My trad is not a fertility-based trad, but rather an ecstatic, shamanic one. This is a left hand path which means it can be scary for some and demonized by others. So be it.

Emphasis is placed on achieving brain states other than everyday mundane states (that we are in when driving, shopping, and going about our everyday lives). We do this because the job of the Witch (and yes, Witches have jobs to do!) is to go and be in-between. Between this world and the realm of gods, the fey, and the dead. We work with divine possession in this trad, sex magick, entheogens, divination, oracular work, and out of body travel as ways to achieve and as the tools used while in these ecstatic states. And because these are part of our work, we must be skilled at achieving these states and practice practice practice.

Working in a Group
While many Witches work solo, you also need to know how to work with a group, be it with a few others for a specific working, to celebrate the sabbats or esbats, or in a coven on an ongoing basis.

To that end, learning liturgy and its theological meanings are important. I have found that some teachers (in all kinds of religious traditions) learn liturgy and ritual forms but do not fully understand their theological significance. When ritual becomes empty of meaning, it is then that religion starts to die- because its practitioners do not understand, they merely do things because "this is how we do it" or "this is how I was taught" as the reason for doing things. I know there are several teachers that pass on information that they themselves did not write, experience first hand, or fully understand the significance of. And their tradition suffers for it.

Learning energetic hygiene is also key to working successfully in a group, too- as is learning to use non-violent communication and conflict resolution techniques. Far too often, when Powerful*** people join forces ego gets in the way of Will and starts power*** struggles. We need to recognize and deescalate these situations as they arise, for the sake of all.

The Universe
A Witch's point of view of how the universe is set up and how it "works" is different from that of other religions and people who do not believe in the divine or physics. We study the elements, our creation story, and learn about this animistic viewpoint. Knowing how it is set up allows us to understand that "you" and "me" are fictions that we reinforce to make life a little easier for us in the everyday and also allows us to make changes in the worlds- which is what many of us call "making magick".

What use would being a Witch be if s/he didn't use the Power that s/he has built for hirself? So we teach of how to work breath and energy as well and tangible objects and living things to make changes in the worlds. We have a shamanic, animistic outlook on the world, and therefore we must learn the properties of different plants, stones, foods, actions, animals to work our magick to its maximum effect. We learn to use sex, dreams and ingested substances to alter ourselves, others, and therefore the universe.

We also learn and use shapeshifting, out-of-body travel, necromancy and communicating with other non-corporeal beings.

Ethics and Philosophy
Being a Witch makes many people uneasy around you. This is because we are weird and energetically "off" to many, but also because there are no moral codes that to which we must ascribe- like the ten commandments, for example. And while some neo-Wiccans talk of "the threefold law" and "the rede" as their moral compass- my tradition does not ascribe to any moral code that is outside of ourselves. We do not follow the rede and call shenanigans on those Witches who would ascribe any moral code to our workings. Instead, we do the even harder work of cultivating ethics.

These ethics are based on aligning yourself, the Witch, with the Flow of All-There-Is. It means a Witch like me has to constantly do my Work**** to ensure I am not mistaking ego with Will. It means we make decisions that may seem immoral or amoral to outsiders. It means that with this Power comes great Responsibility.

I belong to a peculiar shamanic warrior tradition. We cultivate ethics much like what is outlined in the book Shambhala (which is a Buddhist lineage). Our warrior tradition is based on the interconnectedness of all beings and the reverence and love we have in defending them. We do not shy away from difficult situations. Often we seek them out and meet them head on- in order to not let fear rule us. We are Witches, not ostriches.

We also believe that this tradition is not for everyone. It is not a religion of the masses because not everyone needs to be a Witch (which is a function of society, not just a religious viewpoint). To say that "everyone can be a Witch" is like saying everyone can be an opera singer. Hogwash. Not only is this untrue, but society would suffer if everyone had the same role. We thrive as a culture when people specialize and have specific roles that serve others. We need Witches, teachers, doctors, shopkeepers, midwives, and yes- opera singers. We need mechanics and house builders and farmers. Sometimes a few roles overlap, but mostly they do not. And that is all to the good.

In this path, there are oaths that we take to the gods, to ourselves, to the tradition, and to each other. Breaking them means serious and dire consequences. For example, there are four Witches that I know in the tradition mine used to be a part of* that have broken oaths and/or sacred trusts and I actively shun them and warn people away from them.

They are currently facing serious consequences that only the gods can provide, but I know that it is my duty, as a sacred protector of this tradition, to shun and keep people away from them. They are not to be allowed to play with people's trust or sacred information or the Mysteries any longer. Oathbreakers are up there with murderers, child abusers, and rapists in my book- and no, that is not hyperbole. All four of these types of people have broken sacred trusts and created disconnection through their actions and/or words. It is up to a prospective student to agree to uphold this serious of an oath if they want to learn from me.

I will not charge for teaching the Craft and passing it on. Teaching is a sacred duty that exists out of time and space and certainly capitalism. However, I do demand loyalty and for a prospective student to do their work. I expect that they will be honest with me, themselves, and others. I expect them to work hard and show their work! And I expect that any student of mine, if they become an initiate- will follow these rules as well.

Faery is a mystery tradition, with an unbroken initiatory line extending back through Victor and Cora Anderson, whom we honor as its Grandmasters. Further, Faery is much older than the Andersons. It has its roots in a pre-Gardnerian era coven that had influences from Applachian, Celtic folk magick, and non-Wiccan British Traditional Craft. It was further influenced in the states by Voudou, Bruja, Ho'omana, and other American traditions as it took root here. To paraphrase Victor, this tradition is an amalgam of "the religions of the small dark people of the world."

How I hope to spend my pension years.
The principles that I personally agreed to when I was initiated are here:

Ours is a mystery tradition, which is entered only by means of initiatory rite performed by someone who is already a Faery initiate.

We recognize the value of individual autonomy, but we also recognize and honor the fact that our choices affect the choices of others.

We will not share, divulge or out the names of our initiates or their students.

We honor our oaths to aid and defend our brothers and sisters. We also do not rub elbows with oathbreakers, who are anathema to Witch kin.

Faery is not information; it is the mystery and experience.

Faery curriculum and liturgy, and lore specific to curriculum and liturgy, are not for widespread dissemination. (Which is why I have not posted specific lesson plans here in talking about what I would teach- only ideas and areas of study.)

Only initiates can teach the tradition.

We prefer to teach individually or in small groups. In all our teaching, direct personal contact between teacher and student is essential. This is key to truly KNOW our students, their lives, their decisions, and what they are capable of. In order to add to your family, we must only let the best of the best in.

When we teach Faery, we do so always with a view toward initiation, although there is no guarantee that every student will be initiated.

We recognize that Faery is highly transformative and extremely experiential, requiring closer attention and responsibility than workshops, seminars, or intensives provide.

We do not charge for teaching the core of the Faery tradition.

*Faery had a public split with Feri a while back over many issues. Oathbreaking was one of them. My tradition split from a faction of the tradition who are very public teachers and authors because the Gods called for us to preserve the Mystery. We no longer share lore or gnosis with the public ("Feri") face of the trad, and their theology and lore will suffer for it. Looking up the road, I see very different outcomes for both traditions.

**There is a difference between will- with a small w- which is individualistic and often is tied to ego and Will- with a capital W- which is aligning yourself to the Flow and following it.

***I make a difference also between Power with a capital P, which in my tradition is one of the five human birthrights and comes from within (not by exploiting and subjugating others) and power with a small p- which has often been corrupted in our culture to mean oppression and subjugation of others for personal gain.

****Work, when used with a capital W, refers to The Great Work- of personal alchemy.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this and have it bookmarked for inclusion in my resources section.


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