Chapter 1: 
Finding, screening, orienting, and Dedicating new students

Teaching the ways of a religious or spiritual path to a beginning student, or to a new group, is an awesome responsibility. A religious teacher shares information and helps the students develop relevant skills, just like secular teachers of carpentry or surgery or whatever, but for us that is just the beginning. We also facilitate and mentor our students' personal spiritual development. They may come to us for counseling with both the spiritual and ordinary perplexities of their lives. We are unavoidably cloaked with the mantle of religious authority, and so serve as their models of what a person who is well-advanced on this particular Path should be like.

But we are, individually and collectively, beginners. Let's just bracket the ongoing and rancorous debate about whether our Traditions are continuous, reconstructed (and how accurately) or newly created. The fact remains that they are new to most of us. Almost all of us are first generation, raised in other faiths or none. And so, we lack a body of collective experience, knowledge and wisdom about what to teach, how to teach and who to teach. Discovering or creating that deep knowledge base is our job, and the job of those who will follow us. That, too, is part of what makes the teacher's role so demanding and daunting. The beginners we train will shape the future of the Traditions we love.

That third question, who to teach, is what this notebook is about. We have no simple, cookbook directions for you, no pre-built expert system. But we do think that our own years of experience leading covens has at least helped us to identify some of the critical questions. Making these questions explicit may help you immediately, as you work with seekers and beginners. Our great hope is that we will also stimulate discussion among elders, a pooling of thought and experience far richer than what just the two of us can bring.

One important note: we are Witches, so Wiccan terminology comes most naturally to us. We use a lot of it in this workbook. Still, we have a hunch that the same general principles apply to other deeply bonded and committed Pagan groups such as Asatruar or Druids. We warmly and respectfully invite these Pagan cousins to make whatever translations work for them.

Our basic premise is this hard truth: you can't train everybody. You can't even train everybody who deserves such training. Nobody can.

As you read the above paragraph, you may have been thinking of size limits. Size limits are important. Almost none of us are paid for our work; in fact many of our Traditions specifically forbid such payments. Whether you like that or not (another tangent we can avoid for right now), the fact remains that almost all of us need to make our livings by working a secular job. We all have families and friends. Many of us are parents, another important and demanding role. In short, we have lives, and having lives actually makes us better clergy, more compassionate and responsive to the needs of others who have lives.

But any teaching requires time and attention; lessons must be prepared and students deserve thoughtful feedback on their work. The workshop (at which this book was used as a study tool) itself had a size limit, needed to allow each member adequate chances to participate, share observations and insights, and ask questions - and to allow us to get a sense of how each of you is assimilating and reacting to the day's work. To facilitate and mentor our students' ongoing spiritual and magical development takes even more time, attention and energy. So we plead with you to be careful not to offer more than you have to give, and only take on as many students as you can truly nurture.

However, those limits, those decisions, are about you and not your students. They are not the limits we will be considering in this book. There is another reading of the statement "you can't train everybody."

People are not interchangeable parts. A particular student will fit beautifully with some teachers and/or groups, adequately with others, and be a disastrous mismatch with still others. We are not talking about good or bad students, teachers, or groups right now - we are talking about good or bad matches. We are talking about who we will train, not about how many.

Don't try to train people you dislike or disrespect. A better way to say this: train the people you respect and enjoy. This may seem self-indulgent, but it isn't. If you can only take on just so many students, it makes sense to choose the ones you can do best with.

ahead to Chapter 2

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  • Frontgate Introduction
  • Frontgate Table of Contents
  • Proteus Library



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    Last revision: February 4, 2002