Chapter 2: Step One --
In order to effectively assess whether a seeker would do
well under your
guidance, you must first know yourself, and you must also
know your group
or your dream. You cannot hope to transmit knowledge to
someone else until
you yourself have become knowledgeable.
First, know yourself
You may have done extensive self-assessment during your
own time of training.
If not, now's the time. Even if you did, you may want to
check for changes.
Here are some of the kinds of things you may want to know
to help make good choices of students:
What is your personal temperament and style?
What is you current understanding of / best hope for /
your Tradition or
What are your core spiritual or magical values?
What kinds of attitudes and behaviors do you consider
to be particularly
appealing or offensive in another follower of your
Path or member of your
What are your specialties? Which of the knowledge or
skills related to
your Path or Tradition do you feel best qualified to
Exploring your limits
When a seeker contacts us, there are four possible
responses. We can accept
them. We can refer them to some other teacher or group. We
can defer them, tell them "not yet," perhaps giving them
some suggestions about what
they can work on to become more ready. Or we can just
plain reject them. Also,
sometimes we know nearly immediately what we want to do;
while other times
we mull over our reactions for quite a while.
To get a sense of where your own limits lie, try to
describe the extremes,
the people who you would accept or reject with only
Here are some examples:
You might immediately accept someone if
The seeker was recommended by someone you respect,
perhaps your own elder.
The seeker is an old and dear friend.
The seeker was previously deferred. The reason you
deferred them no longer
applies. You feel obligated.
The seeker has some particular skill or talent that
you miss having in
You might summarily reject someone if
Note that these are just possibilities. They aren't even
own turn-ons and turnoffs. Even the two of us don't share
and turnoffs. You may have different ones altogether. We
to identify your own, and also to identify which of them
are truly absolute
and which are just rebuttable presumptions, probable but
that might be changed as you get to know the seeker
better. Judy, for example,
would consider a stretched-out (but not watered-down)
curriculum for someone
balancing other life demands, but would absolutely reject
anyone who is
hostile to her elders, partner or current coven members.
The seeker is a legal minor without parental consent.
You are concerned
about the legal risk
The seeker is, in your opinion, immature or
The seeker is hostile towards your elders, your
life-mate, or an existing
The seeker seems unable or unwilling to participate
fully in your training
The seeker seems to want something you cannot or will
Also notice that every one of the "immediate acceptance"
situations listed above has pitfalls. Can you identify
Beware of accepting or rejecting a seeker for extrinsic or
It's always a good idea to seek a second opinion from a
Whenever you think extrinsic issues like these might cloud
a second opinion becomes really imperative.
The seeker has access to a better meeting-space than
The seeker has lots of money and is generous.
You are physically or romantically attracted to the
Some other teacher, someone you don't think highly of,
seeker and you would like to do better by them (or get
one-up on someone
Some Big Name Pagan recommended the seeker to you.
This gratifies your
ego and impresses other coven leaders.
You think that having a larger number of students will
increase your status
in the community.
An exercise in sortilege:
|Following are twelve descriptions of seekers
who might come to you.
Each one tells you a little bit about the
seeker's life circumstances.
To work this exercise, download and print out
the descriptions and cut
them into twelve pieces (or, if you prefer,
hand-copy the descriptions
onto twelve index cards.) Sort the
descriptions into three piles: people
you would probably accept as students, people
you would probably reject
as students, and those about whom you are
undecided. Now consider the following
If you decide to use this exercise with your own
advanced students, you
can create additional characters out of your own
Were there any indications in common among
the people you probably would
What additional information would you want
to have concerning these people
before making a final decision?
Were there any indications in common among
the people you probably would
Would there be any extenuating circumstances
that might lead you to accept
a seeker who would otherwise appear to be
Which of these people would you refer to
another local group? Which would
you reject altogether? What differentiates
these two groups?
What additional information would you need
in order to make a decisions
concerning the seekers about whom you are
Descriptions of the Twelve Seekers
Feel free to make photocopies of these
descriptions, and then cut them
into twelve pieces. If you wish, you may copy
them by hand on to index
Duncan is a musician who has written
some beautiful songs about
the Goddess. He tells you these songs came
from his own imagination, rather
than from some external source. You take this
as evidence that She is calling
him. Duncan has a clear ethical sense, and
gives valuable advice. He is
single and about 30 years old, with no
children. He has a steady job. He
seems to have a drinking problem.
Frank is a young Gay man, a friend of
a friend of yours, who
is still exploring his career and his
relationships. You are aware that
he made an angry break with his previous HPs
(some years ago), but neither
she nor he are willing to talk about it. Since
then, he has been primary
care-giver to his aging grandmother, which
leads you to perceive him as
a loyal and caring person. Your mutual friend
believes that Frank has strong
psychic talents. Frank lives about two hours
away from your covenstead,
and has his own car.
Alejandra is a writer in her
mid-thirties who lives out in the
suburbs about an hour away from your
covenstead. She is an active volunteer
for her local community association, but
hasn't had a paying job since she
married about ten years ago. She is very
bright and articulate, but is
moody and often hears hidden meanings in
things that other people have
to say about her or to her face. She has no
children, but has eight cats
Rebekah is an aspiring artist who
just moved into your part of
town, to attend art school on a full
scholarship. She works and plays at
night and seldom arises before six in the
evening. She came to your Coven's
open house meeting, and reported having had a
dream of the Goddess which
sounds so compelling in its intensity that the
hairs rise up on the back
of your neck. Rebekah is married to an
architect who professes to be an
atheist, but who (she says) has no problem
with her exploration of Pagan
Ralph is a garage-man in his early
fifties, with three adult
children. His wife died a few years ago, and
he has been looking for someone
with whom to share his life. Neighbourhood
gossips say that Ralph used
to beat his wife, and that he collects guns.
All you personally know about
Ralph is that he is jolly fellow, a good
mechanic, and a good neighbor;
when your car broke down on the street last
Christmas Eve he came out of
his house into the snow and helped you get it
Buck is an engineer at the factory
where you work, and you have
been sharing jokes with him at the
coffee-station for several years. You
had always thought he was a Buddhist, but now
he says he would like to
learn more about Paganism, but he isn't sure
how far he would like to go
with it. Buck is a single parent. His evenings
are given to his children,
so it will be difficult for him to come to
most meetings -- he has asked
whether he could participate in your group via
Internet, maybe attending
every third meeting in person.
Gwendolyn has been a solitary for
many years. During this time,
she has studied briefly with a number of good
teachers, and done intensive
introspective work on her own personal Sacred
contacts. At a recent workshop,
she received an inspiration that it was time
for her to learn to work in
a group. The workshop leader, an old trusted
friend, referred her to you.
But she is very attached to the personal ways
of working that she developed
during her solitary years.
Surinder attends professional school,
in a difficult and demanding
program. In addition, she works 30+ hours a
week to support herself. A
young, attractive single woman, she is also
actively seeking a life-mate,
with little success this far because of the
demands of school and work.
She very much wants children, and is upset
about still being single. She
tells you she can and will fit your training
program into her schedule.
Jim is legally blind and believes
that people do not make adequate
allowances for his handicap. A believer in
reincarnation, he feels that
he has had various disabilities in different
lifetimes because a hostile
discorporate entity has pursued him down the
ages. He wants to learn magic
both so that he can make people treat him
better and so that he can, in
time, lift the curse. He is more than willing
to work hard for these goals.
Erika is your office-mate. She is a
widowed mother with a daughter
in high school. She is competent, personable
and caring, altogether a good
friend. Your admiration is mutual. She appears
to be romantically attracted
to you as well as wanting to learn what you
Alan is an actor. He has a great deal
of personal charisma,
which can easily draw you in. He also has a
genuine devotion to the Goddess.
He is very strongly opinionated and talks far,
far more than he listens.
He reports having had some extraordinary
spontaneous mystical experiences.
Robin has a PhD in religious studies,
and has written some wonderful
rituals and religious poetry. You have long
admired her work from afar,
and she just moved to your city. When she
applies to join your group, you
are astonished. You wonder what you might
possibly teach her, but you certainly
look forward to more contact, so that you can
learn from her
Second, know your group (or your dream)
You may be about to start a new group, bringing together a
bunch of beginners
and strangers who you hope will meld into teammates and
only thing you have to weigh them against is your dream,
your vision or
ideal of a good group. Up to a point, the more clear,
specific and articulate
you can make that vision, the better your screening will
be. So here are
some more points to ponder:
Try brainstorming answers to these and similar questions.
We strongly advise
you to do this with your partner, if you have one. Then
disengage the rational
gears and just daydream about your ideal group. Again, if
you have a partner,
you can try co-visioning. To do this, talk each other into
a relaxed and
receptive state, and describe your daydreams to each
other. You may want
to tape-record this exercise, since note-taking would tend
to pull you
out of relaxation.
What did you like best about the group where you were
trained, or any other
groups you have been part of?
Was there anything in any of your former groups that
you would have liked
to decrease or eliminate?
Was there anything you would have liked to increase or
Are there any other groups you know that you
particularly admire? What
makes them special?
Do you have any qualms or concerns about any groups
you know? What are
Beyond simple numeric growth, what contribution do you
hope to make to
your Tradition or Path by leading a group?
Then, even if you have no intention at all of
advertising your group,
try writing the classified ad … "new group forming,
seeks members …" The
exercise of doing so will help you understand just who
you are looking
But please remember that we said "up to a point."
Leading a group is
also the next step in your own growth. (that's right,
experience, with all the usual potential for joy and
pain.) All wise teachers
are open to learning from their students. All who truly
walk the Path are
open to surprises from the Gods we serve. By surprise,
and not always comfortable
surprise, They keep our minds young. So beware of too
tight a self-definition,
which might limit you to stagnant self-replication. You
are good, but you
are not perfect, and neither is your understanding.
Leave room for growth.
Or you may be seeking new members for an existing
group. You are weighing
potential members against a reality, not a dream. You
know how your group
works, what it emphasises and so on. Whether or not you
new students, it will be good for your group to make
explicit and available to all current members.
Basic functions of a coven
Here is a way to look at this: there are five basic
functions that a coven
might fulfil. These are:
Worship group ritually celebrating the Old Gods
and the Old Ways.
Teaching group instructing new members in
traditional lore and skills.
Growth/support group helping members work through
the ordinary problems
and perplexities of life and supporting their ongoing
Task group providing a community service, for
a magazine or putting on a gathering.
Family of choice filling the gap left in members'
lives by absent
or dysfunctional families of origin.
note: Judy's book, Wicca Covens
(NY:Citadel, 2000), contains a full chapter on each of
Please notice that different groups might emphasise
differently, or even abstain from one or more of them.
Knowing what the
balance is in your own group will help you determine how
likely you are
to providing what a particular seeker is hoping to find.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, we encourage you
this understanding by writing a descriptive "mission
statement." Ask all
current group members (and maybe even your graduates)
for input. Collectively
creating a mission statement will reinforce your group's
sense of identity
Better yet, giving this statement to seekers will serve
as an easy first
screen. Some seekers will be able to see that yours is
not the group they
were looking for, thus saving everybody a lot of time
and stress. Others
will be attracted by your self-description. But remember
that our caveat
against too tight a self-definition applies even more
strongly to existing
groups. When an existing group becomes too set in its
ways, more than just
the leaders' growth is retarded.
As is often the case, the optimal growth path is down
the center, somewhere
between chaos and stasis.
go forward to Chapter
or back to
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Last revision: February 2, 2012