Chapter 9: If not, then what?

Finally, we need to consider our obligations, if any, to those seekers we decide to defer, refer or reject:

Not right

If someone seems not at all right for the Path, then the teacher would be quite unwise to accept him or her into a pre-initiatory training group. If they seem to be sincere and harmless Pagan laity, you may want to offer them some gentle feedback about why you did not choose to train them for the priesthood. You might feel like offering them some limited support.

Be sure to carefully consider how much of your time and energy you can devote to such support activities: sooner or later you will have a seeker who, although clearly not for the Craft, still claims a great deal of your time and attention. You must be able to say 'no more', and make it stick, when need be. Your first obligation is to the students you have formally committed to teach.

Unfortunately, some of those you'll reject will be more serious problems for you and for the community as a whole. They may have had a prior bad experience for which they intend to seek vengeance upon Pagans, or they may be intent upon gathering information that can later be used to attack or embarrass members of our religion. In one classic case, a film company gathered footage of Pagan rituals, saying that the film was intended to showcase our religion to the public. When the film was distributed, it turned out that it was an anti-Pagan propaganda piece, spliced together from rituals and interviews taken out of context, which had been funded by an evangelical organisation.

If you find out that a seeker is operating from unfriendly intent, you should warn other group leaders and teachers in your local area. This is always going to be a difficult judgement call, because what is an acceptable question to one person may be regarded as a hostile attack by another person.

Not yet right

Sometimes a seeker appears to be right for the Craft, but is facing life circumstances that make studentship impossible right now. In such cases, teacher and seeker may agree to maintain some sort of supportive relationship until the circumstances change. Support could be as simple as the teacher's agreement to follow the seeker's progress through the difficult passage (listening when need be, perhaps advising when so asked), or providing a set of private developmental and devotional activities for the seeker's own use until circumstances improve.

Not right for your group

As we have alluded to earlier in this notebook, not all groups are operating with the same basic purposes and goals. If your coven is primarily devotional in orientation, someone who comes to you wishing to be trained in the magical arts may not fit in with the other members of the group. Likewise, a working coven which is deeply involved in ritual performance arts, or internal communications between covens (as is Gwyneth's group), may value the development of technical skills over personal growth, and would be a bad place for someone who was seeking to a mutual-support and growth group.

So, what can you do to help seekers who are otherwise well-qualified but would not fit in with your group? Provided that yours is not the only game in town, you can refer them to another group which might be better suited to their talents and needs.

Before you can provide a referral, you need to have some idea of where to refer people to. What this means for you, as group leader, is that you should be in contact with the leaders of other teaching groups in your area, and that together you should arrive at a common understanding of what each group can offer to seekers.

A referral can be as simple as a telephone call that you make, privately, to another group leader, or it can involve the writing of a letter of referral that you can send along with the seeker's letter of self-introduction. There are no set forms for this sort of communication -- do what feels genuine and appropriate in your specific situation, bearing in mind that other group leaders may have different standards of confidentiality and propriety than you do.

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    Last revision: February 4, 2002