There’s hardly a pagan blog that doesn’t discuss it, a practitioner without an opinion of it: How do we learn our Craft?
It’s been a very odd time for me in the last month. Odd and wonderful, not bad at all. I say I “teach” but actually I am coming to dislike the word in terms of the Craft. I like “sponsorship”. And currently I’m celebrating the anniversaries of that sponsorship with two wonderful women. It’s been a year since I promised to sponsor them. And they’ve both come leaping and bounding down the Crooked Path over the last year, and that’s worth celebrating. In the meantime, I’ve had a few people ask me if I teach formally, either in the coven-magistra-tradition way, or in terms of short courses and workshops. The asking itself is a great compliment! And I found myself somewhat humbled by it. And in all that, as I found myself increasingly precious and emotional on the convergence of events, another dear friend and elder, clearly possessed of some empathic understanding, reached out to me with an offer to support and help and guide if I needed. The email has sat in my inbox unanswered for a week, and if he’s reading this, I’m sure he will chuckle.
Because I didn’t quite know what to say. He already is my teacher. Every conversation is a learning experience for me, one I feel entirely privileged to have. And at the time, I was not entirely sure he was ready for me to declare myself a fraud and hand over my two “students” to him in some entirely emotional fit. I can be quite dramatic.
I’m not a fraud. As I’ve said to those who have asked it of me, yes I teach. I write lessons discussing everything I know, and don’t, about particular topics and practices, I construct rituals to practice new skills. I’m constantly sharing this article or that, a book, or post that I think is useful and interesting. It’s even rather organised and regular! I answer the questions, help with added readings for clarification, make the suggestions, posit ideas they’ve not yet considered. As I was sitting down to put together another consideration of some finer point of the Craft as I understand it, I realised how little of it was actually dictated by me. In the first place, and certainly the same goes for this blog as well, it’s greatly governed by Nature and Season. Just constantly directing them to the currents in the Earth, pointing them out until they have it practised enough not to need me to do it. And in the second place, by them themselves. Where they are at, what they are doing, working on. It’s precisely there, in that, that I don’t teach. And I learn. So often I find myself with a question or occurrence, retold in my inbox, and I think “crap. I’ve not thought of that…”
This is why I don’t advertise I “teach”. I’m not looking to sell my Craft in terms of practice and mythos. I don’t want to share it with just anyone. “But you blog!” I hear you say. Only I don’t actually detail much (if any) of my personal vision experiences, I don’t write down rituals for all and sundry. I’m by nature quite an open book, but I do feel like those things are alike to love letters. And you can all read through them, if you like, when I am dead. To put it another way… Today I had the pleasure of reading Romany Rivers’ post ‘Never Not the Neophyte‘ at The Poet Priestess, in which she writes:
Teaching can be exhausting, and not just because many of us teach on top of other commitments to work and family life. Teaching can be exhausting because you are sharing of yourself. You are sharing your knowledge, your experience, your secrets, and your passions. That sharing opens the path of new learning, new understanding and new awareness on a personal level.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a particularly unique and special introverted snowflake. I’m mostly common and extroverted. I therefore don’t find teaching exhausting. And certainly, at the moment I’ve a lot of time to direct to it. And even if I didn’t, it would still be a labour of love, the thing to look forward to in the week. But I don’t discount that it can be, and it certainly is “of yourself”, “your secrets, and your passions”. And I am happy to share those thing with people I am intimate with, who I trust, and vice versa. My “teaching” is not a one way street. Those rituals, practices and myths and personal experiences we, my students and I, share together. Rivers’ continues;
When you teach others, you cannot avoid being taught by them. When you learn about another’s skills and experiences, you cannot help but learn more about your own.
Skills and experiences they have in abundance. Sigils and artwork we all use created by the artistic skill of one, another with a ability to channel prophetic and poetic incantations and invocations well beyond my own. And these things weave themselves into our collective Craft as we experience it together. At any time, a question can spark a consideration of my own Craft in ways I didn’t expect.
Yes, I have an apprentice, but I learn just as much from her. We are partner’s in mischief, not master and servant. She has strengths I do not and vice versa. We help each other and act as catalyst for one another and try to do the same for others we meet. We philosophize over tea or go out into the woods and get our hands dirty digging up roots or working with wild spirits.
I’m currently looking forward to several weekends of such mischief!
And I like my democratic flavour. I like being surrounded by equals rather than underlings. I like that we owe each other nothing but honesty and respect, like friends ought. I like that there are no hierarchies and self appointed titles. I like that we’re not collectively building an army of Ingas and building a fan base. I dislike any and all institutionalised religions, and sure as shit won’t be aiming at becoming one. I like that there are no glamours and falsehoods (and do read Lawless’ ‘Apprenticing With Baba Yaga‘ post, because there’s something in there for everyone!) and that I can say “Holy Shit! I have no idea!” Because there’s humour in that, and I feel pretty sure that pretending to have all the answers must actually be really exhausting.
I like that blogging and selling different bits and pieces of my Craft have meant I’ve met new people, who have been inspired by something I’ve written or produced. That’s really awesome. I like that rather than a list of criteria and asking three times in lunar month, and looking for a sign to accept a person petition to learn, are not actually part of my day, but instead I’ve gotten to know people, and continue to get to know people, and been able to enter the broader community without ulterior motive. That’s just fun. And totally frees up the space for real criteria to be met, real trust and appreciation to be garnered, real questions to be asked, and real signs to be read.
In the end, I do believe real learning in the Craft, actual becoming, in Witchcraft, is not going to rest on my shoulders. Or of the shoulders of any “teacher”. And I’d prefer to be upfront about that. Making a Witch and becoming a Witch happen in the Otherworlds, and belongs to the Spirits who would make you. But I can stand with those I love in the ritual space, I can share my experience, I can offer as much knowledge I have, and support I can until the other is ready to stand alone.
How we each learn our Craft is truly a case of practice, and it can’t be duplicated for any two people. And for me, it’s a great privilege to share that practice with people, for the long haul, or for a short while, because every time I learn something new.
P.S. ‘O’ is for “On Teaching”. This post participates with the Pagan Blog Project 2014.