Applicants Who Bail: Annoyance and Gratitude

One of the most disappointing parts about offering to teach a tradition of Craft is the way that people bail.

Many times I have found myself at a coffee house for hours, slowly realizing the person who requested my time isn’t going to show up. Sometimes, they’re polite enough to cancel in advance.

Many times people quit after a class or a ceremony or two. It doesn’t matter if you ask them in advance if they’re really ready to commit to weekly classes AND all esbats AND all sabbats. They sincerely assure you repeatedly that they are. Many later also sincerely apologize with many excuses about how hard it is, that it isn’t me, etc. Some you just never hear from again.

I do think they mean well. And I do believe it is difficult for them. I do have empathy, but not that much sympathy or patience right now.

Please forgive me if that sounds harsh. Please do allow me to examine my reaction a bit – I think these examinations are where the magic is. These examinations also become long, blathering self-indulgent posts.

My reaction is harsh because I remember what a harsh, terrible time I had in those years – my late teens and early twenties brought out all the deep issues in me that I’ll spend the rest of my life working on. While those experiences were subjectively unique to me, I’m pretty sure that most people also have traumatizing memories from that time, objectively worse than my own privileged and sheltered life. Everyone will have terrible experiences. They never completely stop, we hopefully just get better at anticipating, softening and handling them. Our suffering is really what unites us all. That, and our ability to overcome suffering and experience joy.

I think that joining a coven in that time was the very thing that helped me re-build resiliency and learn to be accountable. That small community of loving people who I wanted to feel reliable to – plus the technological ability to schedule to on a smartphone – helped me the kind of person I wanted to be.

I respectfully accept a person’s choice to stop, or never begin, studying, especially if with the reason “I don’t want to, it’s not my priority.” That takes a lot of integrity.

Ultimately, any other reason is an excuse. It annoys the piss out of me, probably because I’m still really bad at understanding how I feel in the moment of those kinds of situations, and because I am a reformed ghoster. I’ll own that.

Maybe age 25 is now the new 19. There is a peer group that is leaving school later, hitting that point of life where they begin their careers and need to be accountable for their choices at a later age. I think this is also reflected interestingly that University culture also seems to focus a lot on “Safe Spaces” and “liminal space and identity”, which in my opinion contradict each other, especially in spirituality and mysticism. In Witchcraft and occultism, liminal spaces are usually transformative and therefore extremely uncomfortable.

I’ve decided to formally stop accepting student applicants via e-mail for a few years, more than just “take a break from teaching” (which I did most of this year. )

Teaching a tradition of Craft isn’t at all like a classroom. The attitude of both the student and the teacher are of utmost importance. That relationship is meant to be a special two way street, each with responsibility to the other. It takes energy and commitment.

I think many people are curious about Witchcraft and occultism, many people want community, but far fewer want the challenge and responsibility.

There is so much amazing material out there. Both spiritual and energetic techniques are so accessible. If they want to learn, they don’t have theexcuse of lack of material I feel like people want someone to tell them where to look and what to do, two then what’s right and wrong. I feel like people want a teacher because they think it will be EASIER than doing it alone.

This is against what I want to emphasize right now. It is also incorrect on many levels. It makes me not want to be available for so-called teaching.

A teacher ought to hold you to a high standard. If you are not mature enough to be accountable for yourself, it’s okay to seek out a teacher to help you kick your own butt. But if you don’t actually do and resolve what needs to be done, Witchcraft will be a banal, difficult and unrewarding process.

If you are handing over all of your discerning judgement to your teacher, you risk also giving your agency. This isn’t Witchcraft.

An occult practice will be difficult no matter what. It is said that everyone walks the path alone. No one, no teacher, no community, can do it for you.

While the Universe itself does this, undertaking an occult practice especially triggers micro challenges to lessons we’ve been avoiding.

For some people, these challenges will be in basic social skills, manners, punctuality. For some it will be developing gaps in their personality, or their sense of individuality.

For some, the inability to keep a one-time commitment that they themselves requested will likely be a repeated problem. When I really stop and think about it, I really shouldn’t be annoyed with them, for their reaction is a symptom of a difficult greater process they’re going through.

To constantly endure and fail the same misery is Hell. This is why occult practice really isn’t right for everyone, or right for them at all stages of life. It’s why a teacher may expressly choose to stop teaching someone, or not accept them. Also, it is why there should be a moment of well-defined consent in occult training. The candidate should request it specifically. “Are you willing to suffer in order to learn?” “I desire to know in order to serve.”

Perhaps a candidate bails because deep down they recognize that this risks being something life changing.

Maybe they bail because that is today’s culture. Ghosting and bailing are acceptable because we need to prioritize our emotional needs, our safety and comfort. Looking out for ourselves is the priority. There are always plenty more people on the internet to contact whenever we feel like it.

That paragraph makes me feel disappointed in myself and my peer group, and also sorry for us. There’s a lot that can be said about the passwords of Wicca “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” here. It’s one of the reasons why I think Wicca specifically is a healing force in our wonderfully free and individual, but also lonely, society. I do trust that all these bailers are going through an important personal process that they’ll survive. I do hope they make it through as better people.

On the day I first drafted this article, later in the afternoon, I texted a new student to really confirm our class that evening. He answered yes, but a few hours later, he texted to cancel because of out of town car trouble. I wasn’t surprised – I had a feeling. I called him to brainstorm some ideas, and in the end, drove to his hometown to have a discreet class in a coffee shop.

I also accidentally knocked over a cup of (cool) tea with my binder of notes, which spilled on him. Oops.

I want to be the kind of person who’s there for others. I want to be the kind of person who drives out to someone else because it’s putting my money where my mouth is.

In reflecting, I can’t help but be grateful to the applicant who bails. If that’s what they need to do to communicate their limits, so be it. I’m grateful for their reminder that this whole spirituality and teaching thing really isn’t about me, but about the people who show up.

One Comment

  1. Bailing is okay. Ghosting is not.

    Also, top tip for applicants — if the person interviewing you for their coven gives you a ride home or buys you a drink, don’t forget to say thank you. Simple courtesy is important.

    Showing up and putting in effort is important for both students and teachers.


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