Disclaimer: the moon is in Cancer, I’m feeling feisty, and the public pagan-o-sphere has gotten me mad again.
I practice Wicca. Or at least, I was trained in Wicca and I’m currently re-evaluating the teachings I was given. But in the meantime, I can say, despite all the questionable colonialism inherent in Wicca, that the teachings I was given have provided me with a great deal of insight into my character, the world, and life. I am, despite my questions and issues with group dynamics, beyond grateful for what my teachers imparted and the experience of having worked in a coven. My experience in my old coven and my training has help make me the person I am today, including the person who wants to decolonize her practice.
That said, pardon my language, but WTF is up with people gravitating towards Wicca-lite? The lack of discipline and structure? The inability to understand that any esoteric practice is a practice and thus, requires work?
Iris is going to laugh at me when she reads this…
I don’t care if you’ve been practicing for 19 years if you self-initiated at 11! You may very well have strong occult leanings and experiences and skills. But no ethical Wiccan coven is going to initiate you at 11. And pretending to form a Wiccan coven based on said initiation is utter BS and, in my opinion, totally predatory.
Obviously something specific is informing said rant/reaction. Suffice to say it’s the Facebook pagan-o-sphere. It’s the call out to create a coven with little to no transparency and the masses of people who leap to join with no questions asked.
Why are people so quick to give over their power, autonomy, and trust?
Why are they so desperate to join a group, any group, that they don’t ask questions? Or realize that said group is likely to disintegrate without any form of accountability to start with? I watched (and questioned) an entire conversation thread where people were so keen to join a group without question that they completely failed to see that 2 people in the thread, those concerned about safety and group dynamics, who clearly had coven experience and training, were there. (Note that this was a Wiccan group specifically but the same conversation could apply to any group really). We often hear the statement that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” but I swear to god, the teachers are right in front of y’all but you aren’t seeing them.
Sorry, there’s hubris in that statement and I’m aware of it. I don’t make any claims to being a teacher and I don’t know that I’d be any better than many others, but I do know that I have professional training in education and many years of occult work, enough to know about safety, group dynamics, lesson planning and universal design, in addition to all that, an awareness of how information is transmitted experientially in esoteric traditions. All of which makes me all the more concerned when I see how often the actual qualified teachers are ignored because they aren’t out there recruiting.
Please, for the love of yourself, slow down and think critically about the way teachers present themselves and ask questions. No good teacher is offended by an analytical student. Exasperated, maybe. Offended? No. (Kidding, sort of).
And please don’t get caught up by the flashiest person in the group. Spiritual development should be teaching you about listening, knowing yourself, keeping silent, doing the work, etc, etc. As an occult practitioner of middling experience (and by that I mean almost 3 decades of experience), I am not going to respond to every outlandish request for crystals or spells or basic information. Y’all live in the age of google. When I started, I literally spent hours on the floors of bookstores, skimming books to find decent resources as I started out. The internet wasn’t what it is now. Fricken search that shit already.
I did mention I was feeling feisty.
And honestly, Wicca isn’t about crystals or even necessarily spells. I’m often baffled by just how much focus is placed on crystals in the pagan-o-sphere given how damaging harvesting them can be to the earth. And forming a coven isn’t about living out your best “The Craft” fantasies. Working together isn’t going to lead to “light as a feather, stiff as a board” bs. Working together in a coven is about learning and trying things and having peers to help you do said work and navigating group dynamics that hopefully help you grow as a person, as well as, if you’re in a Wiccan coven, learning the basics of magic, magic language/rhetoric, and lineage teachings (yes, probably a lot of appropriation… like I said, I’m working my way through it all). Having experienced a coven with a shared lineage and magical language and one that doesn’t, I can personally say that I also believe that shared language makes it easier to work collectively as a group, so any coven setting is going to require a certain amount of training/teaching for practitioners who don’t have the same frameworks.
All of this is why I find it so unsettling to watch how many people will jump into the idea a coven but aren’t really interested in doing the work that is involved. Yes, you can gather and be led, but isn’t that just replacing a church congregation with a pagan congregation, and not an actual coven? (Maybe more people want to be led and don’t actually want to be priest/priestess/priestex – or are attracted to what they see as a power position or community structure instead of the actual autonomy of being responsible for your own personal gnosis and growth – food for thought). I believe that in these particular cases, when you have one person leading a group of people not doing the work or sharing the framework, a lot of the work is actually carried by one or two people who do have the ability to do the inner working required (or there is in fact, no inner working actually happening and the entirety of the practice is on the surface – which may be enough for many). A coven requires a group mind and trained practitioners able to lead the rest as they learn their skills. It requires mentors who are qualified as well as students who are doing the work.
Sadly, it seems to me that there are more false prophets out there than real mentors. And that far too many people cannot see the difference (or are too desperate to find something – which I understand far too well) that they will take what they see right in front of them instead of actually asking for the teachings or taking the time to find a reliable teacher. If someone asked me for the teachings, baring some serious barriers, I would feel duty bound to give them to a serious student in my area (and maybe even outside of my area if there was a possible to meet in person occasionally and the student in question didn’t have any safe, viable alternatives) because that is part of the nature of carrying my lineage and being in service to it, my teachers, and my path.
Offering it up however, feels icky, like I’m proselytizing, so I’m not going to be the person saying, hey, I’m over here, wanna be part of my occult group??? Instead, I am going to be the first one, if you do ask, to ask you if you’re sure, like sure sure, tell you who I am, how you can vet me, what to expect from training/coven work, and remind you repeatedly that this entire process is free and voluntary so you can leave at any point along the way. In exchange, I am going to expect you to hold up your end of the bargain and be honest, do the work, and not waste my time. I’m a Capricorn, I ain’t got no time for stupidities. Shenanigans, yes, maybe. But stupidity? Nope! So don’t come at me with a bunch of new age rhetoric, power of now, white magic, unreliable pagan sourcing and expect me to not roll my eyes.
You go and form your coven of rainbow fluffy bunny unicorn good vibes only fem witch empowerment. I’ve only going to put myself out there for the student who understands that when the student is ready, they see teachings all around them (credit goes to Iris for that one). In other words, when you’re ready, you’ll have enough discernment to see past the flash and realize those politely asking simple safety questions are more likely to be safer people to learn from.
Please learn to question all that you see in the pagan-o-sphere. There are a lot of misguided people out there and while I like to believe most people are good, a lot of harm has happened to far too many who leap without looking and believe all that is told to them without question, especially in the pagan community.
I’m willing to admit to my own biases here and am open to being informed about different experiences, so please do share if you feel differently or have experienced things differently. Also note that I am feeling a bit sassy as I write this, so I do understand that all of these things can be offered by someone who isn’t initiated and who has solid character and self-learning.