Thursday, July 28, 2005

What To Look For (& Avoid) When Choosing Pagan Groups & Teachers

I've spent the last two weeks reworking my essay titled "It's a Mystery: Dysfunctional Behavior & the Pagan Scene." As usual, it's too darn long. It will post to the newsletter by this weekend.

I will rework the sections today and I might offer it as a multi-part series. Mercury is in retrograde and it's a bad time to talk to people, but a great time to rewrite and rethink certain projects.

One section, which will eventually appear in the book Herding Cats, has to do with choosing Pagan groups and teachers.


Excerpt from Herding Cats:


There are thousands of good reasons
why magic doesn't rule the world.
They're called Witches and Wizards,

- Terry Pratchett

I am often asked to give advice about choosing a teacher or joining a circle. I'm a very practical Pagan so I tell newcomers that any Priest/ess worth the name will have their life more or less in balance.

A wise Pagan understands that cause and effect operates on a holistic level. Therefore, they attend to their emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. They know that a problem in one area affects the whole system.

If you are looking for a teacher, you'll want to find someone who has the life you someday wish to have. Look at their entire life, not just that bit you see presented at the full moon. If you are looking for a circle, you'll want to consider what sort of energy they project and attract. Ask yourself if you really wish to mix with that energy.

Here are some other things to consider when choosing a group or a teacher:

*** Is their life in harmony or do they live from crisis to crisis? If their life is in constant chaos, just how good do you think their magick is?

*** Can they sustain healthy relationships? If their emotional life is burdened by resentments, betrayal, abuse, anger or codependency, then what will their relations with others in the group (or their chosen deities) be like?

*** Can they handle money responsibly? If not, what can they teach you about abundance and prosperity? If the group works out of a perpetual "sense of lack" or if they fear the responsibility that abundance brings, what sort of energy will they attract? The issue here is not how much money a person makes, but how well they manage their resources.

*** Are they secure in themselves or insecure? Can they share power appropriately or do they have too many control issues? Or, are they the helpless type? If so, they'll want someone to come to their rescue. If they refuse to address the issue of power honestly, the circle will remain unbalanced and out of tune.

*** Are they responsible? Are they someone you can count on? If not, they could let everyone down when it counts the most. If they are the classic "flaky Pagan" they will be good at avoiding responsibility or they will get others to do the work for them. If you play this game, you are limiting their growth, and hurting yourself.

*** Do they know how to nurture themselves? If not, they will eventually burn out from stress, mess, and excess. Since misery loves company, they might resent (or even sabotage) any attempts you make to become happier, healthier, and more balanced.

*** Are they a source of negative or positive energy? If they whine, rage, play the victim/martyr, spread gossip, or complain all the time, you have your answer.

*** Can they communicate well with others? Can they resolve conflicts with fairness and respect? If not the circle could be rife with unspoken resentments, passive aggressive behavior, and negative energy.

*** Do they have healthy personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others? If not, the circle is at risk for sexual abuse, codependent enmeshment, and a host of other problems.

*** Do they influence others for better or for worse? Look at their former students and circle members and see if they are better for knowing them. Have these people been challenged to change and grow? Are they more insightful, empowered, and happier as a result of their work together or are they stuck in place? Has their spiritual practice deepened and matured over time? If not, why not?

*** Do they treat their practice with the respect it deserves? Check to see if their rituals are chronically late or ill prepared. If so, it is a sign of disrespect towards the circle members and the deities they serve. If your group puts up with this, they might need to do a little less magick, and lot more work on their self-esteem.

*** Are they trustworthy? Don't rely solely on their claims; ask around. Remember that trust is not given blindly. Trust must be earned.

*** Are they conscious of their own emotional issues, and working to become healthier, overall? The truth is that we all have emotional burdens to bear. All we can ask of other human beings is that they be aware of their issues and do the necessary work to heal. It is not acceptable for circle mates or teachers to inflict their problems on other people. Offering mutual support to each other is a good thing. Asking you to carry their burdens for them is quite another. If they try to engage you in their drama and trauma, walk away.

*** Are they Learners or Posers? Learners are willing to learn from others and from their own mistakes. If they do make a mistake, they apoligize where necessary, and move forward with new wisdom. Posers only care about looking good and they love to blame others for their problems. Which sort of person will your diety respect?

*** Are they creative? Can they help you to be more creative, as well? Or do they confuse being an artist with being immature? If so, theyƂ’ll want to be the Artiste with La Vision and have someone else do all the work.

*** Do they know the difference between deep play and acting out? If not, your rituals will be a lot less about personal expression and divine inspiration, and a lot more like bad theatre.

*** Are they compassionate? If a Priest or Priestess isn't good to their kids or if they neglect any animals in their care, leave that circle immediately.

*** Do they honor their word, their partners, and their friends? If not, they are asking for a karmic kick in the butt. Get out before that happens. (If you witness actual abuse contact the authorities on your way out the door. Morally speaking, you may not leave another being in harm's way without trying to do something about it. Take spiritual and legal counsel, if necessary, and proceed with caution, but do the right thing. Who knows? You may have been sent there for just that reason.)

Above all, trust your gut, and don't do anything you don't want to do. Pay more attention to what they do and less attention to what they say. Above all, use good judgment when you seek to learn.

It's important to remember that some people come to Paganism wanting power; power they aren't ready to use, either fairly or well. If they achieve authority among us without having the wisdom to temper their use of power they will then go on to abuse others. If we allow this, we have no one to blame but ourselves.


Copyright: Sia Vogel - 2005

No comments: