Faery witchcraft is worked in a container of beloved relationship. This includes relationship with one’s human community, but even more importantly, it includes the local plants, animals, streams, and hills in all their aspects (physical and spiritual), as well as the Gods who manifest through the land and through our flesh.
–Helix, “Bardic, Shamanic, Ecstatic?”, entry dated May 19, 2016, AndersonFaery.org
I have been known to say that teaching a student in person is difficult enough–for me, doing it long distance, via email, telephone, video chat and other “platforms,” is impossible. It starts, for me, with the responsibility I carry for the challenges, transformations, shifts, and upheavals a student who is actively working magic may face. It continues with the responsibility I feel towards my Self/ves, towards the Ancestors, towards the Gods–a responsibility to swear for the honor and integrity of any whom I may bring before Their altar. For in bringing a stranger before the Altar, I am setting in motion the process, the journey, through which that individual will end, if all goes as it should, in becoming sworn Kin of me and mine. And this process goes further still with my personal perception that Witchcraft is a deeply physical, deeply organic process. It is one thing to check in via phone or videochat–to answer specific questions or share thoughts about certain aspects of where we are in the Work we’re sharing. It’s quite another to pretend that performing a ritual “remotely” via software application is somehow “exactly the same” as being physically present with everyone who is a part of that ritual. That has not been my experience. To be between the worlds in the sacred Circle is not something that is at all remotely like logging into a chatroom.
My views on teaching and training have evolved over the years, and no doubt will continue to evolve. This is the nature of Witchcraft: that it constantly shifts shape, and yet is always the same. Like the Moon in Her phases, the Gods in Their immortal dance of Dark and Light, the Land spirits in their waning and waxing with the tides and the seasons. Witchcraft shifts and morphs and seethes and dances. Yet it is ever the Art that has been passed hand to hand across the ages. The continuity is one of spirit, not of mundane historical fact.
I am avoiding any attempt to be unduly prescriptive in what I write here. It is not for me to tell others how to teach, how to evaluate who they choose to teach, or how to conduct training exercises. I only have genuine clarity around what I can reasonably expect to accomplish: what kinds of standards, what kinds of limitations, what kinds of obligations I can impose upon myself, and upon an individual who comes to me to learn the Craft.
My guiding principle can be expressed in this reminiscence from Willow Moon about how Victor taught:
Even though Victor applied diverse methods to working and describing Feri, he was consistent in his approach and style. After listening to him teach for seven years, I concluded that although he talked about Feri in many different ways, they were congruent. His consistence lay in his emphasis on basic self-respect. Respect for the world, its places and its powers flows naturally from the spring of self-worth.
–Willow Moon, “Is Feri an eclectic system or a Tradition?” Witch Eye, issue 8 (2003)
From a practical point of view, there are elements of teaching that can be done via written communication, phone call, or other forms of technologically mediated check-in. The way I was originally trained involved lots of time working on my own, during which I would often check in with my teacher in an e-group with other students present to comment and discuss various things. All of this was followed by travel at specific intervals to work in the physical presence of my own teacher. These gatherings always included other students, and their contributions and interventions were often just as significant as what the teacher brought into the room. Those physical meetings were turning-points, hinge-points in the Work, because it was only on those occasions that certain specific teachings and, even more significantly, certain energetic contacts were passed. Some of the relationships I formed with other students, as well as other Initiates who came to work with us–including my own eventual Oathmother–were just as important as being present with my teacher during these visits. It all came together with beautiful serendipity. And thus it was as much a form of coven training as it was a time of apprenticeship.
Teaching for me is very organic and, yes, deeply, fiercely Witchy. I follow a pattern rather than a curriculum. It’s like following the twistings and turnings of a labyrinth, weaving and threading the sacred spiral of the Goddess, and sometimes it is a movement outwards that leads in the fulness of time to the Center. To Her abode that is beyond the limits of time and space.
In closing, I still find significance in these words I wrote a few years ago about teaching:
In my own experience, it is the teacher’s job to mentor a student as safely and smoothly as possible through this process. Faery by definition isn’t safe. Perhaps no true practice of Witchcraft is. But as a teacher, I have to do what I can to guide the traveller through the most perilous streets and across the most sharply cracking ice. I have to shepherd them towards the next challenge brought by the Work, to the best of my ability. And this requires building relationship with the student in a manner most aptly characterized as the apprenticeship model. The coven model works well too; in some ways, it may be superior, since the tapestry of the student’s experience of the Art is woven by many hands and sung through many voices. It all begins with what you decide is your goal, or sequence of goals, in teaching. My goals are to mentor the student towards initiation, to offer spiritual direction and what guidance I may have to give, and to witness the student coming into the full awareness of their own Power, the complete realization of their fully aligned Self, and the beautiful accomplishment of their true Will.