I’m Going to Teach a Wicca Class (And This Sort of Bothers Me)

I’m Going to Teach a Wicca Class (And This Sort of Bothers Me) September 1, 2016

The owners of my localish Witch-shop asked me the other day if I would teach a Wicca class. If are familiar with this blog then you know that I have serious reservations about teaching the Craft in public, especially if money is involved. There are a lot of people in my area who charge for Witchcraft classes, I’m not one of them.

"Socrates Teaching Perikles," by Nicolas Guibal.  From WikiMedia.  My class will look NOTHING like this.
“Socrates Teaching Perikles,” by Nicolas Guibal. From WikiMedia. My class will look NOTHING like this.

I’m perfectly OK with charging for a Horned God class, or even a lecture on Drawing Down the Moon if a bookstore has paid to fly me out to teach at their store. I teach at a lot of festivals, and festivals always charge admission, so I guess that’s “pay to play” in a way. But I think there’s a difference between teaching the Craft of the Wise and sharing information about something.

A Horned God lecture is just that, a lecture, teaching Wicca requires more than words, it requires people to do things! And while most Wiccan rituals all have elements of the familiar, on an internal level many of us are doing vastly different things. Lectures about historical things are mostly just regurgitated facts mixed in with a few jokes, teaching Wicca has to come from the heart and from personal experience. It’s intimate in a way other kinds of teaching are not.

As I pondered about whether or not to teach this particular class, I asked my wife for guidance. (And as my High Priestess and life-partner I kind of needed her approval.) She surprised me by saying that I should do it, and added that “most authors teaches these kinds of things Jason, why should you be any different?” So with her firmly in the yes column I told the owners of my local shop that I’d teach a Wicca class.

Just because I’ve agreed to teach doesn’t mean I don’t still have reservations, just the opposite. I probably have more today than I did 48 hours ago when I was first asked. But I think I’ve worked out most of my reservations and thought I’d share them with you.

"Venus and Anchises" by William Blake Richmond.  From WikiMedia.
“Venus and Anchises” by William Blake Richmond. From WikiMedia.

Wica vs. Wicca

I do think there’s a very real difference between Wicca and the Wica. For those not familiar with the term Wica it was the word used by Gerald Gardner to describe those practiced Witchcraft (and were in the “Witch-cult.”) The Wica were “the wise ones” and he used the word in just that sense. Eventually a second c was added to the word and it became the other name for Gardner’s Witchcraft, or perhaps the word use to signify its spiritual side. Eventually Wica was kind of forgotten as a word and became a kind of curio. I kind of like the original usage of the word as it pertains to initiates of Witchcraft and have found myself using it more and more often over the last few years.

The origins of Modern Wicca are firmly embedded in the Witch religion Gardner shared with the world in the 1950’s, and they certainly share a lot of “stuff,” but I think they are different things today. A lot of time Modern Wicca leads to people being interested in initiatory traditions, but not always, and it’s fine either way. My class won’t be about my Gardnerian path, it will be about the Wicca I practiced before I was an initiate, and was articulated by writers such as Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and yes, maybe even Silver Ravenwolf. To me this is an important distinction, and one of the reasons I can live with myself teaching this class.

And since becoming an initiate I continue to practice the Wicca I first grew up with. The two paths compliment each other, and each of them has made me a better Witch and a better man.

"Pan and Syrinx" by Jean Francois de Troy.  From WikiMedia.
“Pan and Syrinx” by Jean Francois de Troy. From WikiMedia.

The Teaching Rules

When my wife and I got serious about running a coven a few years ago we agreed upon a few rules. These rules were never written down, but we did talk about them, and they’ve simply become a part of how we operate. So some of my teaching rules come from those unwritten laws, and some of them I’ve added just to make myself feel better about what I’m about to undertake.

We don’t charge money to teach the Craft. I am not going to profit financially from teaching this class, that being said I don’t think it’s bad form to be reimbursed for any moneys I might spend. Now my local store might charge for the class and if they do so they will keep that money. This is a tough issue, and there are a lot of Witches I like who do charge for teaching, that’s their decision. I just can’t do it.

Wicca is not Tinder. There is no dating of students and no romantic liaisons. Easy enough.

A class is just that, a class. There are no promises of coven membership or initiation when we are done. There are few things that bother me more than “if you spend 1000 dollars on my class you will be initiated into Tradition X at the end of our time together.” Initiation is not about money. Colleges don’t guarantee a job when we get through attending them, we shouldn’t guarantee coven membership either. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to my current coveners anyways. Bringing in strangers is not “perfect love and perfect trust.”

Expectations should be reasonable. I don not expect prospective students to read 50 different books. A Wicca class in a local bookstore is a beginning, it’s not the end. And we all do Wicca differently anyways. Some of the best Witches I’ve ever met have never read Triumph of the Moon, and they don’t need to. Let’s get calling the quarters and casting a circle right before worrying about other stuff. Also, having to buy even 10 books is expensive.

We learn by doing. I don’t think Wicca is something that can be learned by just listening to a person lecture, it’s about doing stuff; a good class should be about creative visualization and tapping into our (and the Earth’s) natural energies. Granted, some of this is hard to teach, but we’ll figure it out.

There is no unicorn in the backyard. There are certainly mysteries within Modern Wicca, but those mysteries are not something we keep hidden in the backyard like a unicorn. They are things that can generally be experienced by anyone who is ready mentally. So much of what makes Wicca great we have to discover within ourselves. I’ve met a lot of teachers who act like they’ve got the keys to some magic kingdom hidden in their cauldrons, that bothers me to no end. I can help someone get to those mysteries perhaps, but I don’t own them, and I’m certainly not hiding them.

It’s not about me or you. Learning about Wicca might help someone improve their life, so in that sense it might be about an individual student, but I really think Wicca classes are about Wicca. They are about preserving the Craft, tapping into our amazing history, experiencing the divine, and living a magical life. It’s never about the teacher.

There is no manipulation of people. If someone takes my class and then decides it’s not for them, that’s great. I’m not going to go running after them. I will help them if they ask, but I’m not going to tell them that there’s a spirit message out there if I start to feel them slipping away from the Craft. Some teachers do this, and it infuriates me. If the gods/spirits have a message for you they will give it to you and not an intermediary.

Don’t be a dick. Just in case I missed something really important, this is a rule I come back to time and again. Be as nice to people as you possibly can, and treat others with as much respect as possible.

I’m doing it for Wicca. I love Wicca, I love Witchcraft, I love the Craft. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this path by myself, but I’ve been blessed with some great teachers over the years. If I can help someone on this road I think I have at least a small obligation to do so.

So there it is. I’m going to teach a Wicca class in San Jose California. Even with all of these rules and explanations it’s still going to bother me some, which I hope will make me a better teacher.

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