The Spiritual Importance of Bad Teachers + Good Lessons

The Spiritual Importance of Bad Teachers + Good Lessons August 24, 2017
Bad teachers can be like this zombie flamingo. Photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Bad teachers can be like this zombie flamingo. Photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Like most people who have been to school, I have had a lot of bad teachers in my time. I had teachers who were ignorant, privileged, and some who may have been insane. In my days (daze) of youth and folly these people, mostly men, used to just piss me off. I couldn’t understand why these obstacles were placed in the way of my learning.

My First Bad Teacher

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews this year, mainly for my book Love Magic. One thing I am always asked is how did I get involved in magick. Personally I’ve always had magick in my skin. I grew up knowing there were larger forces in play than most people could see or utilize. But my journey into academic study and publication about magick was the direct response to one of these bad teachers I had experienced. Let me give a little backstory here. I spent several years at university both as an undergraduate and a graduate student. I studied film, cinema studies, plant science, history, and anthropology. When I began classes for my undergrad degree in anthropology I was required to take classes with the head of the department. This man was so typical of all the stereotypes associated with this discipline he should have been named Dr. Trope.

Dr. Trope liked to pontificate. His academic specialty was folklore among sailors in New England. One day he gave a lecture about how the only magic being practiced in the U.S. was the ritual where sailors threw playing cards into a trashcan. This was to determine if they should set sail the next day. As a long time Witch I knew he was wrong. Dr. Trope went on to say there was no other divination being practiced in this country, and that everything worthy of academic study has already been studied. In retrospect, I think this guy may have had brain damage. Keep in mind this was before the age of a computer in every lap and a phone in every pocket. Proving him wrong unfortunately took longer than it would have today.

Many years later I heard my friend Don Waterhawk (an amazing artist and person,) talking about the spiritual importance of bad teachers. He spoke about how some people could lead you down a better path just because of their ignorance and ineptitude. Those are wise words. I certainly remember my bad teachers more than I do the mediocre ones. Those lessons remind me almost daily why it has been my mission to provide accurate and respectful information about magick, in Voodoo, the other African Traditional Religions and beyond. Dr. Trope’s voice can’t be the only voice, the voice of authority, the voice of the privileged. I can’t let my children, or anyone’s children grow up with this as truth.

Truth is always subjective. If anthropology has taught me anything it’s this. We must approach each assertion with logic and respect. What we are “taught” may make us angry but in the words of American Gods “Anger gets sh*t done.” We who have been traditionally marginalized must use all the tools we have to get our truth heard and respected.

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