If you’re someone who’s new to Pagan religions – or if you’re someone who’s been Pagan a while and wants to branch out a little – you might find it of benefit to yourself to find a teacher or mentor. However, many people decide that “finding a teacher” means just randomly posting on the Internet, asking strangers to contact them. This is not the ideal way to find someone who can teach you about spirituality, for a variety of reasons. Let’s look at some of the things you should do if you’re looking for a Pagan teacher – and some of the things you should really try to avoid.
Know Where to Look
If you wanted to learn, say, how to be an artist, where would you go? Chances are, if you’ve got a lick of sense, you’d go to a local art studio. Maybe you’d visit an art supply store, an art school, or even a gallery. Why? Because these are the places where artists hang out. Eventually, if you spend enough time networking with those artists, you might hear that one of them is holding a class and accepting new students.
It’s the same way with learning about Paganism. If you want to meet other Pagans – and really, that’s the first step in finding a teacher – you need to go where the other Pagans hang out. Go to your local metaphysical or Witchy shop, for starters. If your town doesn’t have one, be creative – try yoga studios, coffee shops, and bookstores. Watch people in public places to see who’s wearing a pentacle necklace. Attend public Pagan events, and get yourself involved in the community.
Ask the Right Questions
Okay, so you’ve schmoozed around a little in the local Pagan community, and you’ve heard that High Priestess Snickerdoodle of the Cupcake Coven is accepting students. Great! But just because she’s taking students doesn’t make her qualified to teach – and even if she IS qualified to teach, it doesn’t mean she’s going to meet YOUR needs. You need to ask HPs Snickerdoodle some questions.
Start with these:
- How long have you been practicing Paganism (or Wicca, or whatever trad it may be)?
- How long have you been teaching, and who did you study with?
- Can you give me some examples of how you live magically on a day to day basis?
- Do you teach in a group setting, or privately and one-on-one?
- Is there a fee for classes, and will I need specific supplies?
- Would you be willing to put me in touch with some former students for references?
Did you notice the last question? The one where we’re asking HPs Snickerdoodle for some names? This is a tricky thing – so many people in the Pagan community are in the broom closet. And yet, if Lady Snickerdoodle is worth her salt as a teacher, her response will be along the lines of, “You know, let me check with a couple of my former students, and see who would be willing to speak with you. Can I call you in a day or two with their phone numbers?”
When she calls you with those numbers, get in touch with the folks whose names she’s given you, and ask them some questions about their experience. Ask how long they studied with Lady Snickerdoodle, how they felt about the quality of the instruction, and if there was anything they wish she had done differently. Be willing to ask questions, and reassure the individuals that anything they tell you will be kept strictly confidential.
Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away
Let’s say you’re getting rave reviews about HPs Snickerdoodle… and yet, you’re just not sure she’s the right teacher for you. If she’s not, that’s okay – take as much time as you need to decide, and if you ultimately realize you don’t want to study with her, then thank her for her time and move on. If you do decide not to study under someone who’s taken an interest in teaching you, have the courtesy to let her (or him) know that. You don’t have to offer explanations or excuses, simply say, “I’ve decided this isn’t the right time for me to study with you, but I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”