5 points of an Outstanding Teacher (and Gerald Gardner’s false teeth)

In Autumn 2017 we started running our Introduction to Witchcraft & Magic course in Hampshire. The course was 5 workshops and the material was a mixture of theory based learning with practical elements introduced throughout the course.

Although the material was familiar to me (and I have done quite a few public presentations/speaks on witchcraft and other esoteric subjects!) this would be the first time I had taught the material in this way. I was joined by guest speaker High Priest Jonathan Lyceum Argento, who I have worked together with on a magical and ritual level for many years. It was nerve wracking but a success, and I am proud to say we have a fantastic group of ‘budding’ magic-workers completing this course. Many of them were brand new to the topic and they have been a pleasure to teach, all engaging in the subject, committing their evenings and creating some awesome magic!

It made me think back to the 2 women who I was lucky enough to be taught by, and I started asking myself – what are the qualities needed for a fantastic teacher of the esoteric? Its something that I have always strived towards (and will continue to do so!)

There is something to be said for face-to-face, genuine teaching. It seems there are a myriad of new-age ‘online courses’ (available in the topic of Wicca specifically, or Wicca pretending to be Old Craft – that old gem) aimed at people who are searching for something authentic. Social media and computer ‘bots’ very quickly match them with a questionable course which is both overpriced and overrated.

I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong for receiving payment for teaching at the basic, neophyte level, nor teaching this level of material to ‘jo-public’. Let’s face it, with all the other rubbish that is available out there under the guise of authentic Wicca and witchcraft, if the teacher is well trained and experienced then it can be just as beneficial and cost effective (if not more so) than purchasing a collection of books on the subject – and you have the benefit of a shared experience. So lets get something worthwhile out there, a pearl in a sea of pebbles.

The problem arises when a course (or indeed a coven/training group) recruits and teaches on the back of 1) No significant/actual experience of what they suggest they teach 2) Misinformation/’Hearsay History’ 3) Not ACTUALLY a Magic-Worker/Witch in the true sense of the word 4) False/Imagined Lineage 5) Misuse of Ego

I summarise what a good teacher needs INCLUDES these 5 points:

1) Experience of the tradition they intend to teach, from several angles. They person may have been in a coven for several years, received training themselves, observed other’s training techniques, made mistakes and learned how to avoid them in the future (or, self taught with a tonne of reading, researching, practicing by themselves for a significant amount of time; this isn’t ideal though IMO). I am not suggesting that you must be a pensioner in possession of Gerald Gardner’s false teeth (although many people are impressed by such things). Perhaps this is the first time you have taught, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I was saddened to read that a coven that’s been running for generations is now almost wiped out due to deaths of the older members and the younger members not feeling worthy of continuing the tradition. Yet the experience of those young members far exceeded their years.

2) A commitment to questioning everything they hear before they repeat it. There’s lots of reasons why misinformation is a big part of witchcraft’s modern history, and this isn’t the place to explore that. History is REALLY important – both to enhance our own practice and to ensure that what we transmit to others is as genuine as possible and is not likely to make us the laughing stock when it comes out in ‘The Telegraph’. This doesn’t mean we blindly copy history and don’t do anything new. It just means that we know our roots. Equally, there are so many topics and subjects within the bubble we call magic/the esoteric. Before we practice, research whatever it is until you are blue in the face. Know the practice INSIDE OUT. Don’t just pay lipservice or blindly follow the herd.

3) To actually BE a witch. What do I mean? To be able to (and know how to help others to) cross the boundaries into the otherworlds, raise and move energy, enter trance states, work with nature and create magic that ACTUALLY WORKS. The purpose of ritual is NOT to stand in a circle and read from a piece of laminated paper, whilst others in the group get numb feet. We have to get out of this habit and its something that has sprung largely from groups forming with very little experience (see .1. !!) The Craft is an Art, a Practice, an Organic thing, like an artist you need a talent for it – many will TRY and FAIL.

4) Lineage. Does linage matter? It can, in some ways, for good and bad. The benefit of Lineage is not to create an exclusive club, what lineage does is link the practices of a group of people and create consistency and quality of teaching. In entertaining a false or imagined lineage you are already subscribing to a fantasy. Why bother? Only a handful of initiates are lucky enough these days to have traceable lineage back to the original traditions such as Alexandrian Craft or Gardnerian Craft. For those who do, I feel this is something that should be celebrated — as long as points 1, 2 and 3 & 5 are still adhered to and placed as ultimately MORE important (which unfortunately they are often NOT!!) If there is no lineage, then in my opinion a well-trained teacher (even a self taught one) still has every right to teach, assuming they are committed to questioning everything and creating something GENUINE and create a lineage of their very own.

5) A understanding of and conscious awareness of Ego and its use. With the practice of the Craft, in particular group/initiatory traditions, comes an unusual ‘balancing act’ of the Ego. The Ego is a hugely important part of ritual and magic and the developing of the magical self however as they say ‘everything in moderation’, and you must learn to use the Ego for certain aspects of your practice, and not in others. A good teacher is willing to accept and joke about their mistakes, fully admit when they have no idea, and practice for the love of the practice, rather than for how we appear to others. This is a huge topic and this is not the place to discuss it in depth but maybe another blog.

Of course, nobody is perfect and the above list is completely idealistic. But as practitioners and magic workers we are always learning and improving ourselves; anyone who says they tick all the boxes above needs to go back to square 1 !! Including me.

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Moderation is not Censorship …

Freedom of Speech
noun: freedom of speech; plural noun: freedoms of speech
  1. the power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty.

Just left a ‘pagan and witch’ Facebook group with a large following because every topic with any sort of meaning is deleted by the moderators for fear of starting and argument or ‘upsetting’ someone. It has a large following and could potentially achieve some amazing things due to its reach. I approached a moderator politely expressing my views and received a shamefully ‘couldn’t care less’ response. How can you not care about discussing stuff that is actually relevant to the authenticity and future of your (so-called) path/spirituality/religion? Since when did we become so STERILE?? Why can’t we discuss things of real significance?

I understand moderating a discussion if its getting out of hand and its getting to personal insults, but there is a difference between moderation and censorship! Give people the opportunity at least to read and respond to interesting and relevant topics.

It seems that for many people Paganism is an escape, a fantasy. To me, its something real and gutsy – discuss, debate, research and defend. Paganism and witchcraft embraces the stark realities of life and death and all the processes along the way – good and bad – it encourages us to embrace them. yet these topics are starting to be censored out. I just don’t get that? 

Look at the key themes and practices of BTW, which is the often hidden foundation of so many of the practices and beliefs followed by the people in these groups. By this groups’ rules, this tradition might as well be completely censored out, because it purposefully pushes our comfort zones in every way.

Oh well – let’s just discuss the latest Amethyst crystals we bought. What a waste of time.

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Limited Edition COTW

As many of you know, due to changing publishers ‘Craft of the Wise’ has been unavailable. The re-write is taking more time than I expected! So in the meantime I have managed to organise LIMITED NUMBERS of a special edition of the first book, which will be available to pre-order in due course – hopefully ready for Spring 2018. Watch this space for more news and details about how to order!

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Workshops 2017-2018

As of November, I will be running a number of workshops in Totton. These will be 101 workshops with a difference! Each subject will be covered in detail and work towards creating genuine, effective ritual and magic. The sessions should be helpful for both beginners and those already practicing alike!

The workshops will be held at Cobwebs and Broomsticks café (where you can also get a great coffee and a bite to eat!) There will be a fee, to cover the room hire and cost of materials etc! Keep checking back here to find out more.

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The Natural Evolution of the Dionysian Cult

I am really pleased to announce that my latest book, Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is now available from all good bookshops, including direct from the publishers, Avalonia Books. This book has been an absolute journey in the making. As with my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide, I was compelled to write this book and as such, it felt like quite a mission from start to finish! As the Introduction explains, my study was born out of a series of synchronicities, prophecies and other mystical occurrences which happened to our small ritual group in Hampshire, in the UK. Hampshire is a seemingly unlikely place for the Dionysian current to manifest. Both trained to our third degrees in Alexandrian Wicca, myself and my ritual partner began taking applications for our own ritual group in 2005. We were not a conventional Wiccan group; having received training with teachers from several different occult traditions, we were already working outside of the standard Wiccan framework. After a few years, we adopted the more general term of Initiatory Witchcraft, which allowed us to explore alternative mystery traditions and magical practices. it was all semantics of course – but it helped us in some way to remain true to our journey. In a way, the publication of my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft, marked this moment – drawing a line beneath my previous work whilst also leaving one or two clues about the new direction our ritual group was taking. Craft of the Wise did not attempt to cover this new ground.

Within Initiatory Witchcraft, many of the ritual themes are received intuitively, and then reconstructed with historical research into that particular mystery tradition or practice. A lot of it is down to synchronicity, messages and intuitive work. There is very little scripted work. It is based on studying and recreating the more mystic aspects of ancient traditions. However, we often use the ritual framework from Wicca as a structure for the practice of the mysteries (either magical or theurgic) because it does work in terms of creating coherence and structure. We also found, through our own experiences, that the ethos of Wicca and Witchcraft (and the very nature of the gods and forces working within them) behave in a very similar way to the ecstatic cult of Dionysos, and gods and goddesses of a similar ilk – and are therefore conducive with the ritual and practice of Wicca. Ultimately, they seem to follow the same ‘current’ in the universe.

It is important for any reader to realise that this book is written from a modern Western Mystery Tradition viewpoint – the only viewpoint I can give. I would like to stress that the material in this book is only my own interpretation of what has already been written about the god, together with my own inspiration and ritual experiences. I hope that I have managed to step far enough away from modern practices (whilst still recognising parallels) in order to view the evidence from an objective point of view – but inevitably, my interpretations will be influenced by modern thinking. As the author Robert Brown writes, ‘our acquaintance with earlier times is probably insufficient to enable us to judge whether … a particular assumption is (correct) or not’, that is, no matter how well read we are on a subject, we will always be influenced by our modern way of thinking and preconceptions; but perhaps we have to accept this on some level as part of the natural evolution of the Dionysian cult.

The aim of my book is to present a historical study of Dionysos and a reliable basis upon which the Dionysian current can develop and grow. I believe that the way we work with the ancient gods should always be evolving and transforming in tune with the modern world, just like Dionysos himself – but that it is just as important that we unify well researched ancient practices with our modern interpretations.

Certainly, the Dionysian philosophy suggests that it is impossible to develop spiritually without also embracing the realities of life – for Dionysos is a god of substance. The ancient Greeks had two different words for our word, ‘life’ the first was ‘bios’ which referred to the literal, mortal existence of an individual, and the other was ‘zoe’, which referred to the ‘spirit’ of life. This ethos was reflected at the core of the Dionysian religion, which recognised both the reality of existence and also a profound spiritual awareness. Dionysos was sometimes described as ‘otherworldly without being world-denying’ the Dionysian cult brought religion and the corporeal into one, without negating the importance or viability of either; arguably, perhaps something that is missing in many spiritual and religious paths today.