A while back, I wrote an article for those who are seeking to become members of a spiritual group. This was done so that any Seeker would have some guidelines by which to decide whether or not to become part of any group they came into contact with. Let’s face it. There are those out there that are less than honest about their motives and the real agenda behind their group, while other groups are truly dedicated to spirituality and helping others on their individual spiritual journeys.
Long ago, when I was seeking a spiritual path and happened upon Wicca, there weren’t that many groups out of the “broom closet”. If you were lucky enough to find one, you really had nothing to gauge whether this group was for you or not.
When I finally became a High Priestess and was part of the start of my own Coven, I only had books to determine how to make a decision about accepting a student. Most of the books available back then were written by British Witches. They made it pretty clear that they didn’t rush into taking anyone into their Covens. Those seeking admittance and training were often made to wait “a year and a day.” I didn’t understand this.
When people would come to us, I felt if they wanted to learn then we should begin right now. I was too new at this to really understand. I also didn’t understand that not everyone would approach it the same way I had. I was still too new to see this from another’s perspective. I only felt that everyone should be given the opportunity to learn.
As a result of my inexperience, the front door to the Covenstead (and my home) became like a revolving door. People came and people left frequently and often quickly. Sometimes there would be a full Coven one month and a few months later there might be only my High Priest and myself. It grew very tiresome, especially since I still hadn’t figure this ‘taking on students’ thing.
Just as every Seeker should have guidelines for knowing whether a group is the right one for them to become part of, there must also be guidelines for each Coven to use in assessing whether a Seeker will make a good addition to their Coven and whether what they have to teach will be of benefit to that Seeker. Contrary to popular belief, not every Seeker should be accepted by a Coven. Why? Because every Coven has their own way of doing things. Call it “tradition”, if you will, they have decided not only on a certain way they perform their rituals but also what subjects they teach, to what depth those subjects are taught, and when those subjects are taught. They have decided how many Degrees they will require before you are considered clergy and, not only how long each Degree will take, but what criteria must be met before the next Degree is attained. Not every Seeker will agree with or find fulfillment with every Coven they come in contact with. Not every Coven will see every Seeker as a good fit with their practices and ways of teaching.
It took me years to figure this out. At first, I blamed myself for all those who walked away. (So very human of me.) This was true, but not for all the agonizing reasons I was throwing at myself. The truth is, it hadn’t dawned on me yet why those British Witches took so long to accept someone. Both the Coven and the Seeker must understand where the other is coming from. This cannot be done without actually meeting and talking face-to-face and, even then, sometimes that takes time. I admit, I still don’t think it’s necessary to wait a year and a day to decide if you belong with a group or for the group to decide if you are right for them. What I do believe is that a lengthy in-person meeting, where questions from both sides are asked and answered, is quite necessary. Talking to someone on Facebook, email or even on the phone can be misleading. It takes actually meeting in-person to know whether this will work both ways.
So you meet and somewhere in the process one or both parties decide this isn’t going to work. What then? It may be that the Seeker was looking for something totally different than this particular Coven is offering. That’s fine. When you are seeking the best path for the advancement of your spirituality, you need to be choosy about where you make a commitment. You need to feel comfortable with all the members of a particular group and with how they practice and teach. So your search continues.
The other side of the coin is that a Coven needs to feel that you are ready and willing to dedicate yourself to the practices and teachings of their particular ‘tradition’. They also need to feel that what they teach and practice will be of help to you on your journey. If, for whatever reason, they feel one or both of these things could not be true, they may decline to take you on as a student or they may tell you they don’t think you’re ready yet to make the necessary commitment to what they expect from those who come to train with them. Here, again, that’s fine. Perhaps in the group’s experience, they realize that they might not be the best path for you at this time or feel that they can’t be of help to you on your quest.
In the outside world, not everyone who applies to a college is accepted; not everyone who applies for a job is hired. Becoming part of a Coven, or any spiritual group for that matter, is, to me, of far greater significance than any college or job. We’re talking about your spiritual journey here. Part of that journey is getting to know the real you. You want the best guides you can find for such a quest. If either you or the group you are seeking admittance to sees a reason to refuse, then take it as a sign that the right guides haven’t been found yet. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
For years, Temple of Wicca has not openly taken any new students. This past year, we have decided to open ourselves up to that experience once again. Because we are older, we are being very selective in our choice of those we take on as students. We have come to a place where experience has taught us that not every Seeker is right for us but also we are not right for every Seeker. So we must choose wisely if all parties are to benefit from the experience. The days of the revolving door on the Covenstead are long gone. If you knock, we will invite you in, but we must both be sure it is beneficial for you to stay.
May the spiritual journeys of all of us be filled with good choices and enlightenment!