Who should I study with? Should I pay for classes in Wicca? If so, how much is fair? These are questions that seekers often ask when given the chance to study this path. As everything, there are different sides to this question and answers are subjective. When examining the need to pay for Wiccan education it is most important to ask questions and make an informed decision.
Our society typically puts us in the mindset that something is only worthwhile if one has to pay for it. But does this also apply to religious teachings, which is what Wicca classes are all about?
There are several resources available to locate potential teachers or groups. Pagan publications like magazines and newsletters sometimes have listings for these. It’s also possible to make contacts through local shops or festivals and hear names or things given out as potential teachers. As with anything, use your best judgment when checking out potential groups or educators.
There tend to be two different settings for potential students or seekers to settle into when they attend classes or lessons. The first setting is public classes, often under headers like “Wicca 101” and such that aren’t necessarily tradition specific. These are held in public locations many times like conference halls, libraries, recreation centers, or even the home of one of the teachers or group member. Classes like this provide generalized or basic info to get a seeker started on the right path. The classes can go from being several hours to several weeks in duration, depending on who is teaching and what they include in their curriculum.
The second setting tends to be more specific to the core beliefs or traditions being taught by the facilitator or teacher running the class. Lessons like this are more focused and likely to only occur once a seeker or teacher/group has determined that it’s a good match for all concerned. In many cases, this sort of training is something that will bring the seeker/student into the group’s core tradition.
To offer a non-Wiccan example that might help clarify this: the first is like taking a generalized class to learn about a religion like Christianity and the second is to decide if you want to be a Lutheran.
What am I paying for?
It is fair for teachers to ask for reimbursement of facilities (if a space is rented to teach the class, for example), supplies, print-outs, or anything that they would otherwise have to come out of pocket for in teaching a class. It is also fair to ask for donations not included in this fee for reimbursement. This lets the teachers know that their effort was taken seriously. Teachers go through a lot of work to prepare lessons and even if a fee isn’t charged, a donation is always respectful and appreciated.
However, if you’re attending a class in someone’s home or on their property where a location fee doesn’t really need to be reimbursed, and all they are providing for you is a single page of information and a list of books while asking for a fee of $50+, you should ask questions. The money should equal the work.
Who is teaching and what are their qualifications?
Most people wouldn’t attend a class offered by someone who had no credentials in their respective field, and they definitely wouldn’t willingly put their money into such without learning about it first. Wicca shouldn’t be any different. Before the class or classes begin, ask who is teaching and what experience they have. Check out references and question former students if they are available. It’s your time, effort to learn, and money and you have the right and responsibility to know who you’re spending it on.
What will the classes provide me with?
If you are a seeker interested in becoming Wiccan or looking into joining a coven or group of Wiccans, it is likely that the classes offered in Wicca by the teacher of this group are specific to that particular tradition. Find out if this is the case with your prospective teacher. Is this class part of the basic education for members of that group or just something offered to the general public to educate them about Wiccan beliefs? Weigh your decision according to what you want to get out of it.
In general (remember there are always exceptions to every rule), covens don’t charge their members for classes in the tradition’s beliefs. If you join a coven, it’s a fair expectation that you will learn what they do, practice, and believe without paying for specific parts of your training.
Additionally, British Traditional Wicca (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and their lineaged offshoots) practically invented the concept of vetting and are extremely well-connected. With a bit of digging and research on your part, you can find out if someone claiming lineage from one of these traditions is legitimate. It’s a big clue that they are not if you’re being charged money to learn the tradition with them.
Wiccan teachings are mostly done among closed groups (covens). Covens typically meet at a member’s home, usually the leader or leaders’ home, or sometimes at a different location depending on the requirements of the meeting. Because of this set up, there usually isn’t the need to collect money from members to pay for the upkeep of a permanent location or building.
Coven dues are generally charged to cover any financial expenses for this sort of education but the money doesn’t go to pay anyone a salary. Dues cover expenses such as candles, incense, tools, and perhaps a group fund for attending a field trip or something else.
However, in some places, this is changing and some Pagan or Wiccan groups are choosing to go the route of having a permanent covenstead or temple outside of the home. In this sort of a situation it usually falls to the congregation to see this can be maintained. Fees or dues may be charged that go to paying for the utilities, rent, or upkeep of having a permanent location. If this is the case, then choose whether or not you are willing and able to handle this sort of a commitment. In this sort of a situation, I think it’s fair and reasonable to ask to see where the donations are going. To honor the principle of ‘perfect love and perfect trust’, there should be an open disclosure of monies. Congregation members should be aware of what their funds are contributing to and coven leaders should be held to a standard of honesty and integrity in these matters.
If you are seeking a potential group to join, take these things into consideration. In general, Wiccan teachers should not earn a profit from teaching. Wicca is a religion, not a business.
What should I look for in a teacher?
Remember that teachers are human. They aren’t perfect and will make mistakes. That being said there are some key things to look for when seeking a teacher.
(I go into detail in another direction in this post: How to Begin)
Is this person happy?
The first clue or indication whether or not a person is a good one to study with is their attitude. Wicca is a religion of self-actualization and personal responsibility. Everyone has bad days and everyone goes through bouts of depression. This is part of the human condition. But a responsible Wiccan teacher will generally have more positive than negative in their life and outlook. They will not have an attitude of being a victim nor will they coddle to that attitude in you.
Along with this is the idea that they have a reasonable grasp on events in their own life. Are they self-sufficient? Do they have a stable home life? If they are in a relationship is it a loving partnership that enhances their life? If not are they taking steps to amend that? Are they able to function financially or are they constantly asking to ‘borrow’ money? Along with this, do they charge exhorbitant rates for their knowledge? If this person is going to be someone you are going to look to and learn from, they should be in a position of security and stability. They can’t advise or educate you about how to manage your life or studies if they haven’t even got a grip on their own.
Do they honestly answer questions asked of them or are their answers more circular? Can they provide references or proof to back up any claims they make? Can they be ‘vetted’?
No one knows everything. The good teacher will admit it when you ask them about something they don’t have experience with or knowledge of. If this occurs, they should tell you up front that they don’t know the answer and they should do their best to help you discover it. A good teacher isn’t interested in appearing to be the ultimate ‘Enlightened One’, they are concerned with seeing their students become educated.
Lots of people in the Pagan or Wiccan community come from being solitaries or self-taught practitioners. There’s nothing wrong with this concept or idea and some of these folks may even be very good teachers. However, if you’re self-taught, eclectic, or not a member of a tradition where you received training, then DON’T CLAIM THAT! Own your knowledge for what it is. If you learned everything you know from books and personal reflection but feel called to teach others, then do that to the best of your ability. But take ownership that you are self-taught. Don’t claim training, membership, heritage, or lineage that you don’t have. Don’t claim degrees that you didn’t earn and be prepared to provide references if they’re asked of you. If you’re seeking a teacher and they give you a list of degrees or claim to have been taught/initiated/lineaged of ‘so-and-so’ then follow up on that. Don’t agree to study under this person and then act surprised when a year from now you learn that they aren’t who or what you thought they were if you didn’t bother to do the vetting in the first place.
Do they ‘collect’ students? Is their interest in being a teacher or priest/priestess so that they can claim the title rather than guide others?
Some people just want to be seen. The title of High Priest or High Priestess has a definite allure to it and can conjure images of heavily swinging censers filling the air with scented smoke, sonorous chanting, magical symbols, authority and power. Not everyone who lays claim to the title actually deserves it or should be trusted. Pay attention. A good reference guide in this case is the Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.
Do you feel good in their presence?
I’m not saying that your teacher has to be all sunshine and rainbows all the time or go out of their way to make you feel good. Sometimes the most important lessons come to us when we’ve been bumped around a bit or knocked down a few pegs to be taught humility. That’s vastly different than constantly being berated, made fun of, or made to feel inferior. It’s also a bad sign if this person just has a sour attitude that rubs you the wrong way, seems deceitful, petty, or any other majorly negative personality flaw or condition. If this is the case, keep looking. You’ll find the right teacher or group eventually and even if that is still a long way off, you always have the ability to study on your own, pray, meditate, and just enjoy the world and your place in it.
Do you feel like you’re being recruited? Do these teachers/leaders or does this group actively seek students or members?
Paganism in general and Wicca in particular have a strong code that there is no proselytizing. This means that it always falls to the seeker to find a group or teacher, not the other way around.
Teachers and/or groups may make themselves available publicly, extending an open invitation to a class, circle, or ritual, or provide information that they are open if seekers wish to study with them, but they will not ask you to join. Students seek teachers, teachers do not seek students. If you feel pressured at all to join a group or teacher then they are not good for you.
Do you feel you can learn from them?
Some people are very good teachers. Some people are very good students. But sometimes it takes a while for the right pair to meet one another for a more long-term relationship. Ask questions and be prepared to answer them as well. A responsible teacher doesn’t look to take on every potential student that comes to them. They will likely do their best to see the student do well, but that doesn’t always mean they think they’ll do well as one of their own students. Don’t be so eager to find a teacher that you settle for one you shouldn’t have. If you do, learn as much as you can about what not to look for, and then move on.
If you are interested in seeking to join a group, please read the suggestions I have written here.