On Finding an Apprentice in the Craft

by Valerie Walker

reprinted from CNL Brigid 91

As anyone who has endeavored to teach the Craft will testify, it is easy to find apprentices to the Craft, but it is not easy to keep them. Many will come in with great enthusiasm, which wanes rapidly when things get difficult or do not meet preconceived notions of what being a Witch is all about. Many will look to their teacher as guru or mother figure and be disappointed; these usually find what they are looking for in some other cult or some more power-oriented teacher. But the proper balance between willingness to learn and over-eagerness to give away the responsibiIity for one's own life is a difficult one to maintain.

Much of this is the burden of the teacher. The teacher of the Craft must keep a proper distance from his/her students, in order that they maintain respect for what is being taught and that they can avoid being caught up in personal psychological traps and trips. But the posture of the inscrutable Guru, up on a pedestal with worshipping chelas at his feet, is not one that it is right for a Witch to maintain. Ours is a barefoot religion, and our feet are planted on the Earth. No one of us, no matter of what rank, is any more valuable as a human being than the least-knowledgeable student╝ at least as far as the Gods are concerned. Even if we do not practice skyclad, each one is naked before the Goddess, and it does not suit us to put on airs.

The student, however, is not to be absolved of all responsibility. Indeed, the most important part of the teachings that a Witch can impart is to treasure and preserve one's own independence. Personal energy is what makes Magick happen, and a soul drained of energy by a misguided attempt to self-sacrifice or by giving in to the vampiric machinations of a manipulative leader will not be able to produce the energy needed for survival as an individual, let alone that necessary for performing work.

So the task of a teacher is made doubly difficult in the process of selecting students. There are many half-baked "spiritual" people around with vague aspirations toward Higher Things. These usually carry a load of unsubstantiated assertions with them that serve as rules for their lives: vitamin therapy, diet, psychic experiences, all sorts of New Age bits and pieces are mixed in with pop psychology, est, and the sayings of five or six recognized gurus. These are the people who will tell you at the drop of a hat what you were doing in a previous lifetime, or what color your aura is today; and they would just LOVE to learn a little about the Craft. STAY AWAY FROM THEM. To try and teach them something as down-to-earth as Goddess religion is an exercise in utility. They have already been inoculated against anything down-to-earth, and are immune.

Then there are the seekers after Magickal Power who have heard that the Craft is dangerous, and are attracted for that reason. They would just love to turn someone into a frog, compel the objects of their desire to their sexual lusts, and so on and on. (Remarkable how similar these fantasies are: most quasi-Satanists are very unoriginal ) Obviously these are people to stay away from as well, because if they ever do figure out how to to work a spell, it will undoubtedly bring bad results to everyone within a fifty-yard radius.

Who, then, is a likely prospect? He or she will have to seek you out and persist, rather than having to be found and cajoled into learning. You will test the student at every opportunity with little mindfuck jokes; if s/he is shocked and appalled, forget it, but if, after thinking it over, s/he can laugh, you have a potential Witch on your hands. The student will be prompt, willing to practice what s/he has learned (invocations, consecrations, etc.) in public if need be, enthusiastic, willing to listen, willing to ask questions, willing to figure things out alone if need be. Above all, the apprentice Witch must enjoy life on this earthly plane and appreciate the blessings of the Goddess in material and spiritual ways, and be able to cope with life as an independent human being. S/he must be healthy in body and mind, and strong in will, with a sense of being directed from within by the Gods and a sense of humor which informs all his/her thoughts and actions.

How does a teacher go about finding this paragon? If there is one in the vicinity, the Goddess will bring you together. While you wait, cast spells to attract his/ her attention, much as you would to find your true love. Let it be known that you are available to teach the right person (or persons if you are so lucky). Learn how to weed through the others--it's good practice in the Craft to learn to size up people and be able to refuse them kindly but firmly. You may have to take on a few and make some mistakes, but even mistakes are useful. Just drop them in the Cauldron and go on. Don't be discouraged; it takes infinite patience to make things grow. You will have to bear this spiritual pregnancy longer than a physical one˝it takes a year and a day at very least for an apprentice to attain White Cord, and sometimes longer, and a baby only takes nine months.

You will have to stand in many relationships to your apprentices: in terms of the Craft, you will be Maiden, Mother and Crone to them. As Maiden, you wiil be comrade and co-warrior/Magickal companion and trusted friend. As Mother, you will nurture their growth in the Craft and, at length, sever their ties of dependence to you, but always keep their welfare in mind. As Crone, you will give them tests which are real in their results, and you will criticize them objectively; as Crone, too, you will pass on your own Magickal art and status, training your own replacements. The relationship of Witch and apprentice is not one to be entered lightly; it is not one to be obscured by sexual or financial dealings; and it is a responsibility placed on both parties to last their lives long that they try as far as human beings may to maintain perfect love and perfect trust.