Or visa versa...
Blessed Imbolc, my Beloveds!
So...where was I :)
I have taken on the task of inspiring and teaching new Witches! You can find us on Witchvox under, "Circle of the Ancient Ways". That said, this is not a shameless plug for our group, but a guide for those who find themselves drawn to this Path.
People are called to Wicca for many reasons. For some, like myself, it was something that had been calling to me for as long as I can remember. For others, it's a search for spirituality and community. For many, it is an interest in the mystique and magic of Witchcraft. These are all valid reasons, but the Craft, as I have come to know it, is not for everyone.
When I began practicing, some 20 years ago, I took some Wicca 101 classes and from that, a small eclectic group of dear friends began circling together. We called ourselves, "Circle of the Sacred Flame". It was a beautiful and inspiring beginning for me. We practiced for a few years before we all went our separate ways, in love and trust.
I practiced as a solitary for a while, but missed the energy of circling with others. After much meditation and research, I decided that I wanted to pursue a path in British Traditional Gardnerian Wicca. I wanted to be a part of where it all began; with a direct lineage to the teachings of Gerald Gardner, the "Father of Wicca", as he has come to be known. I was blessed to find a experienced High Priestess willing to take me on as a student, whose lineage is five degrees of separation from Gerald's own. I have since become a 2* Initiate in that Tradition. Admittedly, I am the "Black Sheep" of our Coven, a title I hold proudly. :)
But enough about me....
I have had students come to me from different backgrounds, levels of experience and desires for wanting to learn. I ultimately lose some students before or early into their training for one of the following reasons; they don't want to fill out the application, they are only interested in learning about specific aspects of Witchcraft, i.e. casting spells or divination, they realise how much work is actually involved or they learn that some formal covens do, in fact, practice skyclad, a.k.a. "clad by the sky" a.k.a. naked. This is not true of our teaching group, we are robed, but this is the way many formal Gardnerians practice. Just putting it out there.
Our application is short and sweet. We don't want to know your life history, but we would like to learn little bit more about you. If I am meeting you in person and you are going to share my home, I would like to to be secure in the knowledge that you are, at the very least, somewhat sane. It's a small, but not unreasonable request.
If you are looking for a teaching group for the sole purpose of learning spell work or any other specific magical practice, you would definitely lose patience with ours very quickly. Yes, we teach these things, but only after you have a working knowledge of Wicca and Witchcraft. You need to know yourself and your Craft. This can and often does, take years of study and practice. Are there shortcuts? Sure, you can pick up a spell book and hope for the best. I must warn you though, even the most experienced Witch has fucked up even the most well thought out spell. I know, I've done it. Magic is kind of like making toast. When it all goes well, it's delicious. If you burn it...the scent can stay with you, at times, nauseatingly longer than you ever wanted it to.
Then there is the dreaded "book list". I'll be honest, it's daunting! Our reading list is about 70 plus books long, give or take a book, and that's been modified since I began my training. We hold classes, followed by ritual, once a month and give "homework" that needs to be completed. I have had new students talk to me about Initiation a month or so into their training, only to tell me that they couldn't possibly "read all those books". Sure, you can! Every Pagan I know loves to read! If I can, and did, you can! What wouldn't you do for that which you truly desire?
There is a saying that a student must train with a teacher for "a year and a day" before they are formally initiated. I can tell you from experience, this almost never happens. Consider this, when you are learning any new or complex skill, how well do you actually know it in a year? There is a reason why Witchcraft is referred to as an "Art". Do think any of the truly great masters rushed their craft?
Ritual nudity. This the stuff that people are always wondering and whispering about. "Do you dance naked in the forest?", I've been asked more times than I've ever wanted to in this life! No, but sometimes in my bedroom I do! Oooops, outside voice! In all seriousness though, many people let their imaginations run wild with fantasies of us dancing around naked, having wild sexual orgies and worshipping Satan. Cause' that's what Witches are supposed to do, isn't it? Trust me, we never have that much fun! If one does practice skyclad it is an expression of trust, not of sexuality. It is allowing those material things that we use to define ourselves to be stripped away. It is finding strength in one's vulnerability, as well as freedom and beauty in one's own body. No ritual orgies...EVER, sorry.
"And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also: this shall last until
The last of your oppressors shall be dead"
.It is for the benefit of you as a prospective student to our group or any other, that you to do your research. If you are curious about Wicca in general and are seeking the basics, look into Wicca 101 classes, attend some public rituals or attend some Pagan Pride festivals. Witchvox is your friend! If you are looking for training into a specific Wiccan Tradition whether it's Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Minoan, etc; learn as much as you can about that Tradition. Ask questions, be specific. Any true teacher of the Craft will answer you honestly. There are some things that may be oath bound, but there are also things you, as a student, need to be aware of before you dedicate yourself to this path. The last thing you want to do is to diligently train with a group with the intention of being initiated into their formal coven, only to find that they practice skyclad. You should not agree to or feel obligated to do something you do not feel entirely comfortable doing.
I strongly encourage you to read the following Cult Danger Evaluation Frame by our beloved, Isaac Bonewits:
In Darkness, Light!