A PAGAN STUDENT’S BILL OF RIGHTS
1. You have a right to the quality of education commensurate with the medians in similar education for others in your chosen area. Check several teachers or schools to find just what those medians are considered to be.
Corollary: You do not have the right to expect your teacher to be a “SuperPriest/ess” who will fulfill your every need, want and desire. Today, many are advertising themselves as “teachers” with little more than a few years experience themselves, much of which may be book learning. Truly experienced Elders and “Grand Masters” are exceedingly few and far between. Consider yourself astoundingly fortunate if your teacher falls into this category, but within reason, expect a teacher of Paganism to be human and fallible – resolve for yourself to learn what you can from the situation you are in.
2. The terms of your education shall be agreed upon in advance of its commencement by mutual contract between both teacher and student. Either party may at any time with prior advance notice, rescind said contract. Don’t accept an amorphous “well, we’ll just take it easy and see what happens” approach. You have the right to know exactly what to expect in terms of time, commitment and subjects learned.
Corollary: You may not drop out of tutorial with a teacher without making a reasonable attempt at telling them why you are feeling uncomfortable enough to do so. Be specific, they need to know how their behavior affected you and your potential for learning from them.
3. You have the right to expect a teacher who is compassionate, has a good sense of humor, has respect for you and others and who has a healthy level of self- esteem. A good teacher will admit when s/he is wrong in the moment and will usually heark back to their own novice days with anecdotes of their own trial and error to share with you. A good teacher knows how to maintain the delicate balance between friendship and appropriate discipline.
Corollary: Any teacher who projects as “too perfect” definitely isn’t. Beware also the teacher who is continually in a state of personal woe – these people need too much of your energy that you won’t have to give them. Walk out the door and keep searching.
4. You have the right for the teacher to always be truthful with you. Choose teachers whose styles permit you to question freely, who “lead by example” and show you as well as tell you the things you are learning. You can’t learn herbalism solely by reading books, some day you have to get out into the garden and root in the dirt. Look for a teacher, whatever their specialty, who does the equivalent in their particular form of practice.
Corollary: Beware of teachers whose main boast is how many books they’ve read, or that all of their knowledge is “book learned”. Such teachers will not be giving you anything authentic that you cannot learn on your own from the same books. A person “teaching” like this is perpetrating little short of plagiarism. To bring in the danger factor, you do not want someone “teaching” you the art of soul travel/astral projection who has never really done it themself. Don’t be someone else’s guinea pig. A teacher is a rich resource not only of the literary materials they have consumed, but of their own experiences: those triumphs, failures and illuminating moments of true enlightenment that cannot be learned from any book in print.
5. You have the right to expect your teacher to hold a broad education themselves, with specialty areas in which they might be considered to hold above-average knowledge. Anyone purporting to be a teacher of Witchcraft, Shamanism or one of the other forms of Paganism is held to a standard of excellence in their own community, and usually will have specialised in some branch or another of its components. Bonus points to a teacher who has cross- cultural initiations or similar expertise/other cultural referents to draw from. A broad educational base generally lends another primary desired quality of a good teacher: a broad mind.
Corollary: Ask your teacher to name their teachers or others in the community who know them, and talk to them before signing on to that particular teacher’s list. You may find they have an expertise in permaculture, spellcasting or soul retrieval – or you may discover knowledge that might lead you in another direction. It never hurts as a consumer of a service, to obtain references.
6. You have the right to expect discipline from your teacher. You have the right to expect that they will not let you get away with slackness in your learning, presentation or commission of your duties to them. When learning, expect no less than to apply yourself with the diligence most would reserve for a graduate school degree. A good teacher does their own research and give credit where it is due – expect the same of yourself. Be on time; ahead of time even, for lessons and coven/circle activities as your teacher should. Do one more bit of homework than is expected of you. Expect no less than excellence of yourself and you will be richly rewarded.
Corollary: You have the right to expect your teacher to be firm, but flexible within reason. Teachers should be expected to keep their committments to you as you do to them. Overly regimented structures are not conducive to learning, although sometimes in some traditions, such strictures may be put into place specifically to challenge you and help you grow. Look for teachers who walk the balance between firm and flexible for the best learning environment.
7. You have the right to expect change. Do not expect a smooth ride. Life is its own powerful teacher – learning the arts of Shamanism or Witchcraft are seriously advanced study in the crafting of your own soul. By virtue of this process, your issues will be brought out into the open and you will be expected to deal with them and act/react accordingly. How you react will be noted by your teacher and you can expect to have such reactions become the topic of discussion for your further growth. You have the right to expect during these “spiritual crises” for your teacher/s to be there for you to consult, lean on just a little bit and to provide you resources for getting through. You do NOT however, have the right to call the teacher in the wee hours every night of the week with a new crisis, to monopolize your teacher’s time for weeks on end due to a major crisis or series of smaller ones. Some support is to be expected from a teacher, but not unlimited support. Ask prior to your training what level of support the teacher is comfortable giving you and adhere to that. Know also when to refer yourself to a competent psychotherapist or healer. And if your teacher suggests you do so, take their advice without quibble. Clinginess from crisis-prone students who do not engage competent healing staff at the appropriate times is one of the behaviors that can be incredibly abusive of the teacher. If such clinginess is particularly time and energy consuming, it may cause the teacher to end their relationship with you.
Corollary: Your teacher does not have the right to use information concerning your spiritual crises against you, or to pass you off without seriously attempting to help you. Any teacher who does this you should immediately disengage from. Such a person is not the one to be trusting with your soul and your psyche as is required from a teacher of the metaphysical arts.
8. You have the right to be listened to, to have your questions answered and the right to expect a reasonable amount of your teacher’s time for the discussion of issues you might have with your training, different areas you wish to explore, etcetera. A good teacher like a good psychologist learns to listen more than talk in order to know what is important and relevant to you, the better to help them custom-craft your learning experience. Walk away from teachers who refuse you time to state your concerns, pooh-pooh your questions or who motormouth over your every utterance.
9. At the appropriate time, you have the right to expect your teacher to either inform you that it is time for you to move on into your own practice, or to be open to your suggesting something similar to them. A good teacher expects their students to mature and progress beyond them and will be quite pleased for you when this happens.
Corollary: Any teacher who keeps you hanging on indefinitely for initiation, advancement, further training et. al. with prolonged and continual protestations of “you’re not ready!” when you know you are is not behaving in a mature manner. If it gets to this point, leave and seek those who will support your spiritual growth and advancement.