Are Online Witchcraft Classes Legitimate?

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Can you take an online class? Sure! Make sure it's what you want and need. Photo Credit: Hinterhaus Productions/Taxi/Getty Images

A reader says, I was thinking about taking an online class with a witchcraft school that will ordain me as a high priestess. Is it worth the money?

Another reader asks, There’s an online witchcraft school that has classes I could take, and I don’t know if the people running it are legit. What can I do?

 

This is a question we get a lot here at About Paganism/Wicca, and I’m going to break it down into a few parts so the answer is more manageable, because it’s not quite as cut and dried as “yes they’re legit” or “no you shouldn’t.” Also, everyone has a slightly different definition of what’s “legitimate” and what’s not, so there are multiple things you need to consider.

First of all, what information is being offered? We use to offer a free online Intro to Wicca class here at About, which is now available as a self-study guide, and I make no secret about the fact that the information that’s provided is all stuff that’s public knowledge. There are no esoteric, oathbound secrets being revealed. It’s all available elsewhere. This is why our class is free. You’re not getting anything from me that you couldn’t find on your own, but what you are getting is all of the information put into a coherent collection of things that you should know as you get started, in an easy-to-understand format.

The lesson plans in our study guide series, just like all the e-classes we've offered here, are based on articles I've written, which in turn are based on (a) commonly available information and (b) my personal experience, and (c) packaged into a easy-to-follow outline so that beginners know where to go next.

If I were teaching these classes in person, I'd certainly expect to be compensated for my time, but it's an online class with an auto-send mailing feature. No reason to make anyone pay for entering their email address into a bar.

If someone is charging you for a class, that's fine, but you need to ask yourself what they are providing that you can't get elsewhere.

If, for example, it's oathbound information that applies to their tradition, and their tradition only, certainly that's not something you could get somewhere else… but is it something you NEED? If you're expected to pay for someone to explain to you how to cast a circle and what goes on the altar, then you're spending money for no reason. That information is all out there, in a million different places, for free.

Also important - are they honest business people? Are they just going to take your money, shoot you an email with a list of books to read, and be done with you? What exactly do you get, in the form of instruction?

Second, if they’re offering you a certification of some sort, how will that benefit you? If you pay to earn a piece of paper that indicates you're a Third Degree Whatever of the Sacred Online Coven, what can you use it for? In many groups and covens, someone with a certification from another group – online or not – still starts at the beginning of the ladder.

If you're hoping that getting certification as a priestess will allow you to do certain things, such as perform handfastings and so on, that's going to vary a lot depending on which state you live in - a lot of states consider online ordinations to be worth no more than the paper that they're printed on.

Which means, if you paid for this certification, it could be a very expensive piece of paper that has no real value to you at all.

In addition, one huge thing you miss out on with an online class is hands-on experience. You can stare at a screen all day long and answer questions on the tests they've emailed you, but until you've experienced magical energy yourself, you're not all the way, one hundred percent there. And having someone in person to guide you and offer suggestions and help goes a long way, but you don't always get that with online instruction.

All that being said, there's no reason you can't learn from a legitimate online class. There are some great people out there who have decades of knowledge to share in their particular traditions - you just have to decide (a) if they're teaching what you want to learn, and (b) if they're charging for it, are you really getting something worth paying for?

I can’t recommend a specific class or teacher to you, because I personally don't take online classes - and it's not because I'm opposed to them, it's because I simply don't have the time. However, I can tell you that if you ask around for recommendations from people you trust, eventually you’ll start hearing the same names over and over.

Also keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with someone charging a fee for an online class - if they've taken the time to put together information for a useful curriculum, then certainly, there's no reason they shouldn't be compensated. What you have to decide is whether the return on your investment has any value to you or not.

So here's what I would suggest. First, try out a few online classes that are free. See what you get. Figure out if they're worth the time you're spending on them, or if it's just the same old information being recycled over and over again. After you’ve tried the free ones, start asking people in the Pagan community about their own experiences with different online courses that cost them money. You’ll get a wide variety of answers, for sure, but that should help you weed out the ones you want to avoid.

Second, do some exploring on your own. There are a million pages about Paganism and witchcraft on the Internet, including this one here at About, and we all have information presented in different ways. I tend to take a more casual and less formal approach, while some people are very ceremonial and structured. That doesn’t make one of us more or less legitimate than others, it just means we do things differently.

Figure out what works best for your learning style.

Finally, if you've got a metaphysical or Pagan shop near you, see if they offer beginner classes, or even just open fellowship type events. Even if you have to pay for them you'll get a lot more out of an in-person experience than you will from clicking the buttons on your mouse. By combining self-education with online learning and in person experience, you'll get the best of everything.