Finding a Pagan Teacher

Tips to Find the Right Mentor

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Want to find a Pagan teacher? Start by looking for other Pagans. Image by Matt Cardy/Getty News Images

If you’re someone who’s new to Pagan religions – or if you’re someone who’s been Pagan a while and wants to branch out a little – you might find it of benefit to yourself to find a teacher or mentor. However, many people decide that “finding a teacher” means just randomly posting on the Internet, asking strangers to contact them. This is not the ideal way to find someone who can teach you about spirituality, for a variety of reasons.

Let’s look at some of the things you should do if you’re looking for a Pagan teacher – and some of the things you should really try to avoid.

Know Where to Look

If you wanted to learn, say, how to be an artist, where would you go? Chances are, if you’ve got a lick of sense, you’d go to a local art studio. Maybe you’d visit an art supply store, an art school, or even a gallery. Why? Because these are the places where artists hang out. Eventually, if you spend enough time networking with those artists, you might hear that one of them is holding a class and accepting new students.

It’s the same way with learning about Paganism. If you want to meet other Pagans – and really, that’s the first step in finding a teacher – you need to go where the other Pagans hang out. Go to your local metaphysical or Witchy shop, for starters. If your town doesn’t have one, be creative – try yoga studios, coffee shops, and bookstores.

Watch people in public places to see who’s wearing a pentacle necklace. Attend public Pagan events, and get yourself involved in the community.

Ask the Right Questions

Okay, so you’ve schmoozed around a little in the local Pagan community, and you’ve heard that High Priestess Snickerdoodle of the Cupcake Coven is accepting students.

Great! But just because she’s taking students doesn’t make her qualified to teach – and even if she IS qualified to teach, it doesn’t mean she’s going to meet YOUR needs. You need to ask HPs Snickerdoodle some questions.

Start with these:

  • How long have you been practicing Paganism (or Wicca, or whatever trad it may be)?
  • How long have you been teaching, and who did you study with?
  • Can you give me some examples of how you live magically on a day to day basis?
  • Do you teach in a group setting, or privately and one-on-one?
  • Is there a fee for classes, and will I need specific supplies?
  • Would you be willing to put me in touch with some former students for references?

Get Recommendations

Did you notice the last question? The one where we’re asking HPs Snickerdoodle for some names? This is a tricky thing – so many people in the Pagan community are in the broom closet. And yet, if Lady Snickerdoodle is worth her salt as a teacher, her response will be along the lines of, “You know, let me check with a couple of my former students, and see who would be willing to speak with you. Can I call you in a day or two with their phone numbers?

When she calls you with those numbers, get in touch with the folks whose names she’s given you, and ask them some questions about their experience.

Ask how long they studied with Lady Snickerdoodle, how they felt about the quality of the instruction, and if there was anything they wish she had done differently. Be willing to ask questions, and reassure the individuals that anything they tell you will be kept strictly confidential.

Know It's Okay to Walk Away

Let’s say you’re getting rave reviews about HPs Snickerdoodle… and yet, you’re just not sure she’s the right teacher for you. If she’s not, that’s okay – take as much time as you need to decide, and if you ultimately realize you don’t want to study with her, then thank her for her time and move on. If you do decide not to study under someone who’s taken an interest in teaching you, have the courtesy to let her (or him) know that. You don’t have to offer explanations or excuses, simply say, “I’ve decided this isn’t the right time for me to study with you, but I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

Let's talk, for a moment, about things NOT to do when you're looking for a Pagan teacher.

Don't Do Random Internet Postings

  • I want to be Wiccan – let’s chat on Yahoo/Kik/Whatever!
  • You don’t know me but we’re both Pagan - be my Facebook friend!
  • I’m a cute single girl who wants private Wicca lessons!

Can you see how some of these might be really bad ideas? Of course you can – and yet, people post them by the dozen every day on message boards, websites, and Facebook walls.

The Internet is a big place, and you open yourself up for all kinds of trouble if you’re randomly inviting people to message you, call you, or meet you in private. This is a no-brainer, when it comes to safety issues.

However, there’s also the issue of not having any idea of the qualifications of someone who responds to your request. If you post a request for strangers to contact you for the purpose of being a teacher or mentor, how do you know what you’re getting? How do you know that Lord ToasterStrudel really is a fourth-generation British Traditional Witch directly lineaged from Gerald Gardner, like he claims, instead of a nineteen-year-old kid with no real experience beyond what he saw on reruns of Charmed?

Don’t Forget to Pay Attention

So Lady Snickerdoodle has let it be known that she’s taking female students only, who can meet on Wednesday nights, to study a flavor of Celtic Paganism that she’s well versed in, but you chose to ignore all that because you were really excited about meeting a potential teacher.

Don’t get upset because you’re only available on Mondays and you’re really much more interested in Roman religion, not the Celts. It’s not her fault you didn’t pay attention, and now you’ve wasted her time and your own. Take some time to listen to the information being provided to you, and realize that even if Lady Snickerdoodle isn’t the right teacher for you, by paying attention you might find the one that is.

Don’t Nag

So you called Lady Snickerdoodle and left her a message, and two days have gone by and you haven’t heard back yet. It’s probably too soon to call her again – after all, she may be working a full time job, taking care of three kids, going to night classes to finish up her degree, and looking after her disabled mom. It’s okay if she doesn’t drop everything to call you back immediately. If two or three weeks go by, feel free to call her again, and just leave a polite reminder that you’re interested in speaking with her.

Don’t Suck Up

There are a few people in the Pagan community who thrive on being worshiped by lesser mortals. However, the ideal teacher is not going to be one of those – after all, do you really want to work with a teacher who only accepted you because you kissed up? No. You don’t. So however much you may admire Lady Snickerdoodle, don’t be a suckup. This means don’t send her gifts, don’t tell her “The Goddess told me YOU ARE THE ONE”, and don’t tell everyone in town how excited you are that she’s even opening your emails before you’ve even heard back from her. It’s a bad idea, and makes you look needy and fawning. Don’t do it.

Oh, and if your potential teacher is someone who really likes to be told that they’re the best thing ever?

You might want to reconsider whether this is the person you want directing your spiritual growth.

Don't Refuse to Take No For an Answer

Maybe you’ve decided Lady Snickerdoodle is the perfect mentor for you … but for whatever reasons, she’s decided not to accept you as a student. Don’t take this personally. If Lady Snickerdoodle doesn’t want to be your teacher, then she’s not the right one for you. That’s it. It happens, and it’s okay. Move on. Don’t hound her asking why she won’t take you and begging her to reconsider. Another teacher will come along eventually. Also, don't go around talking crap about her just because she turned you down. You may find yourself, some day, in a position where you'd like to be on her good side.

The Bottom Line

Finding a spiritual teacher is a deeply personal thing.

Some people search for years before finding someone that they can really connect with. Others move from one teacher to another without really connecting with any of them. Take the time to explore and learn, asking questions, and meeting other people in the Pagan community. Eventually, you’ll find your way to a dependable and qualified person who is willing and able to be your mentor. Until that point, continue learning and growing on your own.

Finally, be sure to read about Warning Signs in Prospective Covens if you're given an opportunity to study in a group setting.