Anton Channing Liber Minor 3
|Pagan Teenage Voice |
(Magazine of Minor Arcana)
|Quest Magazine: |
|University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire|
|Pagan Dawn |
Theory 3 - The importance of magickal training.
Whether or not magickal training is required will depend on why you are involved in paganism/magick and what you hope to get out of it. From my own experience and observations there are three main types of pagan, all of which are perfectly valid, but only one of which requires a rigorous magickal training program. In order not to be offended, it is best to take these tongue in cheek stereotypes with a pinch of salt. A bit of humour never hurt anyone's magick anyway!
The first type of pagan are those attracted to paganism because they are drawn by an image. There are many types of images and glamours which draw individuals to paganism and magick ranging from the goth scene to a more hippy image, or even punk. Other glamours include the "witchcraft" connection. Such pagans like being associated with magickal powers without ever wanting to properly study the subject or really obtain any magickal power. They might not even believe magick exists, but this doesn't stop them getting a lot out of paganism, or paganism getting a lot out of them. They tend to make good figureheads, so long as they don't offend too many people, or try writing a book or giving a talk (which shows up their lack of magickal talent). They don't need magickal training since the most they'll ever do is listen to a pathworking that they can't visualise properly. Although they're the type most likely to lie about this. None the less, a pagan of this type may need a tutor for image purposes, rather than because they actually want to learn. They are likely to choose someone who can help them find all the shops with black clothes, and teach them how to apply black nail varnish correctly!
The second type of pagans are those attracted for intellectual reasons. This can be any number of a mixture of pagan theologies, pagan politics and pagan philosophies. In most cases there is some kind of overlap between the three. It is possible that a pagan of this type has also adopted a suitable pagan image/glamour suitable to the philosophy they are trying to promote. Don't be fooled into thinking their image is the reason they are a pagan. If they talk to you about complex feminist, environmental, anarchist, naturist, theological (or some other ~ist) arguments then you can bet its their intellectual ideas that motivate their being a pagan. This type of pagan is the type most likely to get into trouble with the police, from exercising their "right" to smoke cannabis to vandalising vivisection laboratories to trying to access Stonehenge at midsummer. Others of this type engage in safer methods of promoting their politics. This type of pagan makes good organisers and probably run the P.F., which is just as well as the first would mess it up, and the third type are probably too busy to do it properly. They are best at writing pagan/magickal history books and organising seasonal celebrations. They probably need to learn how to open standard pagan quarters in a non-offensive manner (if this is possible given the confrontational nature of modern politics) and learn basic meditation and divination. They can probably teach themselves this from books. Some members of this type probably don't really believe in magick, and although they probably keep an open mind on it, find it to be an irritating thorn in the side of "their" nice cosy intellectual religion, that damages their credibility in the outside world.
The third type of pagan/magician are those who are attracted by the magick. They are the most secretive of the three and will probably hide behind some image and intellectualism, thus attempting to appear as either the first type or second type. They are also the most serious and the type most likely to get into trouble with magick until they have completed a successful training programme. Magick after all is fraught with danger, otherwise every one would do it. Demonic possession of various kinds are possible, as are various magickal sicknesses, such as Magus-itus. In Magus-itis the magician becomes deluded into thinking they have attained "adepthood", and have become an authority that everyone should listen to. They are likely to either attract or repel other Magus-itis sufferers and if the illness goes on long enough also attract a large number of would-be-magicians suffering from sycophancy. Gnostic burnout is common among magicians of all levels, and is a sign that you've actually been doing real magick. Magickal tutoring is advisable to this type of pagan/magician but is not usually available until you are at least 18.
This is partly because many group rituals involve either sex, nudity or alcohol, which could get the group into lots of trouble. There is also the old maxim that in order to use magickal reality to good effect you must have learned to handle ordinary reality first. This is as true enough in modern magick as it is in traditional magick. In the early stages, any good magickal teacher will begin by teaching the student basic techniques such as meditation, diary keeping, concentration, visualisation, organisation, and basic opening/banishing techniques. If the student is experiencing difficulty in handling ordinary life then the good tutor will not expose them to real magick. Instead they will try and teach the basic organisation skills and self-discipline the student will need to sort themselves out. Although this is the only way magick can be successfully taught in the current age, it still leaves a large amount flexibility as far as style is concerned. The student can choose anything from Wicca to Chaos, Thelema to Natural Magic, Kabala to Tantra, Alchemy to Druidry, Runes to Necronomicon, Shamanism to Cybermagick, the list is endless. The choice of which will usually be influenced by either image or philosophy/politics.
One last point. When choosing a magickal tutor, work out where they are coming from. It's better to have a magickal tutor that is the same type of pagan/magician as yourself. In other words if you are a type 1 choose a type 1 tutor, if you are more interested in the politics, find a type 2 who will be better able to teach you these things. If you are interested in the magick, then find someone into the magick, a type 3. It stands to reason that this individual should be able to teach you the style/politics/magick that you are interested in. No good choosing a hippy-feminist-wiccan if you yourself want to learn about punk-anarchy-chaos magick, or vice versa. (Sorry about the stereotyping! I had to do it for humour! After all can you imagine a goth-fascist-hedgewitch or a yuppie-feminist-druid? Treat this as a visualisation exercise!). No reason why you couldn't be good friends or even magickal partners though. It is often very rewarding to work with totally different magicians and magickal styles, if you can stomach it!
Practicks 3 - Beginning your own training program.
Any initial training program should be for a minimum of six months, preferably for 1-2 years. Training never actually stops, but it does move in different directions after the initial period where the essential basic skills are learned. There should be no danger in learning the basics, and if you have taken the wise precaution of obtaining a magickal tutor any problems you do come across should be taken to them. Remember it gives them an ego boost to think they are teaching apprentices, so make them work for it. Its only fair since that's what the deal was when you both took on the tutor-student relationship. On the flip side don't needlessly cause problems for them since you lose their respect and they are supposedly providing you a service and safe space (mental space) in which to train. Remember either party can get a divorce at this stage without much come-back.
A good tutor will provide guidelines about your learning program rather than telling you exactly what you have to do. You should, for example, choose your own divination system, either a tarot deck, runes or ogham for example. The tutor should check your progress at various intervals to see how you're getting on. The tutor will make suggestions about exercises you could try out when you don't know what to do and help you develop your own ideas when you have them. They can also help by suggesting books to read, both factual magick books and fiction that contains useful ideas. Many of the best magickal ideas come from fiction and many magicians from many paths use the fictional works of H.P.Lovecraft, Terry Pratchett, Ursula La Guin, J.R.R.Tolkien or Clive Barker. Star Trek and Star Wars are also commonly used. Reading these books and watching these films can be part of your training. Meditation of some kind, Visualisation and Concentration exercises should also be part of a training program. Learning a symbol of some kind can be included as can a method or two of opening a circle, creating a sacred space or banishing. Dreamwork is also popular, as is learning to make things, such as wine, bread, staves, ale, mead, masks, robes, banners, incense, sigils. The last important thing to remember is that a magickal tutor is a human being. Don't treat them like a god, they don't want sycophants, but nonetheless treat them with the same respect you hope to get from them. If they don't respect you back then they're probably trying to tell you something...
Notes  Historical Note: This essay is a general essay on magical training written several years ago and in no way reflects the views I hold now or the views of KIA. It is presented here for historical reasons only.