Common Sense Evaluator

The following common sense evaluator is a guide to help you choose the teacher and or group that will be right for you, and help you with the learning process.

1. The very first thing to do is ask for a printed copy of the basic tenets of the group. This should include what it believes and how it practices magick and celebrates seasonal rites. Also included should be what the group requires from its membership. If this is not forthcoming, you should seriously question the skills and abilities of the leader and group. Anyone who is running a group, has valid information, and expects to teach and lead others should be able to provide you with a printed copy of his or her group's doctrine—even if it is only one page. So remember, no hard copy, no deal.

2. Ask teachers where and with whom they trained, and then evaluate their responses. Did the teacher provide you with names, dates, and places? Or did he offer you wild tales about being the seventh son of a seventh son, whose grandmother (who is now dead) initiated him in his early teens? No names or dates of training? Look elsewhere.

3. Observe the living conditions of the prospective teacher and group members. Is the teacher able to support him or herself and his or her family? Are the other members of the group clean, drug-free, and responsible? If the teacher and the group are out of control, how can they possibly help you? So, if the place is a mess, run, don't walk, and don't look back.

4. What does the teacher want in exchange for teaching you? Don't buy into the old Wiccan adage that anything spiritual should be free. Some sort of an exchange should take place, whether it is that old demon cash or help around the house. Everything of value has a price — there are no free rides. People who don't ask for compensation for their time and work may have some hidden agenda. This usually manifests itself in power-tripping or cult-like mind control. If the teacher does not state his or her price up front, be wary of what might be expected of you in the future. So, no price, no commitment from you!

5. Ask the teacher for references, and always meet with or interview other members of the group. The best way to judge the efficacy of any organization is by its membership. Are the other members responsible, mature adults? Are they friendly, outgoing, and responsive to new people, or are they arrogant, and secretive? Do they speak of spiritual and uplifting ideas or do they hang around and gossip? Do they welcome you in friendship as an equal, or do they expect you to bow in deference? Consider how you feel about the teacher and group before you make a commitment.

6. Be observant. What is the main focus or interest of the teacher and group? Do they spend more time discussing mundane matters than spiritual ideals? Before a Sabbat celebration, do they spend more time discussing what should be on a feast list than on proper ritual procedure? Or, worse yet, do they consider feasting more important than ritual and hurry through the rite so there are more time for fun and games? If the teacher or group are more interested in the chips and dip than in the raising spiritual consciousness, get your own munchies and stay home. ► ► ►

I have selected the following Wiccan/ Pagan organizations because they stand for what the Wiccan religion should embrace, encourage, and exhibit. Each organization listed has been in operation for more than 15 years, is legally recognized, and is spiritually oriented. To my knowledge, the groups listed here are not gender biased or single-sex oriented, do not condone the use of drugs, and do not condone promiscuous sexual activity.

To the best of my knowledge, each of the organizations listed meets on a regular basis, is open to newcomers, and stresses structured training by competent teachers. Unfortunately, I cannot make any guarantees regarding the groups, other than Our Lady of Enchantment, as I am its founder and president. I can guarantee that at Our Lady of Enchantment you will receive accurate information and timely service and be welcomed at our open circles.

Note that when writing to any nonprofit organization, it is always a good idea to enclose a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope for a prompt reply and return information.

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