Five years ago, I wrote the ‘The Path of the Seeker‘ — since then, the article has been translated into Polish, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. The article itself was poetic in nature and did not have any particular takeaway. It was intended to serve as a bridge for those walking the Path of the Seeker, something they could relate to in the sea of frustration that comes with this particular journey.
Shortly after publishing it, I realized I would have wanted to include some practical tips as well, those small nuances that are barely visible to the Seeker when walking the path towards the Craft, but very relevant for those watching.
The Craft, especially Gardnerian Craft, organic (and British) as it is in its nature, has a myriad of unspoken rules, messages between lines, that tend to be overlooked by Seekers. If we bring our characteristic decentralisation into the equation, the task becomes a titanic one.
There is no Handbook or Rulebook that can tell a Seeker how to seek. There are, however, principles or aspects that are particularly considered by those who guard the threshold of this magical tradition.
Thorn Mooney has beautifully portrayed some of those in her book Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Handbook, which I have reviewed in this same number of Wiccan Rede. And it was after reading it, and reading about some of the points that I myself consider essential, that I decided it was time to write this second part and add my own.
These principles will vary, based on what the group is looking for in a Seeker — or based on the experience of that particular group. The following ones are the ones that are relevant to me right now, based on my experience.
These are the things that, above all, I would like Seekers crossing my path to bear in mind.
There is a lot to say about honesty, and it might seem like an obvious prerequisite for any meaningful social interaction. But this principle is not that much about you being honest with me, but about you being honest with yourself.
It is not about being insincere when communicating what you think to me — it is about having done the homework, and knowing, feeling, that what you ‘think’ is fully aligned within yourself.
Even for those who hold honesty as a dear value, being honest about what they truly want, amidst all the ups and downs of the journey we described in the first part of this article, might be an important challenge.
Here is the thing: I have been there, we all have. And it is most likely that when you answer a simple question like ‘What attracts you to Gardnerian Craft?’, I will know if you are telling me what you think I want to hear, or simply reproducing a narrative you have created in your mind and actually started believing.
Do not get me wrong. It is an extremely difficult question. ‘How am I supposed to know what attracts me to something that is supposed to be a Mystery religion!?’.
But here is the thing: it is not about the answer. I would rather you told me ‘I honestly do not know.’, or throw a bunch of feelings and thoughts, about curiosity, secrecy, prestige, the allure inspired by old pictures of naked witches under the candles’ light, than provide an answer that is off the top of your head — an answer that we both know is not aligned with your true feelings.
If you tell me that ‘being a Gardnerian witch is your life’s dream’, or that you ‘simple like the Traditional stuff a lot — all traditional things are awesome’, my brain will shut down. For a very simple reason, and it is that, if you cannot be honest to yourself, you will not be able to be honest with me; and that is the first step to build trust.
One of the first steps during the particular training that I offer is to self-assess your strong points and opportunities for improvement (some NLP there!). If you cannot succeed on the first question above, you will not be able to succeed in this, or in the subsequent parts.
Let me repeat this because herein lies a big secret: It is never about the answer, it is about how you get to it. And this is true to the Craft, and to any job interview.
This is about getting to know you. And helping you to get to know yourself.
Have your own personal practice
If you knock on my door without having already developed a basic and healthy personal practice, I will most probably encourage you to do so, and ask you to come back later.
I do not expect you to provide a full thesis on your worldview, theology, and extensive curriculum on magical practice. I do not care what you believe in, as long as you believe in something. And I do not care what you have done, as long as you have done something.
Here is the second thing: the Craft will not provide you with belief, nor will it feed your practice with a spoon. The Craft will offer you tools and techniques, a framework, but the right attitude must come from you.
You will have to figure things out on your own, you will require the initiative to walk the extra mile and delve deeper. If you happen to join a group, your personal, individual, practice will be more relevant than ever.
Remember that ‘if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee’.
Sure enough, your beliefs and personal practice might (and probably will) change with time. Again, it is not about the specifics, but about the attitude.
If you are looking for a system that will tell you what to believe in, and give you 12 practical lessons per degree with activities and homework to do, so that you do not have to think by yourself, Gardnerian Craft might not be the place for you.
Let us be clear on this one from the very beginning: Nobody is expecting you to grovel to initiates simply because they happen to belong a specific cult (some might, but that says more about them than about you!). This would go against the first point we discussed. In a Craft where wit and intention are essential, there is no room for sycophants.
However, nobody likes a know-it-all.
Therefore, if you spend more time trying to explain things to me, than I spend trying to understand what you think and clarify any questions you might have, something is not right.
Again, it is not about the knowledge you might have — we all have fields in which we excel and we are passionate about. It is about the attitude.
Here is a third thing: if you know it all, I have nothing to offer you.
Sometimes (many times), the intentions are good, we try to impress someone with whom we want to build a relationship. But if this does not work when dating or friending someone, do not think it is any different when trying to approach an initiate.
In the same way, if you are Magnificent Archpriest Extraordinaire of a group, or a different Wiccan path, I will assume that you already found your path.
I understand that there are several modern Wiccan traditions that allow, and sometimes encourage, to explore different Wiccan paths at the same time. This does not work for me. You are a seeker, or you are not.
There are, of course, spiritual and occult paths that are, to some extent, compatible with the initiatory journey of the Craft.
Do your research; leverage resources
If you write an email or letter to me saying that you want initiation and asking me what Gardnerian Craft is, and whether can do this online — my brain will shut down.
There are zillions of books and articles on Gardnerian Craft. Of course, there is the dichotomy we mentioned earlier ‘How am I supposed to get to know Gardnerian Craft if it is a Mystery cult?’. Nobody expects you to know what its practice actually entails. But I do expect you to have at least read some books on the subject.
Even if you do not have access to books (quite unlikely), or do not speak English, there are website led by initiates in Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, French, Portuguese, or even Finnish. I myself have translated and written dozens of articles in Spanish that range from the very basic ‘What is Gardnerian Craft?’, to more elaborate dissertations.
Here is a fourth thing: If you reach out to me, via the very same website where those articles are posted, without a clue of what the Craft is about, I will assume that you are wasting our time — both yours and mine.
Those articles are not just something random. We have invested our free time and tailoring text to a specific audience, with the intention of helping them figure out if this is something they would like to pursue further.
There are amazing pearls of wisdom in those articles that, even as an initiate, provide me with further insight into some of the aspects of the Craft. And, more importantly, about that specific author (and group), and their worldview.
Likewise, there are also forums, groups, and other venues when you can ask initial questions while you are doing your research. We also invest time in those groups — leverage them!
Be active; engage; stick around
Even if you have done all of the above, I will still like to get to know you a bit better before starting any formal pre-training.
Here is the thing: if we do start that journey (or pre-journey), we will both invest a lot of time. And we both need to make sure that it is worth it.
You need to show interest. If you really are interested, it will come naturally. When you are interested in a person, it comes naturally to want to spend more times with them, get to know them, keep the contact. If you have to force yourself to do all of this, something is not right.
Many times, I am contacted by people who show an initial interest, and who I direct to our Facebook group and ask to keep in touch. Many of them never do.
Here is a fifth thing: I will not come knocking on your door. As blunt as it might sound, you are the one who wants something from me.
While that usually develops into a healthy relationship where both learn and benefit from each other — we are not there yet. You are a stranger knocking on my door, and asking me to invest time in you.
Again, this should come naturally. If it does not, do not force it.
I organise events from time to time, try to attend them. I post articles frequently, try to provide insight on them (if you feel like doing it), etc. These are just examples.
In short: be present.
Be realistic; be willing
This is a tough one, but once you have done the above you will need to be realistic. If you work 50 hours/week, have two kids, and run your local book club, you might not be at the best moment to commit to something else.
And this is perfectly fine. And it does not mean you have to stop seeking. Focus on your personal practice and continue engaging. It might not be the time now, but it will certainly open doors in the future. Do not be discouraged by this.
Here is a sixth thing: If I believe it is the right time, I will try to make it work — but you will have to make sacrifices.
When I was a student I saved my Christmas and Birthday gift-money to book flights for the coven meetings. Later, when I got a full-time job and had the money, I had to travel 10 hours on a Saturday and 10 hours back on Sunday to make it to the rituals.
I will not ask the same from others, but if you are looking for a coven in your town and are not willing to travel to the next, I will not accommodate that.
Again, there are life situations, and I will not ask you to leave your kids with a stranger for several days just to come to coven meetings! Concessions can always be made. But one has to be willing to make small sacrifices.
Know the subtleties of engagement
I have seen way too many seekers failing at this when reaching out to initiates and/or groups. Many times, it is a genuine mistake or lack of knowledge. However, other times, it is an attempt to outsmart them — or just an absolute lack of manners or common sense.
Here is a seventh thing: Be wise, and use your common sense. And this goes with the first point too.
There is one additional thing you need to know: We initiates talk. We talk a lot amongst ourselves. Really, a lot.
If you have done all of the above you have probably caught the attention of one of us, and might even be in contact and engaging with them. You might, of course, (and many times you should!), explore other options. But you ought to be straightforward about this.
If there has been some problem between another you and another group, you should mention this too.
We are humans, clashes of personalities do happen. Another group might not have been the best fit for you and that is okay. Just be straightforward about that — because it is most likely to come up in a conversation sooner or later.
Another subtle aspect to bear in mind are the channels of communication.
Simply put, if you are in Chile (or the UK, or any other country) and you reach out to me for training (me being in Spain), the first thing I will do is reach out to my brothers and sisters in Chile to ask about you. Sometimes, there are very valid reasons for a seeker to do this. In many other cases, the reasons behind such decision entail something else.
Likewise, if you are in Ecuador (or any other country), and you have a contact person (or a couple of contact people there, you will want to contact that (and only that) person (or people), and not their initiators in Ireland (or somewhere else).
First of all, it is plain rude and will get you off on the wrong foot — not just with that person but with many others. You are essentially diminishing those individuals that their initiators have deemed fit to pass on the tradition.
As with the above, sometimes there are valid reasons for this. Other times (most of them) it is a way of trying to go around a judgement call that the initial contact people might have already made.
Most of the times it will not work. As mentioned, we do talk, a lot — and you will most likely be forwarded to the initial contact person. If it does work, you would have created a rift with your local coven, and that is something that nobody wants.
All of these are very unspoken ‘courtesy rules’. If there is goodwill in you, you should not have a problem with them!
There will come a time when you have done all of the above, and you feel like you are still hanging there. You have been participating, engaging, sticking around, and you actually like the people or the idea even more than when you started. You just do not know how to continue, or even where to start!
‘Why is there no Hogwarts letter in your inbox?’
Here is an eighth thing: Talk to me, I do not know what is going on in your head.
I might perceive that you are ‘getting there’, that you are truly interested — but I will not offer you any training. You need to ask.
How? Just have a conversation. ‘Hey, so I have been sticking around and checking this and that… and here is what I think so far… and here would be my expectations… how can I make it work?’
Sell yourself as you would in an interview. If there are any challenges (i.e. distance, schedule), show me that you have already thought about it and have solutions in place.
The most likely scenario is that I am already expecting this conversation and I have already thought about this too.
Do not be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is that you get a no.
It is going to be okay
Even in the worst-case scenario where you get a negative response, it will most likely never be – just – that. If you have taken all of the above into consideration, we will probably have a healthy relationship by now; and know a bit about each other.
As such, I will let you know what do I think it is missing. Most of the times, I will also provide you with some advice. Maybe it is not the right time. Maybe you would be a better fit for another group. By this time, we might have built the foundation of a friendship and I might be able to recommend you to another group.
All of the above might seem like a lot (3,000 characters of a lot, to be more specific), but it all boils down to the first point: Be honest, and kind.
With honesty comes the ability to be humble and know what we seek, and why we seek it. The rest is just good manners and common sense.
While initiation is, indeed, a privilege, my duty as a High Priest is not to determine if you are ‘worthy’ — if there is such a thing!
My duty is to determine whether this is the right path at the right time for you. Stopping you from overlooking other opportunities that are far more suitable for your current needs, and simply jumping into Gardnerian Craft because it sounds cool.
And trust me when I say, that we find no joy on that. But, by overlooking it, I would be doing you a great disservice.
If, however, all is in place, and the time is right, I will be more than happy to help you on your path as a Seeker — wherever that path leads.