I once asked Cora what they did when a student wasn’t right for the Craft.
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Eventually they would just leave,” and turned her head.
My experience with the Andersons showed they would teach just about anybody. Victor often taught through the phone, through written letters and many times cassette tapes of the teachings would be sent. In fact, my first lessons were through that medium. I became accustomed to the parade of people passing through the house. But I also found that at some point the lessons for many of these students would stop and they became mere visitors.
Teaching and training is not the same thing. I was reminded of that this very day. Often in conversations, spoken and written, I will hear the term ‘training’ and continue to think along the lines of ‘teaching’. I’m sure this has caused a number of confusions, so let’s clear this up on my part.
Teaching can be done in any number of fashions. Benefits and handicaps aside, workshops and small classes are some good examples. The expectation here is that the student will learn the topic at hand. The hope is that the student will continue their study in this field.
But training holds a more profound expectation. Both teacher and student commit to a long term and rigorous study of not only a single topic, but to the entire field of study. The hope and yes, expectation for both the student and teacher is initiation.
Much has been said lately about training without the expectation of initiation. Frankly, I don't think you can have any ‘intention’ of initiation. The default position in Feri, no matter what the form of training is, "You will not be initiated." Decisions like this take time and much consideration.
During this period of time many things may happen that might cause a teacher to let the student go. And let us not forget that the student may also choose to leave the training before becoming initiated. There are questions and issues that come up during training that one cannot know when the training begins. They can be critical issues regarding integrity, or trivial issues such as interpersonal chemistry. Honestly, I would never take any students on, if there were some sort of condition that this student must be initiated.
But when I'm asked what is my criteria for initiation I tell them, "I ask myself only one question. I ask myself: Am I willing to live with this person, not only for the rest of this life, but for all of my lives? Can I love this person for that long?" I would suggest that this is a question a student hoping to be initiated might ask as well.
I do think that offering (and taking) workshops in Feri is okay. I feel that you should find one trainer and take as many workshops as possible. It rounds out the student. It offers perspective and exposure to many different ideas. And I offer this advice to my students of dance and art as well. This is practical advice for a student of any discipline.
As previously stated, training is a different breed of animal. One of the primary criteria of initiation is: Can the candidate be brought into the family? This was a very strong thread in the Anderson home. Begin training only those who you would want to bring into the family. Training guarantees nothing and initiation is only the beginning of your studies.
But what of the student who is looking for some training? How can one begin to search for a reliable and responsible teacher? I offer up some links that might be useful. One of these pages links to Isaac Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. Mind you, I have been informed that the Lilith’s Lantern web site is undergoing some revisions. I would check back often for updates.
The CDEF is pretty comprehensive, but I would like to add a few criteria for your search for a Feri teacher:
· How does your teacher view the tradition? Or rather how does the teacher’s view mesh with your needs?
· Who trained/initiated your prospective trainer?
· How many years has s/he been an initiate? This goes to general experience.
· From what line does s/he descend and what does that line teach?
· Does the teacher offer a certain amount of transparency to their general character, rituals and theory? **
· What is the teacher’s reputation among those you respect and admire?
· Does this teacher have a huge entourage of students/initiates? Or do they have a small but very strong group?
Finally ask yourself: Who am I? What do I want from this? Why do I want this? Can this trainer provide the guidance needed to help me realize what I want?
And remember, you can leave your training at any time, for whatever reason. You may feel obligated to give your trainer a reason, and it is polite to do so, but if you feel this will cause harm to you or to others then just leave.
*I would like to thank K for our rigorous conversation this afternoon. It was quite helpful, and made this blog a bit more than just a bramble of wandering thoughts.
**I know that this is quite controversial, but a certain amount of transparency is necessary for a healthy cult to flourish. If only to avoid the very dangers outlined in the introduction to the CDEF. I am NOT suggesting that all secrets be revealed!