Credentials in Religion?

We all do it. “Hi! I’m Wiccan!” pops up at some point, and if the person you’re speaking to is of like-minded religion, you start testing each other.

  • Who has more experience?
  • Who has a more verified path?
  • Who has read more books?
  • Whose books do they read?

Think about it. I know you do it. Even if you’re Christian, the debate changes slightly, but remains the same.

  • How long have they been Christian?
  • What church do they go to?
  • What version of the bible do they read?

Is this justified? I think so. Its hard for us not to discriminate, and it tends to be the case that, when speaking to others who claim to be along the path, they’re either on the path in this world, or on the path of some other world. The first thing a wiccan wants to do when they meet you is establish if you’re the real deal or not. Questions pop up like, “Who’s your favorite author?” To see if its Cunningham, or RavenWolf. Or somehow, you’re goaded into answering some version of, “Who taught you?”

The people who are just getting into our religion, but are doing a pretty damn good job of not being “Fluffy bunny” about it, will probably take the most shit from both people along the *real* path and the weekend witches.

“Oh, you’ve only been studying a year.” They’ll say smugly. “You don’t know about the super secret codex of Gardner.” (You may substitute “Super secret codex of Gardner” for some other bullshit.) Or, “No, I think I have more experience dealing with this infestation of fairies on my own.” After you, the newbie, offers the concept of meditation and centering and communing with the Gods.

I have to tell you, take a step back people! I’ve been pagan all of my life, and I grew up a lonely, contemplative only child, talking and singing to the winter wind as it blew softly through my southern window. I didn’t know it was a religion until I was somewhere between 10 and 12, and I dedicated somewhere in there. I began a coven with my friends who had somehow found the same path when I was 13, and we were together until just before I turned 16.

However, the length of time since I initiated tells you nothing of what I know. Those first four years, before I met my current high priest, I was probably fluffy bunny by way of understanding very little of how magick worked, how energy was used, and how ritual was conducted. Yet, in the first six months of my relationship with my high priest, I knew more than the majority of online communities had to offer me.

I try not to do it, but I’m just as guilty as you. As humans, we are always searching to play a role, and as Wiccans, witches, pagans, we are always trying to fall into either the teacher or the student role. Because information – real, sacred, information, is so sparsely found – we create a need for lessons from anyone, anything. This can be good, or bad.

So, before you take any more bits of wisdom, here’s my qualifications:

  • I first picked up “Teen Witch” by Silver RavenWolf at my local library. Yes, I, who bash all things Silver RavenWolf, learned originally from her.
  • The next books I picked up were “Celtic Magic” and “Norse Magic” by D.J. Conway, as well as one classic: Spiral Dance, by Starhawk.
  • I scoured the internet for resources on spells and associations. I never really performed too many spells, I was more interested in gathering the information.
  • I self initiated when I read Teen Witch.
  • I began a coven with my friends somewhere in 2002. We celebrated two years worth of rituals together, and grew close. It was here I learned about group dynamics, especially under the tutelage of my high priest, who was not a part of our coven. I was, for the most part, high priestess within.
  • I met my high priest in February of 2003. He became my high priest in September of 2003.
  • I initiated into my second degree in February, 2004.
  • My coven and I celebrated together until March of 2005, when our newfound differences in beliefs broke us apart.
  • I have been a solitary practitioner since then. I am still second degree, but it is mostly formality – we have not yet finished the process. We face a dilemma with my advancement, because he accepted my first and second degree as a solitary practitioner: should I self-initiate into the third?

That is my personal experience. It is now 2008, which makes me going on seven or eight years along the path officially. In terms of authenticating my high priest, he is a man of 31 years, a life long ancestral witch who learned from his mother, who was present at the American Council of Witches’ Witchmeet in 1974. His family tradition dates back before Gardner, several centuries long(Roma/Gypsy heritage), but much of what he teaches and we discuss is based on a mix of Alexandrian and Gardner formal methods, along with a significant amount of what he calls “Spiritual Mechanics” – how energy moves.

5 responses to “Credentials in Religion?

  1. You are just a baby on the path. Many of us started before Silver found her gold mind. When you had to look long and hard to find books on astrology. There were no occult or new aged shops. We learnd through books on Spiritualism. When you have a couple of decades of wisdom under your belt then we can talk. As fo the titles–they are just words and don’t mean much. It always amazes me how some people are so impressed with themselves. High Priestess or Priest? There is not ranking. You either are or you are not. You either take the responsiblity for a leadership role or you do not. Whether a solitary or in a covern, once you interally made the commitment, there is no great ranking. Every day there are opportunities to learn and grow; it is up to the individual to accept the lessons or not.

  2. Very good point in this entry! Personally I don’t think any credentials are necessary. I believe you judge a fellow witch/pagan by their current actions and words, as well as their intention. I’ve met ‘priest/ess’ that had no clue how to cast circle or deal with others in a group.
    Thanks for posting.

  3. “As humans, we are always searching to play a role, and as Wiccans, witches, pagans, we are always trying to fall into either the teacher or the student role.”

    I have observed this in myself and others as well. I honestly think it’s an important (though hopefully temporary) stage in most people’s spiritual development.

    Some wisdom one of my teachers imparted – something I always remember when I encounter someone with a “guru complex” who’s looking for followers – is that those who are truly wise don’t have to convince anyone. These folks, usually excessively vocal and demonstrative about how wonderful/powerful/experienced they are, are trying to convince everyone else of something they don’t believe themselves (that they ARE wonderful and powerful).

  4. While I agree up to a point, I can’t say it’s a constant battle of wills when I meet another Wiccan; I’m usually so glad to meet someone else avowedly on the path I haven’t got the heart to cross-examine them about what they know!!

    What we know is important, but not so we can play a sort of spiritual ‘top trumps’ with the facts. If we know we don’t know enough, well, that’s a start.

    As a solitary, I can’t make any judgements on your progression to date – you’ve obviously put in a great deal of work. I categorically disagree with your first commenter – you are welcome to tell me what you know, what you’ve done; I’m not going to cross swords with you. I’m too sure that I’m still a baby in the eyes of my Goddess and God. What other people think I don’t know isn’t of much relevance!

    Have a great time in Costa Rica, and I will be back. Bright blessings, Samantha!

  5. I certainly find your credentials lie more with the subject matter and well written posts than any length of time you’ve been ‘on the path’. I’ve met pagans who held a natural aptitude to living ‘right’ in their first year, while others who’ve been pagan for years are manipulative, power hungry, and overbearing with their ego.
    Someone saying “I’m a third level initiate of the muckety-muck coven’ means nothing to someone outside of their coven. In fact, if you were to join another coven, its likely you’d have to start from the bottom and work your way up again.
    To me, its more important how a person lives and conducts themselves around others that bears more validity than a pedigree/credentials. You certainly shine here in your blog.
    Keep up the good work.

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