Online Wiccan and Pagan Schools – Are They Right for You?

Online Learning
Online Learning

 

Would you benefit from studying with an online Wicca or Pagan school? To explore this topic, I interviewed Heather Greene, Luna Marr, and Aline O’Brien.

(Some responses may have been edited for length.)

Let’s start.

* When should someone consider going to an online school?

Luna: When it’s necessary. Some students work out very well with books and doing their own research, but there are others . . . who feel they need to hide their beliefs and study in secret, or just live in areas where a one-on-one pagan education isn’t available. Not all online educations are equal. . . . Some online schools just charge you money, hand you a bunch of information with little to no guidance. And others give you a mentor experience [in] your own home via the Internet.

Aline O’Brien: In the case of Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS), because there is no other school offering full training parallel with what is taught at mainstream seminaries. I strongly feel that Pagans should collaborate on the creation of our own culture. That means not attending liberal Protestant seminaries because you think they’re the only game in town when it comes to seminary-type training (chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, interfaith, history, etc.)

Heather: Online schools can help people who, for one reason or another, don’t have the ability to physically attend classes. In addition schools like Cherry Hill Seminary offer access to subjects and teachers that might not be available locally.

Moonwater: I agree. Online education may be necessary for someone who does not have a local pagan community for support.

* Would you use an online choice for your primary way of learning Wicca verses face-to-face learning?

Aline: Not necessarily. It really depends a lot on what’s available in a particular individual’s area. 

Heather: I would not choose distance learning as my primary way of learning any subject unless no other option was available. And there are situations where that is the case. I do prefer the immediacy of presence and the concentrated, shared energy of the “classroom” experience. This cannot be replicated online. However I also believe that there are educational opportunities in all forms of learning processes. Distance learning gives us access to teachers and professional who might otherwise not be available to us at any point in our lives. I see that alone as an invaluable resource.

Luna: I wouldn’t say that I would choose it over face-to-face learning, simply that it’s an alternative and another valuable option. . . . In my school Pagans Learning Online we believe that an online education should mimic the face-to-face experience as closely as possible, through technology such as Skype, Google, and the ability to upload voice, video, and written materials. We are able to replicate the face-to-face experience fairly well. Is it the same as having that mentor there who can give you a hug when you’re down? Absolutely not. However, an online education can still offer the same benefits.

Moonwater: I prefer the face-to-face approach when possible. This way you can experience how your student moves and uses energy. However, it’s important to me that students have access to information. That’s the reason that I write this blog (with the help of my editors) and I wrote my book The Hidden Children of the Goddess.

* Are online schools helpful or harmful to our community?

Luna: This question is like a double edged sword. I want to say that online schools can be incredibly helpful to the Pagan and Wiccan community . . .  . [But] some schools offer a lot of false certifications and dangerous ideas that if a person was so willing they could take advantage of. I even heard of one online school that tells you that you’re not allowed to worship the Gods and Goddesses unless you are a Level 1 priestess and [have] passed their tests. A student looking into an online school needs to know when something just doesn’t sound right or seem right. They need to do their research. . . . Healing of the aura and the chakras is something that should be left up to trained professionals. . . . For people who are forced to practice in the shadows, having the opportunity to practice online is something that [can] change who they are in a positive way. Online schools have the ability to help guide and grow future leaders of the Pagan and Wiccan community so that the next batch of people who look for a place to learn may not have the same struggles.

Aline: Some are helpful, others not so much; depends upon the school. I can say, however, that Pagans attend CHS for two primary reasons: one is for personal enrichment and the other to better serve their own communities. They don’t come so they can get a degree and get a job by being hired by some Pagan ‘church.’ They don’t come so they can get a raise at their current job. In the bigger picture, some seek chaplaincy degrees because in the mainstream world having one is required in order for one to do that work (the military being the most stringent in terms of chaplaincy requirements).

Heather: Just like anything, distance learning can be both helpful and harmful. It is helpful for the reasons specified above. Distance learning can offer people an opportunity to attend classes that they might not be able to otherwise. At the same time, distance learning is not yet accredited in the same way as conventional institutions. Assessing a school’s credibility and legitimacy is left to student and [it’s] often very difficult. The digital world has created a universe in which legitimacy is easier to falsify. Students must be very cautious.

* Online schools are on the rise, so how can you tell if one is right for your student?

Luna: It’s about doing the research, knowing yourself and your own personal learning style, and using your common sense. . . . Paganism and Wicca are terms for thousands of proud and dedicated religious pathways and traditions, rooted 60,000 years in the past. That isn’t easy stuff to learn over night. I think that as a society we get far too wrapped up in the “I want it now” of things and we overlook the hard work and dedication it takes to do something right. So before you jump into the first online school of Paganism that you see, do some research and ask some questions and remember that if it doesn’t look right or sound right then keep looking.

Heather: It is important to research the institution, teachers and the administrative staff; to examine the promises made and the cost; to talk to former students and to ask as many questions as possible.

Aline: I would say in the same way one would explore schools for any other kind of learning–read everything possible, ask others who attended that school, etc. I’m not sure I quite ‘get’ telling what’s right for one’s student. To me, the student her/himself would be the person making such decisions. S/he could seek advice and recommendations from a teacher. Alternatively, a particular teacher may wish to direct a particular student to a specific online educational resource/school for, say, a course on ministering to the dying.

* When should you not consider a school as a supplement for your student?

Heather: If local resources and lifestyle permit, it is good to consider the local options first. I would also steer a student away from a school that does not “check out” as legitimate.

Aline: Again, I can’t really speak knowledgeably to this because my experience is with a graduate school. It’s not about learning Wicca per se.

Luna: The only answer I would have for this is when the reason for seeking out the education isn’t pure of intent. . . . However if what you’re looking for is a chance to grow both as a person and in your magical abilities and you embrace the dedication it takes, then online schools are a great choice. I have seen many students whose self-esteem has bloomed. [And, one’s] inner light and love of yourself and those around you [become] powerful tools to change the world.


Since, Luna and Aline are active with online schools, I asked this question:

What can web schools like yours offer students with mentors?

Luna: I suggest a student stay with their mentor . . . unless they aren’t getting a full education from their mentor. I have had very good mentors. My first mentor was a Wiccan High Priestess. I myself have chosen the path of druidry, but it was very nice and refreshing to be able to learn so much about the Wiccan beliefs and practices. [I enjoyed] spending time with someone who knew what I was going through at a young age and was able to help guide me. It was a valuable experience. However, she was only able to offer me part of the picture that I was looking for. She could only teach me about Wicca. Because of this, I found myself studying books for years, doing research and seeking out others who had other beliefs.

Aline: The online school with which I’m affiliated, Cherry Hill Seminary (www.cherryhillseminary.org), provides primarily graduate-level education. We offer two masters’ degrees–M.A. in Pagan Studies and M.Div. So CHS is different from other online Pagan schools in that our students are already whatever kind of educated Pagan they are. In other words, mentors aren’t in the picture. Those who are seeking degrees, which is not all of our students, must attend two live, in-person multi-day retreats during the course of their studies. (http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/) CHS has a Dean of Students, who is not exactly a mentor but does help students determine their personal course of study. I think (not entirely sure) students have faculty advisors when they choose a degree path. (There’s tons of detailed info on this topic in CHS’ Catalogue.)


Some Pagans view Online Wiccan education as a controversial topic. The views expressed above belong to those who expressed them.

I, Moonwater, prefer the one-to-one mentor/student process (and that is my training). However, it strikes me that it is helpful to carefully study material if a local Pagan community is not available.

As with other important decisions, devote great care to your educational path.


Biographies of Our Interviewees

Luna Marr, has been studying paganism both independently and with various mentors for the last 21 years. She is very proactive in her local pagan community, serving as both clergy and secretary in her local pagan church. She says, “I have always believed that paganism deserves the same respect as other religions, but with that respect comes responsibilities to be knowledgeable in your beliefs and in the history of your beliefs. I feel that with the growing interest in paganism there need to be more hands-on ways for people to learn and grow without the pressure of being forced down one pathway or another.” Email: Luna@paganslearningonline.org  Her online school is Pagans Learning On Line.

Aline O’Brien, known among her co-religionists as M. Macha NightMare, is an internationally published authorritualist and all-round Pagan webweaver. A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, the Nature Religion Scholars Network, the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), and the Advisory Council of the Sacred Dying Foundation, Macha speaks informatively about Paganism to news media and academic researchers, presents at colleges, universities and seminaries, and teaches on the broomstick circuit. She has taught at Starr King School for the Ministry and since 2000 has served in various capacities at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community.  Blogs:  Broomstick ChroniclesWitch at Large , Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape at Patheos.

Heather Greene, is a freelance writer living in the South. She has a master’s degree in Film with a background in commercial media and technology. She is currently serving as National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess. From 2010-2012, she served as Public Information Officer for Dogwood Local Council. Additionally, she collaborates with Lady Liberty League on a variety of cases and is a regular contributor to Circle Magazine. Heather has been practicing Wicca and Witchcraft for almost twenty years in both solitary and group settings. Personal Blog  Google +  Twitter  Pinterest  – See more at: http://wildhunt.org/about/heather-greene#sthash.mwzYAeWA.dpuf

Heather Greene

Freelance Writer

Staff Writer, The Wild Hunt
Staff Writer, Circle Magazine

What do you think? Take the pole.


Happy Mabon and My Journey to Wicca by Heather Greene

Moonwater's Pumpkin Bread
It’s that time of season.

Mabon Greetings

Happy Mabon Everyone!

I have a treat for you. My friend Heather Greene is guest blogging today. She will tell her story about how she found the Craft.

But first I want to share a few thoughts and a recipe of mine.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. During this harvest time we celebrate ripening of our labors. Now we reap the benefits.

One of the best things is how spiced foods start to appear during this season. And with that thought in mind, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes with you. It’s my pumpkin bread recipe.

Moonwater’s Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 loaves.

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of fresh pumpkin → 16 ounces if using canned pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water → if pumpkin is canned
  • 1/2 cup water → if pumpkin is fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, water, oil and pumpkin. Stir until blended. Add nuts. Mix well. Pour into two 9×5″ loaf pans. Bake 1 hour 30 mins. Cool slightly and take out of pans to let cool on a rack. This tastes best if you wrap, refrigerate and wait a day to eat it. It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be frozen.

I love this bread. It’s great for parties or have a slice for dissert. One of the coolest things is it can be put in the freezer to be stored for a future date. This is wonderful if you have lots to prepare for a party and need the time for other things.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any recipes to share I would love to see them, and try them! Please use the comment box below to share.

And now for the main event Heather Greene’s post!


Heather Greene
Heather Greene

My Journey to Wicca

“The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” – Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness

Spiritual awakenings are funny in that they can happen at any given moment – in church, in the car, in the plumbing section of Home Depot. They sneak up on us and seize our minds, bodies and hearts. Then they send us soaring at lightening-speed into another time and space where everything is suddenly crystal clear – for only one moment. When we return an instant later, we are more confused than before but forever changed in some indeterminable way.

My spiritual awakening happened in high school after reading The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The novella blew my mind and kept me in philosophical ecstasy for weeks. I jumped at any and all opportunities to discuss the story’s deeper meanings. In hindsight, I probably lost a few friends that year and it was no coincidence that was the same year I earned my reputation. From that point forward, I was known as the enigmatic, artsy girl who was unofficially voted most-likely-to-be-a-poet. Not a bad reputation by high school standards.

To this day, The Heart of Darkness stills sends my heart a-flutter. The book essentially deconstructs human society. It not only challenges the morality of European Imperialism, it also breaks down deeply rooted Western cultural constructs such as good and evil. It posits that our values and ethics are social impositions rather than anything signed, sealed and delivered by an absolute natural order of existence or some supreme being with a playbook. We, humans, have determined what is good and what is evil. We have constructed our reality.

See, it blows the mind.

Shortly after reading the book, I started my writing career. I wrote fictional tales about horribly impossible and depressing situations that ended with twist of hope. Most of that work was ignored; up until I wrote a suicide story. That one landed me in the counselor’s office where I yelled, “No I’m not going to commit suicide already! Have you not read The Heart of Darkness?” There was an implied teenage “duh!” in that outburst.

So there I was, an enigmatic future poet and angst ridden teen, feeling totally ready to birth my spiritual life. Considering my ethical world had been created solely by art, literature, philosophy and science, I had nothing to go on except a secular world view. In many ways, I was lucky. Unlike many Pagans, I didn’t have to shed a religious belief system before entering into a new one. I just had to step in and see how the water felt.

Not long after the “Suicide Story” incident, I began to journey through the thick forest of the Occult. First I dabbled in Astrology. I can remember working through what seemed like endless hours of painful mathematics to produce one single birth chart. When I had enough money, I finally bought an Astrology program and a computer to go with it. After awhile I expanded to Tarot, Palmistry, scrying, astral projection and crystals. The world was my magical oyster and I was willing to entertain all it had to offer.

By that point I was well into college. During one summer break, I took a weekend house sitting job for a New York City lawyer. While staying in her Upper East Side apartment, I discovered some funny little herbs in tiny plastic bags. A neighbor, who had stopped by, said very casually, “She’s a witch.” I was struck. What?! A Witch? My mind was blown yet again! I should really consider myself lucky to have anything left at this point.

At the very next opportunity, I rushed into a Barnes & Noble and went straight to the Occult section. After careful consideration, I purchased Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Sitting there on the muggy A-Train packed in with all the other tired commuters, I clung to my new book as if I was harboring the last Golden Ticket to the Wonka factory. This witch book was sacred, somehow, and filled with all the answers.

Unfortunately the book didn’t have any answers. At least not to the questions that I had yet to really ask. What it did have was a key to a door that led to a pathway of spiritual growth using the language of Witchcraft.

Not long after, I began to practice in earnest. Over the following year, I bought more books: Cunningham, Starhawk, Margot Adler and Silver Ravenwolf, for example. I organized my very first solitary Samhain ritual. When not attending to my film student duties, I dabbled in spell craft. Then, on one faithful day, I bought myself a silver pentacle and began calling myself a Witch.

It wasn’t until then that I realized the depth of what I was doing. This was more than just carnival games and Halloween hocus pocus. It was more than counter-culture and The Wizard of Oz. I found something powerful; something that I now defined as good even if the world defined it as evil.

After several years of solitary practice, I decided to join a Wiccan coven. It seemed the next appropriate step. I’ve been with that same group now for sixteen years. The communal experience strengthened me, gave me tools that I could never have found alone and, most importantly, offered me a community of like-minds who were on a similar path. Many of those people have become treasured friends and family.

But the journey is not over. It is never over.

What I can say now, in clarity, is that it all started with that book – The Heart of Darkness. There in that place, where all the social constructs are gone, there is nothing but raw, unbridled, animalistic humanity – body and blood, love and lust, hate and rapture, and spirit. It is the elemental point of beginnings. It is only from that point that we can see the world for what it is – a stack of cards. It is only from that point we can see ourselves, explore our past and find our motivation. It is honesty at a critical level. Deep within the Heart of Darkness, we are pure. Coming out from that space is the journey of a lifetime – and it just may blow your mind.


Heather Greene is a freelance writer living in the South. She has a masters degree in Film Theory and History with a background in commercial media and technology. She spent the first part of her career working at a major Madison Avenue Ad agency and its production subsidiaries, as well as an systems engineer at a Fortune 100 company. In 2001, she left it all behind to become a independent writer and has been doing that ever since.

Heather is currently serving as National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess. From 2010-2012, she served as Public Information Officer for Dogwood Local Council. Additionally, she collaborates with Lady Liberty League on a variety of cases and is a regular contributor to Circle Magazine.
Heather has been practicing Wicca for almost twenty years in both solitary and group settings. Her other interests fall into the creative realm. She finds peace dabbling in the artistic energy that always seems to encircle her life through music, dance, color and words. Currently, she is entertaining the muse through her own writing and through music as a songwriter. She finds power and inspiration in all that is reflected in nature’s beauty, family and friends.

– See more at: http://wildhunt.org/about/heather-greene#sthash.mwzYAeWA.dpuf


I’m glad I had the chance to share Heather’s story.
Until next week,
Blessed Be,
Moonwater

Moonwater SilverClaw Logo


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Jason Pitzl-Waters of The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with Jason Pitzl-Waters, founder of The Wild Hunt. He answered questions I had about his journey and his work. I truly feel Jason does a great service to our community and so I would like to introduce him to you.

Moonwater: How did you start on the path to Wicca?

Jason: I was first introduced to Wicca in high school when a friend loaned me a Raymond Buckland book (the big blue one). That moment was a completely life-altering moment. While I was dissatisfied with mainstream religion, and always interested in pre-Christian mythology, I had never thought that the worship of pre-Christian gods was something that people could do. From there I never looked back.

Moonwater: Who has influenced you the most on your journey with Wicca and why?

Jason: I would say my friends were my biggest influence on me, it was together that we fumbled through learning and experiencing Wiccan ritual. Later, I would meet formal covens, and a variety of experienced practitioners, but I think those early days shaped me in ways that persist to this day. Beyond that? I found the writings of Margot Adler and the Farrars pivotal in my early years.

Moonwater: What led you to blog for the community?

Jason: A dissatisfaction with the Pagan media led me to trying to do it for myself. This was the early days of the Internet, before social networking became dominant, and even before blogs were something pervasive. I remember wanting to know what was happening in our community, to know what our leaders, clergy, philosophers, were thinking about important issues. There were some useful sites, Witchvox, for example, but nothing that captured the sort of advocacy journalism I yearned for. So I became the change I wanted to see in my community, and here I am!

Moonwater: What book or books have influenced you in your practice of Wicca the most?

Jason: Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler, A Witches’ Bible Compleat by Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, and later, The Triumph of The Moon by Ronald Hutton.

Moonwater: For someone who is just starting on their own path with Wicca, what would you tell them was the most important thing to know about it?

Jason: The interconnectedness and sacredness of nature, and by extension, the turning of the wheel of the year. Everything springs from there, our wisdom, our joy, our fertility, and our gods and goddesses.

I just want to say thank you to Jason for his time for this interview. Please visit The Wild Hunt to see what Jason has to say on the pagans days events.

Blessed Be,

Moonwater SilverClaw


Blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters
Jason Pitzl-Waters

Jason Pitzl-Walter’s Biography:

Since launching “The Wild Hunt” in 2004, Jason Pitzl-Waters has become one of the leading voices for analysis and insight into how modern Pagan faiths are represented within the mainstream media. In addition, “The Wild Hunt” has also conducted in-depth interviews with prominent figures within modern Paganism, academia, and religion journalism. Jason wants to raise the level of discourse and journalism on important issues within the modern Pagan and Heathen communities, while advocating a broader commitment to encouraging religious multiplicity and solidarity (where appropriate) with surviving indigenous and non-monotheistic faith groups.

In addition to his work with The Wild Hunt, Jason has also written for newWitch MagazinePanGaia MagazineThorn Magazine, and Llewellyn Worldwide. He also maintains a weekly podcast entitled“A Darker Shade of Pagan” that explores underground music from a Pagan perspective.

Jason is a former Board of Director member of Cherry Hill Seminary, and is coordinating The Pagan Newswire Collective, an open collective of Pagan journalists, newsmakers, media liaisons, and writers who are interested in sharing and promoting primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities.

You can contact Jason at jpitzl at gmail dot com