Together we take a breath. Power gathering in our centers with each inhale. Glowing… pulsing… the light of divinity shines within each of us, and we share it outward as the candle is lit…
“Holy Mother,” the prayer begins, “in You we live, move, and have our being. From You all things emerge, and unto You all things return.”
Together we bask in the light of the candle feeling the presence of our deity… preparing for the work at hand.
So begins many a ritual in Faery; the tradition of witchcraft in which I was trained and that I now teach. We would gather in a small suburban bedroom –all those years ago—and our teacher would lead us in ritual. Together we focused our intentions into that candle, and together we would speak the words that would become a trigger for our trance and by our collective will the magic was made. We aligned our souls… we cast circles… we summoned the elements… we called to gods and goddesses… we talked to spirits of the dead. Each week we would come for lessons; each of them building upon the last, and each day afterward we would practice, practice, practice… studying symbols, memorizing invocations, performing rituals all toward the end of honing our skills; perfecting the instrument of the magician.
Where we were didn’t matter; it was the presence that counted. While each of us would begin our evening’s journey in that Berkeley, CA bedroom, we would soon find ourselves transported away… into the celestial heavens to commune with the stars… or deep within the body of the earth, to speak to the ancestors. We would journey into the Underworld to encounter the Fae, and would invoke fallen angels to bear witness and lend their power and presence to our work. And after all of these lofty dealings were done, we’d find ourselves transported back just in time to pile into our cars and drive home.
Over the years in which I was a trainee I watched the other students steadily fall away until I was the last. Now in a private class I reaped the benefits that a totally one-on-one environment afforded me. I had the best of both worlds; I worked in groups with our larger traditional community during the occasional Sabbat celebrations, and then I would work with just my teacher, giving me a deeper sense of intimacy with the work.
While I was trained in a ‘traditional’ way, even then it was made clear that there were other ways of teaching our path and the proponents of these various methods tended to lock horns with those who taught differently. While I first learned in a ‘classroom model’ and then later in an ‘apprenticeship’ one, those who were taught in a coven setting were distrustful of those who did not belong to a group or coven, often citing a lack of intimacy or responsibility to the community as justifications for why one might wish to abandon those ‘newer’ models altogether.
It is tempting; to reject any newer way of teaching the Craft as being ‘non-traditional’, a charge that attempts to invalidate its legitimacy without ever having judged the actual merits of the work being done. But certainly we can all agree that each of us possesses the potential for improving our Craft and ourselves. If not, then what’s the point? In the words of the late Faery Grandmaster Cora Anderson: “Just as the poet and musician can create great work through inspiration so we of the Old Religion can make new rituals and services to our Gods. This religion is not a dead fossil, but a living growing human experience.”
When I began teaching the Craft I did so exclusively in-person, face-to-face, just as I had been trained. Students would come to my house, and later my store, to sit with me and perform exercises and rituals, and to engage in deep discussions about the nature of our Craft and our Gods. I knew that some elders of our tradition had found ways of teaching the Craft long distance and as more and more people outside of my local area began to express a desire to learn I decided to explore ways to offer them quality training.
Originally I did not think that it would be possible. Like so many others I used my own experiences training in the Craft as a template for what I might offer the next generation of students and since I did not have experience learning long distance I was distrustful of its potential effectiveness. All that changed, however, when a friend asked me if I would be interested in joining him in a “tele-conference ritual” that his group had put together.
I knew that this particular group hosted in these types rituals but I had honestly never given them a second thought. In fact my initial reasons for participating in this rite were more about me “doing something fun and different” more than about actually deepening my spiritual or magical practice. In staying so firmly within my comfort zone born of baseless judgment I was perfectly poised for the state of astonishment I was about to find myself in. After each of the participants called in and we got the initial pleasantries out of the way, we began (as we often do) with the breath; one by one we relaxed and set our intentions to be fully present for our shared work, and one by one we entered into trance as was customary with any ritual. One of the participants had the job of casting the circle and when they began reciting an invocation something amazing happened: it worked. Sitting in my bedroom, eyes closed and phone pressed to my ear, I began to feel the familiar sensation of sacred space being created, within and around me. I was surprised… and in that surprise realized that I had been ignorant, prejudicial, and even arrogant in my approach to magic. Prior to this event I had scoffed at the idea of a “tele-conference ritual” or an “online coven” and I was not alone in doing so; indeed some of my peers would commonly make disparaging comments or jokes about the participants in these groups in what amounted to the Pagan version of religious bigotry.
In an instant I realized that I had also been underestimating or forgetting completely a fundamental principal that is at the core of my current understanding of magical power: non-locality. A good portion of witchcraft has to do with magic; as in “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”
One by one we offered our talents; invocation deities, leading trance, raising power. When it was finished I found myself having to confront my own prejudices about the long distance experience. If it actually worked then how could I justify opposing the practice? Here I was presented with what now to me was an obvious fact: the magic, regardless of how ‘non-traditional’ it might have been, had worked. It wasn’t “weak”, or “watered down” it was real. The overall effects were just as potent as most “in person” rituals that I had attended, and in fact certain things actually felt more potent than I had usually experienced; the casting of the circle, for example, was so striking to me that I immediately “tuned in” and took notice. Additionally, improvised invocations took on a new dimension with no face to go with the voice… a ritual held on the telephone meant no visual cues, an obvious limitation, but one that through that limitation also presented a new opportunity; it was a quality that added to the sense of mystery, a state of particular importance to the traditional Craft.
Witches here had used modern technology –not as a substitute for magical power, or instruction, or even the mystery –but simply as a tool to achieve a greater connection and in-the-moment alignment of purpose, qualities from which flows the magic of shared witchcraft.
I was excited by this new revelation. For years I had received emails and letters from individuals who were interested and even passionate about pursuing the Craft, but who lived in other states or countries… or suffered from mobility issues, or even simply had other responsibilities that prevented them from physically meeting with me. While I had nothing to offer those people in the past, now that this door had opened, I realized that I could fill a growing need in the Pagan community. Why should these people be barred from pursuing a structured and authentically guided traditional training in witchcraft when they could potentially receive the bulk of what they would need through regular phone conversations and video conferencing? Just because it was new or different didn’t mean it would be ineffective, as I had just experienced the contrary. With a coordinated practice the same technology that is praised in the academic classroom could just as easily be used by a witch in order to authentically teach our path. And what’s more is that it can be done without having to give up anything that is essential to our Craft; we can honor tradition and innovation both. If we are creative we need not choose one over the other.
Witchcraft, to remain relevant, must adapt to the word it finds itself in. I simply have no interest in returning to a mythological “idyllic” time in which we lived off the land in harmony with the cycles of nature. I live in the suburbs, and while I strive to live in harmony with the land on which I live, it is not the same as it was for my ancestors, or for those people who lived here on this land before my ancestors arrived here. Life has changed. And fast. We simply do not live in the same world that our ancestors or even our teachers did, and so what worked for them might not work for us. We have to have the courage to look ahead to the future, to see what is on the horizon, so we can better prepare for it. We have to come up with solutions to the problems of today; problems that either did not exist for those even just a generation or two ago, or that were insurmountable at the time. Prior to telecommunication technology it would have been impossible to bring together people from multiple continents into a common real-time arena unless of course we were able to physically move them all to the same physical location, an endeavor that would require an enormous effort as well as resources. Now through group conferencing we can achieve this quite simply and easily, not to mention inexpensively.
Traditional witchcraft has had a difficult time in the information age. Where secrecy was once the cultural norm more and more people are sharing their knowledge openly. This has caused some friction within certain traditional Craft communities, leading some to declare a neo-Pagan “jihad” on those who do not adhere to their particular religious views. We see this overtly in the various “witch wars” that have cropped up over the years, but also more insidiously in the culture of elitism that has grown up in some traditional Craft communities in which the practice of secrecy is somehow seen to be “proof” of one’s authenticity. But as more traditional witches come forward even this is changing; how could expect it not to? We are a nature religion, after all, and nature revels in diversity and creating new forms. “She changes everything She touches”, the song goes, “and everything She touches changes.”
But some things are essential and never really change. Looking back all those years ago I see that even though I have adapted how I teach in order to reach out beyond my local area, I teach now much as I was taught then: in the moment.
The internet has become integral to how I teach the Craft, even to some degree for those students who do actually meet with me in person, but it is not a “substitute” for anything. I was not willing to sacrifice quality for convenience and so I knew that I needed to find a way to offer the same training to long distance students as I was offering to my in-person students or else I wouldn’t do it at all. In my struggle to overcome some of the immediate limitations that a non-local practice presented I had to get creative. I transformed how I approached the concept of teaching altogether and in doing so I became a better teacher, for my long distance students, but also for those who meet with me locally. I learned very quickly what was essential and what was simply customary. And over the several years that I have offered this form of training I have developed various techniques and approaches that I feel better enrich the overall experience. For teachers of witchcraft I present my ideas here in the hopes that it may inspire you. For potential students I offer this as something that you might consider looking for, if indeed you decide to pursue a course in long distance study in the Craft. Either way I present my ideas in the form of the witches much loved pentacle.
THE PENTACLE OF TEACHING 
There are five core concepts that I feel are essential to teaching the Craft:
Notice that I didn’t say “essential to teaching the Craft over long distance” as I have found that these qualities are necessary regardless of physical proximity. Notice also that each of these points effortlessly bleeds into the others. For example, ‘Intimacy’ is fuelled by ‘Consistency’ and ‘Communication’; ‘Communication is assisted by both ‘Structure’ as well as ‘Flexibility’… ‘Flexibility’ is encouraged by ‘Intimacy’, and so on. These are concepts that I feel need to be consciously contemplated to ensure that they are all being met. Any one of them –when neglected—can harm the quality of the work being done.
Everything begins here. This is the emotional and psychic link between teacher and student, and to a somewhat lesser degree between the student and other students and/or members of the community. It is vital that the student and teacher are able to form a bond of trust as the work of traditional witchcraft runs deep. The student should know that the teacher will be there to assist in working through whatever pitfalls may arise during the course of the work, and the teacher must have the sense that the student is genuinely dedicated and engaged.Embodying this point is the solution for the argument against teaching the Craft online for fear of disrespecting or not fully engaging the mystery at the heart of our traditions. To effectively teach the Craft you have to get to know your students. This is something that will need to develop over time, but certain things can certainly assist in its creation, such as regular or semi-regular in-depth conversations and correspondences. This sense of intimacy is further nurtured by the balancing of all of the points of the pentacle.
This is the actual practice. The rituals, the invocations, the exercises… the work of our Craft. This is a commitment the teacher and student both make to show up regularly to engage the work as well as the degree of involvement that the teacher has with the individuals and group. In my classes students are required to perform specific exercises multiple times per week and to report on their experiences with weekly email check-ins, to which I reply as questions are asked. This keeps everyone fully engaged in the process. Based on the check-ins I assign new lessons as I feel the student is ready.
This is essential to any relationship. There needs to be in place a definite way for the students to correspond with the teacher. While the actual procedure can be defined with the next point of ‘Structure’, here we are concerned with the quality of that communication, rather than the procedural method. Phone calls, physical meetings, video conferencing, even emails and letters can go a long way to opening these doors and keeping them open. Obviously some methods are better than others. My preference is for voice and video for long distance, peppered with written correspondence.The quality of communication will be increased as our consistent work with Intimacy increases.
This first manifests as the curriculum, and then in the administering thereof. One of the first things a potential teacher should ask themselves is “What exactly am I going to teach?” In my case I looked at all of the material that I had received and all of the numerous notes that I had taken during my own training and I looked for obvious patterns. This allowed me to organize my thoughts into a cohesive system in which exercises are presented in a particular order so as to allow for them to build upon one another. Far from being a rigid system, however, the structure given here serves more as a skeleton upon which we may add the flesh and life’s blood that occurs in the midst of ecstatic practice and direct inspiration; qualities that are worked with more closely in the next and final point of our pentacle.
This is our ability to move beyond the “rules”, to some degree, and engage fully the actual experience. Part of the process of teaching traditional Craft is a full recognition of those lessons that life offers on its own and being able to work with them as given. There are times in which someone’s life places them in a situation to which a particular aspect of our Craft would be best served or utilized. Were I to ignore them I might be content to overlook them in favor of my established curriculum, but I would be wasting an opportunity to provide magical and spiritual lessons in a practical context, and so a great potential storehouse of depth and insight might be lost.
This is also the engagement of one’s own divine nature which will –at least to some degree—alter the method and even potentially the direction of one’s training. The structure that we have previously created becomes a container for the aspect of the work present here in this point. There are the shamanic aspects of the Craft; in which the rules we learned are revealed to be only guidelines and where all bets are actually off. Structure is actually made especially important here; we don’t abandon Structure, we transform it.This point may be one of the most difficult to master for students but especially for teachers. When administering to several students it can be tempting to “rubber stamp” them through a “cookie cutter” process in order to boast success; indeed it becomes increasingly difficult to give students individualized attention as class sizes increase, making class size a notable concern for any teacher or student. If the point of Structure is well attended then we will have established the boundaries necessary to allow us the freedom to be able to spend our time and resources in an efficient manner. I have a limited number of spaces in my classes based on what I feel is the maximum number of students that I can attend to, and still feel confidant that I am giving each and every one of them the same quality of attention that I feel is necessary to transmit the Craft both elegantly and effectively.
In addition to these philosophical concepts there are some real-world practices that we can engage in order to make our experiences both teaching and learning online richer, more rewarding, and ultimately more successful.
- Engage the senses
One obvious limitation using the long distance method is the reduced number of physical senses that are involved in the process. With a conference or phone call the sense of hearing is certainly utilized, but how might we expand upon this? The addition of music or sound might be one way… drumming and chanting work lends itself well to this medium.In order to form a more complete picture we will need to engage our other senses as well. Video conferencing can be one method; allowing the teacher and student to look at each other in the eye, taking full advantage of not only tone of voice, but facial expressions which go a long way in conveying another layer of meaning, as well as lending to an increased sense of intimacy.Another way to engage the senses is in the use of coordinated materials, such as candles, herbs, and incense. In my sessions we begin with a coordinated ritual lighting of our main candle to begin any of our work. This shared act allows us to work in unison, and with the addition of using specific herb and incense blends we can share the sense of smell. This specific method also allows us to engage the consciousness of the plant spirits involved, which goes a long way to establishing a deepened sense of sacred space.Additionally, art can be used, such as specific images or sigils used as meditative mandalas; specific foods ritually ingested as a shared sacrament, the list goes on. A creative teacher can move beyond the vast majority of limitations with the medium to discover that most of them are easily addressed, and those that are not are largely irrelevant in the training stages of instruction.
- Ask questions!
This I cannot stress to the student enough. It is imperative that you not hold back for whatever reason. If you have a question –no matter how big or small—you owe it to yourself (and honestly to your teacher, as well) to ask! We are all human, and it is way to easy to put a teacher up on a pedestal. I have had people realize that they are not asking me questions simply because they thought I was “too busy” or that it wasn’t “important enough” to ask. That idea needs to go out of your head right away. This is exactly what that teacher is there for! Don’t worry if your question might be “skipping ahead” in the curriculum; if the teacher doesn’t want to answer it they wont, plain and simple. And if for whatever reason the teacher is upset at being asked questions then I think you have a bigger problem on your hands; run screaming from that relationship right away! You deserve to receive the best training you can get.And teachers: you need to ask questions, too. Sometimes a student will give very “surface” answers to questions. Sometimes they will not put enough (or any!) substantive information in their check-ins… this is when the teacher needs to become a private detective and start asking tough questions! I will often ask these questions in a voice session to better ensure off-the-cuff answers, rather than allow them to think of what they might think I want to hear.
- Time management
This may very well be the number one issue for people learning the Craft, teaching the Craft, and generally maintaining a healthy spiritual and magical practice. Sometimes I will hear from new students that they “don’t have time” to do the work that I am asking them to do. Over the years I have received many different excuses disguised as explanations for why they haven’t done the work to the degree that I have said is necessary. To some degree a flexible class (and a self-paced one, as my long distance classes mostly are) will allow the student to integrate the work in a more natural way that synchronizes real-life experiences with the work… but the shadow is that sometimes an individual might use flexibility and self-pacing as a disguise for resistance, and when this becomes obvious a change of method becomes necessary.It is important to set aside time to do the work. Plain and simple. I recommend setting aside the same amount of time each day (or at the very least 4 times per week as a recommended bare minimum). It need not be much; at the minimum I would say 30 minutes per session, or if you are practice everyday then I would say that could conceivably be shortened to 15 minutes, depending on what specific things are being worked with. One way to make sure that this time is respected for this work is to write it down. Once it is written down then it is more real. I have taken to scheduling this type of work on one of my many Google calendars and I treat it with reverence. On those occasions that I, for whatever reason, cannot devote the necessary time to my exercises then I at least know that I am missing out and am less likely to miss my next scheduled session.Sometimes people don’t want to feel burdened by a schedule; perhaps their professional lives are demanding and at the end of the workday they are left with the feeling that they just want to come home and relax. Better to do the work when you feel inspired than when it feels like an uphill battle, right?Wrong. In order to establish a true spiritual discipline we need to do the work even when we don’t want to, sometimes especially when we don’t want to. When we feel this resistance to the work we need to ask ourselves, why? Why do we feel that way? It is certainly possible that we feel that way because the work itself is not really what we need, and if that is the case then both teacher and student need to know this as early as possible so as to try and avoid any unnecessary hurt feelings or resentments that might arise. But in my experience this most often comes up when the student is on the verge of a major breakthrough, and the unconscious emotional upheaval is so stressful that it manifests as avoidance and again even resentment.
For a teacher I would also recommend that you take a look at your personal schedule and then decide when you might be able to offer sessions to your students, making specific times and/or days available. I currently offer multiple sessions
- Approach the Work with Joy
Sometimes the Work feels a little too much like work and this is where I feel it is necessary to bring the fun in. A favorite prayer on the Faery tradition contains the line, “What is the Work of this God?” a reference to one’s “Personal God” or Higher Self. But just as easily can we approach this from a heart-centered space and ask, “What is the joy of this God?” Ask yourself: What parts of my Craft practice do I enjoy? What parts are fun? How can I incorporate more of those elements into my regular practice? Both teacher and student need to look for ways to keep the work fresh and interesting; not as a form of entertainment (for there are times in which working with psychic development and concentration techniques are f*%#!ng boring) but as a means to better integrate the work on all levels. Do you like drumming? How can you incorporate that into your practice? Do you like working with stones, curious, herbs, or candles? Again, engaging the sensual can help with this aspect of the work and help us to remain present and inspired.
- And finally… Be honest
The true gift of the Craft lies not in its initiations, titles, or degrees, but in the personal power cultivated through direct experience. With this in mind it is imperative that the student convey an honest account of what they do with the work and how it affects them, just as it is for the teacher to be honest about how the work has affected them so as to give an honest picture of the work in a practical way. Additionally it is important for the teacher to live in a space of complete, naked honesty to help avoid being placed upon the aforementioned pedestal. To this end I freely speak with my students about the “less evolved” aspects of my personality, such as my temper, or my poor eating habits, or when I have noticed myself using alcohol or other substances to help desensitize myself to whatever stresses I may be living through. This helps me as well, as it keeps me consciously aware of my complexes and holds me accountable for my actions. Transparency is the operative word here, and it is much needed in today’s Craft.This may be one of the most difficult things to do, both for the teacher as well as the student. But with the continued work and engagement of the concepts presented here we have a much better chance at doing the work in an authentic way.
It is my sincere hope that the approaches described here prove to be helpful; both for teachers who are entertaining the thought at teaching online, as well as for students who are wondering what to look for in a teacher. As we move further into the 21st century it has become clear that the internet is not going anywhere and indeed will continue to play a growing roles in our lives. It is up to us to be the midwives of the future; to take some control of exactly how we will present our Craft to the next generations. Because I guarantee you this: there’s no stopping it. It’s happened for years and will continue. My commitment is to maintain a high quality and to help others do the same. In this we ensure the relevancy of our Craft as we move into whatever the future holds for us.
 Faery/Faerie/Feri, all are terms that are accurately used to name our particular tradition. As an oral tradition there is no “official” spelling and so I tend to use various spellings in my work.
 Anderson, Cora. Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition. 1994.
 Victor Anderson (1917-2001), Grandmaster and founder of the Feri tradition was known to offer instruction via correspondence; an offer he made to me in the early 90’s. Additionally Gabriel Carillo (1948-2007), founder of the Bloodrose line of Feri, had a thriving practice of teaching students long distance.
 Crowley, Aleister. Magick in Theory and Practice. 1929.
 Starhawk. Kore Chant from the album Chants: Ritual Music. 1987.
 Practitioners of Faery tradition witchcraft might be interested to know that these points correspond to the points of the Iron Pentacle: Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion.
 I refer here to the ritual practices of formal Dedication and Initiation; rites that I am committed to only performing “in person”. Everything up until these rites, however, has no legitimate reason for being withheld from a non-local student, in my opinion.