The High Priestess Speaks: When the Student Is a Disappointment

I’m at the point in my spiritual life where I no longer need tools.  Oh, don’t get me wrong–I love my tools just I still love the beauty of a well-crafted ritual.  I just don’t use them much anymore.  I haven’t needed to in several years, and when I do now, it’s sheer indulgence in Art rather than Craft. 

I so seldom use tools or formal rituals anymore that my younger daughter has mistaken my lack of evident practice for turning my back on my spirituality.  I haven’t–I’ve just jumped to a new level where old techniques are no longer needed even though I’m still very fond of them and, because I’m a bit theatrical, may always enjoy them.  Nowadays, however, I manifest in a flick of a thought, rather than needing the force of structure or lure of ritual mindset to find that sweet spot for bringing my heart’s desires into solid form.  Few people ever even know when I’m in ritual mode because they mistake it for a quiet moment with my feet in the grass or staring at sparkling water.  Nothing else is needed but the intention in my head and the belief in my heart.

Which is why, with something delicious coming now into my life, I’m doing a bit of decluttering of tools I rarely use or will likely never use.  I’m giving away and throwing out candles, herbs, a few other tools that have aided me in answered prayers in the past. Somewhere in the gentle push for me to make space in my home, I came across a small jar of incense that I’d forgotten about.  I remembered the moment I opened the cork stopper and all the dragon’s blood, sandlewood, frankincense, roses, and more wafted out and wrapped around me like some dark, heavy cloak from my past.  I’d meant to throw it out years ago, bury it in the corner of the yard with the rest of the boxed up trinkets and jewelry a former student had left behind at my house.  Somehow this mix of incense, made by my student and left over from his Initiation, was still there in my home, taking up space that’s wanted for something and someone else in my life.

Though the incense itself is still fragrant and strong, the scent now is sickly sweet to a woman’s nose–and bitter to a High Priestess’ heart.  What of the student of Wicca when he is a raw disappointment?

Back in my Black Forest Clan days, when I began my formal training over a decade ago, an Elder took me aside and pointed out all the seekers who’d commited to a trial of a year and a day before Initiation.  There were dozens.  Then she pointed out those who actually made it through Initiation.  Signficantly fewer.  Then there were the much-fewer and extremely beleaguered-looking Second Degree students.  Finally, she pointed out the handful of Third Degree High Priests and Priestesses who’d completed the three-degree formal training. She told me how few made it all the way.  Why?  Because self-work, self-discovery, commitment?  They’re all hard.  Some people get stuck along the way, and even the ones who complete formal training do not automatically get a happy and flawless life but rather, a launching pad to new responsibilities and new adventures that can be just as difficult as anything in the First or Second Degrees.  At the time, I was very impressed, and I was also–like many–quite sure that I had what it took to make this spiritual commitment and see it through.

It was several years before I took on my own students, mainly because I was still cleaning up old messes from my past and healing old wounds.  I had to be on solid ground myself before I could guide anyone else.  That’s past me now.   I’ll soon have graduated half my students to the Third Degree, and I’m very proud of the work they’ve done.  It doesn’t mean they won’t screw up in the future or be overcome at times by doubts or occasionally fail to hold it all together and therefore have to learn something new about themselves and their spirituality to move forward.  Others are slowly making their way through the Second Degree mire, clearing out long-lived shadows and trying out new ideas in their upside down world full of trials and tribulations.

And some barely made it past their Initiation before they failed the very first challenge the Gods presented and dishonored their vows.  I’ve had Third Degrees’ new Initiates flake out inexplicably, and I’ve had it happen myself with students who were absolutely committed…for a few days. Literally, a few days. (Yes, I should have listened to my intuition–lesson learned!)   There’s a reason I ask any new Initiate prior to the ceremony, three times, if he or she is certain enough to proceed. I ask because it’s HARD.  It’s a life-changing motion forward with lots of ups and downs to get to a much better spiritual place.  Students need to know they have some degree of fortitude before committing to something he or she will become stuck in, never moving forward and resolving their issues or dispelling their shadows.

For the High Priest or Priestess, though, it’s disconcerting to see a student fail, no matter how much distance you create emotionally.  Maybe that’s just a point of pride for the teacher who wants all students to pass with straight A’s and be brilliant.  The best thing to remember is that it’s not your journey–though it may influence your journey–but it is that student’s journey.  That student made the oaths, and it is that student’s responsibility to live up to those oaths.  We as Priests and Priestesses are but facilitators or guides.  We cannot travel for the both of us., and if the student cannot walk the sacred path in a truthful, honorable way, then I think it’s best for the guide to withdraw any energy that would be devoted to a student who cannot live his oath and let the gifts he won in his Initiation fade with his commitment.  Elevation is something that, in my opinion, is granted by Spirit for doing the work, and the elevation is not in title or position but in the multitude of spiritual gifts that come from working through shadows and letting the spark within glow. 

As for the incense that reeks of a long-ago ceremony, I decided not to bury it or toss it in the trash to sit un-dispelled in a landfill.  No, instead, I washed it down the drain and let it return to the Earth far away from me.