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Signposts

Pagan Education
Learning a Pagan path is a daunting task.  Because everyone’s path is a little different, there isn’t a set curriculum to act as a guide along the way.  Most of us learn about Paganism on our own by reading books and finding information online.  Although we also learn from meeting others, most people I meet seem to apply a self-study approach.
Self-study has many advantages over a set of courses and guides.  It can provide for a more personal exploration of our path and allows us to investigate other areas when we’re interested.  It allows us to take the time we need – most of us are busy with work and family and aren’t able to dedicate as much time as we would like to our studies.  So, for many Pagans, this is an ideal way to learn.
I enjoy self-study but realize there may be things I’m missing – I can’t study what I don’t know about.  It’s also hard to find intermediate or advanced information either in books or online.  While there are countless “Wicca 101” books, there aren’t too many that take the student to the next level.  For many people, the next level is to move to “living” their path – taking what they’ve learned and applying it to their practice.
There are also those that prefer a more “structured” learning experience to either pick up where their beginner’s self-study ended or to supplement and reinforce their knowledge from a hopefully experienced teacher.  Some prefer books with detailed lesson plans while others prefer classrooms – online or  in person.
I’m somewhere in the middle.  I find it rewarding to practice what I’ve learned but I am always eager to learn more.

By meeting and talking with other Pagans I’ve found several places to learn more.  Some are online, some are in person, and some are books with study guides and lesson plans.
One of the first places I found online was an interesting blend of online learning and virtual classrooms.  The Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary (http://wiccanseminary.edu/) is an online Wiccan school with classes held in SecondLife, an online virtual environment.  They not only host virtual classes, but also virtual gatherings anyone can attend.  It’s an interesting way to take classes and meet and get to know other Pagans online.
My local Pagan group introduced me to The Magical Circle School (http://mistresskalpanasrealm.com/) – another online school.  The Magical Circle School is Pagan-generic, or not only Wiccan.  It offers free classes to students who complete an introductory “Entrance Exam”, a set of admission requirements designed to help prospective students learn about the school and how the classes work.

Some of the folks in my Pagan group created study group that recently picked a book to read together – “Towards the Wiccan Circle” by Sorita D’EsteWe plan to meet once a month to go over the lessons and exercises for a chapter in the book.  Reading a book and going through the exercises alone is very different than discussing them with others.  Not only do you learn more about what the book might be teaching you, you also learn more about each other.
Two Pagan shops in my area also offer in-person classes.  The classes are generally once a week, falling along traditional school semester boundaries.  The classes are generally introductory in nature but more advanced classes are also offered at different times.

For many Pagans, the Wicca 101-type books are where the book education ends and the active practice begins.  Learning comes from doing what they know and carefully observing how it impacts their life, adapting as necessary.  After all, what works for one Pagan may not work for another and reading the “next book” or taking a class isn’t for everyone.

For others, having an experienced teacher or mentor can provide structure and motivation to keep them moving along their path.  But, as in any other class, how they are taught is based on the instructors’ own background and experiences, and those looking for instruction may need to try different teachers until they find one that resonates with them.
I’m at a place on my path where I’m looking for that next step.  The signpost for me is to remember that while I continue my Pagan education I need to keep practicing what I know – to keep making this path my own while keeping the spark of learning alive.

Have you taken Pagan classes?  How did you learn your path or craft?  How have you expanded your knowledge?