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Author Topic: Online Magic School Experiences?  (Read 20932 times)
Derg Corra
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« Topic Start: August 30, 2007, 09:55:21 pm »

I find it difficult to sit down and just read a book, but at the same time I find myself doing open-ended Google searches and joining in on forum discussions on religious topics.  I guess it's just more interactive, and that is why I am interested in something like an online learning program.  I've checked into some of the educational sites out there and some stand out more than others, and I am trying to figure out if any of them are right for me. 

Anyway, the sites that I've found are

College of the Sacred Mists -- Very nice website, well laid out, and upcoming video seminars with Janet Farrar + Gavin Bone (The Farrars are probably my favorite authors in the field).  On the negative side, quite expensive at $20/month plus a $25 enrollment fee.

WitchSchool -- seem to offer a much more diverse set of courses than the other schools and even put out stuff on YouTube regularly.  They are probably the lowest costing of the bunch.  The problem is that they seem quite "fluffbunny," in some of their methods.  They put a seance on YouTube that made me wonder if they were serious which really made me think twice about becoming a member.  I believe that they recently disabled the ability to do a trial course for non-paying members, as well.

Grey School of Wizardry -- has the right people with credibility behind it (Oberon Zell), but aimed at younger people with lots of Harry Potter overtones, so I'm not really feeling it's a good match for me.

Magicka School -- Offers more than the others for free, but seems to be lacking in diversity (seems limited to Wicca/Tarot/Kaballah)

I was wondering if anyone was (or is) a member of any of these sites or any others I may have missed.  If I do decide to try it, I am leaning towards WitchSchool or College of the Sacred Mists since these seem to offer the most variety/credibility, but definitely want to hear your thoughts good or bad on any of them.

Looking forward to reading your replies!
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« Reply #1: August 30, 2007, 11:55:55 pm »

I was wondering if anyone was (or is) a member of any of these sites or any others I may have missed.

Personally I had a very unsatisfying experience with an online magick school, although not one of these. I would just say follow your intuition. I am personally of the opinion that it is better for me, at least, to have teachers that I can really talk to, not just by email.
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« Reply #2: August 31, 2007, 03:09:03 am »

WitchSchool -- seem to offer a much more diverse set of courses than the other schools and even put out stuff on YouTube regularly.  They are probably the lowest costing of the bunch.  The problem is that they seem quite "fluffbunny," in some of their methods.  They put a seance on YouTube that made me wonder if they were serious which really made me think twice about becoming a member.  I believe that they recently disabled the ability to do a trial course for non-paying members, as well.

Heres an essay on Branwen's forum about WitchSchool in a series of essays called "Why Not". http://www.branwenscauldron.org/community/viewtopic.php?t=4703
The Correlians, in any case, to me feel like they are just capitalizing on a religion.
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« Reply #3: August 31, 2007, 07:39:51 am »

WitchSchool -- seem to offer a much more diverse set of courses than the other schools and even put out stuff on YouTube regularly.  They are probably the lowest costing of the bunch.  The problem is that they seem quite "fluffbunny," in some of their methods.  They put a seance on YouTube that made me wonder if they were serious which really made me think twice about becoming a member.  I believe that they recently disabled the ability to do a trial course for non-paying members, as well.

I tried the WItchschool Wicca 101 course, but it didn't seem to have much to do with Wicca, it was boring, and of course the testing was pretty limited (basically reading comprehension, with questions I could answer by using the Find function to search for keywords).
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« Reply #4: August 31, 2007, 11:12:27 am »

I was wondering if anyone was (or is) a member of any of these sites or any others I may have missed.  If I do decide to try it, I am leaning towards WitchSchool or College of the Sacred Mists since these seem to offer the most variety/credibility, but definitely want to hear your thoughts good or bad on any of them.

The real question is what you hope to gain from an online training. Quite honestly, both WitchSchool and Sacred Mists have some serious flaws. I'm not just talking about the issue of "Can you learn Wicca or magic, or whatever else, from an online course." but pedagogically.

Things to think about - note that many of these are the same as either in-person teaching, or mainstream educational situations.

1) Do you get a mentor or personal interaction with the person teaching? What's that person's credentials and background? You want someone who has experience beyond the school they're teaching in, and who has had guidance and mentorship in becoming a good teacher themselves.

I did work my way through the introductory WitchSchool lessons a few years ago: it was possible to be on a mentor's email list - but I found the answers to be very superficial, minimal, and mostly just restating stuff in the class text a slightly different way. (which really isn't going to help someone understand if the text didn't do that.) I don't believe that's changed much - but it's definitely worth asking specific questions about. Don't be satisfied with "Well, every mentor has someone they can go to." Ask about how long the mentors have been working on that path, what's required for someone to become one, what the quality control is.

To give a different approach: I've been working in a training coven for the last 6 years, and I'm approaching getting my 3rd degree. Initiates take on various teaching roles, but we always teach together whenever possible, so that students get different perspectives - and so that we can continue to get feedback on how we present material. and so on. We can also explain, in detail, how our training works - and the fact that we have multiple rapid ways to get further help if something comes up that is out of the ordinary or beyond what we feel capable of dealing with.

2) What are they teaching you? Where does the material come from?

Most importantly, for online schools: is the material they present any different than what you could find in books for yourself? How do they provided added content and material (barring anything that's specific to a particular tradition they teach: that's a special case.)

If what you want is community and people to discuss stuff with - what makes that school diffferent than spending time on a forum (like this one) and doing that. What content and resources do you get access to there that matter to you?

There *are* good answers to these questions in some settings. I'm not sure any of the current witchy online schools manage it, though.

3) How do they evaluate progress, challenge you further, and so on?

Witchschool relies on multiple choice tests, which last time I looked, could be pretty easily answered by a 'find' in the class text in another window. This doesn't require any particular analysis or synthesis or understanding of the information (as any grade school teacher knows.) Is that really the way you want to learn?

Even if they do ask for paragraphs of text - what's the evaluation used. Do they just care that you did them? Do they ask questions about them? Do they design a few assignments specifically to focus on things you need to work on? Do they have fixed length limits, or will they let you adjust what you say to suit your needs and questions? What kinds of comments do you get back? Is it "Oh, this is good!" (fun to hear, but not always useful in moving forward. Or is it "I really like how you go about this thing here, but this other bit, I think you should explore more: I'd like to see some commentary from you about it in two weeks touching on these three things in particular."

Y'know. Something that proves they actually read it and thought about it.

4) Given that we're talking about magical, ritual, and energetic work - how do they teach that? How do they judge whether or not what you're doing is effective. Do they require regular journaling or practical exercises? How do they help if you have problems with one? Is that assistance actually helpful?

This one is hard to judge from promotional material - and people can BS what they'd do if you ask questions. But it's a good thing to keep in mind. How do *you* learn best - do you think you can learn from text on a screen? Are you interested in more academic/historical/theoretical learning (in which case, I wouldn't recommend any of the schools you're looking at, anyway.)

As you might guess, I really don't think the format is a good way to learn many things. I think there *are* some things that can be well taught online (lore, history, theory, different approaches, discussion of resources, etc.)

But I don't think it's possible to teach ritual practice, etc. well online: at best, it's possible to guide people towards a personal practice they find satisfying, ask some challenging questions to keep them thinking, and provide some support and ideas when they get stuck. I don't think any of the schools you've mentioned do that part of it particularly well - they're too set up on "How many students can we have" to do it, in part.
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« Reply #5: August 31, 2007, 11:58:21 am »


Here are my thoughts on this subject, from my blog:

Quote
Paper Priestesses: The Problem with Correspondence Schools

You see them everywhere: correspondence schools promising to make you a Third Degree -whatever in a few easy lessons…and lot of “easy” payments. I doubt I’d even have to name them; they’re well known and some of them are even well respected in their particular niche. Some of them are known to be scams, and some are perfectly legit, but very rarely are the degrees conferred upon “initiates” worth the paper they’re printed on.

Learning the mysteries…any mysteries…takes work. Hard work. It cannot be done in the time it takes to read a passage or two and answer a few quiz questions. It requires sacrifice, and self-work. It means deep-seated personal transformation.

Magic, and especially religion, are very “hands-on”. They are not a job, or a hobby; they are a way of life! The skills and processes required need to be performed, and practiced! They need to be experienced! It doesn’t matter how much a student understands on an academic level. You can know the details of a technique inside and out; you can understand the reasoning and history behind every action; but if you’ve never actually used that technique, all of that knowledge isn’t doing any good. Because even if you know every detail, you still might find that you cannot make it work. Making it look good on paper is easy, but building a good, working knowledge base requires hard work, study, and lots of practice.

A good, working knowledge of practice is difficult to build without a lot of ‘one on one’ work with a teacher or mentor. Even as a largely self-taught follower of a ‘religion of one’ I have my friends and mentors within the Pagan community who I can, and often DO, turn to for advice and help. (And I love and value you ALL!) Even the most detailed course materials cannot answer every question. A teacher needs to know that the student is actually successful in the methods taught; in my experience, it’s pretty easy to think you’ve been successful when you actually haven’t. And it’s possible to think you’ve failed when you actually haven’t, if the results were not what you were expecting. It takes a skilled teacher and a lot of ‘one on one’ work and discussion to truly determine a student’s ability. No matter how good the reading material, a machine-graded, written test cannot do this.

These types of correspondence courses do a great disservice not only to the students who use them, but to the Pagan community at large. They tend to give their graduates a false sense of ability and achievement, which they then take into their own groups, not realizing that they don’t have the working knowledge and experience to lead a coven, or act as clergy. They lack the skills necessary to perform duties which they might not have even known would be expected of them! not only does this run the risk of causing someone’s well-meaning pursuits to blow up in their face, but it weakens the Pagan community as a whole and dilutes the pool of true elders within the community.

That isn’t to say that an effective correspondence school cannot exist; I know of an entire religion who’s teachings- and rituals- are done online. I have a great deal of respect for this group, because of the actual work that is required of its students. Each student has their own teacher and the teachers check up on their students regularly. Before a student is elevated to the next degree, the teacher and student both know beyond a doubt that the student is ready. This is exactly what is required to make a correspondence school work: one on one discussion, hard work on the part of the student AND teacher, and a dedicated and motivated teacher (and student!).

After all, you wouldn’t trust your physical health to a doctor who earned his degrees only by answering a few test questions, so why should you trust your spiritual health to clergy whose only training consists of reading a few books and answering some questions?
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« Reply #6: August 31, 2007, 05:26:40 pm »


I was wondering if anyone was (or is) a member of any of these sites or any others I may have missed.  If I do decide to try it, I am leaning towards WitchSchool or College of the Sacred Mists since these seem to offer the most variety/credibility, but definitely want to hear your thoughts good or bad on any of them.

Looking forward to reading your replies!

I have been looking at www.arcanoriumcollege.com This is lead by Peter James Carroll, who is very well known in the Chaos Magick world.  Some of the other teachers are people I have heard of.  Has anyone else got any information about this online school, or are all such institutions to be avoided?
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« Reply #7: August 31, 2007, 06:42:33 pm »

I have been looking at www.arcanoriumcollege.com This is lead by Peter James Carroll, who is very well known in the Chaos Magick world.  Some of the other teachers are people I have heard of.  Has anyone else got any information about this online school, or are all such institutions to be avoided?

No information on that particular school, no. I don't believe that ALL such institutions must be avoided...but I do believe you have to be *very picky* about them. Like I said it's possible for them to be good and effective. It's just not likely.
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« Reply #8: August 31, 2007, 07:56:11 pm »

Like I said it's possible for them to be good and effective. It's just not likely.

I think it is even more likely (at least, this is my experience) that they are both. I learned a lot of stuff from the people I was working with online, and I think they were doing their best, but it is just not the best way to learn magick, I don't think. It wasn't for me, anyway. I definitely did not get the kind of support that I needed at certain points, and the whole multiple choice quiz thing is, to me, not the best way to learn anything, let alone a subject as experiential as magick.
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  The power of Fire,
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  The power of Air,
  for the ability and wisdom to know the difference.

  And the power of Earth,
  for the strength to continue my path.

http://rosejayadal.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #9: August 31, 2007, 09:04:55 pm »

I think it is even more likely (at least, this is my experience) that they are both. I learned a lot of stuff from the people I was working with online, and I think they were doing their best, but it is just not the best way to learn magick, I don't think. It wasn't for me, anyway. I definitely did not get the kind of support that I needed at certain points, and the whole multiple choice quiz thing is, to me, not the best way to learn anything, let alone a subject as experiential as magick.

Right. I don't think it's the best way to learn either. But teaching magic online is a bit different from teaching a religion online, such as Wicca, and then conferring "degrees" online so that someone could conceivably become a High Priestess in a few days of quiz taking. The latter is the group I am concerned about.
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« Reply #10: September 02, 2007, 03:14:57 am »


WitchSchool -- seem to offer a much more diverse set of courses than the other schools and even put out stuff on YouTube regularly.  They are probably the lowest costing of the bunch.  The problem is that they seem quite "fluffbunny," in some of their methods.  They put a seance on YouTube that made me wonder if they were serious which really made me think twice about becoming a member.  I believe that they recently disabled the ability to do a trial course for non-paying members, as well.


Well, a few years back I had a gander at this 'college'... namely for contact with other pagans/witches/wiccans/etc so I 'enrolled' in the course (when it was free... in no way am I going to hand out $$ to some internet site I dont have a clue about).
It was all stuff I had previously read in other books over time and in turn it is not only capitalizing on a religion but seemed very 'creepy cult' like.

And it really didnt have any depth.

Then again I got the first lessons material, looked at it and thought 'what a pile of %#@$!'.

As they say - first impressions...
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« Reply #11: September 07, 2007, 01:16:39 pm »

Merry meet sisters and brothers!
 
I would love to share my experience with an online Wiccan College with you!  Let me start by saying that I am on the Student Council of Sacred Mists College and have been a member since our inception online five years ago.  Smiley  I tell you this so you will know that not only do I have insight on the subject but also that I am very proud of our school and will not be unbiased in my assessment.  Please take my words as you will. Smiley
 
There is much to be said about personal training.  There is, however, a need for Wiccan education for many who don't have access to local resources.  Sacred Mists is an international college and we have students from all over the world.  Most are in the United States but many students join us from Canada, the UK, Australia, Israel, and even some are stationed in Iraq.  Our students come with diverse experiences, needs and backgrounds - we are an eclectic Wiccan Community and learn much from each other.  This is actually a special conjunction for us that fits nicely into the "world conscienceness" that we as humans are approaching. Smiley
 
Sacred Mists is a living organism made up of all the students within.  We are constantly developing new offerings, classes, ideas, techniques, lessons, and events.  Nothing is ever stagnant at Sacred Mists.  We have a completely hands-on High Priestess with an involved Student Council who are daily, yes, I said daily, working together to refine, to improve, to create new enrichment for us all.  We are supported by the entire Student Body who are given the opportunity to participate in the creation, growth and execution of new classes, events and projects.  The students themselves are so involved that we have created a Leadership Department to assist our students in becoming the Wiccan Leaders of tomorrow.
 
Lesson material is revised and renewed as we grow.  Every student begins with a personal mentor and a family full of like-minded souls to help them through those few overwhelming months.  All homework is graded personally and is not completed through a grading system but rather a personal one-on-one feedback from the Grader and is based on putting the lesson into practice and achievement of understanding and application.
 
I think the most amazing thing though, about Sacred Mists College, is that Lady Raven has created this safe and loving haven for Wiccans.  The message boards are busy everyday with every kind of topic that you can imagine, as we all seem to come together and live our lives together, sharing everything as does a family... the students at Sacred Mists are truly the most profound, honest, kind, and diligent group of people I have ever known.
 
You wouldn't think online rituals would be so powerful, but we can meet just as easily on the ethereal plane as the physical plane, and it is amazing how we can raise some energy!  I have seen candles bend over during a Sacred Mists ritual from the energy in the air, and once the house blew a fuse!  Perhaps that is because we are as close as imperfect humans can be to practicing Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.  Our bonds are limitless and strong.
 
I'm working on my Second Degree Final.  I am in no hurry to complete my degrees.  I work my lessons in as I have time.  Others move through more quickly, depending on their goals.  Although we keep to the traditional time frame of a minimum of one year and a day for each degree, we do not place a maximum.  That way we go at our own pace.  For me, there is too much to do, learn, enjoy, experience, imagine, and create for me to worry about a time line.  Most of us plan on staying for a long, long time.  Like I said, it's so much more than a school.
 
Our High Priestess Lady Raven Moonshadow, whom I have worked with closely for several years now, is the embodiment of what a Priestess should be.  She lives the path.  Her primary goal is to offer an educational opportunity for all who wish to learn how to Walk the Wiccan Path as an integral part of life rather than just memorize and repeat.  She takes the time to know each student personally and over the course of study has personal understanding of how each student has progressed on their path.  No classes are taught, no projects are approved, no students are advanced, until Lady Raven personally has assessed and interacted and completed her evaluation.
 
I know of no finer Wiccan educational establishment available on the internet today.  Sacred Mists has become a safe place of learning that feeds my spiritual needs every day.  Our college is so rich in education, creativity and family, that logging in is like entering The World of Wicca.
 
That's one Witch's opinion. Smiley
 
Shauni Waterdragon
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« Reply #12: September 07, 2007, 02:05:49 pm »

Lesson material is revised and renewed as we grow.  Every student begins with a personal mentor and a family full of like-minded souls to help them through those few overwhelming months.  All homework is graded personally and is not completed through a grading system but rather a personal one-on-one feedback from the Grader and is based on putting the lesson into practice and achievement of understanding and application.

Waterdragon -

It's good to hear from someone with current experience with one of these schools (my last direct conversation with someone involved with Sacred Mists two years ago.) I do have some questions, based on what you've said, which I hope you have time to address.

First, I want to make it clear I'm not asking for confidential information. I'm more looking for the broad overview ("We ask them to keep a journal, and it's reviewed every X months" or "The mentor sits down in chat once a month and asks questions specific to that month's assignment" or whatever.)

One of the things I raised in an earlier comment on this thread is the difficulty of teaching energy work and related skills online - simply because it can be hard to tell if an individual student is accomplishing the goal, or if there's something that can help them do it better. (The same thing, of course, is true of a number of other skills). I know online rituals can be powerful: the question I'm getting at here is whether individual students also develop their own skills in a consistent way.

How does Sacred Mists handle this? How do teachers or mentors determine whether a student is doing their assignments, practicing skills, and so on?

When I teach in person, I do a lot of word-based teaching. (I like words!) but I can also feel the energy, perceive it in other ways (I tend to 'hear' energy best, for example). I can also look at things like their body language or stance, and suggest things that might make an action easier. "You know, it looks like you keep locking your knees and that's stifling what you're trying to do: try bending them a little" is a lot easier to suggest when you can see their knees.

I think it's possible to teach a tremendous amount online (I've successfully taught music theory online, for example, in a pure-text medium with no sound files, which presented a lot of the same challenges.) But I have yet to hear from any of the online Pagan schools a way that they handle this that seems like it actually works well. If you have a different experience, I'm extremely interested (from a pedagogical point of view, in particular) in what makes it work well.
 
Second, you say:
Quote
I'm working on my Second Degree Final.

Can I ask what Second degree means, broadly, in the system you're working in? I ask because I'm a 2nd degree in the tradition I work in, working toward my 3rd degree (and expecting that will likely happen in the next 3-6 months.)For us (as is true for a number of other traditions) 2nd degree is partly a process of dealing with one's own shadow self, and partly a process of becoming more aware of and interacting in the broader Pagan community.

The first one presents some of the same challenges as energy work. The latter is a common criticism of online schools - that people who come out of them often seem to have a painful hard time interacting with other Pagans outside of the school. They may use terminology or words in different ways (and forget that may be true), they sometimes aren't aware of broad trends in the larger community.

Can I ask whether these two things are part of your degree work? (And if not, is there a general outline of what is?) Are you encouraged to interact more broadly with other parts of the community? Is there support given for learning to navigate that, as you move from being a student to being a priestess and teacher (implications of the third degree).

In addition, in a number of degree systems, specialisation is part of the upper degree work: focusing on skills or interests of particular types. Is that true for you? If, as you say, many people in Sacred Mists are not near a local physical community, how does this work? (Particularly if someone in the existing Sacred Mists community doesn't have the same interests).

Much thanks for your time!

(edited to fix a quote close)
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« Reply #13: September 07, 2007, 05:15:57 pm »

Merry meet sisters and brothers!

Welcome to The Cauldron!
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« Reply #14: September 07, 2007, 05:53:49 pm »


One of the things I raised in an earlier comment on this thread is the difficulty of teaching energy work and related skills online - simply because it can be hard to tell if an individual student is accomplishing the goal, or if there's something that can help them do it better. (The same thing, of course, is true of a number of other skills). I know online rituals can be powerful: the question I'm getting at here is whether individual students also develop their own skills in a consistent way.

How does Sacred Mists handle this? How do teachers or mentors determine whether a student is doing their assignments, practicing skills, and so on?


I look forward to answering your questions. Smiley  Please give me a day or two so I can consult with the facilitators of the areas that you asked about!  I will return on Monday!

Blessed be!

Shauni

PS Thanks for the welcome dears!
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