“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon
Click on a question to see its answer. Remember that these are my responses. Different teachers will give different answers.
These are questions I’m often asked when seekers interview for Acorn Garden. Please feel free to ask them again if we meet face-to-face.
Do you have open circles I can attend to see what it’s like?Short answer: no.
To attend an Acorn Garden ritual, you have to go through the entire application process. This includes filling out a questionnaire and being interviewed. This lets me judge you to see if you’d fit in with the group. It also lets you judge me to see if I might be the teacher for you.
I understand curiosity and hesitation. However, I won’t open my home and Acorn Garden’s Circles to unknown and potentially disruptive influences.
That said, there are occasional rituals we do that are “semi-open,” notably Yule, Bardic Circles, Beltane, and Lammas. However, any guests must be vouched for; in other words, a friend of a friend who’s already part of the group.
Do you practice nude/skyclad?In Acorn Garden Grove we wear robes.
Being skyclad is part of the advanced work. When you are ready for that work, it will be with people whom you have come to trust. If you don’t trust them, then either you or they are not ready for advanced work.
If you know right now that working skyclad is not for you and never will be, then any group that identifies as “Gardnerian” or “British Traditional Witchcraft” will also not be for you. I suggest you search among other Wiccan traditions.
If you do search for other groups, don’t be afraid to ask this question! Any responsible group leader will be willing to answer it.
Is this a coven?Acorn Garden is a Wiccan Grove. A Grove is a learning group that’s a step along the way to moving on to advanced work.
You may have noticed that I don’t like to use the word “coven”; I only use the word on the home page of this site to please search engines. I use terms like “advanced work” instead. This is to avoid expectations about what a coven is and what it takes to be in one.
The analogy I use: Being in a Wiccan Grove is like dating. Joining a coven is like marriage. First let’s work on your relationship with the group, with the Circle, with Gods, and with yourself. We can talk about marriage when it seems right.
How long does it take to get initiated?The short-but-annoying answer is that it takes as long as it takes.
I generally advise students that it will take at least two years, and that’s a minimum. In my case it took five years, and I find that’s typical.
You may have read that initiation occurs after a year and a day of joining a group. As far as Acorn Garden is concerned, a year-and-a-day is the absolute minimum, not a guaranteed date.
Pro tip: For any Wiccan group (not just Acorn Garden), pestering folks about initiation is an excellent way to get kicked out of the group. The primary reason why is that it shows a profound lack of understanding of what initiation means: you don’t gain through initiation, you give.
Do you teach on‑line?No. There are too many things a student has to experience in-person and within a Circle.
Typically this question is asked by people who feel they’re far away from any potential Wiccan groups. While I understand it can be frustrating to feel a long distance from the nearest group, I offer the the following tips:
- Most groups do not advertise on the internet. For tips on finding groups, I recommend Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide by Thorn Mooney. You can also try browsing the listings at Mandragora Magika and Darksome Moon.
The “I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow” argument: In early days of Neopagan Wicca in the US, some folks had to travel for hours to get to their groups, find crash space where they could, do their classwork, attend a Circle, and travel back home again.
Most Craft leaders have had their share of difficulties in finding and traveling to learn Wicca. This is why many Craft teachers, including myself, won’t accept a statement like “There’s no other way for me learn!”
Bear in mind that Wicca is a religion, not a hobby. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. The initial search is part of that process.
I wrote the above answer before the pandemic. Now that we have no alternative except on‑line instruction, I’ve retreated from the above answer. Acorn Garden is presently meeting via video conference. If you’re interested in on-line instruction you can apply to Acorn Garden. However, when this time of isolation ends, I shall return to face-to-face teaching. Be aware that if you will be unable to commute to Rockland Country NY when that happens, you may not be able to continue training with us.
Can I watch a ritual from the outside, and/or take pictures?Absolutely not. Never under any circumstances.
Under the appropriate conditions described in the answers to previous questions, you can join us and be part of the ritual. Otherwise I suggest you contact other groups and ask them if they’ll allow spectators or photographers.
Do you charge for teaching?No.
There is some exchange: students may be asked to bring teaching and ritual supplies: candles; incense; food, beverages, and flowers for ritual; etc. There’s also some volunteer labor in setting up the ritual space and cleaning it afterwards.
You have the option of putting money into a donation basket in lieu of labor or supplies. I’ve taught Wicca for 20 years, I’ve never taken any money out of the basket, and as of January 2020 there’s $25 inside. Most people find ways to contribute that don’t involve money.
For your first meeting, do not offer anything. It’s better to pay attention, watch, and learn.
Do you teach teens?No, but this is due to my limitations as a teacher, not due to an implicit lack of anything on the part of young people.
I will not accept a student under the age of 19. In my experience, I have problems communicating with anyone younger than that. The experiential and cultural differences are too great.
To put it another way, I’m old enough to have watched Star Trek when it was first on the air. Do you think you could learn from someone who’s displaced in time that far from you? If I describe a magical activity and add “Danger Will Robinson!” am I implying that it is dangerous, it is not dangerous, it appears dangerous but it isn’t, it appears not dangerous but it is, or am I just making a stupid joke?
Let’s go over the fun questions people ask when they encounter Wicca for the first time.
Do you perform animal sacrifices?No.
There are religious traditions that include animal sacrifice, such as vodoun. Wicca is not one of them.
The closest Wicca comes to “sacrifice” in our rituals is to place cut flowers on the altar.
Do you perform human sacrifices?No.
In Wicca, that is called “murder.” Not only don’t we do it, but we don’t cast “death curses” or anything like that.
Most of the people who ask this question seem to have a list of people they wish to volunteer for the lead role in such a ritual. Sorry, but you’ll have to learn how to live in harmony with people on your list. You can’t use Wicca as an excuse.
Do you worship Satan or the Devil?No.
The belief in Satan arises from Christian dualism. Wicca is not Christianity, and we believe in a spiritual spectrum of plurality rather than duality.
We do use words like “spells” and “witchcraft.” Many find them to be triggers. However, that’s a result of marketing and not a measure of our intent.
The overall goal of Wicca is to make ourselves and the rest of the world a better place via worship of the Goddess. “Satan” has no part in what we do.
For more on the separation between Wicca (and paganism in general) versus Satanism, see this essay.
Do you have orgies?I’ve been involved with Wicca for thirty years. In that time I’ve never been in nor invited to an orgy.
There are magical groups that use sex within their rituals. Acorn Garden is not one of them.
If you’re looking for such a group, the only advice I can offer is these sorts of magical groups generally don’t accept single heterosexual males.
With that said, people in a romantic relationship can cast a Circle together. What happens in such a Circle is up to them!
Are you a cult?No.
I don’t state this as a matter of opinion, but of numerical analysis. Acorn Garden scores low (if not zero) on the ABCDEF, an essay and checklist that I highly recommend.
Here are some questions on the “myths” and realities that have accumulated about Gardnerians.
Is the Gardnerian Tradition better than any other form of Wicca?Absolutely not!
Neither Gardnerian Wicca, nor any other form of Wicca, nor any other form of paganism, nor any other religion have a monopoly on religious insight or experience. I can easily believe that a Druid singing among hundreds in a rite, or a solitary Wiccan self-initiating in the moonlit woods, or a nun praying in a cloister has had a more profound spiritual experience than I’ve ever had.
The Gardnerian Tradition is my path. Perhaps it will become yours as well. But there are any number of other paths can produce the same results. It depends on the individual seeker.
Is the Gardnerian Tradition connected in an unbroken line to the religious practices of people who lived centuries ago?No more so than any other pagan tradition.
Recent scholarship (see the books on the Gardnerian Wicca page) has shown that Gerald Gardner developed his rituals based on ceremonial magic and writings from other occult traditions. There is little or no scholarly evidence of antiquity in Gardnerian practice.
The way I put it is that the Gardnerian Tradition has an ancient history that goes back tens of thousands of days.
If you’re looking for a magical tradition that extends back into the mists of history (or at least claims to), you’ll have to seek elsewhere.
Do Gardnerians have special magical secrets or powers that no one else has?We have our secrets and Mysteries, as many other religions do. Those Mysteries are private and we don’t share them.
However, though they are powerful for us, they are no more special or powerful than the Mysteries of any other tradition. For that matter, they are no more (and no less) special than the Mysteries and secrets shared by people in committed romantic relationships.
The Mysteries of the Craft help us to build community, foster a sense of responsibility, and aid in the feeling of Magic that flows through our worship of the Gods. But you can find Mystery elsewhere if you choose to seek it.
Are Gardnerians snobs?Umm… ah…
Let me put it this way: There are Gardnerians who would give different answers to the questions I’ve posed above.
Everyone likes to believe that they are special. Some folks believe it more strongly than others. Some of them are Gardnerians.
For my part, I try to diminish the aura of superiority, both from myself (not easy for a scientist to do!) and that which is sometimes projected by members of the Gardnerian Tradition.
If the Gardnerian Tradition is no better than any other, is not ancient, and has no special secrets of power, why should I seek it out?I can only give you my personal answer: It works for me.
I can share my joy in the Craft and its practice with you. It’s up to you to decide if this is a magical path that feels right.
Is there any reason not to become a Gardnerian?I’ll give you two.
The Gardnerian Tradition is structured; Circles are cast in a certain way, the Four Elements are invoked, and so on. If you don’t like structure in your religion or your magic, then the Gardnerian path may not be for you.
Gardnerians work with the polarity between female and male. This probably seemed fine in the 1950s, but in the decades since we’ve come to understand that there are gender orientations and spectra that don’t lie on the traditional line of male to female. Some Traditions have adapted to this (Blue Star Wicca, for example), but Gardnerian practice changes slowly. Perhaps you can be part of that change!