Structuring your learning

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One of the things about learning Witchcraft is that you need to learn how to teach yourself. That’s a skill many of us didn’t get taught – and then here we are, wanting to build a very big project, and not knowing how to break it down. This essay has a few tips for ideas on structuring your learning in more manageable doses over time.

The basics:

  1. You can’t learn everything all at once.
  2. Some things you want to learn probably depend on other things you haven’t learned yet.
  3. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.

There’s only so many hours in the day – and even if you had nothing to do with your life but learn about witchcraft, time is (for humans) pretty linear. If it’s springtime, you’ll need to wait six months to see what nature does in your area for Samhain.

Likewise, if you want to learn a more complicated skill, you may need to learn (and practice) more fundamental ones first. You might not realise you need to learn something for a while, and then need to go back and start from basics for it.

Finally, figuring out how to learn these things is a problem people before you have had. There are lots of resources out there that lay out a structure for learning. Even if you disagree with the specifics, looking at a dozen different ways people do that can help you sort out your own structure. (My year and a day training draft might be one of them.)

General principles:

Figure out how much time you have and want to spend on this each week. You may want to look at:

Your sources:
It takes a fixed length of time to watch a video or listen to a podcast, but your reading speed might change how much you can read in a week compared to other people.

Your commitments:
If you are currently in school, or you have a very busy life, you may not be able to focus on other learning as much as someone who isn’t juggling as many things. You may just be mentally exhausted when you have a little free time.

Privacy and quiet:
If you share your home with others, time when you can try things out might be limited.

Different times of the year:
Most people have some times when they’re busier (perhaps around the holidays when there are more social events or family events, or if you work in a field that has busy seasons.) You’re probably going to get less done on your other studies then. Some people with chronic health issues may have some times of year when they’re feeling better and some seasons (or weather conditions) when they’re feeling worse.

Personal needs:
If you have chronic health issues, short term medical issues, family demands outside of the usual, you may have a lot less focus or attention to spare, or you may need to learn using specific approaches and not others.

Laying out a plan:

Pick a time commitment you think you can meet, and then take about 2/3 of that time. (So if you think you can do 3 hours a week, plan things for 2 hours.) That will give you some leeway in all sorts of directions – if you get sick, if you have a family crisis, if you find something really amazing that you want to spend time exploring.

Once you’ve looked at how much time you have, you can figure out what kinds of topics you want to focus on. (I suggest sorting out the time first, because it will give you an idea how much you can reasonably cover in a given month or year.)

Make sure you include different kinds of learning. Some weeks you may not want to sit down and read. Sometimes you might want to do things outside, but need the weather to cooperate. You might want to do something that involves specific items or for things to come in the mail. Building in flexibility will help you out.

You may also want to build some flexibility in – maybe you have a shorter list of things you want to do every week (read more of your current book, explore a topic online, etc.) but you may have other optional things on a list to explore if you have more time, energy, or attention.

Some examples:

Learning the basics:

The following is typical of what might be covered in Seeker classes (a general overview) that run about 10-15 hours of class time with some additional reading and thinking time. 

Beginning to develop a personal practice:

These ideas might take 3-6 months, depending on your available time.

Focus on a particular topic:

One last way to organise your time is to focus on a particular topic for a month or three. Some options include:

  • Learn some basics about a number of different deities. (This is not “Go out and do ritual for them.” This is “Learn a little bit about them and their stories.”) You might pick deities you’re interested in, other deities in the pantheon of deities you honour, or deities interested in your profession, hobby, or other interests.
  • Spend a period of time (one month, three months) focusing on each element in turn.
  • Picking a symbol or concept, and developing its use in your ritual practice over a period of time. Example symbols might include a particular animal you’re drawn to, a meditative shape (like a spiral or labyrinth), a hobby (bread baking, spinning, weaving, art, music)
  • You might also choose to structure a ritual year around a particular idea or form of growth – that’s worth an essay of its own.

[last edited December 23, 2016]

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