- Casey Giovinco
Uncrossing Your Roads
To paraphrase Sybil from her book The Complete Art of Witchcraft, the aim of witchcraft, as we see it in Gala, is to help Gay men find a harmonious existence, knowing themselves and navigating their circumstances by seeking balance within all aspects of their lives. It was only natural then that our tradition would also strive for balance in our training methods.
To that point, let's talk about the other side of the coin. In my last post, I discussed the freedom of expression and the creativity that comes with the hedge witch path. Now let's talk about one of the places where structure and uniformity of collective practice comes into play. Every organized system has to have some collective set of agreed upon standards, and Gala is no different.
How It Started
The elders thought long and hard about how to balance freedom of expression and creativity with reasonable standards of proficiency in the Art for new initiates. Yeah, we had the Book of Shadows (BoS), which gave us a collective set of practices once someone initiated. That was (and is) wonderful! However, there were certain aspects of the training (specifically around the Male Mysteries and the Gay Mysteries), which I gave to the witches whom I initiated that were not being passed down as those men became high priests and began training other Gay men in the land-based covens. (This wasn't intentional on their part, by the way. I crammed a lot into their training. Necessarily, some of it was bound to be forgotten from time to time.)
I also had to acknowledge that the first members of Gala's high priesthood were pushed quite hard. The original initiates went from approaching me as seekers to running their own covens within 5 years of meeting me. In truth, I know how fast that is, and I've slowed down my training style a little bit (not much, but a little bit) now that Gala has grown to the point that it has.
To be completely transparent with you, the reason that I pushed those original initiates as hard as I did was because I wanted to grow Gala to a point where it could be stable and thrive on its own, independent of my willpower. It may seem like a wild choice now to some of you reading this, but I had my reasons. One of those reasons was that I didn't want Gala to turn into a cult of personality. I wanted the tradition to focus on the collective will of all who were initiated into it, not just my own agenda. In order to do that, I needed to have fully-functional covens that were not run by me. My students had to be given power, and their power had to be nurtured so that it could influence Gala's growth in unexpected ways. One of the consequences of that decision to push so hard so fast was that Gala's high priesthood needed some extra support with training new initiates as they began forming those covens.
In order to alleviate some of the pressure from the new teachers, I consulted with the elders on what they would like to see from a Gala initiate. Then I set out to figure out how I would systemize and structure a training program that would meet those standards.
As I've said before, my own training style as a mentor is highly personalized. Upon agreeing to train a Gay male witch, I take the time to fully understand the individual person before me. I empathize with him. I find what's missing from his life, what his hopes and dreams are, and then I set out to help him manifest those hopes and achieve his dreams through witchcraft. That's not exactly something that can be taught. It's sort of an instinct.
Long story short, it took some deep soul-searching to figure out how to create a process that would bring about those same results for initiates regardless of who trained them. My solution was to create a self-paced course on witchcraft and the Gay Mysteries. It had to be filled with highly personalized stories. (If you couldn't guess by now, I tend to use storytelling as a tool quite a lot in my teaching style.) That course also had to have a progressive and systematic process for developing the essential skills that make a Witchcraft initiation meaningful to the initiate. It also had to detail all the minimum things that Gala expects its initiates to understand about how the Gay Mysteries deepen the experience of practicing witchcraft for Gay men.
My solution: Uncrossing Your Roads!