Is there a place for a Wiccan Guru?

A post by Dianne Sylvan (whose personal LJ is private, so I won’t be posting a link, nor quoting directly from her entry) got me thinking about the topic of the guru, and on whether such a role has any place in modern Wicca.

I believe it does.

Yes, I am wearing my flame-retardant armor. However, before the fireballs come sailing in, I’ll just forge ahead and explain myself.

The term guru has been much maligned in most English-speaking societies. That’s not our “fault”, per se; there have been several very high-profile abuses of the position by men who have been guided almost exclusively by profit motive, and these are the ones we hear about in the news. We don’t hear about the ones who are doing the guru-thing correctly.

The guru’s role in Dharmic religions is multi-faceted, but one of the largest components is as a guide, teacher and role-model. Generally, a person has one “root guru”, the primary touchstone for learning and guidance. Over the course of one’s life, however, there can be many gurus, as the needs of the seeker will change over time.

The guru is also a point of devotion, and that is the part that squicks most of us Wiccans, to the point where we recoil at the mention of the word within a Wiccan context. In Mahayana Buddhism, the devotion one has towards the guru is… complicated, so what I’m about to write isn’t entirely accurate, but it will do for purposes of this conversation. The guru is seen as the embodiment of Buddha-nature, manifest in the form of a living, breathing human. And that manifestation is guiding the seeker towards enlightenment, which is seen as the most amazing, loving, kind thing that one person could do for another. In the case of the root guru, there is a “heart connection”, an indescribable pull the seeker feels towards that guru. From these feelings, the devotion arises, and is expressed in all sorts of ways. For some, it’s as simple as being very respectful and deferential, attending all the teachings they can that the root guru provides. Others do more, trying to see to the comfort and health of the root guru. Then some people go overboard and act like a slave toward the root guru. This latter case is the one that makes the evening news.

So we Wiccans do have some reason to hold the whole guru-thing at arms-length.

That said, however, we should be open to the probability that not everyone will be able to navigate their spiritual journey without assistance, at least at first, and at least some of the time. Not everyone who becomes a guru will abuse the position, or even wanted it in the first place. It is certainly possible… probable, even… that some relatively young Wiccan, working on her Path, and convinced to the core that she can and must do it all herself will run into a relatively older Wiccan with years of experience, and a solid belief that she is out of the training phase of her life — and they will see in each other a calling. The younger will still be “in charge” of her spiritual development (*snicker*) and the older will provide guidance and act as an example. That’s how gurus and followers are born.

I snickered because, in my experience, The Gods have always been in charge of my spiritual development, no matter what illusions I had on the subject. And I can hear Them chuckling as I type.

So does all this mean I think I should have a guru, or that I should be one? No, not at all. I’ve often said that if someone says that they want to be High Priestess of a coven, then she probably doesn’t understand the job. Same thing goes for being guru.

But I think there’s probably a place for it in our faith, and I think the role will probably develop as time goes on.

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