In the 1970's a seeker who wished to find a teacher or coven had a very difficult time. There were few books and few metaphysical stores. Now we have the opposite problem. There are hundreds of books and metaphysical stores and many thousands of websites which will all claim to be able to teach you Wicca. The problem now is finding a legitimate, trained teacher amongst all of the eager but unqualified ones. Anyone can create a website and claim to be a teacher of Wicca. Be careful. Ask questions. A good teacher will welcome questions about their background. Make a list of those things which are important to you, and from that make a list a questions to ask potential teachers.
Don't be in too much of a rush to find a teacher, and especially do not be in a hurry to find a coven. There is much you can learn on your own through the lessons on this website and from the books in the suggested reading list. One thing you might try if you are anxious to make contact with other Wiccans is an introductory class in Wicca - sometimes known as Wicca 101. These classes are given at many metaphysical book stores. You can find listings of groups and stores offering such classes on The Witches Voice website. This type of class is good if you are very new to Wicca and are just looking for the basics. It won't hurt to take more than one introductory class given by different teachers. It will help you get to know people and show you that there are many styles of teaching and opinions and views of Wicca.
Where to find a teacher:
There is a saying, When the time is right, the teacher will appear. This is all well and good, but you can't expect them to materialize magically in front of you. You will have to visit places where teachers are likely to be. As suggested above metaphysical book stores are a good place to start. Look in your phone book under Books or Psychics (occult or metaphysical bookstores will often offer tarot or psychic readings). If there is no metaphysical book store in your town try the next town. Anyone serious about learning the craft is not afraid to work or travel to gain knowledge. If there is no metaphysical store anywhere near you try any large book store. Most will have their Wiccan books in the new age section. You may meet other Wiccans there.
Pagan gatherings are a great place to meet other Wiccans including teachers. You can find the times and locations of pagan gatherings through The Witches Voice or at metaphysical stores.
Some of the questions you should ask a teacher of an introductory Wicca class:
How long have you been teaching Wicca?
Where did you learn the craft?
Do you teach a particular tradition of Wicca?
How many students have you taught?
Are the names of your students confidential? (if this is important to you)
How much do the classes cost? [There may be a small fee for classes to cover the cost of handout materials and rent if the classes are held in a commercial building. Most Wiccan teachers do not charge for their time teaching the religion.]
Beyond the basics:
If you are interested in finding a teacher to take you beyond the basics you can first check with the teacher of the introductory course. They may provide additional instruction but may not advertise it publicly. You can also ask that teacher where you can meet other Wiccan teachers and if they know of any who are currently offering intermediate classes. You can also look for classes in herbology, astrology, tarot, guided meditation or other topics which can help you in your progress through Wicca.
While there are many good teachers of the craft there are also people who pass themselves off as teachers but are unqualified or dishonest about their intentions. In many cases you will have to trust your instincts when evaluating a potential teacher. Unfortunately there are people who pass themselves off as coven leaders or teachers who are on power trips or looking for sexual conquests. One way you can avoid such situations is through studying Isaac Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. Try to talk with other people who have studied with the teacher you are evaluating. It may be that the teacher is perfectly qualified, but simply not the right teacher for you either because they do not teach a style of Wicca you are interested in or there is a personality conflict. Ask around the pagan community about the teacher - at stores, on the net, at pagan gatherings. The network in the craft is good and most likely you will find out whether the teacher has a good or bad reputation.
We also recommend reading the following pages on our website for more help in evaluating teachers and classes: Self Dedication and Initiation, Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Craft, and What is a Coven? . These two pages will help you formulate questions to ask about a group or coven you are thinking of joining. If you are thinking of joining a coven - especially a traditional coven - do not expect to change anything once you are part of it. A coven must fit 100% - not 90% or even 95%.
Some of the more bizarre things we have heard of that have taken place in some covens:
Beware of anyone whom you do not know well that asks you to join a coven. This is not a normal Wiccan practice. Students must ask to join and are only admitted after months, or sometimes years, of study.
Beware of any adult coven leader who accepts as a student or coven member, anyone under the age of 18 without verified permission of the child's parent or guardian. Most High Priests and High Priestesses will not take on students under the age of 18 unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian to all events. You will occasionally find covens or study groups whose members are all under the age of 18. We highly recommend that you do not involve yourself with such groups unless you have permission from your parents and you know that the group is either supervised by responsible adults, and/or the parents and guardians of all members are aware of the existence of the group and condone its meetings.
Beware of a teacher who seems to blame other people (students, assistants, society) for their problems. A leader of a coven or group needs to take responsibility for what happens in the group and to the group.
Beware of teachers who require students to do house work for the High Priest or High Priestess. This is not normal Wiccan practice. It is reasonable for a High Priestess to ask for help setting up for ritual and cleaning up afterward.
Some Wiccans have reported being beaten for failure to obey rules of the coven or for failure to do housework. This is definitely not part of Wicca! If you are a victim of such a practice do not hesitate to report it to the police. Wiccans, like everyone else, are required to obey civil laws. No oath of secrecy binds you from reporting such illegal acts.
Beware of teachers who claim that you must have sex with them before beginning your instruction. This is not normal Wiccan practice and should be a major warning that the teacher is unscrupulous.
There are some covens which do use actual sex for purposes of initiation. If this is a concern to you make that very clear to the High Priest and High Priestess. You may be told that the initiation involves only a symbolic Great Rite or symbolic sexual union between god and goddess. SPECIAL NOTE: There have been reports of at least one coven which tells potential initiates the union will be symbolic, and then the student is coerced or forced into actual sex with the High Priest or High Priestess. THIS is not legitimate Wiccan practice! Any forced sex should be reported to the police as well as to the Wiccan community.
To see what you can expect a potential teacher to ask you, see this page: Responsibilities of the Initiator
See also The Bill of Rights for Pagan Students and Teachers, by Maryam Webster, and Seekers Bill of Rights, the Texas Local Council of COG.