Apprenticeship Interview Questions

I was hanging out with a very well-experienced friend a while back, and we were talking about how damn lazy those young’ns are out there, not willing to put in even five minutes a day into their Work yet expecting everything to happen like it does in the movies.  After hearing similar talk from the Unlikely Mage (especially regarding GCBS mages, who only know how to ground, center, banish, and shield) and other folk, and from having my own brushes with them in my oh-so-limited past, I can totally agree.  I mean, I’m not the most dedicated person ever (even though I try, at least half-assedly), but I spend at least an hour a day in prayer and meditation, and I think that that’s nowhere near enough for adequate progress without being used in conjunction with conjuration and the like.

However, she said something that gave me a shiver.  She mentioned that, from what she knows of me and from a strong hunch she has (which I’m inclined to trust generally) I’m eventually going to have an apprentice or several of my own some day.  Honestly, that freaks me out, y’all.  It won’t be soon, but the fact that someone someday might want to directly learn from me instead of with me, the idea that I’ll eventually have enough experience and knowledge (no such thing) under my belt to impart it with some measure of authority to another, it’s almost like being faced with becoming a father.  And, given my temperament towards children, that is among the worst possible things to happen to me.

Okay, not that bad.

But, like, if I were to take on an apprentice, what would I need to look out for?  I’d want to do a divination reading on the person, of course, as well as consult with my HGA (with whom I’ll have contact by then).  But an interview of some kind is also probably suggested, to figure out what they can do in terms of capability and capacity.

  1. What’s their daily schedule like?  I’d want to see what they do in their day-to-day life and suggest times to practice, things to cut out or emphasize, or rearrangements to their schedule.
  2. What’s their religious and/or occult background?  An understandably important question to get a feel for where they might be coming from, what strengths or biases they may already have, and what preconceptions might help or hinder the process of learning.  This’d also include any supernatural/paranormal experiences they’ve had that they can recall.
  3. Although not a question per se, I’d want to see their living arrangements to get a gauge of what’s going on with the place spiritually, what space can be used for altars or storage or rituals, what interference from housemates or family might happen, etc.
  4. What artistic or creative abilities do they have?  Magic and art have very close affinities with each other; half of this stuff is making it up as you go, and the other half is figuring out new combinations to put old data, techniques, and tools into.  Whether it’s poetry, drawing, sculpture, welding, programming, or some other creative act, having some spark of creation is only a good thing.  Having the experience in woodworking or metalworking is good, too, especially for tool creation.
  5. What educational background do they have?  Magic, though like an art, has a lot of learning to go with it.  What someone studies in college usually points out how someone is likely to learn, whether through numbers or colors or sounds, and also helps provide a set of metaphors and symbols that can help them wrap their minds around complicated concepts.  Plus, if they’ve got degrees in chemistry or something, that’s definitely a pointer for rootworking, spagyrics, or other forms of alchemy.
  6. What big issues are going on in their life?  Drama, fights, inability to hold a job, deaths of loved ones, whatever gets them worked up or angry is important in their life.  This would also include any past experiences with long-reaching repurcussions.  Figuring out ways to fix those problems and move onto bigger ones is important, but they can’t be things that overwhelm the person so much that they can’t focus on magic.
  7. How much time would they be willing to dedicate to the Work each day?  From what I’ve heard, this number will almost always be either 0 or thrice what it actually is.
  8. Any psychological conditions or issues?  I’m not saying that all crazy people are right out (you have to be at least a little crazy to be into this stuff to begin with), but some people aren’t capable due to psychological issues to handle some of this stuff.  Plus, for even the most stalwartly sane people, some areas of the occult make you crazy if you’re not already; how much easier it is for someone who has all the ammo but just needs the slightest of triggers!
  9. Any physical conditions or issues?  This follows from the same vein as the previous question.  Do I want to put people through extreme breathing exercises if they’ve got bad asthma half the time?  Probably not.  Based on this, I could suggest an extra physical regimen like jogging or yoga to help out with the mental and spiritual aspects of the Work.

Are there any other queries, questions, or comments you might pose to a would-be apprentice?  Anything you’d be especially keen on knowing about before taking them under your wing?

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

7 Responses to Apprenticeship Interview Questions

  1. Satyr Magos says:

    I tried to take an apprentice, once. It was a rampaging disaster. Part of it was her religious background: as a Mormon, she couldn’t take a man seriously who wouldn’t belittle/top her. Part of it was her refusal to work beyond what she felt were here native talents–specifically, work with any elemental energy besides fire. (“Dude, you cannot ward your entire house just with fire. You’ll burn the place down.” “No I won’t.”) Worst, she had no respect for my time: she would not read anything I assigned her, expecting me to explain everything in person; nor would she come to my space for lessons, expecting me to make the drive out to her subburb to provide instruction, even after she’d bought a car.

    In the future, one of my chief requirements would be the Reading List. Specifically, “Read these and get back to me. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, but consult Google before you consult me.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily require a daily magical regimen–having never been able to maintain one myself–but I would require an apprentice-journal to which I would have at-whim access. A password protected blog would be ideal, actually, assuming they had reliable internet access.

  2. The Unlikely Mage says:

    Willigness to have your life turned upside down.

  3. MrBlack says:

    Apprentices are kinda a mixed bag with me, or maybe it’s the way I teach…..unless you’re teaching a living tradition or a specific system, I find that there is no need for one or that I can refer them to books that’ll teach and they can just ask me questions.

    What I found interesting though, when teaching magick, is that I talked more about experiences and stories, rather than actual techniques.

  4. Ocean Delano says:

    I’ve had experience in trying to teach others some kind of magic, and my experiences with it were frustrating and not rewarding for the exact reason you mentioned at the start of the post. People just don’t want to do the work. It’s like they think magic should be this easy-breezy thing that you can slide along with.

    Which you can…once you know your stuff.

    I don’t mean to scare you about it, though, especially with the fact that the times I tried to take on a student were times I really was not ready for it. Good luck with it if you ever take on an apprentice.

  5. Alex Jones says:

    Question: what are their goals in doing this?
    This seems an important question to ask.

  6. Pingback: Required Reading for an Apprentice | The Digital Ambler

  7. Andrew says:

    I have found that one of the critical components of having an apprentice is darshan. You have to spend time in the presence and company of the master, to pick up on their way of doing things, and their methodology. That’s how you learn how they do things, and how they think things through. Likewise, the first task of a master who is training an apprentice is to learn whether they’re committing to the work or not — give a few basic or simple tasks, and see how and when they carry out those requests and requirements. If they don’t, well… the truth is, it’s hard to be a magician without engaging in practice.

    Also, when it comes to your list… I’ve been an exoteric teacher for seventeen years (Michael and all Archangels, has it really been that long??), and I could tell you the answers to most of your questions from that experience alone. So, the answers to 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be largely obvious to you because of your magical training and how it will evolve between now and whenever you actually have an apprentice. In fact, as an exercise, the next time you’re sitting out in public, observe three people and evaluate their potential as your apprentices.

    Between this post, and the Required Reading post, I have to say… I think you’re doing a better job of throwing up roadblocks for potential apprentices to overcome, than you are at thinking through a genuine curriculum for them. I’d say you’re sort of overcome by the idea of having apprentices, and so you’re putting up walls for them to climb over. This is *ahem* only my opinion, since we’ve never met, and I don’t know what you’re actually like as a teacher…

    Instead, may I suggest? A master never takes on apprentices just to teach them. There’s an expectation of service, too. So think about what kinds of things you would expect an apprentice to do. Your book list and your questions indicate that you’re thinking about it in terms of the worldview you expect them to absorb, and the symbolic base of knowledge you expect them to operate from… But what service is an apprentice supposed to provide to a master in this system. Are they researchers? Are they assistants? Scryers? If you can develop a sense of what mental-physical-social tasks the apprentice is supposed to do to support the master, you’ll see that a lot of the worldview you expect an apprentice to absorb might be more easily accomplished through the kinds of work an apprentice will do (e.g, “here, make me a higher-quality version of this table of practice.” “Done that, ok, now let’s summon an angel and see if this table works better than the old one.” “Well, that was top-notch. Let’s meditate and pray for a while about what we should do next.”

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