I take the responsibility very seriously; for the first year, I teach no magic at all, only the religion. Because I think the religion is far more important for a person who intends to be a Priestess or Priest than the magic is. And if you intend to become initiated, then you are heading for the Priesthood by definition.
Due to the special relationship between a student and a teacher, the Karma, or natural consequences of actions, of one becomes entwined with the Karma of the other. In this way, if a student is doing something with bad consequences I will become aware of it, even if I'm not told, because of those consequences showing up in my own life.
In just the same way, the consequences of what I am doing will show up in hers.
Remember this when you are choosing either students or teachers.
I have no right to tell a friend or a person off the street what to do, and what not to do. But because of the teacher-student relationship, I have not only the right, but the responsibility. It is a little like taking care of a child.
The student is not a child, though. So this does not mean that the student has no choice, and must do as I tell her. She is an adult, after all, and must make her own choices.
I will rarely tell a student that she must do something. I'm far more likely to advise and recommend.
But even on those rare occasions when I tell her she must do something, she still has a choice.
She can choose to break off our relationship, and go to another teacher.
After all, she is only here because in this one facet of life, she feels inexperienced, and has asked for my help. If she won't take it, she belongs with someone she can trust, and listen to, and learn from.
In other facets, the student may know much more.
Even in some bits which are frequently associated with this religion, such as herbalism or astrology, I may be the student. If so, I will ask for guidance and instruction and follow directions, so that the decisions made will be wise ones, and I will be able to learn without as much personal risk. In a very real sense, the student allows the teacher to make her choices for her. This allows her to learn from example, and instruction, and guided experience, instead of learning by trial and error.
I would only choose this if I trusted the teacher, and knew that she did in fact know the material and the possible risks and rewards likely from any choice. I would choose this because I find that learning by trial and error is more costly, painful, and difficult than I would like. But in taking a teacher, I would know that I was choosing to put myself in the child/learning position. As I progressed, I would expect to have my hand held less and less. But if for some reason I wasn't "getting it," I would trust that my teacher would not give me enough instruction to get myself in deep trouble, but would keep going over the original material until I did.
For example, if I could not remember which herbs caused severe stomach cramps, and which relieved headaches I would trust my teacher not to teach me how to make tisanes. I don't need that knowledge until I have mastered which herb is which, because I don't dare use it anyway.
And here is the crux. If she did go ahead and teach me, or if I learned it somewhere else, I might be tempted to use it when I had a bad headache, hoping that I remembered, and I might wind up with the cramps. And then my teacher would be partially responsible, because she had taken on the responsibility.
It works both ways. If you give someone else your choices to make for you, then they share in the karma as well. You don't escape the karma yourself, because you must continually choose to abide by their choice for you. But they do have a share of it, because they made the choice.
And something like using energy or magic is not the same as not being able to distinguish between two kinds of herbs. To someone who hasn't learned enough about the religion to be standing where I think they should with the Gods, it can be more as if they think that they are playing a video game that has them driving a tank around and shooting things, when they are actually driving a real tank! Because magic is real.
And yes, if a student of mine uses magic to get herself or others in trouble, then I share in the karma for that, as well. This is because of the studentteacher relationship. It's a responsibility that we accept when we accept a student. It's one of the many reasons that I won't let my students have any other magical/religious teachers. I cannot control what the other teachers are teaching, and I don't want to catch the karma for someone who wants to use their students for some agenda of their own, without being willing to teach at the student's pace.
In some branches of neopaganism, it's impossible to release a student, and you are responsible for their actions forever. I believe that is a fallacy. I certainly hope it is. If I thought that were true, I would probably never take a student.
But I think that it is possible to release a student.
I release students when they have learned as much as I think that they can learn from me.
Sometimes this is when I have taught them all that I know at that point (for I am always learning more myself, and expect them to as well.)
Sometimes it's when I realize that they aren't really interested in learning at all, but just wanted someone to make their decisions for them and to make insatiable demands of. I am here to be a teacher and Priestess, not a mother. Since they aren't interested in what I have to teach, and I'm not interested in being mother to an adult, this relationship is doomed.
Sometimes it's because I find that they aren't at all interested in this religion, but only wanted to know how to do magic so they could have power over others. Since I won't teach them that, there is no reason to continue.
Students have asked to be released for many reasons. And whatever the reason is, I always let them go. (Although if the reason is a misunderstanding, I will try to explain it first. Then if they still want to go, they may go with my blessing.) This is because I am not in this business for myself, but for the Gods.
I don't put feathers in my cap for each student I have. In a very real sense, they aren't mine, anyway. They belong to the Gods, who are using me as a teacher for as long as I am the right one. When it's time, they all go on to other teachers.
And that is the way it should be.
For at the end, the religion, and our relationship with the Gods, is the most important thing. Everything else is just secondary. It can be fun, and often it is. But it's not really important.
I don't think that one should have sexual relationships with students unless they are already in that position. In other words, in our tradition it is considered normal to teach a spouse; it's commonly done. It is even alright to fall in love with a student and take them as a spouse while teaching them (always assuming, of course, that they are free to become a spouse!)
But taking one (or more) of your students as lovers is a dangerous thing, because it's open to so many forms of abuse.
When you are in love with someone, you become particularly vulnerable. That vulnerability might lead you to make decisions that are based purely on emotions. You might not tell them not to do something that was dangerous, because you are afraid that if you tell them "no" you will alienate them, and they won't want to be with you any more.
Or, worse yet, they may feel that they have to do everything that you tell them; no matter what their own hearts and minds are telling them. If they don't, you won't love them any more.
Or, even worse, they may not want to have this kind of relationship at all. But they mistakenly think that it is a required part of the student/'teacher thing, and they have to do it or you won't teach them. And they want to learn more than anything.
That, my friend, is rape.
Whenever you force or co-erce someone to be intimate with you against their will, it's rape.
And we don't do that.