(NSW) - In any family there are those born with black hair,
blondes, brunettes and with red hair; so some are born handicapped,
some highly intelligent, some skilled with their hands, and some
born Witches. None are converted to Witchdom.
are two types of Initiation for the Witch, the magical birth, and
social Initiation into the various traditions and through their
degrees or rites. It's the magical birth or Initiation of the spirit
by tutelary spirits (your shadows) which signifies the Witch. None
are Initiated into the same magic and none are more or less powerful
- we're just different.
the commencement of magical birth, the Witch is drawn towards natural
lifestyles and philosophies; they see themselves as different from
their peers. Then comes the contact period, when other Witches 'recognize'
them. As time passes apparent reality begins to fade and the animistic
characteristics of natural phenomena become obvious. Drug taking,
if used in the past, must stop here.
begin the magical voyages, escorted by your shadows, instruction
from ancestors, draughts of knowledge from archetypal personalities,
even feasting with the inhabitants of the underworld - anything
goes as this is a highly individual process.
it's all over, your birthing is complete. You only get an occasional
visit from your beloved shadows to see how you're going. You're
now in the 'active' phase of your magical life. That's Initiation!
Voigt (USA) - Aspects of Initiation in order of importance are:
the transformation of Initiate's consciousness; the passing of Power;
and social and psychological validation. Interestingly, it appears
that a lot of people value these aspects in reverse order of importance;
it seems to make a difference to us who's in or out, on top or on
essence of Initiation is transformation of the individual. Their
relationship with the entire universe is illuminated and, while
the typical surge of awe and giddiness wears off to some extent,
the spiritual and perceptual shift is permanent. Initiation leaves
a permanent mark on the soul, the soul mark which the Gods seek,
the real Witch's mark which is sometimes visible to other Witches,
even to Initiates of other non-Craft spiritual systems.
transformative experience is, strictly speaking, between the individual
and the Divine. If the individual is not ready, this just won't
happen, regardless of whatever prayers, ceremonies and hoohah anyone
wants to do. Also, no HP,HPS or Teacher can keep it from happening
if the Gods decide that the time is right. In that case, why have
anyone other than the individual and the Gods involved? Why not
self-initiate or just let it happen spontaneously?
there is a lot to becoming a Witch that cannot be taught, there
is a "Craft" side to the Craft which can be taught and
those are the things a teacher is supposed to do. He or she can
also, by their guidance preparatory to the ritual, help the Initiate
lay the internal alchemical framework and provide a safe space,
context and framework of magical and psychological support during
and after the transformation (which can, contrary to romantic fantasies,
sometimes be dangerous). In addition, the responsible teacher helps
them keep their balance in the usually crazy seven days immediately
following the Initiation. These days are crazy because Initiation
results in what is commonly referred to as "karmic speed-up"
- where everything that has been waiting to happen to you falls
on you at once in the confrontation of initiation. Typically, at
that point, you are floating in the air so it helps to have understanding
and supportive people around you.
there are the social/psychological aspects of initiation which may
seem trivial but need to be taken into consideration. These include:
Validation of the individual by the group;
Bringing the person into the group or family;
Acceptance that "you are one of us now";
Recognition that those not of the group are outsiders;
Status within the community;
Binding to the group;
Commitment, with all that this implies.
Oath is made which includes a conditional curse, voluntarily taken,
and promises about what you will do for the group and that you will
not betray it or use magic for harmful purposes.
Traditions use a system of degrees to structure the stages of growth
in the Craft. Typically there is a year and a day between degrees,
but usually only a few months between meeting a group and becoming
a Dedicant. The Dedication ritual is usually psychological/social
and may require an oath of binding to the group or an oath before
the gods that you affirm you will study the Craft. The Dedicant
should know what they are getting into and check out the person
they will be studying with. All degrees which follow Dedication
have certain social significance, as well as the other aspects we
Degree is seldom particularly "heavy" and in the old days
(1950s and '60s) was almost like a dedication, though now there
are higher standards. Before the Gods, the Initiate is welcomed
to the community and they may take a magical name at this stage.
The Initiate is presented with the tools of the craft, given the
secret (first degree) names of Deity, of the Guardians and the Mighty
Dead. Power is NOT called, nor are they taught how to do an Initiation
or empowered to do so.
Degree - the big one! The Initiation into death, the journey into
the Underworld. Power is called down - the initiatory power but
not necessarily the authority that goes with that power. The passing
of Power includes a calling down of raw energy, the passing on of
secret names of deity and the ability (in the sense of raw physical
ability) to Initiate - with or without the authority to do so. The
traditional teaching about the passing of Power is that the vessel
must be ready or it will break. A lot of passable Power is inherent
in the spiritual transformation and it also creates a karmic link
between the Initiator and Initiate. Second Degree is (ideally) a
strong transformation and the person is sometimes given the title
of Elder, depending on the tradition, and may take the Elder's oath
at this stage. The Second Degree God names, names of Guardians and
the Mighty Dead, and the second degree Book of Shadows (if there
is one) is given.The power link creates or reinforces the karmic
link between the Initiate and Initiator.
Degree - ideally the person is able at this stage to pass on the
entire body of information of the Tradition up to, but not including,
the material contained in the Third Degree Initiation. This person
should be able to form a coven. The Third Degree power is called
down, and related work is done, details of which are a secret of
the Craft. (I am not being deliberately difficult here; it's in
the difference between Mysteries and Secrets - you can talk about
the Mysteries all day without anyone having the slightest notion
about the reality of them, as you have to have been there to experience
them. Secrets, on the other hand, are procedural things relating
to the Mysteries and come under the heading of "things not
to be passed on out of context".) Further God names, etc.,
are passed on, and the person is given the title of Elder. The Karmic
link is again reinforced and they are charged with the responsibility
of ensuring that the Craft will survive. At Third degree they may
"hive off" from the group and start their own Coven and,
to a certain extent, may do as they choose. After the Third Degree
Initiation is the time when "High Priest/ess Disease"
typically sets in, so most groups will keep a new Third very busy
with a project, or sit on them until the danger period is over.
(High Priest/ess Disease is where you now have your Third Degree
and, as no one can tell you what to do anymore, you want to go off
and initiate all your friends. Sigh!)
politics of Initiation are foremost in the eyes of those who aren't
yet initiated. You get people saying things like: "My husband/wife
has been initiated - why won't you initiate me?"; "Isn't
it my turn now?"; and "You initiated them and they haven't
been training for as long as I have.". If you have not been
there (if you are not yet an Initiate), you cannot know whether
you are ready and there are things that happen which you cannot
be prepared for. That's what it's about - the Initiation may have
further reaching effects than the Teacher or Coven expects as well.
Before I do an Initiation, I do a particular kind of divination
technique on a question such as: "Is this person ready?"
and "Will they break?". There's a real responsibility
when you initiate someone, and if they're not ready, it's about
as effective as a mail-order degree is.
if you are studying with a teacher or group and feel uncomfortable
with their ethics, then you must shake the dust from your feet and
and go elsewhere - you definitely don't want a karmic link with
that person or group. If you leave a bad teacher, another good one
is a two-way link once made, and this is a reason why I've not initiated
more people. Someone may be ready for Initiation in most respects
but they may be doing something that is okay for them to do but
not okay for me - actions of people I initiate reflect on me and
vice versa. The right to confront someone who has been behaving
in an inappropriate manner is also implicit - and this goes both
ways. (Editorial Note: This contribution is adapted from an introductory
lecture by Valerie at the Ancient Ways Festival 1987.)
Rhymer (A.C.T.) - Whenever Craft people get together it seems
that they inevitably get around to the topic of Initiation, and
the question of validity of self-initiation. So why should I be
any different? I stress that these thoughts on the topic are my
own - agree or disagree as you will.
let me state my viewpoint. I cannot and do not accept the concept
of self-initiation as I have heard (and read) it espoused from various
sources, some of them quite respectable. For me, a Craft Initiation
(to whatever degree) requires guidance by an external participant.
Sure, we get to the thorny question of who Initiates the first Initiate.
But the answer to that "chicken and egg" question is -
the one who developed the system in the first place. Yes, Virginia,
it does say "developed", because I also cannot agree that
our Craft practices are "old and ancient traditions".
The BASIS for our religion, certainly, the concepts of the Lady
and Her Consort, the Sabbats, etc. But the form given to the rituals
is relatively modern, and was developed by people after long and
careful study (in most cases, anyway). So the Initiatory experiences
designed by these folk are (again usually) magically validated by
careful study and practice.
this reasoning then, it is impossible to self-initiate as a First
or whatever degree Alexandrian, or Gardnerian (or Sussex, Essex,
Wessex or Manx, whatever you may wish to call your style) Witch.
Certainly you can dedicate yourself to the Old Ones in whatever
form your tiny little heart desires. But don't try and tell me you've
been Initiated, because you haven't!
an Initiate (of what system it doesn't matter), the process of Initiation
to me is a little like taking someone on a journey that you have
made yourself, again under the guidance of another Initiate. As
with all journeys, no two people ever perceive the same things (I
use the word "perceive" with deliberation, as Initiations
seem to involve all six senses to varying degrees) but the route
they travel has the same beginning point and the same signposts
along the way. This is the basis of Initiation - a trip in which
you follow someone else's maps if you like. You will add your own
details to the chart on the way.
is Initiation important? If you're solitary, its unimportant. It
really doesn't matter because as a solitary you design, plan and
make your own system. But when you're part of a group, it is necessary
to have certain standards. If you don't have a basis for comparison,
via deliberately designed and MAGICALLY VALIDATED experience, how
do you assess where you're at, what your level of knowledge is?
As High Priest of a Coven, I need to know where my members are up
to so that I can use them, and ensure that they gain from the experience,
in ritual. And some of the things we do could be down-right dangerous
for folk at the wrong level. So, when we think folk are at the right
level, we take them through an initiatory experience that validates
that level of knowledge.
me, that's why Initiation is important, and why you can't "do
it yourself" from a book. And honestly, those self-initiates
that I have met could not demonstrate to my satisfaction that they
had the "God-given" knowledge to justify their claims.
Mind you, I do know some folk who've developed valid systems of
their own. But this latter group don't usually feel the need to
claim Initiation by the Goddess or God either!
Shemazi (NSW-now Seattle) - Human creatures are like complex
and individual musical instruments, who all resonate to a slightly
different combination of sounds (energies). For this reason, magical
training and Initiation is best effected by those who share a common
resonance. I can see no good purpose in taking training or Initiation
from someone who you do not respect or with whom you cannot effectively
communicate; far better that you dedicate yourself to worship of
the Old Gods and celebrate alone than compromise your own sense
of correct behaviour or walk away from your own religious convictions.
"Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" are absolutely necessary
between those who decide to enter into a magical training and Initiation
within a Mystery Tradition consists of a series of confrontations
and challenges which are designed to break down the personality
to its core, and reintegrate the person through a series of experiences
with energy and Deity. It is a Mystery, and as such needs a responsible
and knowledgeable Initiate and Master/Mistress of the Art to enact
or facilitate the activation of the proper "Keys" so that
the full impact of the Initiation is received - and to ascertain
that the candidate is both suitable and properly prepared for this
rite of transformation.
consider it essential that the Initiating Priest/ess has travelled
beyond the power passed to them in their own Initiation, to make
contact with deeper currents of primal energies. Energy does not
remain in stasis without losing quality, depth and timbre - keeping
a current of energy which has been passed to you intact like a precious
gem, locked away from contamination by the world, denies its origin
in the power of connection and integration. The aim of Initiation
is to integrate and transform the self, to apply your "enlarged
and numerous senses" (William Blake) to a new perception of
the world and to effect additional changes in yourself from that
perspective. If a Master/Mistress of the Art remains static, then
they cease to magnetize the power of the Deity - they become a historian
rather than a contemporary practitioner of the Art. It is a little
bit like a musical chord, which resonates and then decays in a particular
manner; the last sound you hear will be a single note, rather than
the complexity of the original chord; in like manner, the remembered
energy, while it is correct, will only be a faint echo of the original,
with only a part of its intensity and resonance.
each person is different, it seems important to design a specific
Initiation ritual each time, rather than relying on a standard one.
I agree with the general principle that a ritual which has been
enacted many times becomes refined; however, it is not a ritual
which should ever be taken for granted - the Initiator should be
very aware and sensitive to the psychological state of the candidate
and be prepared to adapt the ritual accordingly. There are certain
key parts of a ritual which cannot be altered as this would alter
the current of energy being passed to the new Initiate; however,
much of the ceremonial aspects could reasonably be tailored for
creates a Priest/ess of Deity who will be responsible for the power
to catalyze change in others; to act as a channel for the power
of the deity (not a container); a Priest/ess who is prepared for
the demands made by Deity as Their part of the dialogue; a person
who is prepared to change, to grow, to learn, to make connection
with the web of life - to interpret the Mysteries; to teach responsibly,
minister the sacraments of their religion and to guard the Mysteries
from those who should not properly have access to them - and to
respect the right of all other persons to find their own religious
and philosophical truths.
(NSW - ex Britain - now back in Britain) - Initiation as an
idea is as ancient as human records reveal. It has always been a
concept relating to the development of the human spirit, to the
maturation of the personality and the awakening of the soul. Its
meaning is "a beginning" and within the context of Wicca
and the Magical Arts it represents a process of spiritual growth
which is graded into levels of Initiation that map the progress
of an individual as they deepen their understanding of themselves
and the world in which they live.
is much argument as to whether Initiation can be earned purely on
the grounds of individual merit or whether it must be conferred
by another who has already attained the level of development to
which the student aspires. My own view combines both these perspectives.
The process of Initiation relies primarily upon the will of the
individual to make a journey towards the Mystery. This process may
be assisted by those more experienced, those with a greater level
of understanding; however, without the primary will of the candidate
Initiation cannot be conferred by another.
has been one of the most ancient traditions of the Magical Arts
that when a suitable candidate has progressed far enough by their
own endeavour, a teacher will appear who can assist them on their
journey. It has certainly been my own experience that this is the
case; the teacher will be perfectly suited to that individual and
will be able to fulfill what the candidate requires at that time.
To the outside world, this person may seem strange, threatening,
the least likely person you would wish your son or daughter to become
ability to Initiate is not conferred by social standing, wealth
or book knowledge. The essence of Initiation is to be found in Vision
- it is this quality that inspires the candidate to make the journey
and along that journey they will meet others who share in the Vision
that they seek. The process of conferring Initiation on another
is no more than lending assistance of the specific type that enables
a candidate to see more clearly the Vision that they have pursued
all along. Those who are more experienced are more able to see the
Mystery that lies beyond the commonly accepted world, are more able
to show the way to those that follow in their footsteps.
and occult knowledge cannot be gleaned from print, however inspiring
or erudite. Vision is an experience. It is an energy. It is a quality
that emanates directly from the Source of all things. As such, it
may be communicated from person to person through an intimate relationship
over a period of time. The formal process of Initiation evolved
from an understanding that the intimacy of relationship between
teacher and apprentice was the key to the process. Training schemes,
formal exercises, ritual methods, all serve one aim - the building
of a magical link, the opening of a gateway between the candidate
and the Mystery. The teacher acts as a facilitator or catalyst;
the student must make the journey. The journey of Initiation can
be made alone, but as ancient records attest, all teachers have
had their teachers for this is the way of the Tradition.
the founders of the religious traditions most influential in the
world today were taught and assisted by persons and beings closer
to the Source than they were themselves when they began the journey.
Initiation is a very real process and although I would not totally
disallow the concept of self-initiation, ultimately Initiation as
I understand it, is the passing on of an energy which I will call
a Vision from one being or entity to another. In the case of a specific
Tradition, someone must have been Initiated into it by someone who
has already attained an understanding of the Vision of which the
Tradition is a guardian.
you would like to add your views on initiation to this forum, please