Thoughts on Initiation

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What is an initiation?  We use that word commonly in the Wiccan and Witchcraft community and it can mean anything from joining a particular group or becoming part of an oath-bound tradition where, if you don’t have the right one, you aren’t always accepted.  Initiations can be written exclusively for the person being initiated or they are ceremonies passed down over the years and that everyone partakes of through the generations.  Some see initiation as a sort of graduation ceremony—congrats, you’ve done the work and now are officially full-fledged members of the group—and others as an indication and pledge that this is but the beginning of your training.

In some indigenous cultures, an initiation ceremony is used as the transition point between childhood and adulthood, making you a responsible member of the tribe.  Some initiations are for boys to become part of the men’s mysteries and others are for girls to join the women’s groups.  Either way, they involve ceremonies and occasionally actual physical changes such as circumcision or ritual scarification to delineate the difference between the two.  Often, they are viewed as dying to your old life and being born to your new life, where there might be different ways of dressing or interacting with others, new rituals to observe.

Certainly, we can see aspects the tribal initiation ceremonies in the Craft ones.  We don’t tend to go in for physical transformation as a part of it, but still expect there to be mental and spiritual changes.  Most would agree that it’s a metaphor for death and rebirth, dying to the old and being born to the new.  However, as the majority of us come to the Craft as adults, it’s not necessarily a good thing sometimes to equate a Craft initiation to that of going from childhood to adulthood.  We should be grown-up men and women already, and so the transition must be something more of an adoption into the mysteries of the community/coven/group rather than a sign that we need to start being responsible now.

Still, once you’ve dedicated yourself to the calling and have taking the plunge of initiation, there’s no real going back.  The Craft has that in common with the rites that transform one from a child to an adult.  The work doesn’t end there, either.  Even in those groups who see initiation as a graduation, there’s always more to discover and learn and more growing to do.  Perhaps, a Craft initiation stands out as a cross between an adoption ceremony and a personal dedication.  We are adopted by our new “clan” or “tribe,” no matter how large or small, and we dedicate ourselves to exploration of the mysteries of our new life, knowing there will be other markers to herald our progress along that path.

Copyright © 2009, Veronica Cummer, All Rights Reserved.

Veronica Cummer is the Author of Sorgitzak: Old Forest Craft and Masks of the Muse

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