The Value of Initiation

It’s interesting to see what seems to be a dialogue among bloggers on this topic. There are varying and valid views out there. As a hedgewitch myself I also don’t see the importance of ranks or hierarchy, as long as nothing stops me from practising my craft I’m happy. πŸ™‚ However, I see that the ceremonies are very important to a lot of people and can enrich the spiritual experience.

(Here are a couple of posts discussing different views on the topic by Spider Goddess and from Witchy Ramblings)

I’m looking forward to the Initiation ceremony we’ve planned (see post entitled Initiation). Why? Well I’m one of those who sees great value in it. It’s like going to the cinema – you know you’ll love it when you go but you can always watch the film on DVD. Ok, that’s a very mundane way of describing it. In case I’m not making myself clear, what I mean is that an initiation is a valuable experience whereby you can accomplish much spiritually and truly connect with others although it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy spirituality (or Avatar, or Smirfs, or Despicable Me, or Tron) and be spiritual without it.

Some things I heard others say/imply that I thought were interesting:

You cannot ascend without initiation. I have a couple of things to say. Anyone can reach ascension (with or without ceremony). However, what I think might be what the people who seem to think this means is that you cannot reach ascension without spiritual progression. In our craft, because of its diversity (rich, beautiful diversity), we have a problem – paradigms. A paradigm is a way of describing, interpreting, thinking about the world around you. This is something wonderful because we can say to other because of this β€œdo what feels right to you” because we appreciate the different angle that everyone takes everything and we’re also recognising that the world is as you choose to see it. Back to the point, maybe a lot of us are seeing initiation differently. (That’s Great!)

That initiations and degrees mean there’ll be a hierarchy. Ok, we have people we like to appoint sometimes. For instance a High Priestess. But I personally believe that if you view the role of High Priestess solely as leader and decision maker then you are being misled. To me, it means you are denying the actual spiritual dimension of the role. The High Priestess has a responsibility to be a spiritual doorway for others – conductress of rituals rather than dictator! Although I still believe you can manage without… Just like an initiation, but with one you can experience something very unique. Another point I want to make about the ‘hierarchies’ aspect is that actually there’s no smoke without fire. That’s because some people do choose to use their initiations and degrees like badges on their sashes. It’s these people who’ve gleaned nothing spiritual from their experiences, in my opinion.

Ok, something I’ve not seen expressed in the discussion but have experienced (really through being one of the perpetrators!) is the attitude that you can’t work together without being in a coven. I’m guilty as charged. I was desperate to be in covens and to be initiated. Honestly, a study group is what they should have been called. Covens should be with people you really really want to experience the craft with (not just because you all love the craft but you really want to work together and celebrate together and learn as much as you possibly ever could from each other). A coven should be a nurturing environment full of encouragement and learning. πŸ™‚

And another thing I haven’t seen others discuss yet – initiations aren’t all about belonging to covens! Just thought I’d make that one clear and it doesn’t really need an explanation. πŸ™‚

My very very personal views on initiations and all rites of passage rituals are that they are unique in that they’re aim isn’t fertility, to bring love into your life, get a good harvest, acknowledge female or male aspects etc. … but to celebrate and encourage spiritual progression. I also believe that it builds up energies that you don’t send out of yourself but you use to take you through to the next spiritual level. They’re acknowledgements of experience, development and learning new lessons.

This means you’re probably doing things like this in your own way without the ritual or ceremony as a solitary. The value of that is no more or less than that of initiation ceremonies.

Spiritual development is very personal and cannot be universally measured! XD

Thanks for letting me stick my spoon in the discussion cauldron and stir!

Blessed Be

Rowan

x~x

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Initiation ritual

Recently, we’ve got a new member to our coven. We haven’t initiated her yet so we thought we’d write what it is we will do.

There is a river near where Silversun lives, surrounded by a protected rookery. This is ideal to symbolise crossing over into the coven. Because we all represent rivers that surround the land of the Neuri, crossing this river is representative of crossing our own river into these lands.

When we walk across the river, bare foot (or with crocks because of the gravel) and with our trousers rolled up to our knees, the cold water shocks us and drives us forward. To those who aren’t used to wild swimming it can make you breathless and unable to move. To keep going, it can be quite an ordeal. Thus, when you reach the other side there is a kind of catharsis or a feeling of relief and joy.

When our new initiate, Taylln, steps into the water she is met with a very spiritual experience. The element of water is often considered gentle, caring and healing, but we mustn’t forget that sometimes to heal you have to face the pain.

She will begin to cross the river, towards Rowan who will be standing in the middle with our goblet (newly acquired from a local charity shop). There she and Rowan will make the vows of a witch, to always act in good conduct with her craft. She will take a sip from the goblet (red wine) and then continue on her way to the other side.

On the bank, Silversun will stand. Here, they will recite the vows of our coven (secrety secrety stuff). Silversun holds our athame, which we are still restoring but will be done soon ^.^. Silversun will then hand Taylln her Spirit mask. Rowan and Silversun will have already donned their own.

She can now step into our space, a little place we spotted next to the river that has wonderful energies.

Now she will be part of our coven. We will all gather and make a special toast to her, as well as offering the rest of the goblet of wine to the spirits in this place.

This is an initiation into our coven. ^.^

Rowan

x~x

Silversun )O(

Craft name 2

As mentioned by Rowan earlier each pagan has a craft name, my public name is Silversun; I haven’t decided on what my private name is yet. Silversun is a balanced name as Silver is feminine thing and sun is a male thing however a Silversun overall represents the moon thus being feminine. Making a public name is easier as it doesn’t have to be as personal to you, it could be a type of tree like Rowan’s, a crystal or you could create one like mine for example say your a male, the start of your name should be something male lets say Gold (sorry I couldn’t be more creative), if you want it to be balanced the next part of the name should be Feminine, for example moon, Goldmoon is then your name representing a sun which is male but remaining balanced.

Here are some words to help get you started!

Wind = a feminine communicative force, one of the four elements

Earth = a grounding feminine force, another element

Water = a intuitive, emotive masculine force

Fire = a creative, passionate masculine force

Venus = love, passion, emotion, feminine

Mars = War, Aggression, Male

Saturn = Money, Male

Daisy = innocence, gentleness, purity, feminine

Dandelion = Wishes coming true, masculine

Yarrow = Health and healing, feminine

Oak = Strength and longevity, Masculine

Tree = Life (depends on which tree)

Bear = Strength

Iris = Luck

Owl = Messages and wisdom

Wolf = Family and mystery

Cat = spiritual guardians, psychic abilities

Amethyst = love and affection, feminine

Citrine = happiness, sunshine, masculine

Jade = Luck, fortune, health, feminine

Silversun )o(

Rowan x~x

We’d love here about your craft names! πŸ™‚

Craft Names

The craft name is a name used during ritual, within the coven, to sign off in a book of shadows or as a computer alias. I have two names, one I use publicly and one to be used privately. My online alias as a witch is Rowan, which is a sacred tree to druids and said to be what witches are made of. Your public name may be easier to come up with than your private one. For me it was easy because I’d already been using it for a long time as an online alias. It used to be strongly advised to kids not to give out personal information on the internet so I’d always go around using a fake name (even if people asked me what my real name was I’d say it was Rowan).

Your actual craft name, private or not, can be found in many ways depending on your personal beliefs.

Some view it as a right of passage. Your craft name may be your true name, reflecting your true identity as a spiritual human being. Thus it is something that comes to you when you reach a level of spiritual or emotional maturity.

You may belong to a coven that will give you a name according to the role you play or may use a divination or scrying tool to find it. As stated by Silversun earlier, we might be adopting the names of rivers that ran through the territories of the Neuri tribe. The coven may also have ranks that can add to your craft name.

Some strongly believe that your craft name can only be given to you by the Goddess herself, and that you have to be close to the Goddess to have one. Others say you could ask your guardian angels or spirit guides through meditation for your craft name.

Some say you could just choose a name that rings true to you. I’ve heard it suggested to use numerology to decide your craft name – it should have the same numerological value as your normal every day name. None of my names (craft name, online alias or real name) share values.

Rowan

x~x

High Priestess

β€œHigh Priestess is an office held by a woman who, in most Witchcraft/Wiccan traditions, has reached the third degree level. The concept of a female Witch being also a priestess appears in the ancient greek tale of the witch Medea (written in the eighth century B.C) where she is a priestess of the goddess Hecate. In this story we find perhaps the earliest reference to Witches in a religious context.

The initiation ritual that bestows the rank of the high priestess is called the great rite. Most Witchcraft/Wiccan traditions are matriarchal in structure and the role of high priestess is the highest ‘authority’ with these Craft systems. In many Witchcraft/Wiccan traditions, the high priestess has ultimate rule within the ritual circle, where it is said her word is law.

The customary role of the high priestess is to train other Witches/Wiccans snf to serve as a counsellor and mediator. In ritual settings the high priestess represents the Great Goddess. In the rite known as ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ her body becomes a vessel for the Goddess to manifest her consciousness within.”

R. Grimassi, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT, 2nd Ed, 2003, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota

The high priestess is an initiate who tends to be the head of a coven. She also initiates others into the coven. The high priestess is the director of the path of a tradition. She is also expected to have a continual relationship with the divine (a connection to the divine that she honours at all times). She’s considered the handmaiden of the divine.

In our coven we’re a little more open than that. None of us were ‘initiated’ into Wicca, however we started our coven of five with a binding ritual. None of us need to initiate because we are the first who have formed our circle, only people joining from now on really need to be initiated. Also, our coven is not strictly Wiccan. We are a mixed bunch of different kind of spiritualists.

Splitting the role of the High Priestess

The high priestess has a mentoring role as well. She takes others under her wing in order to teach, guide and initiate them into the coven. Traditionally, this was very easy with people living rather close to each other but nowadays we can live much further apart and still be close enough to form a coven. This means that sometimes responsibilities as a teacher will devolve to someone else in the coven in some cases. In many covens the structure is more informal and the high priestess changes from ritual to ritual.

Β Becoming a High Priestess

In most cases the High Priestess is voted on and agreed on. There are training courses that offer guidance as to being a High Priestess but the most valid qualification is being able to prove you have the right knowledge and qualities to be a High Priestess. You must have good leadership skills and charisma, be prepared to resolve disputes (and some of these disputes might overlap into out of coven issues as these may interfere in the cohesion of the coven) and have experience in the craft.

Rowan

x~x

Heya, comments are very very very welcome on this as I wasn’t sure quite how to write this. πŸ™‚ Anything you think I should have said, please say because I can always edit. πŸ™‚

Aside