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. 🙂 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 “do 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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(

Hedgewitch

“Hedge Witch is a term for a Witch who practices in a solitary fashion and does not belong to a coven or tradition; typically such an individual does not claim to have been initiated. He or she relies upon self-study, personal discernment, and intuition. In many ways a hedge Witch is like the old village Witch who lived a solitary life but was called upon for spells and healing potions by the local folks.

The Hedge Witch commonly works with his or her familiar spirit, and incorporates the use of herbs, trance, and shamanic techniques such as drumming to induce altered states of consciousness. The hedge Witch is usually very involved with working for the ecology of the planet, and tries to use only natural objects and materials for ritual magickal purposes.”

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

“Kitchen Wiccans and hedge Witches … rely heavily on pragmatic, uncomplicated magick, much of which originates in folklore and superstition. Hedge Witches traditionally do not belong to a coven. Solitary practitioners, they depend on self-study, insight, creativity and intuition as their main guideposts. Hedge Witches may be self-dedicated, but they are rarely publicly initiated. Similar to village shamans and cunning folk in past generations, they provide spells and potions for daily needs.”

M. Singer, EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… WITCHCRAFT, UK Edition, 2005, David & Charles, Devon

I’m a hedge witch and as suggested in the above extracts I’ve typically been a solitary witch – working on my lonesome. As a hedge witch a lot of the things I do require being close to nature.

One thing that I do is I go on walks… yes everyone goes for a walk, but this is similar to a Medicine Walk. On these walks I will visit a place that is spiritual and close to nature and spend time with nature. I might meditate in a special place or I might dance. Doing these walks has sometimes awoken something in me or brought my mind somewhere else. I remember a couple of times coming back and my parents thinking I’d been taking weed or something because I was so far off this planet and so unbelievably ecstatic wherever my mind was that it could only be because of drugs (XD).

I have been a solitary witch most of the time but I’ve fleeted from coven to coven, seeing what I can learn and seeing how I can help others. I’m not a very accomplished Hedge Witch, I won’t say I’ve done great amount of healing work or anything like that.

Anyway, in practical terms a hedge witch is a witch who is close to nature and learns his/her most valuable insights not from other wiccans/witches but from her/himself and from nature, folklore and experience.

(Sorry most of this is from books but I wanted to explain what a Hedgewitch is without delving too much into ‘what it means to me’. This way I know you’ve got the actual definition and not a load of anecdotes about pink lightning, faery visits and eating magic apples which then led to me getting lost in a pine forest only a mile from my house, nearly breaking my leg on a stonewall I climbed over to escape and accidentally putting a spell on an innocent stranger who my paranoid mind thought was taking pictures of me!… besides, he was evesdropping on me talking to myself XD )

Rowan

x~x