Initiation is a personal experience in which one becomes aware of mysteries-realities that were previously hidden, that cannot be communicated by one person to another in words or symbols, that must be experienced directly, firsthand.
by Ellen Cannon Reed in “The Heart of Wicca: Wise Words from a Crone on the Path”
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about initiation and what it means to me. I am part of a tradition that works primarily online, although I’m lucky enough to have the High Priestess within a few hours drive of me. My tradition is wiccan, and thus an initiatory tradition.
The challenge we have is that in addition to the coven, there is a school for people interested in wicca and our tradition who do not wish to become part of the tradition. This only limits people who are interested in pursuing the third degree coursework, as that is much more personalized and more involved in understanding how to work within the tradition. Most of the work before that is learning the basics (and not so basics) of Wicca.
The first and second degrees are fairly in-depth in the subjects covered, everything from the basics of the history of Wicca, to how to create your own amulets, talismains and thought forms. The tradition is eclectic, there’s not a whole lot of “this is how we do things” or spells handed down from a traditional book. The first and second degree initiations are large affairs, with people from all around the world attending online. The third degree initiations are done in person, as is most of the third degree training.
So it comes to me to think about what each of those rituals are. I have been initiated into Wicca before I came to my current tradition and it was a different experience than the initiation that I have had in my current tradition. It’s not that the online rituals weren’t powerful experiences … I have been in tears before due to an online ritual (more than once), but the online initiations didn’t seem to have the same effect as the in-person initiation. I think it was simply the amount of personalization. It’s not possible to do an individual initiation when there are a large number of students. It’s more like a graduation ceremony than an initiation (in the definition above).
That doesn’t mean that the ceremony wasn’t good, or a good way to mark a transition, but it wasn’t the life changing experience that I expected from an initiation. I am not the same person that I was before I was initiated into my current tradition, but I’m not convinced that it was as a result of the initiation.
The more I learn and study, the more I realize that I want that in-person training. It’s not that far out for me in my current path and I’m looking forward to it.
I look forward to learning now, from people who are willing to teach me now, and later from those who will teach me later. One day, when it’s time, I may go through another initiation. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the journey.