6th October 1987
Dear Tessa and Glyn,
I have said that Bride Day was traditionally the time most favoured for the making of new witches. But that does not mean no other time is right. In fact, any Sabbat or Full Moon will do. Within these guidelines, the day chosen should be an individual matter. You yourself will know when you are ready. I will therefore give you the self-initiation rite now, to do at a time of your choosing.
To be a witch requires not only self-discipline in personal development, but a sense of fulfilment in your Craft which outweighs social pressures: the sideways looks and mistrust from those who know what you are, what you practise; the feeling of a barrier between you and those who don’t know, because you can’t tell them; the possible active discrimination; the obvious implications where friends and lovers are concerned. If you are a born witch, you will, of course, ignore these warnings, and quite rightly.
An initiation rite is customarily a death-and-rebirth sequence, symbolizing that the old life is now over and a new one has begun. It also involves a pledge or offering, a consecration and the taking of a new name. Then there is instruction in techniques or some new experience — admittance to the mysteries.
No one can make you into a witch. Nothing that happens to you can change you in the least, unless there is that inner change that makes the difference. In other words, the true making of a witch happens between the individual and the Goddess and Horned God. It is an inner, psychic change, dependent on willingness and suitability. Though others can help you to mark a rite of passage, in the last resort no one can mediate between you and the Gods. You are on your own, responsible for your own spirit. Can you offer yourself upon this path sincerely? If so, you will be accepted. And it will be in privacy, with no one watching over you but the Guardian Spirits.
There is more than one rite of self-initiation in existence. I am about to give you my version. As with any true resolution, if your vow or pledge has been accepted, you will know. You will feel it at the time as a profound and perceptible expansion of awareness.
Your new name should not be told to anyone, except to another witch. It is the symbol of your witch self, your magical persona. It should have potency, a sacred meaning for you. It could be a plant name, or that of an animal or bird. It could be the name of a place that has either personal or mystical significance for you, or both. Many witches have taken the names of characters from myth, legend or occult law. Be inventive but unpretentious. Ask for guidance if you cannot easily find it.
Prepare for the initiation with a cleansing bath. (Add salt or a handful of purifiying herbs to the water.) When you cast the circle, you should work naked or, as witches say, sky-clad. This is one rite which should be performed without clothes or jewellery. Thus, you stand before the Goddess and God without defences or any attributes of your old life. For to begin anew, you must be stripped of old ways and cast away old assumptions, habits and self-image.
Invoke the Goddess and the God, in your own words.
Cut off a small lock of your hair with your athame. Hold it high above the altar in offering. Say, I call upon the Guardian Spirits of the elements to witness that I now offer myself to the Triple Goddess of the Circle of Rebirth and to the Horned God, as witch and priestess [priest].
Carry the hair deosil around the circle, holding it up at each quarter. Place it upon the altar, saying, By this token, I am theirs. (The power of a witch is said by some to be within his or her unbound hair. If you had no hair upon your head, for reasons of age, perhaps, then body hair would do as a substitute.)
Wrap yourself in a cloak or blanket for warmth, and go deosil to the west quarter. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Ask for guidance as you walk the sacred path. Visualize yourself walking a path through woodland. It is a little overgrown and flanked by wildflowers. There are oak, ash and hawthorn trees. It is an old path. Suddenly it goes downhill. Follow it to the mouth of a cave and go inside. There is a candle standing on a rock. By its light, you can see that the cave is clear and clean. The air is fresh. In one corner is a small pool, filled by a bubbling spring. The water flows from this pool, out through the cave entrance. The bottom is covered in sand and smooth stones. Take off your clothes and get into the pool. The water takes from you all doubt and hesitation, all fear and fetters. It washes away any bonds from your old life that could hinder your work as priestess/priest and witch. Think about the meaning of being a witch as you bathe. You may receive guidance.
Step out of the pool and leave the cave. Outside, on the ground, you will find some clothes. These are your ’witch’s garb’. They are the dress of your new role. They may be robes or a cloak or a tunic and trousers. Whatever they are, first dry yourself on a rough square of cloth, and then put them on. Notice what they seem to symbolize, in terms of colour and so on, what they mean to you. Among them, you may find some special object, a staff, a piece of jewellery or something else. It is a symbol of your future life as a witch, showing something of your particular duties and skills. Take it with you and carry on along the path.
You will see a magnificent tree: strong, leafy, deep-rooted and joyous. Walk up to it, lay your forehead against the trunk and put your arms around it. Sense the sap, all the strong life of the tree. Know that you and the tree are one, being different expressions of the same life energy, both created from Air and Fire and Water and Earth. You are fellow beings, together with the stars and rocks and animals and birds and all creation. Sense the tree’s spirit. It may tell you something that you need to know. Thank the tree and walk away along the path. Once again, ask the Goddess and God to guide you from now on. Ask the Guardian Spirits to assist you in your work as witch and priest/priestess.
Open your eyes. Do not get up too quickly. Remember any message or impression you have received. Then, leaving your cloak or blanket at the west quarter, go deosil to the east and then inwards to the cauldron. Take from it a small bowl containing pure vegetable oil, or essential oil of cypress, frankincense or sandalwood. Place it upon the altar. Say,
Tonight, I pledge myself for all time
to serve and celebrate the Triple Goddess
and the Horned God, as witch and priest/priestess.
I set myself to walk this sacred path
from this time on. I name myself—[recite your magical name]
and I call now upon the Guardian Spirits
to witness my consecration.
Anoint yourself, touching the oil with the tips of your fingers just above the pubic hairline, between the breasts, on the forehead and the crown of the head, saying, Blessed be my body and my soul, my mind and my spirit.
Remain before the altar in silence for a few moments, and then say, I ask to be remade as witch and priest/priestess in perfect love and perfect trust, and with the qualities of—[Here list the highest qualities you can think of, whether abstract virtues such as honesty, benevolence, compassion, courage, or abilities, such as ’far-sightedness, like the hawk’ or ’magical speech, like the nightingale.’].
Stay silent for a moment longer, with closed eyes. On the inner levels, you may hear voices, music, or just a long-drawn-out ’hiss’ (like the sound light seems to make when it travels between the stars). You may see visions. Do not try to see or hear anything. But just let whatever happens come naturally. Then visit each of the four quarters in turn, saying, I—[new name], ask acknowledgement from the Guardian Spirits of Air (Fire, Water, Earth), as witch and priest/priestess.
Kneel before the altar and place one hand on the crown of your head and the other beneath your feet, saying, All between my hands belongs to the Goddess.
You are now ready to consecrate your athame, the magical knife, first working tool of a witch. Pass the blade through the smoke of the incense and through the flame of the candle. Sprinkle it with water and touch it to your dish of earth, or pentacle. Place the knife between your two hands. Say, I bless, consecrate and set apart this athame, by the power of Air, Fire, Water and Earth and in the names of the Triple Goddess of the Circle of Rebirth, and of the Horned God, Lord of Death who is Lord of Life. May it serve me well for magic uses, a true sacred implement of witchcraft. Pour into it your own psychic energy. End with the traditional conclusion to any spell: So may it be.
From now on, charged with magic, your knife will be many times more effective in the casting of spells, whether it is used to cut a cord, to carve something or to direct and define, as when casting a circle. Replace the knife on the altar. At a future Sabbat or Full Moon, you should consecrate the altar itself, and all tools of magic, such as chalice, wand, cauldron, incense holder, candlesticks, water bowl and pentacle or stone. Use the point of your athame rather than your hands, to direct power and to render each one sacred and set apart. Thereafter, you should also consecrate materials used in a spell. (Be careful when consecrating herbs, as their subtle energies are said to be reduced by direct contact with metal. Hold the blade a little away.)
End your rite with a communion. Then make a final toast to ’the Old Ones’, the Old Gods, as the Goddess and God of the witches have traditionally been known. In the traditional wording, this goes, To the Old Ones. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.
Although this toast is drunk to the Old Gods, Cole and I have always found that we also think here of those other ’old ones’, the old-time initiates of our Craft, all our spiritual forebears, whether working at the dawn of time when they were venerated for their wisdom, or in secret in the times of persecution. All those other countless, unknown witches. It is as though we join with them, as we sit and drink our wine.
Open the circle. You should now, after clearing away all your magical tools, go straight to bed. Your dreams may be memorable, and could bring further guidance.
Wise and blessed be,