THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL subject matter in this book’s predecessor was undoubtedly the chapter concerning initiation. Many Wiccan book reviewers were displeased with a simple idea presented within that chapter: that initiation isn’t always a process that one human being performs on another. Some misinterpreted my words to the point that they believed I stated that initiation was to be avoided at all costs—
a curious conclusion from my writing. (Not surprisingly, such comments were made by initiated coven members.) Some reviewers actually assumed that I’d never been initiated, and that this was the reason for my “incorrect” views on the subject.
There are many types of initiations. Some are performed in a circle with others. Some are performed alone. Still others are never performed, but occur spontaneously within a Wiccan student’s life. An initiation into a coven (and thus into Wicca) is effective only if initiator and candidate are in perfect harmony, working within a mutually satisfactory Wiccan system or tradition. I’ve seen botched initiations and glorious initiations. Any initiation isn’t better than no initiation, if it’s performed for the wrong reasons (egotism, power over others), by the wrong person, or by the wrong coven. The rite itself isn’t as important as its impact on the candidate and the spirit in which it’s performed.
Though a physical initiation isn’t necessary to practice Wicca, it is a ritual statement of one’s allegiance to the Craft. The initiate can, from that day forward, clearly claim that they’re Wiccan, for they have memories of a specific date that ceremonially began this kinship. This is important for some; for others, it’s of little or no importance.
You have the right to perform a self-initiation. No one can take this right from you. If you’ve worked Wiccan ritual, met with the Goddess and God, grown comfortable with Wicca, and decided that it’s your path, there’s no reason on the Goddess’s green earth why you shouldn’t undergo a self-initiation. You may wish to perform a self-initiation found in a book; adapt a group initiation; or create your own. (The rite included in chapter 12 of Wicca was a self-dedication—not an initiation. However, it could be incorporated into a full initiation.)
Before self-initiation, consider whether you’ve gained enough Wiccan experience to enter Wicca. Wiccan ritual experience is essential (reading doesn’t count) before self-initiating yourself. A self-initiation rite performed by a person after, say, a year of study and ritual will be a rich and spiritually significant event, simply because the rite was preceded by the experience that makes it genuine. In other words, one can’t become Wiccan (even a solitary one) overnight.
This period of self-training and experience is absolutely vital. Yes, you’ll learn the uses of the tools; the meanings of the sabbats; the casting of the circle—but you’ll also be meeting with the Goddess and the God. Becoming attuned to and establishing a relationship with them is the heart of Wicca, and it takes time and dedication.
I’m hearing complaints.
“Sure, but during some initiations the initiator passes power to the candidate.” During a self-initiation, the Goddess and God pass power to the candidate.
“But such initiations won’t be recognized by covens.” Solitary Wiccans don’t belong to covens.
“Real initiations are designed to alter consciousness within the candidate.” So, too, are properly designed self-initiations.
“Real initiations symbolize the death of the old (non-Wiccan) self and the rebirth of the Wiccan person.” These can be incorporated into self-initiations.
Self-initiation is largely what you make it, but for the most satisfying results, every such ritual should include the following steps. (What follows is the barest ritual outline. I’ve left out such things as lighting candles and charcoal.)
• Purification of some kind. (A shower or bath is fine.)
• The laying of the altar. (Use whatever tools you normally work with.)
• The circle casting. (Though this isn’t absolutely necessary, it certainly heightens the atmosphere. It’s best if you’ve already gained proficiency in circle casting before initiation. If you feel comfortable casting the circle, use it. If not, don’t.)
• Opening invocations to the Goddess and the God. (These may be those that you use in your everyday Wiccan ritual work, or special ones composed for this rite.)
• A symbolic death of your old, non-Wiccan self. (Be creative. This may consist of wrapping yourself in black cloth; blindfolding yourself while sitting before the altar [not while walking]; even singing a dirge. Create a prayer appropriate for this moment. After a suitable time of meditation and reflection, cast off the trappings of death with a cry of joy.)
• Pray anew to the Goddess and God, dedicating yourself to them. State that you’re now a Wiccan. If you’ve chosen a magical name (see chapter 4), saying it aloud: “I, Dione, am now a Wiccan” would be a suitable formula for inclusion in your dedicatory prayer.
• Relax in the circle for a few minutes. Watch the candle’s flames. If you’ve brought cakes and wine into the circle, it’s time to dedicate them and to share in the manifested love of the Goddess and God. When you’ve finished your sacred meal, thank the Goddess and God for their attendance and close the circle.
Conventional Wiccans may argue with this self-initiatory plan, but it’s effective. I’ve presented it here as a pattern that others may use to create their own.
The Goddess and God, as the source of all life, health, food, the earth, the stars, the sun, the moon, and the universe, are also the true sources of initiation.
Self-initiation is an important ritual and isn’t to be undergone lightly. The Wiccan should be ready for both spiritual and physical change following this rite. After all, once you’ve undergone a self-initiation, you’re no longer just a student, you’re a Wiccan: one of the few remaining humans who’ve decided to step past the veil of the materially-based world. You’re now one of those who respects the earth; who pours wine into sacred cups by candlelight surrounded by incense smoke; who communes with the Goddess and God in private meditation; who joyfully uses magic as a tool of positive change.
Self-initiation is a wonderful affirmation of our dedication to Wicca if it’s performed for positive reasons, at the appropriate time, in the proper state of mind. If you haven’t already ritually joined us, you’ll know if—and when—it’s time.
Initiation is no less than the beginning of a new life.