Most shamanic and magical religions utilize some sort of initiation ceremony whereby an outsider becomes a recognized member of the religion, society, group or coven. Such rites also mark the new new direction which the initiate’s life is taking.
Much has been made, publicly and privately, of Wiccan initiations. Each Wiccan tradition uses their own initiation ceremonies, which may or may not be recognized by other Wiccans. On one point, however, most initiates agree: a
person can be a Wiccan only if she or he has received such an initiation.
This brings up an interesting question: Who initiated the first Wiccan?
Most initiation ceremonies are nothing more than rites marking the acceptance of the person into a coven, and her or his dedication to the Goddess and God. Sometimes “power is passed” between the initiator and neophyte as well.
To a non-Wiccan, the initiation might seem to be a rite of conversion. This isn’t the case. Wicca has no need for such rites. We don’t condemn the deities with which we may have attuned before practicing Wicca, nor need we turn our backs on them.
The initiation ceremony (or ceremonies, since in many groups three successive rites are performed) is held to be of utmost importance to those Wiccan groups still practicing ritual secrecy. Surely anyone entering such a group should undergo an initiation, part of which consists of swearing never to reveal their secrets. This makes sense, and is a part of many coven initiations. But it isn’t the essence of initiation.
Many people have told me that they desperately need to undergo Wiccan initiation. They seem to believe that one cannot practice Wicca without this stamp of approval. If you’ve read this far, you know that such isn’t the case.
Wicca has been, up until the past decade or so, a closed religion, but no more. The inner components of Wicca are available to anyone who can read and has the proper wit to understand the material. Wicca’s only secrets are its individual ritual forms, spells, names of deities and so on.
This needn’t bother you. For every secret Wiccan ritual or Goddess name there are dozens (if not hundreds) of others published and readily available. At this moment, more Wiccan information has been released than ever before. While it once may have been a secret religion, today Wicca is a religion with few secrets.
Still, many cling to the idea of the necessity of initiation, probably thinking that with this magical act they’ll be granted the secrets of the universe and untold power. To make things worse, some particularly narrow-minded Wiccans say that the Goddess and God won’t listen to anyone who isn’t an athame-carrying member of a coven. Many would-be Wiccans believe this.
It doesn’t work this way.
True initiation isn’t a rite performed by one human being upon another. Even if you accept the concept that the initiator is suffused with deity during initiation, it’s still just a ritual. Initiation is a process, gradual or instantaneous, of the individual’s attunement with the Goddess and God. Many of the Wicca readily admit that the ritual initiation is the outer form only.
True initiation will often occur weeks or months later, or prior to, the physical ritual.
Since this is so, “real” Wiccan initiation may take place years before the student contacts a Wiccan coven or teacher. Is this initiation less effective or less genuine because the person hasn’t gone through a formal ritual at the hands of another human being? Of course not.
Rest assured, it’s quite possible to experience a true Wiccan initiation without ever meeting another soul involved in the religion. You may even be unaware of it. Your life may gradually shift in focus until you realize that you notice the birds and clouds. You may gaze at the Moon on lonely nights and talk to plants and animals. Sunset might bring a time of quiet contemplation.
Or you may change as the seasons change, adapting your body’s energies to match those of the natural world around you. The Goddess and God may sing in your thoughts, and you may perform rituals before actually realizing what you’re doing.
When the Old Ways have become a part of your life and your relationship with the Goddess and God is strong, when you have gathered your tools and performed the rites and magic out of joy, you are truly of the spirit and can rightly call yourself “Wiccan.”
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner