“If that which your seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find without” =Doreen Valiente
The topic of initiation has been a hot button issue for some time now in the witchcraft community. There are some who believe that “only a witch can make another witch,” meaning that in order to be a true or real witch you must be initiated by a witch who was initiated by another witch who was initiated by another witch and so forth and so on. There are some who would argue that self-initiation is ‘right fine and dandy thank you’ and that you do not need the validity of a group or coven to proclaim yourself a witch. Then there are those who believe that to be a witch is a calling from the divine. That the gods or spirits, even our ancestors, chose us to walk this path of the witch and thus instill our power and magic by means of initiation.
I have been through all three types described about and I personally feel that they are all perfectly valid in their own way. Initiation into a group or coven is your public declaration of you dedication and loyalty to that group. By taking the groups oaths you are gaining the group’s trust so that you may receive their teaching, wisdom, etc. The oaths that you are asked to take for admission should not be entered into lightly. Once you are initiated you become a standing member of that group and are viewed at that point as a witch. I do not believe that you can only be a witch by joining a group or coven and taking their oaths. Many more traditional Wiccan groups view it this way, I am not saying that their beliefs are bullshit, but they aren’t shared by myself and many others.
I have been through group initiation twice- once by my teacher and then many years later in a coven that I helped form and still am happily a part of today. I still hold my oaths to both as far as not revealing that which I was sworn to secrecy for and will always cherish the invaluable wisdom that I received, but did these initiations make me a witch? In the groups’ view- yes. In my view- no. It just simply made me a part of the group mindset.
A few years before I found my teacher and participated in my first group initiation I performed a self-dedication ritual, and since I was being influenced heavily by Wicca at the time, I studied for a year and a day before performing my self-initiation ritual. I used the generic ritual written by the late Scott Cunningham. I looked within myself and discovered the witch. I made appropriate personal vows to myself and then to deities. During that time I discovered and uncovered a lot about myself- both spiritually and secular. It is something I am still proud of and reflect back on often. I was a young kid at this time- around 12 or 13- but knew in my very soul that this was where I was meant to be. I went nuts reading all I could find on the paganism, magic, the occult, etc. It was a wonderful time in my life, everything was new and wonderful.
Years and years later I underwent a different kind initiation- shamanic death. I had felt the call for years, beckoning me to surrender. But since I am stubborn by nature (I have Sun Aries, Moon Leo, and Ascendant Capricorn) I resisted until finally one day I wasn’t given a choice. I fell into trance was was dragged to the Underworld which I ripped apart by three black dogs with glowing white eyes. After sometime of being formless the Dark Mother- I call her Hecate- appeared to me and we exchanged some words and some pacts were made. I was put back together, albeit somewhat different than before. It was until much later that I realized that I undergone shamanic death. Born again with one foot in this world and one in the other- half alive half dead.
That’s when the Devil came a-knocking.
For years I had feared “the Devil” due to misplaced Christian and later Wiccan propaganda. In my formative years I was told that if I acted wrong the Devil would get me and I would burn in hell forever. Then as I studied Wicca I was told that “real witches don’t worship the devil” and that “the devil/Satan isn’t real” *insert eye roll* Now while I still may not believe in Satan. I certainly know the Devil and he knows me. You may call him by whatever name you choose- Pan, Cernunnos, The Green Man, Old Horny, the Horned God, etc. I normally say the Witch Father or Man in Black to ward off any remarks by my peers of evil dark big bag stuff. While working with him I have learned about the darkness in the light, the shadow of my soul, and the wonders and terrors of the world. Not evil, and no I am not sacrificing babies or goats to the dark overlord Lucifer- I am learning about the raw energy of magic, power, and nature.
I shared these stories of my personal initiations with you, dear reader, to convey differences and that you do not have to declare your witchhood to others in a big elaborate ritual, but if that is your thing then admit it and go for it! Or that you can still be a witch and not have taken oaths to a group and seek their approval. That you can be a witch without anyone’s permission. After all it’s not anyone’s business but your own. Or that you can be called to be a witch and receive your initiation by gods or spirits. I don’t think that any form of initiation is better than any other, and that if you were to be a witch you would be one know matter the circumstances of which you became one.
After all- once a witch, always a witch!
*the use of the word ‘devil’ in this post is not in reference to the Christian Satan. I felt that clarification was needed as to avoid confusion, fear, or being preached to that ‘real witches don’t worship the Devil/Satan” *intense eye-roll*