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Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
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Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Enter the Void
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Article ID: 3300
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,677
Times Read: 5,410
Author: Moonspider [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: February 11th. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,410
So this topic is again up for discussion. I have previously written on this topic here (http://www.witchvox.com/words/words_1999/e_init2.html), let us see if we can expound a bit further about it.
This very important aspect to the Craft brings the dedicant into a whole new world. More importantly it brings them into further aspects of themselves. Many people get caught up in the who has the authority over someone else. This is rubbish, no one has that power unless it is given. It is more a way of a recognition of attainment by a peer.
We experience this in our mundane life as well. You can't go on to college unless you've graduated high school. Certain occupations you can't practice unless you are certified. This is a good thing. Otherwise anyone can call themself whatever they wish, without anybody recognizing the learning and accomplishment of the novice.
Does this mean you can't practice magick without initiation, hardly. To be a true Witch though, requires serious thought, dedication and knowledge. I am still amazed at the lack of knowledge that some practitioners possess. Yes, we all started somewhere, and obviously had less knowledge and experience in the beginning of our path. Yet, I still find many who have read a couple of books and regard themselves as serious practitioners. Would you let a doctor operate on you who had no practical knowledge of surgery?
It has been said, that only a Witch can make a Witch. This, in part, is true. Like anything in our existence we need to learn and be taught in order to grow as human beings, on whatever level. Ultimately it is the Gods who can make a Witch. If a human teacher is unavailable, who better to show the way than the Gods.
The definition of initiation is a ceremony, ritual, test, or period of instruction with which a new member is admitted to an organization or office or to knowledge.1 Ordeals clearly make the meaning of this true. You must pass through to your new self. Witches are initiated, otherwise you are simply a magician. Anyone can practice magick, not all can be a Witch.
Initiation is a ceremony by which a person is enters into Wicca/Witchcraft or a Tradition therein, and is aligned with the essence of its ways. ... In mystical and occult communities the term 'initiation' has traditionally meant the passing on of occult powers and knowledge; a transformation or realignment of the person and his or her relationship with Deity, self, and the universe. This is achieved by means of a ritual initiation where prescribed symbolism is designed to carry consciousness along preestablished association chains. Such chains were designed by the ancient masters of the art, refined and perfected over countless centuries.2
At some point the Witch must face himself, bare, naked, alone. Probably this is the most frightening experience you can face. Should initiations be terrifying, yes. It does separate the men from the boys, the leaders from the lead, the peasants from the warriors.
One of the most ancient of rites, initiation marks the psychological crossing of a threshold into new territories, knowledge and abilities. The central themes of initiation are suffering, death and rebirth. The initiate undergoes an ordeal, symbolically dies and is symbolically reborn a new person, possessing new wisdom. In contemporary Witchcraft, initiation marks entry into a closed and traditionally secret society; opens the door to the learning of ritual secrets, magic and the development and use of psychic powers; marks a spiritual transformation, in which the initiate begins a journey into Self and toward the Divine Force; and marks the beginning of a new religious faith. While traditional initiation rites exist, Witches and Pagans feel the spiritual threshold may be experienced in a group or alone. It may be formal or informal. It may be performed with an old ritual or a new one; it may come as a spontaneous spiritual awakening, in meditation or in dreams. It may occur at a festival.3
The ways of initiation are ancient. We have the Eleusian Mysteries; Odin's ordeal hanging on Yggdrasil, imagine a God sacrificing himself to himself to learn mysteries; Aradia, sacred daughter of Diana learned and taught her Craft as well. If its good enough for the Gods, it should be good enough for us mere mortals.
There are a number of fragmentary accounts of old-time witch initiations, and from these a composite picture can be built up. The whole-hearted acceptance of the witch religion, and the oath of loyalty, were the main features. There was also the giving of a new name, or nick-name, by which the novice was henceforth to be known in the circle of the coven. These things were sealed by ceremonial acts, the novice was given a certain amount of instruction, and, if the initiation took place at a Sabbat, as it often did, they were permitted to join in the feast and dancing that followed. 4
Initiation is useful if you want growth. Presumably that is why you are on this path, you seek spiritual growth. This growth takes place as you live and learn from your experiences.
Other Witches, as well as many Pagans, have a vigil as initiation. Such a vigil might involve fasting and an all-night experience outdoors, during which the initiate comes in direct contact with the gods, discovers his or her own power and connects with tutelary, totemic or guardian spirits. Still other Witches and Pagans undertake a shamanic initiation, an ecstatic journey to other realms of consciousness.5
In witchcraft ceremonies today, the new initiate is marked with oil, wine, or some pigment, such as charcoal. However, as Margaret Murray has pointed out, there is a possibility, judging by the many old accounts of a small red or blue mark being given, the infliction of which was painful but healed after a while, that this may have been a tattoo mark. Ritual tattooing is a very old practice; and some relics of it survive today, in the fact that people have themselves tattooed with various designs 'for luck'. However, when persecution became very severe, it would have been unwise to continue this form of marking.6
The meaningfulness of this experience is wonderful. It is after all a transformation. For my specific take on this, please read my first article on this topic by clicking on the link that is provided above.
Not everyone shares these views. I give equal voice to those here. Though keep in mind in the context in which they are given. It is not a blanket statement against initiation, just in the manner in which they are given.
To be a member of a group is a nice thing, providing you remember that any group is nothing more than a number of like-minded people who gather together to work or worship in a certain way. Another thing to remember at this stage is that certain groups have systems of degrees of advancement. So you work through a set course and at the end of it you get a degree of initiation. Very nice too; but this degree doesn't mean a damned thing outside that group. In fact, many times it means the exact opposite, a case of 'Oh, yeah -- and so what?' 7
And even on our own continent there is some sentiment against this practice.
I personally don't like the idea of initiation. How can one Witch have authority over another in any area? How can on Witch say she or he has any idea whether someone else should be a Witch? The Deities in which I believe do not choose one Witch over another for any purpose, nor do They give one any more power than another. I believe the best initiation is a simple welcoming ritual. 8
While I do agree with portions of these statements, my overall opinion remains that initiation is important on this path. You can get this in several ways. A teacher may do it, or more importantly -- the Gods.
1. 'Initiation.' The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
2. Raven Grimassi, Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. (St. Paul MN: Llewellyn, 2000), p. 193.
3. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2nd ed. (New York: Checkmark Books, 1999), p. 168.
4. Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft: Past & Present. (Custer WA: Phoenix Publishing, 1984), p. 203-4.
5. Guiley, p. 170.
6. Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft: Past & Present. (Custer WA: Phoenix Publishing, 1984), p. 205.
7. Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente, Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed. (London: Hale, 1990), p. 27-8.
8. Marion Weinstein, Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows, 4th ed. (New York: Earth Magic Productions, 1998), p. 34-5.
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Bio: Mark MoonSpider Sosnowski has been on this path most of his life. Life has dealt him many twists and turns, and usually says he came into the Craft through the back door. He loves books and reading and makes his living as a librarian. Numerology is his main form of divination having worked it for over 15 years. but, his Gemini mind, never at rest, has studied astrology, crystals, runes, I Ching and whatever else strikes his fancy. He serves on a local Pagan board as education chair, and began formally teaching Craft classes last month.
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