At the full moon of Imbolc we did a couple of initiations. As usual after initiations (call it afterglow), we started to reflect on (1) the real reason for initiation itself; (2) what elements such a meaningful rite of passage should contain; (3) how it will change the life of those who attend.
It is our opinion that initiation into the Craft has always meant becoming a member of a very select “in” group. The group consists of other individuals who have met certain standards and who are further along the chosen path. The incomers are required to meet those standards so that the group can be comfortable and confident with their membership. Incomers are those sufficiently knowledgeable of the group’s practices that they will live up to such commitments as these:
(1) They will not mess up when the chips are down.
(2) They have demonstrated their willingness to discipline themselves to meet challenges that may come.
(3) They are willing to break societal / cultural norms, though always within the law, to join the group. In such cases, the only individuals involved would be consenting adults, and the occasion would be an extraordinary one.
(4) Candidates are willing and able to state clearly where their allegiance lies. Is it to their family? their group? their country? and so on. (At time of crisis, they may be expected to subordinate allegiance to family temporarily to the needs of the group.)
(5) They can be trusted with inner secrets of the group, including knowledge of identities and memberships.
Though these points seem relatively simple and straightforward, too few groups make them part of the initiatory practice. Initiation is more than a matter of “Drop in Friday night and visit the drive-through.” It is a life-changing milestone implying a deep, deep commitment to the spiritual path of the Craft. In our opinion, preparation for the ritual and the life change should take at least a year and a day.
Nor is the initiation a signal to stop growing. To each initiate will come a day when s/he pauses to think, “I thought I knew it all on the day of my initiation–but, boy, how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown since then!”
The actual words of the rite can be in any format the group likes, using any pantheon and any circle-casting or other element of the rite of passage the group desires. In Gavin’s case, it was in fact not only a sex-magic ritual; it was also a blood ritual. (He can show you the scar.) Currently the blood ritual is usually omitted; if the group is not going to practice sex magic, that part too can (optionally) be omitted.
It is up to you, pagans and Wiccans, but please do not cheapen any initiation which you perform. Make it a deeply significant rite of passage. It should be designed to change the person’s perception of reality.
Blessed be those who live the examined life. Gavin and Yvonne