Self-initiation … one of the Religious Witchcraft Community’s most hotly debated subjects is still nowhere near a resolution. Traditional Wicca is an initiatory mystery religion; and originally, if you wanted to call yourself Wiccan, you had to train with a coven.
The last twenty years have seen a dramatic surge in the popularity of Wicca and other Witchcraft religions – to the point where it seems that every week a new book is coming out that teaches a new ‘brand’ of Wicca. And as a result, by either desire or geography, many Witches are forgoing the coven route, and going it alone.
This has many Trad Wiccans notably upset. Leaving aside the fact that you cannot learn the Wiccan mysteries from a book, many see the solitary, book-trained priestesses as cheapening their faith.
The concept of self-initiation seems particularly offensive. Traditionally, an initiation into a coven was not only a right of passage on the road to becoming a priest or priestess of the Wiccan faith, it was also indicative of proper training and mastery of a base set of skills.
On the other side of the coin, there are a great many of the new generation of book-trained Wiccans who very firmly believe that the only relationship they need is with their deities. They feel that initiation into the mysteries is something a coven alone cannot give; it is a door opened by the gods.
A point of contention is that while a personal relationship with the divine is good, can you really still call yourself a Wiccan without the training? Are those mysteries experienced by solitaries the same as those experienced in the presence of a coven? It’s possible, but most likely not. Does this make them less valuable? Of course not.
So where does this leave us? Can the solitaries still call themselves Wiccan without a traditional initiation, or must they relegate themselves to Neo-Wiccan, Witch, or Pagan?
What I see happening here is a transformation of what Wicca is. It is ridiculous to think that a living religion would remain static and never change, and it seems to me that Wicca is moving from a ‘religion of priests’ to a more mainstream construct that includes a laity. Which basically means, Wiccans who are interested in celebrating their own faith, but are not so much looking to be involved in coven work, or teaching, or providing many of the other services of the clergy. There is a great deal of resistance to this idea from both sides, and I believe that time is the only thing that will resolve this issue.
So, are self-initiations valid? Is an initiation even required to call yourself Wiccan?
My personal feeling is that if you are going to be associating with other Wiccans, don’t expect them to accept self-training as equal to coven training. They won’t.
As to whether an initiation is required … I think that the question that really needs to be asked is, ‘Is an initiation important to you?’ In my experience, most of the Witches who cling to their self-initiations are the ones who have convinced themselves that they have no business practising the craft without a formal commitment.
There is nothing wrong with this, but the concept of a personal commitment to one’s path seems to have been boiled down to semantics. Call it a dedication or initiation, it is the experience that is important, not the wording you choose.
2 thoughts on “Article Archive – Circa 2005 – Self-Initiation”
I quite agree with this – if one takes the hardline historical view, Wicca as a religion began with Gardner, and as such is a scant 60 years old; there should be no barrier to a constant cycle of change within a framework of belief over a timespan like that.
Gardnerian Wicca has the right to preserve itself unchanged, but it cannot reserve the word wicca (note small w) to itself; this word is far older and had no association with such a structured, lineage-driven religion until Gardner appropriated it.
I don’t think it is possible for anyone to claim any word, really – small w or large W. Anyone can jump up and down and shout about how so and so is doing it wrong and how they aren’t like really Wiccan, but it won’t make them disappear.
Any more than the constant Christian fight over who is or isn’t a ‘real’ Christian. It’s futile to try and keep the tide from coming in.
And I don’t believe that people need to be wasting their time on it. Even if Lady Pixie Stardust is the goofiest, most ridiculous caricature of a New Age NeoPagan Witch/Wiccan out there, her existence doesn’t actually hurt anyone else.
The people you don’t agree with don’t stop you from practising your path. And just like the prickly people, these people too are a hurdle that the seeker must pass on their path.