There are so many misconceptions and much misunderstanding about the initiations of witchcraft. In this blog, we will attempt to give our own opinions on this subject – which may differ or even be similar in some cases to the understanding that other witches and covens may have. This subject is never a quick and fast thing to describe, and as each and every witch advances, no matter how seasoned in witchcraft they are; will have continually evolving and sometimes changing opinions on this subject.
So where do we even begin?
For us, I think the easiest way to begin is with a quote from the book, “Art Magic or Mundane, Sub-Mundane and Super Mundane Spiritism,” edited by Emma Hardinge Britten and published by “Progressive Thinker;” which is but one opinion on this subject. Our coven copy of this book was printed in 1898:
“There is absolutely nothing in the initiatory rites of any ancient order which can promote magical powers or spiritual afflatus. It is in the discipline enjoined upon initiates, and the effects of real physiological changes thus wrought in their systems, that the entire virtue of the initiation consists; furthermore, if such neophytes as entered upon the preparatory degrees of their initiation, did not manifest the well-known signs of initiate magical power, or if after due preparation, they did not give evidence of the possession of magnetic of mediumistic faculties, they were never permitted to take rank as Hierophants, never elevated to that last degree which constituted them adepts.”
I think it is pretty clear that the author is trying to state that the initiation ritual itself does not guarantee or grant any magical powers just by the performance of the ceremonial itself. In my opinion, it is saying that it is the directed work of initiator to the initiate, and the initiate’s progress in this stated work in which the initiate will advance themselves on the path. (We can only come to the circle of our own free will) These changes that begin to occur will prepare the Probationer or Neophyte for the step of initiation which may mark the candidate ready.
What does this mean to me? To me it could possibly mean the Probationer must reach a certain determined stage first and then the initiation ritual itself is conducted which will then mark the next phase or beginning of spiritual progression.
An example of this theory can be described if we take these ideas back to rituals in ancient society (and in some cultures today) when rituals performed in tribal societies that marked that a boy or girl has transitioned to manhood or womanhood. These rituals were not marked as soon as they came forth from their mother’s womb because the boy or girl had to reach a certain stage of development and maturity for this stage to be marked. Today, in our modern culture, this seems to be marked when an adolescent graduates high school (initiating them into adulthood) and graduating from a college or university. These graduation rituals are conducted with a somewhat similar ideal of death of the old way of life and the entering in of a new way of life.
In the case of the university education or graduating from high school, the graduation ritual itself did not impart the knowledge to the student, but symbolized a culmination that one part of their work is complete and the next stage is about to begin.
This same concept is found in witchcraft. The various level(s) or degrees of witchcraft marking the death of the old way and the birth and continual progression forward: a progressive evolutionary path onward with levels of learning that must be mastered before another level can be attained.
There is no magic in the formal ceremonial script in itself, but there is an imparting of magnetism by the Initiator and the coven which influences the aether by the magical manipulations/acts and an active ordering of the astral fluid that is directed for the purposes of initiation and imparts this virtue to the candidate. (The active magnetizers project to the receptive receiver)
This means that no two initiation rituals will be the same, no matter if the same script is followed to the letter. The day of the week, time of year, planetary influences, and the amount of power that the group or Initiator can raise and direct will all create slightly different effects – but performed with the same intention in mind.
There are times when you feel you are able to project more magical power than other times (ability to direct the astral fluid by will) and there are times when you need rest and reflection and this is why certain preparations are always taken before the ritual occurs – which differs from coven to coven, but is adhered to in order to ensure that the ability to influence the aether is at its peak.
There should never be any kind of “rushing around” before an initiation. Preparations should be made beforehand so that you can follow your traditions prescribed traditions with ease and in a safe way. (If you are not certain when your peak “power” times are, an easy trick that you can do to test this out is by using a “Crook’s Radiometer.” If you are a witch gifted with slight abilities of telekinesis, you might find that you can make the Radiometer spin and stop on command with your hands and mind and can be good practice at aiming the direction astral fluid at a target. If you can’t obtain one, you can use the method described in this article to test it out in coven with old wire clothes hangers. You may not have this magical gift, but you may find that some folks in your coven do.)
So what would happen for the initiate after initiation?
The first result of initiation is inclusion into the coven family. This is said to seal the deal that they are now a fully-fledged member of the coven and recognized by their coven brothers and sisters of the magical arts.
During the performance of the ritual itself, no clanking chains or wails from the great beyond and bolts of lightning should be expected. The ritual will typically go on like any other ritual – even though most will report they remember little of the performance itself.
It is what happens after the ritual that may surprise you. Some new initiates have discovered new abilities they never knew they had, are brought new information, or guided to new wisdom they didn’t think possible. And while all coven members will have their own various interests, it is also amazing how a number of them seem to develop very similar magical gifts – almost as if they were contagious and rubbed-off on each other. This is just something that is not easy to put into words, so I think we will just leave that part of the subject be for now.
Another end goal of an initiation into witchcraft would be the connection of the witch to the thoughtforms of the coven and/or tradition. This could be with the principles of the specific god and goddess of a coven, any ruling spiritual intelligences of the coven and what some refer to as “Guides” of which may be described as angelic or even terrestrial spiritual intelligences or lastly the astral shells of deceased coven members that might live on to direct and benefit the coven from the astral plane. Like all things in nature, some covens are more powerful and some are less depending on the power of these guides and spiritual intelligences; but there is no one initiation ceremony that is better than the other. Each coven and tradition will be unique and you may find that some covens of a similar tradition may meet together at times as an extended family for a particular occasion, and some covens may even meet on occasion with covens of different traditions – but similar mysteries, like many within traditional initiatory Wicca.
This means the first step toward initiation is the work assigned by your mentor which may include certain magical acts, psychic development and collection or seeking out of certain items. These steps should not be taken lightly if you want your initiation to “stick.”
For some further reading, a wonderful friend of mine: Deborah at Swan Grove Coven has written an excellent description of what is most common today: Degrees, Guilds and Initiation into the Wicca . She is able to explain this much better than I ever could! It is a three-part article that is definitely worth the read!