Self Initiation

Self Initiation

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Since Wicca is a mystery religion, it is necessary to be initiated into it. This was a stumbling block for many people in the United States when Wicca first became visible in the early 1960s. They learned of the Old Religion and wanted to be a part of it, but it was extremely difficult to find a coven to join. Frustration eventually led to large numbers of covens being started from scratch, with the founders having no real training in Wicca. This also led to a large number of Solitary Witches—those who either couldn't find a group to join or had no wish to join with a group yet still desired to practice the Old Religion.

For many years there was a conflict between those Witches initiated into one of the established traditions and those who had started their own. Gradually, as more eclectic covens came into being, this conflict died down, although it will probably never be fully eliminated.

Witchcraft back in the early Middle Ages had initiation ceremonies, as we know from references to them in the evidence of the witch trials. Sometimes the leader of the coven would place one hand on the crown of the initiate's head and the other under the soles of the feet, dedicating all between the hands to the old gods. This was a popular dedication in Scotland. In fact, this ritual is part of the initiation into Gardnerian and some other traditions of Wicca.

But there were many Witches in those early days, as there are today, who did not belong to a coven. Frequently a farming family lived some distance from the village, or from a coven, yet still worshiped the old gods—still asked and worked magic for a good harvest and thanked the gods when it came. These solitary Witches would dedicate themselves and their children to the worship of the gods—if not in a formal ceremony, then in a simple ritual of their own words. So it is today with many Witches who are either unable or unwilling to join an established coven. They will dedicate themselves to the old gods in a simple ritual of self initiation. Just as the early Witches who did this were as valid as any other Witch who happened to belong to a coven, so today such self initiation is as bona fide as a coven initiation. Doreen Valiente, who was one of the founders, with Gerald Gardner, of modern Wicca, said, "Many people, I know, will question the idea of self-initiation. . . . To them I will address one simple question: who initiated the first Witch?"