[Ivy's Pentacles]

"TRADITIONAL" SELF-INITIATION RITUAL

This original ritual is based on the first-degree initiation in the Farrars' A Witches' Bible, and follows for a solitary practitioner as closely as possible to the coven-oriented initiation described. A good initiation will include a symbolic death and rebirth, usually a renaming with a new magickal or Craft name, an acknowledgment by the elements, a presentation or acceptance of the tools of the Craft as tools of power, and some sort of challenge or ordeal that must be successfully completed to be reborn as a Witch or Wiccan.

Come into the circle naked, and clear your mind. Have on the altar the athame dead center, unsheathed, pointed straight out at you; a cauldron full of water on the decidedly left side of the altar, full of water anointed with a scented oil and some salt; the measure of yourself sitting decidedly on the right side of the altar; somewhere on the altar should be a book or piece of paper containing the promise you are to make later in this ritual; on the right side of the altar, have some anointing oil of your choice; on the left side of the altar, have a cup of dark wine; your working tools should be at the back of the altar.

Bind your own hands with a red elastic (if possible), and visualize the bonds as actually trapping you as you are led to your own trip into the cauldron of the Goddess for rebirth; imagine that the elastic is a sealed bond that only the deities can break. Feel the God or Goddess leading you up to the altar, and imagine that you are truly entering Their chamber for the first time, whereas all the other times you have practiced, you have been doing the equivalent of conversing with Them by letters or phone; They have been in your life, but you have never actually been in Their presence until now. Like the postulant being led into a coven circle that was already in progress, having conducted some rituals tonight (such as drawing down the moon), you are entering a place where revelry and magick has been going on for some time. The elementals and spirits play here, and the deity that is not leading you from behind is sitting in an exalted place, watching you enter. You are in Their protection, bound and blind and about to be remade.

Visualize the deity presiding over your ritual coming around and standing behind the altar, leaving your back and facing you. The God or Goddess should be standing holding your athame at you as if to stop you from coming any further until announcements are made. As a formality, imagine the God or Goddess asking you if you choose to enter this domain, knowing that you are making a truly momentous, irreversible decision--asking you to choose to progress with courage. At this point the knife blade of your athame should be pointed straight at your heart. It would be better, they say in traditional initiations, for you to perish on the blade than to come into this ritual with fear in your heart. Do not confuse your exhiliaration with fear; you are simply assenting to the will of the powers that be and asking to become more in Their sight, so this is a very comforting thing, but it is a trying path, and you must accept this, back up, or perish.

Announce, aloud or in your mind, that you have the two passwords to lower the blade pointed at you: The passwords are perfect love and perfect trust. You must understand that you are saying you love Them and Their mysteries as They love you, and that you trust Their judgment and Their path for your life.

Hear the initiator accept your passwords, and give you the third necessary password to enter the realm proper: A kiss. Feel the divine kiss on your face wherever you think comfortable or wherever you really feel you have been kissed. This is the acceptance. The initiator then comes around to push you through the door into the chamber, and the partner of the initiator gets up from the throne or exalted space and seals the door behind you. It vanishes, and you are completely in Their realm.

The deity leading your ritual now announces to anyone else present in the chamber (i.e., the elementals) that you are about to be initiated as a priest/priestess and witch. Have the God or Goddess announce you by your old name when He or She does this. Imagine the initiator stepping away from you again and leaving you bound and blind standing at the altar, and joining the elementals and the other deity in joining hands and making a ring around you, dancing clockwise around the boundaries of the circle. Open yourself up to these presences, and allow them to dizzy and confuse you. (In traditional circles, the postulant is actually pushed back and forth between coven members, but this also has the benefit of being kept safe from falling, so it is best to avoid moving too much in a circle where you are blind and bound and have no visual guidance.) Listen to them chanting things and see if you can pick it out a bit; feel them around you and accept that this is their way of acknowledging you and trying to recognize you as a witch. This stops when the initiator calls a halt and the partner rings the bell three times. You can hear this in your head, or you can wear a bell around your neck and jump three times (since you have not the use of your hands) to call this part of the ritual to an end. (Being the same sex as the initiator's partner, in a pinch you can act in His/Her place.)

At this signal the elements and deities actually kneel to you, as a sign of respect and welcome, not of obedience but of mutual acknowledgement. The initiator rises from His/Her place while the others watch solemnly, and approaches you; see this in your mind's eye, vividly. Now you are given the Fivefold Kiss by the initiator. (This is written elsewhere in the rituals section.) Speak the words in your mind (or hear the deity say them) and visualize receiving a kiss in all the appropriate places with each line. As you receive each kiss, feel a warm spot of power and energy pooling on your skin where He or She touched you, spreading into your body. On the last kiss you are embraced, and you begin to glow with an unearthly light.

This is the point at which traditional affairs indicate your measure should be taken. Since it should already be taken for the purposes of this solitary ritual, it should be lying on the right side of the altar. The initiator of your ritual now accepts this measure as a token that you are truly in a state of trust, for these are powerful objects to give anyone and could be dangerous to even create, yet you do it in Their trust. Nothing has to be done with the object physically; just feel the acknowledgement of your trust by the initiator.

Now for your ordeal. Traditionally, the postulant is bound about the legs and then made to go through a ritual scourging to suffer through bravely. (It does not hurt but it is symbolic of your acceptance of pain and difficulty on such a hidden path.) You must do something a bit different, since just imagining the ordeal is not going to cut it here. The initiator must ask you if it is all right to continue, and you must acquiesce before beginning. First, stiffen as if bound about the legs by twine. Then, imagine your initiator behind you again, and white-hot power streaming from His or Her hands. It comes to surround you in a ring of fire, burning on your skin. It is uncomfortably hot but you are being purified by the fire, and your old self begins to burn away.

When the heat becomes too much, go to the cauldron and duck your head into it. As long as your face fits inside you are fine. With fire burning around you and water, oil (representing air) and salt (representing Earth) in the cauldron around your face, you are being held intimately by the four elements. Now let the fire consume you, your old non-magickal self falling away, but the core of you, the magick of you, surviving in "soul" form. You are still on fire and doused in waters where you cannot breathe. Let your breath out into the water; at this point, you "die." In the moments when there is no air in your lungs and you are "dead," feel a hand reach into you and change you; the power of the One, the key turned in your mind. You are a new person, and now your new name rings in your thoughts. You can rise from the cauldron only when you can go no longer without air; surface slowly and feel as though you are being born from the womb again, only this time, having innocence but wisdom as well.

Now you are wet and dripping with your "afterbirth." The initiator can recognize you and greets you, congratulating you on passing the test. He or She asks you if you can now promise to always be true to your Art, to which you of course reply that you will. Then He or She asks if you will stand up and protect the brothers and sisters of the Art, now your siblings. You must agree. Then you must repeat after the initiator; this is when you can open your eyes and read from a paper (since ordinarily you'd be prompted). Imagine your initiator saying this and you repeating after Him or Her. I, [new name], in the presence of the Mighty Ones, do of my own free will and accord most solemnly swear that I will ever keep secret and never reveal the secrets of the Art, except it be to a proper person, properly prepared within a Circle such as I am now in; and that I will never deny the secrets to such a person if he or she be properly vouched for by a brother or sister of the Art. All this I swear by my hopes of a future life, mindful that my measure has been taken; and may my weapons turn against me if I break this my solemn oath.

Usually the new initiate is anointed by the initiator with oil in the first-degree sign (an upside-down triangle made of the dot above the pubic hair and both breasts), then anointed by wine, and then kissed, and finally deemed a priest/priestess and witch and unbound. Being that this is solitary, it is only practical at this time to remove the bonds and use the hands to apply the oil and wine, guided by the God or Goddess.

Slip off the red elastic and bring your hands forward to take up the anointing oil. Touch yourself just above the pubic hair, then the right breast, then the left, and back to the bottom dot. Hear the God or Goddess proclaim that you are being signed with the Triple Sign and consecrated with oil.

Then take up the wine and trace the same triangle in the same spots, anointing with wine.

Finally, open up and let the deity kiss you in those three marked places, and confer upon you the title of priest or priestess and witch.

You then are given your magickal tools, feeling a new power in handling each of them as they are presented to you. You should have an athame, a bolline, a wand, a cup, a pentacle, and an incense burner. The original traditions indicate being given a scourge, too, and accepting it as a reminder that learning often requires suffering, but that is not practical in a solitary ritual.

Finally, the initiator takes you around the circle to introduce you by your new name and title to each of the elements. Feel them congratulate you and fill you with their energy, more willing now to do your wishes and become part of you.

If you'd like to consecrate your tools now as your first magickal work as an initiated witch, that is fine, but you are likely to be tired and unwilling at this point alone in your circle, and may have already consecrated your tools.

Traditionally, second- and third-degree initiations also exist. In these, an upside-down five-pointed star is conferred instead of the upside-down triangle (for second degree, indicating closer relationship with the elements but not complete mastery yet), and the right-side-up five-pointed star is conferred upon reaching the third degree. There is no need for degrees when you do not practice with anyone; climbing ranks that are not recognized by others is useless. However, if you get to the point where you think you would like to initiate yourself to a higher level, feel free to try, and use the appropriate sign. These will not be recognized by traditional covens as they require it to actually be done in their way by people who have actually been personally initated from times long ago, passed down. If by chance you do wish to "advance ranks" on your own, though, by the time you get to be deserving of second degree, you'll more than likely have the resources and abilities to create your own satisfying ritual; simply refer to the ones in A Witches' Bible if you have need of inspiration.

Incidentally, second-degree witches are the lowest degree allowed to be a High Priest or High Priestess and/or start a coven, traditionally. Second-degree witches can also initiate others.

It should be noted that traditionally witches don't take a "witch name" until second degree initiation, but it was put into this ritual in the first degree because solitaries are unlikely to initiate themselves again; only to rededicate. Also, the "passing of the power" is done in the second degree initiation, and in the part of this ritual where you are dead in the cauldron, this is where you should receive the power straight from the Universe. You should feel it stream into you and fill you up from inside; your magickal power and energy should be stronger from that day forward. In traditional practice, it is passed from High Priestess or High Priest to second-degree initiate; as a solitary, you have to take what you can get however you can get it, and since all power comes from the Universe and inside ourselves anyway, this can be just as effective.

In the third degree initiation, the Great Rite is enacted. This is ritual sex, literal or figurative. It is possible to get a version of this by meditating and then blending with the mysteries so deeply that it is akin to intercourse. One can even go on an astral trip with the deity of the sex preferred, and strike up power and love that way.

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