Is Initiation a Betrayal? and other odd questions…

I’m getting antsy. I’m getting cold feet. I’m going a bit insane. I am told this is normal, as my initiation is just a month away.

Last night I called my priestess to see if there was something I could work on or study to prepare and keep my mind busy. She laughed, like I knew she would, because reading and overthinking is how I deal with things. She said meditation is always good for anxiety, but what I was experiencing is a normal part of the process and I need to accept that.

I knew she would say that. I just needed to hear it. I’d rather she asked me to write a paper on Wiccan Laws, or to study each of the elements in turn. If I’m to be an initiated Witch I can’t begin with escapism but face my humanity squarely. Going a bit loopy before a life-changing ceremony is very human.

So my mind is full of Wicca and full of questions and doubts. Not real doubts, because I love my tradition and my coven with all my heart. Nervous doubts. Nerdy doubts. Crazy-making doubts.

I have been a solitary since October 30th, 1999. Is initiation a betrayal of my past? Will readers and friends who are either solitary or don’t believe in initiation find it a betrayal? Will my decision to initiate be seen as a value judgement on those who choose to remain solitary or who reject initiation in Wicca?

I have a frantic need to say everything now. It’s like I’m having a theological and spiritual bachelor’s party. How restricted will I feel after initiation? I feel like it’s my last chance to run around smashing idols and being spiritually ornery. It’s like I’m chasing after “Mental Strippers” before I settle down into the quiet work of an initiated Witch.

Am I initiating for the right reasons? It’s true I’m initiating into a tradition I love and respect, but also, deep down I have a sort of crazy idea about initiation. I’m not tempted by magic, occult knowledge or status. No, my idea may be a bit crazier than initiating for those reasons. I have this idea that once I’m initiated I’ll find a connection to the God and Goddess of Witchcraft that I feel is lacking now. As if some devotional gate will open and lead me to personal gnosis regarding their nature.

And of course, there are always irrational fears about the ritual itself. The jokes about my losing a toe don’t seem so funny anymore. The jokes about some Witches accidentally blowing up don’t seem so funny either. Even worse, what if I do something to flub it? What if I accidentally wear something forbidden and I’m forced to change at the gate? What if days of fasting makes me loopy and I insult an elder the day of initiation? What if I enter circle and the shades of Lady Sintana, Robert Cochrane and Lady Sheba make their disapproval known because they don’t like my blog?

Maybe these are valid questions. Maybe I’m just going a bit nuts prior to initiation. At any rate, you’ll likely only have to deal with my intense and bizarre obsession with Wicca for a few more weeks. I hope…

This video has nothing to do with my post, but illustrates my line of thinking at the moment rather well…

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Carron/100001353268347 David Carron

    No one said change was easy.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Carron/100001353268347 David Carron

    No one said change was easy.  

  • Anonymous

    You’re already an initiate- you became one when you decided to do so. This is just a physical formality.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Perhaps. We will see! :)

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Perhaps. We will see! :)

  • sunfell

    You’re already an initiate- you became one when you decided to do so. This is just a physical formality.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Perhaps. We will see! :)

  • Anonymous

    I imagine it’s a big step you’re getting ready to take. What you’re describing reminds me of the way folks talk before getting married.

    But really, no worries, you always have choice in life. See how it goes, give it time. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, than choose another direction. You will have learned and gained from the experience. It’s not betrayal of yourself to try new things. Rather the betrayal is staying in one place when your heart/mind tell you otherwise. Sorry if this post sounded like the Oprah show.

  • http://www.elementforge.com Adrian Hawkins

    If it is any consolation, I get anxious before every ritual even the ones I am not performing. Initiation is something special, and what your going through now is your body’s way of preparing itself for the higher vibrational work that your about to undertake. For me, prior to initiation I got hot flashes.

    I’ve enjoyed all of your recent articles. You keep righting them and I will keep discussing them with you even if its only to say thanks.

  • http://www.groveofthelion.com/ Adrian Hawkins

    If it is any consolation, I get anxious before every ritual even the ones I am not performing. Initiation is something special, and what your going through now is your body’s way of preparing itself for the higher vibrational work that your about to undertake. For me, prior to initiation I got hot flashes.

    I’ve enjoyed all of your recent articles. You keep righting them and I will keep discussing them with you even if its only to say thanks.

  • blackpagan

    I imagine it’s a big step you’re getting ready to take. What you’re describing reminds me of the way folks talk before getting married.

    But really, no worries, you always have choice in life. See how it goes, give it time. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, than choose another direction. You will have learned and gained from the experience. It’s not betrayal of yourself to try new things. Rather the betrayal is staying in one place when your heart/mind tell you otherwise. Sorry if this post sounded like the Oprah show.

  • Lady Greenflame

    Star, all this is normal. And I’ll clue you in on a secret. The ceremonial initiation you are going to be taking is wonderful, and it certainly will open doors, and it certainly will deeper and strengthen your ties to our Mighty Dead and to our Gods.

    However, you do not just undergo “an initiation” and that’s it. Not even counting second and third degrees — there are inner initiations that happen outside of that circle. You have already experienced some in your own work you’ve been doing since 1999. This will increase the pace. Initiation is ongoing. This even happens to people who do practice from a solitary place, if their practice is dedicated and consistent enough.

    You will begin to come to a place where you simply understand things you did not understand before, and on a level you did not know existed. You will recognize challenges in your life to be opportunities to re-enter the cauldron of transformation. Every turn of the Wheel, every Moon cycle, will deepen and broaden your wisdom and understanding.

  • Lady Greenflame

    Star, all this is normal. And I’ll clue you in on a secret. The ceremonial initiation you are going to be taking is wonderful, and it certainly will open doors, and it certainly will deeper and strengthen your ties to our Mighty Dead and to our Gods.

    However, you do not just undergo “an initiation” and that’s it. Not even counting second and third degrees — there are inner initiations that happen outside of that circle. You have already experienced some in your own work you’ve been doing since 1999. This will increase the pace. Initiation is ongoing. This even happens to people who do practice from a solitary place, if their practice is dedicated and consistent enough.

    You will begin to come to a place where you simply understand things you did not understand before, and on a level you did not know existed. You will recognize challenges in your life to be opportunities to re-enter the cauldron of transformation. Every turn of the Wheel, every Moon cycle, will deepen and broaden your wisdom and understanding.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I think you’re having the normal cold-feet jitters that you ought to be having, and your reactions are entirely normal.  If they weren’t there, I’d be more worried…!?!

    There’s something else, though.  I suspect one of the things that might be slightly amiss with your approach here (and that of some of the other commenters above) is on the nature of initiation into any set of mysteries.  (And, actually, that’s a repetitive thing to say, since initiatio is the Latin equivalent of the Greek mysterion!)   It’s not really you becoming part of a larger tradition or joining a group after having been solitary for a while, and thus there is no betrayal of previous practices or stances involved.  Thinking of initiation in this manner is a symptom of being in a post-Christian world, in which the “sacraments of initiation” (baptism, confirmation, etc.) are thought to be things which bind you to a group, rather than what they’re really supposed to be, which is an opening for divine realities to enter your life and begin working on and in you however they may do so.  (Confirmation in a Catholic context, for example, is supposed to replicate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost–and yet, every confirmation I’ve been to has been about as un-fiery and un-tongues-speaking as a convention of shy and quiet librarians.)  It’s a “beginning” (which is what “initiation” in Latin means!), not just for you in a new kind of life, but a beginning of the active and regular presence of the gods in your life.  If nothing else, that’s what your initiation should do, and if it does (though it may take a while for things to really start moving afterwards), then it’s worked just as it should.  It’s not a mere formality, it’s a technique and a technology that is designed to bring the divinities concerned into your life in a way they had not been before.
    But, considering that’s how initiation is understood within the traditions in which I work, I’m of course biased in suggesting it be viewed in this manner, and your own tradition may view it very differently indeed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21716648 Jay Logan

      A convention of shy and quiet librarians?  What mythology are you speaking from?

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        On that point, a “joking” one.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I think you’re having the normal cold-feet jitters that you ought to be having, and your reactions are entirely normal.  If they weren’t there, I’d be more worried…!?!

    There’s something else, though.  I suspect one of the things that might be slightly amiss with your approach here (and that of some of the other commenters above) is on the nature of initiation into any set of mysteries.  (And, actually, that’s a repetitive thing to say, since initiatio is the Latin equivalent of the Greek mysterion!)   It’s not really you becoming part of a larger tradition or joining a group after having been solitary for a while, and thus there is no betrayal of previous practices or stances involved.  Thinking of initiation in this manner is a symptom of being in a post-Christian world, in which the “sacraments of initiation” (baptism, confirmation, etc.) are thought to be things which bind you to a group, rather than what they’re really supposed to be, which is an opening for divine realities to enter your life and begin working on and in you however they may do so.  (Confirmation in a Catholic context, for example, is supposed to replicate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost–and yet, every confirmation I’ve been to has been about as un-fiery and un-tongues-speaking as a convention of shy and quiet librarians.)  It’s a “beginning” (which is what “initiation” in Latin means!), not just for you in a new kind of life, but a beginning of the active and regular presence of the gods in your life.  If nothing else, that’s what your initiation should do, and if it does (though it may take a while for things to really start moving afterwards), then it’s worked just as it should.  It’s not a mere formality, it’s a technique and a technology that is designed to bring the divinities concerned into your life in a way they had not been before.
    But, considering that’s how initiation is understood within the traditions in which I work, I’m of course biased in suggesting it be viewed in this manner, and your own tradition may view it very differently indeed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21716648 Jay Logan

      A convention of shy and quiet librarians?  What mythology are you speaking from?

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        On that point, a “joking” one.

  • Anonymous

    Sunfell wrote: “You’re already an initiate- you became one when you decided to do so. This is just a physical formality. ”

    That’s ridiculous. You’re not an initiate until you’re initiated. THAT’s the whole point.

    Good luck Star!

  • sindarintech

    Sunfell wrote: “You’re already an initiate- you became one when you decided to do so. This is just a physical formality. ”

    That’s ridiculous. You’re not an initiate until you’re initiated. THAT’s the whole point.

    Good luck Star!

  • http://credencedawg.wordpress.com/ Mo

    “I have been a solitary since October 30th, 1999. Is initiation a betrayal of my past? Will readers and friends who are either solitary or don’t believe in initiation find it a betrayal? Will my decision to initiate be seen as a value judgement on those who choose to remain solitary or who reject initiation in Wicca?”
    I can only comment as someone who is a non-initiate of Wicca, and who has followed an independent path throughout my adult life (I don’t use the term “solitary” as life isn’t really like that for me). I don’t find it a betrayal, nor a value judgement on my kind of path. I feel rather excited for you in fact, and can understand your jitters, which seem very natural. We all have to follow our hearts, and gain wisdom in the best way we can. Good luck Star, and I wish you all you may wish for yourself. 

  • http://credencedawg.wordpress.com/ Mo

    “I have been a solitary since October 30th, 1999. Is initiation a betrayal of my past? Will readers and friends who are either solitary or don’t believe in initiation find it a betrayal? Will my decision to initiate be seen as a value judgement on those who choose to remain solitary or who reject initiation in Wicca?”
    I can only comment as someone who is a non-initiate of Wicca, and who has followed an independent path throughout my adult life (I don’t use the term “solitary” as life isn’t really like that for me). I don’t find it a betrayal, nor a value judgement on my kind of path. I feel rather excited for you in fact, and can understand your jitters, which seem very natural. We all have to follow our hearts, and gain wisdom in the best way we can. Good luck Star, and I wish you all you may wish for yourself. 

  • 110277pw

    I’m so excited for you! I can understand how you would feel others of the solitary path (like me!) Would judge you but I’m here to say what I love about both Wicca and Paganism is the choice to “have a choice.” This is why you are so lucky…you carry the knowledge of one who made her own choices and summations, into a group that is always evolving and in need of the divine information those of us who are solitary practitioners have had the opportunity to hear and take part in.

    And none of that was what I intended to say. As usual, when she has a message, she gives it and I don’t get a choice. To me, there’s nothing solitary or group-related about THAT. *grins* Love & Light, fair lady star!

    Thefirstdark
    Aka
    ~Porsha

  • 110277pw

    I’m so excited for you! I can understand how you would feel others of the solitary path (like me!) Would judge you but I’m here to say what I love about both Wicca and Paganism is the choice to “have a choice.” This is why you are so lucky…you carry the knowledge of one who made her own choices and summations, into a group that is always evolving and in need of the divine information those of us who are solitary practitioners have had the opportunity to hear and take part in.

    And none of that was what I intended to say. As usual, when she has a message, she gives it and I don’t get a choice. To me, there’s nothing solitary or group-related about THAT. *grins* Love & Light, fair lady star!

    Thefirstdark
    Aka
    ~Porsha

  • Rua Lupa

    “I have a frantic need to say everything now. It’s like I’m having a theological and spiritual bachelor’s party.”

    These lines are quite humorous on the first read through, but are a great analogy to how you must be feeling. That is understandable and a natural feeling when you are about to come across a big life changing event.

    “I have been a solitary since October 30th, 1999. Is initiation a
    betrayal of my past? Will readers and friends who are either solitary or
    don’t believe in initiation find it a betrayal? Will my decision to
    initiate be seen as a value judgement on those who choose to remain
    solitary or who reject initiation in Wicca?”

    You won’t be insulting anyone by choosing the path you choose. It is obvious that you respect other people’s paths and that is all that is required of you to be not insulting. I admit that most blog posts are related to Wicca and not as diverse, but that is understandable considering that it is a big part of your life, and it is your blog. If you are concerned about being too one sided then try to work on that if you feel that it is important. If you don’t think that should be something you should focus on in your life, then no big deal. Like I said, its your blog and you obviously respect the diverse paths that are represented on your comment boards.

    What ever relaxes you, then do that. If you don’t think you can relax the way you normally do, then try doing something different to distract you. In my experience, distraction is the best way to get your mind off something before you do what normally relaxes you. If there is something you wanted to try that you haven’t before, then do that for an instant and satisfying distraction – so long as it is not illegal :D , or filled with regret i.e. jumping off a bridge. I have a bunch of hobbies that help, as they keep my hands busy and my thoughts on the task. If I the task is too familiar so that I can easily think of something else while doing it, I try something different or new in relation to what I am working with i.e. sewing, something different would be making a teddy for a friend instead of mending.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck shaking the nerves.

  • Rua Lupa

    “I have a frantic need to say everything now. It’s like I’m having a theological and spiritual bachelor’s party.”

    These lines are quite humorous on the first read through, but are a great analogy to how you must be feeling. That is understandable and a natural feeling when you are about to come across a big life changing event.

    “I have been a solitary since October 30th, 1999. Is initiation a
    betrayal of my past? Will readers and friends who are either solitary or
    don’t believe in initiation find it a betrayal? Will my decision to
    initiate be seen as a value judgement on those who choose to remain
    solitary or who reject initiation in Wicca?”

    You won’t be insulting anyone by choosing the path you choose. It is obvious that you respect other people’s paths and that is all that is required of you to be not insulting. I admit that most blog posts are related to Wicca and not as diverse, but that is understandable considering that it is a big part of your life, and it is your blog. If you are concerned about being too one sided then try to work on that if you feel that it is important. If you don’t think that should be something you should focus on in your life, then no big deal. Like I said, its your blog and you obviously respect the diverse paths that are represented on your comment boards.

    What ever relaxes you, then do that. If you don’t think you can relax the way you normally do, then try doing something different to distract you. In my experience, distraction is the best way to get your mind off something before you do what normally relaxes you. If there is something you wanted to try that you haven’t before, then do that for an instant and satisfying distraction – so long as it is not illegal :D , or filled with regret i.e. jumping off a bridge. I have a bunch of hobbies that help, as they keep my hands busy and my thoughts on the task. If I the task is too familiar so that I can easily think of something else while doing it, I try something different or new in relation to what I am working with i.e. sewing, something different would be making a teddy for a friend instead of mending.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck shaking the nerves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aidan-Kelly/607751097 Aidan Kelly

    Star, what occurs to me is that you are facing a rite of passage that is essential on every genuinely religious path, no matter what it is called or how it is conceptualized. It is the fully adult decision to make a total commitment to the path, and it will open up doors that that did not know even existed.
     
    I actually got there through AA. As a devout (though, fortunately, openminded) agnostic, it was definitely a crisis of having to decide to “turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power” or else die a long, slow, miserable death. I made the decision to do that, knowing that I had no idea how to, and even having no idea whether a Higher Power even existed. Well, nine months later I still hadn’t taken the first drink, and I knew I wasn’t myself managing that; so that was my first real personal clue that Something was up. It has all been growth from there, and I have never been obligated to buy into anyone else’s concept of what that Something is.
     
    When Lady Epona was working on her “A Pagan/Polytheistic Interpretation of the Twelve Steps” (which I think one can find online), she had a conversation with a young, beautiful, gay Witch who had a drinking problerm. Part of it went:
     
    He: “But I can’t turn my life over to anyone or anything else!”
     
    Lady Epona: “What do you think you did at your initiation?”
     
    He: “Oh!” (As the etheric lightbulb appears over his head.)
     
    Let me conclude with my paraphrase from C. S. Lewis: “The Twelve Steps really don’t make any sense–as long as you think you don’t need what’s being offered.” Exactly the same is true for any genuine spiritual path. A corollary is the Craft Law that one cannot work magic for show, but only in need.
     
    Blessed be,
    Aidan Kelly

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aidan-Kelly/607751097 Aidan Kelly

    Star, what occurs to me is that you are facing a rite of passage that is essential on every genuinely religious path, no matter what it is called or how it is conceptualized. It is the fully adult decision to make a total commitment to the path, and it will open up doors that that did not know even existed.
     
    I actually got there through AA. As a devout (though, fortunately, openminded) agnostic, it was definitely a crisis of having to decide to “turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power” or else die a long, slow, miserable death. I made the decision to do that, knowing that I had no idea how to, and even having no idea whether a Higher Power even existed. Well, nine months later I still hadn’t taken the first drink, and I knew I wasn’t myself managing that; so that was my first real personal clue that Something was up. It has all been growth from there, and I have never been obligated to buy into anyone else’s concept of what that Something is.
     
    When Lady Epona was working on her “A Pagan/Polytheistic Interpretation of the Twelve Steps” (which I think one can find online), she had a conversation with a young, beautiful, gay Witch who had a drinking problerm. Part of it went:
     
    He: “But I can’t turn my life over to anyone or anything else!”
     
    Lady Epona: “What do you think you did at your initiation?”
     
    He: “Oh!” (As the etheric lightbulb appears over his head.)
     
    Let me conclude with my paraphrase from C. S. Lewis: “The Twelve Steps really don’t make any sense–as long as you think you don’t need what’s being offered.” Exactly the same is true for any genuine spiritual path. A corollary is the Craft Law that one cannot work magic for show, but only in need.
     
    Blessed be,
    Aidan Kelly


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