Some of the shock and bewilderment have passed, I’m eating solid foods and life is sort-of back to normal. Some folks wanted me to unpack my experience a bit, and I’ve had some interesting insights that I can share, so here goes:
Even if my initiation wasn’t oathbound, I still really couldn’t tell you about it. Some human experiences can’t be effectively communicated. I’d imagine giving birth or losing a loved one to a wasting disease are good examples of those kinds of experiences. You can talk about them all you want, but it’s not really going to give someone who hasn’t had the experience an accurate picture of what that experience is like. My telling you exactly what happened would be like my telling you it was dark, or there were candles present: it isn’t actually going to convey what I went through.
I spent a good bit of time after initiation wondering what the &#$% just happened to me. That’s subsiding bit-by-bit as time passes. What I can tell you is it was nothing I expected, nothing I’d ever read about and, for me personally, it was an experience on the level of Eleusis. I’m still making symbolic connections and unpacking the whole ordeal. It’s one of the most significant events in my life, it has overwhelmed me and I’m very thankful for such an intense and unexpected spiritual experience.
My worst fear, the thing I was most afraid of, was that I’d walk away from initiation feeling a bit disappointed. That I’d sit there smiling, inwardly a bit regretful, trying to reconcile myself with the idea that it was a nice memory and that my initiators meant well. Instead I sat there afterwards surrounded by well-wishers and my favorite foods staring into space trying to believe that had really just happened to me.
It did happen. I’m profoundly grateful it did, but it scared the living daylights out of me. I went through a surreal, intense and irrevocably binding experience with people I profoundly respect, trust and love. I entered that Circle in Perfect Trust and Perfect Love. Had I entered with anything less than that I’d be nauseous right now. I’d be sick to my soul.
If I had taken that initiation because I wanted the status, because I craved knowledge, because I just wanted more magic, I’d be in deep spiritual trouble right now. If I had gone through initiation with initiators I suspected were dishonest, unkind, foolish, egotistical, disrespectful, or manipulative, my soul would be shattered right now. I’d be heartsick, berating myself and furiously searching my mind for some way to release my vows.
That is why solitary Wicca is important, why non-initiatory Wicca is important. Not everyone can find a group in which they would be comfortable initiating into, not everyone is willing to be bound to a tradition and it’s community in such a way, and there are teachers out there that simply do not inspire any kind of love and trust, much less “perfect.”
So here is what I realized, on the other side of the initiatory process: being solitary or non-initiatory Wiccan is a thousand times preferable than initiating into something you are unsure of or that might be harmful to you. Popular Wicca isn’t “fluffy” and initiatory Wicca isn’t “bad,” and in my opinion, in most cases popular Wicca is probably the best choice for most people. Finding a group, even with the increased choices today, is hard enough without adding the pressure of finding a group that you feel comfortable enough to endure the ordeal of initiation with and be bound to with dread bonds.
If I learned only one lesson from initiation it’s that I was entirely right to be solitary for so long. I was entirely right to walk away from covens that didn’t feel right. I was entirely right to avoid teachers that made alarm bells sound in my head. Had I not found the teachers I found, I would be solitary right now. That would be the correct and most appropriate path for me. It would be the best way for me to serve the God and Goddess with an honest soul.
That’s the heart of the matter: serving the God and Goddess with an honest soul, with all your heart and all your mind. Growing, learning, and becoming attuned to the world around you. Waxing wise and honoring that which is sacred. That’s what counts. Living an honest, examined and joyful life.
If you find a coven and/or tradition that you love and trust with all your heart and soul, then you may find initiation a rewarding experience. If you choose solitary or non-initiatory Wicca as the best path for you, then you may be acting in your best interest. Whatever you do, do it because you believe it’s the best thing for you and the most honest way for you to practice Wicca.
I can tell you I am very grateful and honored to have been initiated into my tradition by the teachers and friends I have come to love and admire. It’s literally one of the most important and strangely wonderful things that have ever happened to me.
I can also tell you this: had I taken this step for the wrong reasons or into a coven and/or tradition I was unsure of or doubting, I’d be seriously considering falling on my own sword. I’d feel violated and dirty and scared. Initiation isn’t the best or right path for everyone, but it’s certainly not one to be undertaken lightly.
Of course, other tradition’s initiation ceremonies may be vastly different. Maybe they are more laid-back. Maybe they aren’t as deeply unsettling and mysterious. I wouldn’t know. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just saying listen to your heart. Initiation is like marriage without divorce, so be certain you want those energetic bonds to remain with you for life.
And if after you have considered the matter fully, searched your heart and feel that initiating is what is right for you, I wish you much joy. Life is short. If you truly like it, you should definitely “put a ring on it!”