“You’re tearing me apart, Lisa” – The Room (2003)
So, you really want an initiation? A word to the wise: if you are completely open to it, it will tear your world apart and it won’t be fun!
Now, something to clarify here at the start is that the conditions of a successful initiation actually, in my humble experience(1), may rely much more upon the aspirant than it does the initiator(s) who leads the ritual. It is for this reason, and a potential lack of understanding or ability that becomes apparent post ceremony, that I caution seekers to beware of irresponsible groups and individuals for, when the initiation kicks in, the spirits will dismember you before putting you back together (in a fashion). During such cataclysmic events, which can last an indeterminate period of time depending upon each of our circumstances and disposition, it is important that those who nurtured and introduced the commencement are versed in handling the trials and tribulations. They should also be willing and able to support you through it with compassion and understanding. It is all too common, these days, that this is not the case and the occult and pagan milieu is rife with those who have experienced violent repercussions in their lives as a direct consequence, without qualified support from initiators.
An initiation is a beginning, a commencement of something. In many cases, it is also an induction into a group or community at a particular or new level as well as the incumbent egregore. In the pagan world, an initiation is supposed to be a transformational process which works in the spirit of rites of passage that are common in all cultures throughout history. Although there is a distinct lack in our modern society and a dire need for a resurgence of rites of passage, the pagan initiation experience should be the moment in which the community admits a new member formally, while the spirits and elders of the group, family or clan work on inculcating the necessary processes which render the individual a fitting part of the whole. In this way, it is typical of initiations that the actual occurrence is not, in fact, bestowed by the human ceremony which can only lead us bodily to the point of entry. Rather, the initiation by the spirits of the family is a psychic happening which works upon the very identity of the self. Through this, we can see how the vision which is delivered to the initiated often depicts a scene of bodily dismemberment and reassembly by a giant, dwarf or smith. The initiator(s) can perform ceremony and ritual that can deposit us at the door of the tutelary spirits and the mores of the community, but the real work takes place deep upon the psychic plane.
Most of us will be familiar with the story of the shamanic initiation wherein the journeyer experiences a vivd vision of a god/giant/smith/dwarf who rends them apart, dismembering the visionary form before forging it anew. It is a common enough account, from which much information in preparation can be gleaned. Furthermore, it is this writer’s experience that this is typically allegorical and replete with metaphors(2).
For example, the association between our body and identity cannot be overemphasised and it is noteworthy that the rending of the body is synonymous with the tearing apart of our entire world(view). Whilst it is true that we may emerge from this experience reborn, transformed and ‘initiated’, it is also likely that the repercussions within our lives will manifest in an ongoing basis of perhaps years as we work through the dross and reveal the alchemic gold. Furthermore, such dismemberment and rebirth of our very Self is, like our first birth, likely going to be extremely painful. Unless you are one of the extremely rare and unaffected individuals for whom life has been one mundane pleasure ride with little disruption to your psychic wellbeing, we all carry within us the scars of trauma and the unhealed wounds of the past. In every way we must die to these if we are to fully be reborn and, in most cases, it can be a period of disruption before we adjust to our new perspective. Of course, there are those for whom the initiation dismemberment experience has been one of triumph and signalled to the community a ‘new you’ as your identity is reconfigured through the visionary experience. And that’s all there is to it. But, for those of us for whom there is a paucity of positive connections within a healthy community, this is not likely to be the case.
All of this is not to say that initiation isn’t a necessary and healing process and that it is worth it. However, always err on the side of caution when seeking initiation and ask yourself, when your life goes to shit, which it almost certainly will, are these people going to be around to support you? In short, before you commit to an initiation expecting a lovely little ritual that brings you into a family, conclave, sodality, coven or other pagan community worth its salt, heed the aforementioned advice and consciously take stock of your Self before it is torn apart.
- Don’t take my word for it, immerse yourself in an initiation completely and see how the next year pans out for ya…
- Although arguments can be made that the vision is not metaphor or allegory, that’s not the point of this piece.