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Author Topic: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees  (Read 5224 times)

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dragonspring

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Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« on: February 03, 2012, 08:13:07 PM »

This discussion was started here:  http://www.paganjourneys.com/index.php?topic=1141.0

I thought it might be good to start a separate discussion that covers traditional Wiccan views on initiation and degrees rather than continuing to hijack that thread. 

Let me start by saying that I personally do not hold any Wiccan degrees.  For the first years in my spiritual journey, I practiced as a Solitary participating only occasionally in a group setting over the web and attending a few rituals IRL.  I am currently a dedicant to a tradition having lineage from both British Traditional Wiccan branches - Gardnerian and Alexandrian.  As I stated in the other thread, I believe that Solitary Wicca is a valid path and would not wish to disparage anyone's personal practice in any way. 

BTW and many other Wiccan traditions are initiatory in nature.  I think it is interesting and telling that Wiccan "denominations" are called traditions.  The Dictionary.com defines tradition as "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice".  Initiation is the rite of passage where the oath bound traditions and lineage (among other things that I am not going to discuss) are passed down in Wicca. 

Most Wiccan groups practice initiation in degrees or steps.  In BTW, there are three degrees and initiates are viewed as Priest or Priestess after they earn their first degree. They can then initiate dedicants such as myself into 1st degree.  Subsequent initiations and degrees are conferred as they are earned.  Please note the word earned - initiation is something that occurs after much study and hard work.  The initiate must prove that they are able to perform certain tasks and have the knowledge and maturity to accept the spiritual aspect of the initiation.  It is not something that happens spontaneously or lightly.

Which brings me to why us stodgy old traditional Wiccans are so obstinate about accepting the idea of self-initiation. Initiation requires proving oneself worthy to the community.  Being in communion with the Gods is a wonderful spiritual experience and a gift from the Divine but it is not initiation.  I have read about surgery, watched surgery being performed, and been in surgery.  That does not make me a doctor.  Becoming a doctor requires years of study under the tutelage of experts and so does traditional Wiccan initiation.
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diniesaur

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2012, 08:19:13 PM »

That makes a lot of sense! I'm still not sure if I will ever attempt to become initiated into any tradition--I'm not sure if any of them would fit me. Still, I would love to learn more about Paganism, and I've always loved the feeling of working my butt off and getting something rewarding in the end. Then again, it seems like I could do that on my own without earning a degree.

I will, however, probably do a self-dedication ritual at some point. In fact, I  probably should hhave already!
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dragonspring

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2012, 08:32:16 PM »

I would recommend that you dedicate when you feel the time is right - no need to rush.  My self-dedication occurred the first time I really felt the Divine touch and recognized it as such.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2012, 08:59:29 PM »

Just to further muddy the waters.... be sure you know which "BTW" a person is speaking of. There are British Traditional Wiccans AND British Traditional WITCHES...with coven rolls older than Gardner (He claimed to have been initiated by one, but there is no way of telling if it really existed.)
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dragonspring

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 09:07:54 PM »

Yep.  That's why I said British Traditional Wicca early on.  :D
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 09:22:01 PM »

Just to further muddy the waters.... be sure you know which "BTW" a person is speaking of. There are British Traditional Wiccans AND British Traditional WITCHES...with coven rolls older than Gardner (He claimed to have been initiated by one, but there is no way of telling if it really existed.)

I'm sure it did. Sybil Leek was a member of the Old Forest Coven that initiated Gardner, and I've heard of others.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 09:29:17 PM »

I'll add to DS's points that there is oath bound material that can't be gotten from Wicca 101 books. I am a dedicant in the same tradition as DS for those of you who are new here and are not familiar. I began in 1973 as a Solitary, and there are many things I have not been able to discover after all these years.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 10:15:47 PM »

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around dedications, initiations, degrees etc. I personally don't feel like spirituality or religion is something you should be bound to by anyone other than yourself. What if 10 or so years down the road you have a different religious "awakening" and realize what you've dedicated yourself to is no longer what you wish to follow? To me, being dedicated or initiated, just leads to feeling obligated to continue - even if you've grown. It seems like a carry over from other faiths where the number of people in your "flock" made you a better religious leader and not how you lead.

I'm not Wiccan though so disregard what I say if you want to...
 
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2012, 03:54:04 AM »

@FairyQueen, I see what you mean there, but religion isn't like profession, isn't like favorite color or fashion style, even isn't like love. When you find your true religion, you just never let it go.

People ask me "so, you made an oath, can you ever stop doing that, can you leave?" and I say "No. And even if I could, I never would."

Oh, but I do agree that there will be some that go for things just for the flock. In my opinion that is why initiation into such covens as and such should probably be limited to people who pass some psychological tests - because age usually isn't good enough of characteristic to make sure someone is serious. If there was a psychological test of sorts, you could see how good the person knows himself and by that, judge if he is ready for commitment like this.
Because how can someone get ready to know the world, if he doesn't know himself before that?
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dragonspring

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2012, 05:47:44 AM »

What makes you think that passing a sort of psychological test isn't part of the requirements for initiation?
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 05:58:37 AM »

What makes you think that passing a sort of psychological test isn't part of the requirements for initiation?

What makes you think I know anything about the initiation or the requirement? *giggles*

And hence I don't, I just pondered on the thought. It's good, if there is, that's for sure. Serious things are for serious people, not teenagers who want to hex their friends.
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Eer aan die gode en hul oordeel.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2012, 10:08:40 AM »

@FairyQueen, I see what you mean there, but religion isn't like profession, isn't like favorite color or fashion style, even isn't like love. When you find your true religion, you just never let it go.

People ask me "so, you made an oath, can you ever stop doing that, can you leave?" and I say "No. And even if I could, I never would."

Oh, but I do agree that there will be some that go for things just for the flock. In my opinion that is why initiation into such covens as and such should probably be limited to people who pass some psychological tests - because age usually isn't good enough of characteristic to make sure someone is serious. If there was a psychological test of sorts, you could see how good the person knows himself and by that, judge if he is ready for commitment like this.
Because how can someone get ready to know the world, if he doesn't know himself before that?

Rovay, becoming a dedicant is not something entered into lightly. In our tradition, it takes at least three years to be initiated, and there is no guarantee you will be. You are being psychologically evaluated every step of the way. You can withdraw at any time, and your teacher will cut the energy connection between you, which is hard on him or her, so you need to be sure that this is what you really want to do. If there were no way to leave, it would indicate cult behavior. One's second degree training is primarily about shadow work, which is psychological in nature.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2012, 10:16:30 AM »

@GW - see, I didn't know that, and I agree, that is the right system, one should really be sure what he is doing before starting to do it. Good. I never really knew how good the system was, I like that.

So, Fairy, it seems like what is being said here is that people who dedicate themselves for this surely check if they are ready to do it for life before that.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2012, 12:53:44 PM »

I guess this is still why I don't plan on practicing, seriously, with a group. I feel my spirituality should be free flowing, unrestricted, and controlled only by me and my God(s) (should I find them). I know you all are trying to tell me that it isn't something that is taken lightly, it takes years and much contemplation - but I don't like how it sounds to be told when I'm ready. This is one (of the many) reasons why I left Christianity (specifically Catholicism). I also don't like how it sounds to to be energetically severed from a group because I've grown out of that certain set of beliefs. Spirituality is an ever changing, ever growing, experience. We move from one level to the next. Having to devote oneself to one set of beliefs and one group of people, I feel, completely hinders and disrespects that growth
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2012, 01:10:49 PM »

You are completely misconstuing what we are trying to get across, and I see no way to get you to understand. This in NO WAY resembles Christianity!
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2012, 01:21:37 PM »

You are completely misconstuing what we are trying to get across, and I see no way to get you to understand. This in NO WAY resembles Christianity!

Wouldn't say "no way", in Christianity there are ranks too, but honestly, a lot of things in this world are like other things, so that doesn't matter. Idea is, Wicca doesn't really limit you; from what I understand, after you get initiated, you can probably go on your way if you wish so, don't need to stick with them to be a Wiccan.

And you are devoting yourself to one set of believes, because religion isn't philosophy. You don't change it to something better; when you find your true religion, it does not change ever, not because someone can stop you, but because you simply won't want it to end.

And meh, don't think you are devoting yourself to one group of people. No one can make you do that. I do know Wiccans can switch covens and such, for example.
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Eer aan die gode en hul oordeel.
I am the type of person who could tear you into pieces just to be the one to sew you back together.
Those that are best with the blades rarely let them leave the sheaths.

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2012, 11:31:42 PM »

In my loose eclectic non-British form of Wiccan, the degree system is a way of measuring your commitment, knowledge and achievement. An intiate must attend as a guest for awhile before being considered for intiation, The first degree can only be achieved after a year of study from the time of intiation. The degree system brings the people into the coven with increasing levels of participation and responsiblity, it is a workable system for a small group. We are pretty egalitarian the high Priest and Priestess are no better then an intiate but the system gives some order to things besides the feelings of pride in accomplishment. We normally do not wear robes or our symbols of rank except on special occasions for we are all valued including guests. The goal is to be able to connect to the divine energies of the seasons, nature and the elements, while showing increasing leadership. A leader serves those around them and concerns themself with the good of the whole. Even in a eclectic coven the degree system can serve a purpose but it should never be about power.
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2012, 03:05:58 PM »

I wish we had a "like" button. Oh wait! We have the KARMA button!
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2012, 03:21:29 PM »

Great post vordan. 
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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2012, 10:17:34 AM »

I know, this is an old post, but I have something I want to say.


I guess this is still why I don't plan on practicing, seriously, with a group. I feel my spirituality should be free flowing, unrestricted, and controlled only by me and my God(s) (should I find them).

FairyQueen, why do you think Religion and Spirituality are interchangeable terms? Or that what you do in a group setting somehow infringes on what you do as an individual?  Religion is the shared practices and beliefs of the group.  Spirituality is one individual experiences and understanding of the universe.  While ones own spirituality often dictates what religion is deemed acceptable/appropriate, Religion doesn't dictate personal spirituality.  Especially when we're talking about an orthopraxy such as Wicxa, rather then an orthodoxy like Christianity.



I know you all are trying to tell me that it isn't something that is taken lightly, it takes years and much contemplation - but I don't like how it sounds to be told when I'm ready.


Did you tell you teachers that one in high school or college?  Granted a Coven has a LOT more going on on a number of different levels then a classroom at school dos, but idea is the same.  Being part of a group meanings having access to people with great knowledge and experience then yourself as well as those who have less and could benefit from yours.  When being part of a group, it's no longer just about YOU.  It's about everyone.  And this is another reason why it's important that people don't rush into it.  A group can and SHOULD deny people entrance if they feel the individual isn't a good fit for the group.  A healthy Coven is an incredible thing that is built on bonds on trust and friendship.  It's very intimate in nature because that's what you need for the kind of workings you'll be doing together.

Covens AREN'T for everyone, but just because they aren't for you don't mean you should go slamming such by equating it to Christianity, which isn't even an orthopraxy.

Having to devote oneself to one set of beliefs and one group of people, I feel, completely hinders and disrespects that growth

Please read above, because that's NOT what being Initiated or in a Coven is about.
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FairyQueen

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Re: Wiccan Initiation and Degrees
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2012, 11:25:27 AM »

Thanks for your input Vigdisdotter, but we'll just have to agree to disagree. :)
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