I had my first degree initiation on December 15th, a few nights before my 30th birthday. That seemed significant to me because I look at turning 30 as an initiation into a new chapter of my life. Doing the initiation was Boudica’s idea — she said it’s something we should have done while we were still in the student/teacher mode, before we both started exploring other paths, she with Christianity and me with the Celtic Reconstructionist and Druid paths. Funny to be full circle, and yet how Pagan…
Before I start, there are things about the ritual that I can’t discuss, but you can get a good idea of how it was if you read the chapter on 1st Degree initiation in the Farrars’ “The Witches Way” or “The Witches Bible Compleat.” There are things that aren’t included in the book. After experiencing it, I can see why as they’d be spoiled by advance notice. It’s not about keeping things from people, or having something to hold over someone else’s head. It’s more that you wouldn’t have the same experience/reaction if you already knew what was coming. Gardnerian-derived Wicca is a mystery tradition. If you know all the secrets going in, it kind of takes away from that. It’s hard to appreciate that fully beforehand, I think. At least it was for me, ’cause I *hate* not knowing things. Having said that, I can share my feelings with you, and if some of the already published details leak into what I’m saying, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.
Friday, December 15th was the day we picked for my initiation for several reasons, the two foremost being we wanted to do it before Boudica went home for the holidays and Jeff would have the girls at my mom’s so we’d have my apartment to ourselves at least into Saturday afternoon. (As it turns out, Jeff cut it REALLY close and just barely made it back in time for my party Saturday night.) The initiation had been very much on my mind during the week before, and especially on Friday. Boudica had told me there’d be things I hadn’t read about and it was driving me CRAZY not to know what was going to happen. At one point, I decided to just revel in the not knowing and restrained myself from going over the ritual in the Farrars’ book and committing it to memory. I decided to embrace the mystery of it instead of trying to solve it without experience. Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t an easy promise to keep, but I felt really obligated to myself to do so.
I went to pick Boudica up at about 6:00 PM. We immediately went to Wal-Mart (now named The OneStop Ritual Shop… Sam Walton rolled over in his grave ::grin::) to pick up some items we needed for circle, followed by a trip to the grocery store for libation and after-ritual sustenance. We finally got home at about 9:00 to begin. Boudica gave me a thought-provoking pre-ritual “exam” and then left me for a time to meditate while she prepared the circle. I used my time to think about what initiation meant to me and to prepare myself spiritually, mentally and physically for what lay ahead. I bound the handle of my athame with black leather cord as a meditative focus.
Finally the ritual began. Poor Boudica had to do the work of a full coven, basically, both in preparation and in actually performing the ritual. The first portion of the ritual had me bound and blindfolded. I couldn’t see anything and after awhile I lost orientation of direction in my own living room. The binding thing seemed very appropriate when viewed in the light of our recent conversations of being bound by certain conventions of our society. In place of the scourging, we enacted a ritual death of being buried… being thrown into the peat bogs as the Celts did. This made the rebirth into priestesshood so much more meaningful. As I lay there in darkness, oppressed by the weight of the earth (heavy blankets), I had time to really think about death and rebirth. These topics are foremost in my mind right now with Jasmine, and I had a very emotional reaction to that, thinking about my shortness of breath compared to hers and what comes after. Part of the rebirth process means you can now see and wow! When Boudica took off my blindfold, she’d truly transformed my living room into somewhere else. It’s no wonder I was disoriented. The north altar — the picture I sent — was especially cool, but they were all amazing in their way.
The most moving part of the ceremony for me was the fivefold kiss, which I was apprehensive about beforehand. Boudica and I share the experience of being raped and so she understands why these things can be uncomfortable for me. We’d decided to play it by ear, whether we’d do it traditionally or not, and when the moment came it was appropriate and right. I felt doubly blessed by the Goddess moving through Boudica. I think we both teared up for a moment then.
Until Boudica offered to do my first and second degree initiations, I hadn’t given them much thought. It was part of the training Boudica and did before and I’d pretty much pushed it out of my head when we stopped. Reclaiming doesn’t really have a degree system, and the Druid systems I’d worked with were very different. When she brought it up, I thought, “Hm, yes, it would be a nice sense of closure to the work I did.” But the reality of it was it felt more like a beginning. Not down the traditional path, per se, but a beginning to a new aspect of priestessing. I don’t know how to explain it and I’m still working it out for myself, but I’m so grateful to Boudica for suggesting it and then making it so amazing. We’re planning the second degree ceremony for January, before I move.