Speaking of initiation

Some Elders do think that self-initiation is valid

This is one of those odd bits of synchronicity that seems to seems to crop up from time to time. The Wicca-Pagan Times posted an interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone from 2001. Very good stuff and very intriguing. But this bit really jumped out at me, considering some of my recent talks and meditations.

Lilitu:   That’s something that’s  only come forward in the last ten or fifteen years. One of the first people that said that in books, was the late Scott Cunningham - that you can self-initiate and self-dedicate.

Janet:   Doreen Valiente also said the same thing.

Gavin:   She was saying that in the early ‘80s  in the book Witchcraft for Tomorrow, and a lot of people were saying that at the same time because things were evolving. Janet and Stewart were saying that as well. Ray Buckland was saying it as early as 1969-1970. One of the reasons that started to occur was the influence of the United States because you had groups of people spread out all over the country who couldn’t get to each other. There were small pockets of Pagans and Witches with nobody else around so they self initiated and when other people bumped into them, they were just as much a Witch as anyone else. In fact in many cases, self-initiating and doing the path  by yourself actually produces far better Witches because there’s no doctrine and dogma forced on them - they have to learn it for themselves. This is one of the other things we’re finding.

Janet:   One of the biggest problems when people claim lineage from different traditions, they say, well my people come from so-and-so, and they choose a famous name from occult history. What they don’t realise is that Doreen Valiente led a very busy life. She knew many of those people and has letters from then, and they weren’t Witches. Again we go back to them being things like Theosophists, Rosicrucians; one of them was even a Knights Templar, but they are not Witches.

Gavin:   What people have forgotten, or haven’t realised is they’re doing something quite natural when they do the lineage thing, except they’ve got it wrong slightly. Lineage only exists within a family if you’re blood kin. What’s happening is people are trying to trace ancestry via people they’ve never known and are not connected with. Within Paganism itself, you’ll always find this idea of ancestry, connecting with your ancestors. Lineage came about and really supplanted that idea but it’s a false idea; it’s a Christian idea. Rather than people tracing their ancestry back, instead they’re trying to produce a false history of themselves and that’s also been one of the problems. People are now feeling the need to connect to their ancestry and you’ll find that around the world, if you look at ancient forms of Pagan practise. Shinto is an ancient form of Pagan practise where you give reference to your ancestors.

The other problem that’s occurred is people see the deities within Paganism as Gods and Goddesses in the same way they saw the Christian god, and they’re not. A lot of Gods and Goddesses’ origins are as ancestors. We know this from Christian writings. A good example from Anglo-Saxon England is stuff written by the Venerable Bede in the 9th century and he mentions that the Kings of England all had to take an oath when they were christianised that they would forsake and not worship the Devil, Woden, Thunor and Saxniat. They weren’t told that they couldn’t revere those deities as ancestors, obviously apart from Satan, but they were told they couldn’t be worshipped as gods any more. If you check the royal families of Europe, they still link their ancestry back right the way into the past to god figures. These are seen as ancestors.

We start off with an ancestor who has done something positive for their tribe, family, community or clan. As time goes on they become a mythological figure, and then they become deified, highly revered as a spiritual figure. No different to the Buddha, no different to any avatar in Hindu tradition.

I bring this up not to "prove anyone wrong," but to point out that there is a vast difference of opinion, even among those considered Elders in the Craft. I'll admit that much of my own understanding of witchcraft was shaped by reading Doreen Valiente and my own experiences, which seemed to compliment each other.

But this is the thing, Paganism and especially Neopaganism is not dogmatic. There is no One True Way™. There is no single set of definitions that fits all possibilities. The things we share are more important than our differences.

To me, the fact that we can sit down and have these discussions about anything is more important then our occasional disagreements. And we're not calling each other heretic.

Our commonalities and the exchange of knowledge and wisdom help shape the weave of our lives and the web of the magick it self.

Hat tip to The Wild Hunt Blog.

Posted: Wed - December 28, 2005 at 04:47 AM
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