and, more importantly, why should you do or participate in an initiation?
What an Initiation Is (and is not)
First, initiation simply means a beginning. It is the initial statement or commitment to someone or something. It can be a private and solitary act or one done in front of one or more other people.
In a spiritual or magickal context, initiation is usually a formal declaration to a mystical pursuit, whether it be a specific school of practice or belief, or to a local group, such as a coven or occult organization.
Many of us think of initiation and visions of Hollywood-esque rituals come to mind in which everyone is wearing robes, torches burn in a darkened chamber, virgins get sacrificed, and blood oaths are sworn.
In reality, however, initiations are much more symbolic and (usually) less bloody. They are an event that signifies a transition between the initiate’s life before stepping on this path and the rest of that person’s life, physical and spiritual.
If you are initiating into a group of any kind, it is important to understand up front what is expected of you and what you should expect from others during the ritual or ceremony. This information should be transparent at all times to you.
Any person or group that will not share with you at a minimum expectations of events is probably someone you shouldn’t be initiating into anything with.
Why should you initiate into a path or tradition?
There comes a point on the journey of every occultist, magickal practitioner, witch, heathen, pagan or other spiritual person that they feel compelled to dedicate themselves more formally to a particular deity, path, practice, ideology, school of thought, belief system, group of like-minded peers, or other organization.
Not everyone wants to be part of a group, however. Sometimes we self-initiate to a particular path that calls to us. A really common example in many I know is that of Luciferianism. Luciferians can be both theistic or atheistic, but regardless, many seem to be (mostly) solitary practitioners, seeking knowledge and enlightenment on their own terms and in the ways they feel most comfortable.
Many of them self-initiate with perhaps a private ritual to dedicate themselves to the path and the pursuit. This is no less meaningful or ‘real’ than initiating in front of a group. It is as serious and real as the person initiating and their intent in their actions and words.
Regardless of whether you self-initiate or with a group, initiation places responsibility and commitment on you to the path you are choosing. You are stating that you will commit to this path or this group or this educational pursuit in a way that you cannot just forget or blow off. Saying something out loud gives it power. You are making your intent known and stamping it on your soul in a way.
Most schools of magickal or occult tradition have an initiation requirement and for several reasons. First, they are selective about to whom they will give instruction on the mystical or occult arts. Not everyone should pursue that path for a number of reasons.
Second, they want to ensure that initiates are serious about their commitment. Prior to the initiation, there are usually a series of tasks the initiate is expected to complete or demonstrate some knowledge or proficiency in, as a means of ensuring someone will put in the work necessary to master the skills and knowledge they seek.
And last, it creates a sense of community and connection in groups to perform initiations. These often demonstrate that the initiate is willing to submit to the group’s authority and expertise, putting everyone on the same playing field, so to speak.
If self-initiating, all of these reasons may still be true for you, but you may simply be initiating to a path or pursuit that does not quite fit into the confines of any of the pre-organized sects or schools, groups or covens, and perhaps you need something more personalized and eclectic. There’s nothing wrong with that option either.
How to Self-Initiate
I won’t go into the process of group initiations because there are far too many to discuss and each has their own unique systems. If you prefer to seek initiation into a group or school, contact them to find out how best to begin working with, learning from, participating, and so forth in order to eventually initiate. Most will not let you initiate first thing.
Self-initiation, on the other hand, can be a very powerful and uplifting ritual for you. Before planning anything else, define specifically what you want to initiate into.
It’s important here to acknowledge that you cannot initiate yourself into a closed belief system. For instance, most Afro-Caribbean systems are considered closed, and initiation can only come from a designated practitioner or leader within the system or organization. So, please be respectful of any of the systems which require you work through a designated spiritual leader before being allowed to practice or participate on your own.
Let’s say, however, you want to self-initiate as a follower of a specific deity (from an open system), or initiate on the path of spiritual enlightenment. Identify your path and purpose and then consider what type of ritual you want to perform. Do you feel most comfortable outdoors? Is the deity in question associated with a specific location, or profession?
Start to put together a vision of what you would like your initiation to be like and what you hope to accomplish during it.
Include a list of any herbs, oils, crystals, or other correspondences important to your path. A good all around recommendation for initiation to a spiritual or mystical path is frankincense, myrrh, and sandalwood (incense and/or essential oils).
Gather a candle(s) (black and white are fine if you’re not sure of what other color may be appropriate) and any offerings you want to leave either for a deity or just to the land on which you are performing your ritual, even if indoors.
If you want to write out a statement beforehand, this is recommended. I sometimes find myself tongue-tied in the moment, or I think of exactly what I want to say beforehand but I’ve forgotten it all by the time I arrive at the actual moment I need it.
Sit quietly and meditate on your path for as long as you need. Try to picture what you want to do, who you want to grow into, how you want it to change your life, and any other important points you want in your consciousness during this.
Light any candles and invite any spirit guides or deities to be present. State your intentions, what you specifically intend to initiate and commit to, and anything else you feel is important. Leave any offerings, play music you feel is relevant, and/or share a drink or food; thank your deities/spirits for coming, dismissing them respectfully.
And that’s pretty much it. Following on, make sure you provide yourself a reasonable system of checking in on your progress and commitment so that you can feel as if you are keeping to your promises.
Ideas for Self-Initiation
Baking a loaf of bread with herbs representing your new path; eat some each day for 7 days
Plant a garden to represent your new path or in dedication to your deity(ies)
Hike to a quiet place in nature and leave offerings along with your written commitment
Plan a 28-day ritual involving each of the 4 main moon phases (new beginning, growth, manifestation, inward reflection/cutting ties with the old)