In this post I will be explaining what Initiation is in regards to Traditional Witchcraft - particularly the variety found within The United Kingdom and how one would go about it where they currently live.
It's strange talking about intiation in regards to Witchcraft - for a variety of reasons, mainly because Witchcraft is a Craft/Skill so by that logic - anyone should just be able to pick it up and work it. It mainly comes down to the region of which the practitioner is working in - various communities across the world have different beliefs about how to become a Witch - the Modern Belief is "Everyone and anyone can just pick it up" but my question to that belief is, how can say that to a incredibly superstitious and magic fearing people?
For centuries people have believed that you need to be of the right stuff to work magic - most of the time you had to be born with the skill or chosen by a village Elder etc. So it makes sense that there are 'Traditional' ways to become a Witch/be able to work magic which added into the Witch Hysteria when the Trials came into town and then were quickly whisked away.
Re-addressing the fact of 'Witchcraft is a Skill' and where it falls within the idea of intiation in the two paragraphs above - folk belief and supersititions built the craft of the local Witches, here are a few examples of why:
- Dangerous Roads - a lot of the roads were unkempt/damaged and uneven, the forests were untamed so the local folks believed that there was unnatural evils lurking in the dark woods, so to assuage their fears they managed to create charms, spells and personal rituals to help fend off this growing anxiety when travelling.
- Rationally Unexplainable - if the people had no idea how something worked they would generally note it down to the supernatural and create a counter to it, which tended to work.
- Trial and Error - it took people a long while to figure out how herbs and other natural things worked, so after figuring out how it worked - they tend to also attribute its effectiveness to some other power.
The personal folk beliefs/folk religion of small rural communities is what the Craft was melded around, finding an antidote to a problem or creating a solution to a basic need which reflected where they lived. Everyone in a community had a job/vocation/something to do - there wasn't as much time as we think to get the daily chores done, feed the family and handle the politics of the town - so essentially there was always a Witch/Practitioner to handle their Medicinal, Spiritual and Magical needs - much like they had a Baker, Butcher, Carpenter, Farmhand etc.
So, how did someone become one of these Witches? In quite a vast multitude of ways - I will list a few basic Intiations someone would do if they wished to become a Witch - in accordance with these folk beliefs.
- Offering to the Devil - This method was quite popular with the inqusitors and many wild imaginations - as mentioned in my Trad Craft 101 post - the Devil is am ambiguous figure generally being seen as a powerful wild spirit, a kind of fetch or the literal devil - Lucifer himself. In this method, it was seen as renouncing your baptism and being baptised by him - the general facts about this method require saying the lords prayer backwards while walking widdershins (Anticlockwise) around a church, and accepting what he/his emissary gives you - if it doesn't happen after three days - give up or find a different way. Additional notes about Intiation via Devil is that in some intiations it requires you to stand one floot, left hand clutching your left foot - right hand clutching the back of your head - whilst standing on your right floot and annoucning "I offer all between here and there..etc"
- Holy Locations - Certain folk beliefs require that the would be witch travel to a specific location that is known as Sacred (Which has nothing to do with the Christian Church but sacred to the people and the little people - the Faeries-) leave specific offerings over a period of nights then spend the night in the location. In some rites of this section - it would be presided over by another full fledged Witch
- Witch Presiding - As mentioned above there are some rights that require the aid of an already established Witch - in both the Holy Locations and Offering to the Devil initiations, sometimes there are intiations that have nothing to do with Holy Locations or the Devil, but just the presiding Witch to open you up to the beyond/give you the gifts of the craft - this can be a one on one session or a Coven presiding.
- Family/Friend/Community - Some practices within Hereditary Tradition/Oral Tradition require you to go and do the three methods above - or you can be born already with the talent and you're just not a Witch until you have actually performed a feat of magic - some practitioners would pick the most promising individual to take up the craft, this can be someone in the family or a distant relative, a friend or even another member in the local community (Bear in mind sometimes the -local community- stretched for miles around, so the student would have to travel great lengths from home) this method in my opinion is a rather romantic one - the idea of a famous local witch coming to town and picking a student.
As you can see from the rather umbrella methods - is that to become a Witch was seen in many different ways, most days as mentioned above we just accept the fact that anyone can do it regardless. It was both an honored and a shamed path because it came with a lot of hazards/not everyone liked having their lives meddled in by request from another (Not just the possiblity of being hanged then burnt at the stake).
How to go about Intiation?
Since most people don't have access to other witches or particular holy sites within a locale - Self intiation is entirely possible, the most common practice of Self-Intiation is getting out there and listening to the world/asking to be accepted and leaving offerings. Unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of natural locations either because of the growth of large cities.
I am going to explain my own Intiation with a few adjustments so that it is applicable to everyone.
- Prepare yourself, turn off your electronics, shower and dress in clean clothes - make sure your outfit is comfortable. Take some time to reflect what it is you want, in this case to be a Witch.
- If you live near a natural landscape (Not a local Park) but more farmlands or untamed wilderness, travel out to it (Becareful if your nearby wilderness has any predators) while walking through this landscape keep your mind focused on your one desire - do not doubt what you want or have second thoughts - be clear in your action.
- Find a spot that draws you, somewhere that makes you feel right - if you can't find it, ask for a little bit of help from the Spirits around you, they can lead you to the most apt spot.
- Once you have found this spot, sit, admire the landscape around you (For me I sit atop an incredibly tall hill which overlooks my town and is very out of the way) take a few moments to gather your bearings - you have been walking a while.
- Close your eyes, grasp the ground beneath you with your hands and pray - say what you want - for me I offered myself to the particular beings to work with - I knew already in my heart I am a Witch, but to be accepted among the spirits etc.
- Take time, listen to the winds, to the water, the land and relax - listen for a response, if you get one - respond back (Waiting about 20 minutes is generally a time frame).
- Give thanks and walk away from this spot, and never look back - only once you're back inside your house may you turn your back.
- Go to your altar or shrine with some drink (Tea, Alcohol etc anything you'd think they would like and leave an offering) If you don't have a work space - pour it outside your door.
If you do not live near any natural landscape - you can work in your own home, create a cleansed space and lay the compass round (Another name for laying a circle - I will go over the Witches Compass in another post) and perform the Intiation there, invite the relevant spirits into your home and give offerings - follow the same proceedure above - just without all the walking.
In this method above - one can use the actions mentioned in the examples in the last section to assist with this intiation - this is just an adjustment of what I did to bring myself into the fold of Traditional Witchcraft.
This post has been more personal than factual, but remember with Traditional Witchcraft - reading about it can make it a little difficult to grasp how something that is called a Working Craft/Skill could have all this almost religious/folk belief surrounding it - but it is always down to the region in question and your personal experiences within the craft - just remember, you could always be Secular!
The Devils Dozen, Thirten Craft Rites of the Old One - Gemma Gary
Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways - Gemma Gary
The Black Toad, - Gemma Gary
The Devils Plantation - Nigel G Pearsoon
Treading the Mill - Nigel G Pearson
A Deed Without a Name - Lee Morgan
Grimoire of the Modern Cunning-Folk - Peter Paddon
Popular Magic, Cunning-Folk in English History - Owen Davies
Liber Nox - Michael Howard