Sunday, October 22, 2006

Types of Initiation

In reading conversations on TC and other forums, and in engaging in such conversations IRL, I have noticed two distinct attitudes towards initiation.

One, somewhat more common among younger people and solitaries, is that initiation is simply an introductory ritual, where one meets the gods and/or dedicates oneself to their service. I'm not saying it's taken lightly by this group, exactly, but generic initiation rituals are shared and used, and self-initiation is considered not only possible, but deeper and more real, in some ways, than group initiation. It seems to be thought that group initiation is initiation into the group, whereas self initiation is initiation more to the Gods themselves.

Among older pagans, and those in long-standing covens, circles, study groups, etc. initiation is seen rather differently. While the rituals themselves are not usually shared or discussed in detail, the risks and preparations and potential damage a wrongly done or received initiation can cause seem to be considered in a more in-depth manner. Inititation is not just an 'introduction' but a life-changing experience. Certain changes are expected and looked for, and used as a yardstick to measure the success of the ordeal/ritual.

There also seems to be a third viewpoint, somewhere in between, where initiation is required before a person can begin learning, but is not meant to be a formal life-long commitment since, once begun, the student may find that the path is not for them. In this case, it would be the second initiation that would be the more important one, as it is made with actual knowledge, rather than just the desire for knowledge. For this type, it does seem to be initiation into the group that is required rather than anything else, at least for the first one.

I am wondering about the pros and cons of each of these types/views of initation. The reasons behind them, the level of dedication or solemnity involved, what people think is a required standard to consider something a true Initiation, rather than Something Else.

(My path has a Something Else that I'm not remotely prepared to do for a good long time yet, because of the responsibilities and potential problems involved. An onlooker would probably call it an initiation, although a spare, austere, not-very-interesting-looking one. It has to be done completely alone, though, which I think may disqualify it from the term, but I'm not sure if it qualifies in any other way, either. One of the reasons I'm interested in this discussion is because so many Things People Do that I learned about growing up don't have names and I'd kind of like to place them in a larger context.)

What I'd like to learn here is how people view initiation as a whole, how they view the different kinds of initiations people refer to and what the requirements and expectations that surround the different views are. So much of what I, personally, do was just absorbed growing up that I'm finding it fascinating to learn how more structured, thought-out, examined and analysed concepts apply.

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