Grandmother moon renews herself again tomorrow morning, and with 2 of my 4 children literally begging to get started learning the ways of the craeft, I have had many questions on my mind. When is it appropriate to go beyond family ritual and folklore and introduce the more religious components of the craeft to a child? Where do we start? How can I be sure they are really ready to handle the responsibilities of being a witch? And perhaps the most daunting (for me anyway) - What about initiations and dedications? Oy!
Let me first say, that the issue of initiation/dedication, has always been a tough one for me. When I first discovered the craeft, the fear instilled in me by my Christian upbringing was still a major barrier to letting go and really embracing the actual religion of witchcraft. At the time, I wasn't ready for anything even resembling religion, and both initiation and dedication felt very religious. In fact, they both seemed uncomfortably akin to baptism, and I knew I wasn't ready for that. So - I chose to practice witchcraft without the religious context - no circles, no altars, no tools, no deities, and no dogma. Initiations and dedications were unnecessary. I practiced natural magick and conscious thought. I embraced pagan folklore and traditions, recognized pagan calendars, and ritually observed the phases of the moon and the energies of nature. I wrote nothing down, and I worked 100% as a solitary. Up until this year I have not included my children in any aspect of my craeft whatsoever.
It has taken me nearly 7 years to let go of all the guilt and fear I had grown up with as a Christian - but today, I am in a dramatically different emotional space then I was when I first consciously stepped onto this path. I have embraced witchcraft as a religion, I am including my children in my practice, and I am working to record a family tradition that can be passed down through the generations even after I am gone. Suddenly initiation and dedication seem to be a natural and logical thing to include in my practice. The question is, how?
There is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding initiation and dedication. In fact, even the terminology can be confusing between one source and another. It has taken me months of research and weeks of meditation and contemplation, but I finally feel good about where I stand. Here's what I have come up with:
I see Initiation as an "introduction," if you will, between the practitioner and the deified energies of the Universal All. It is when the practitioner makes the conscious and vocalized decision to begin a conversation and direct working relationship with the divine through the practice of magick and ritualized craeft. In the case of a Coven Initiation, the practitioner vocalizes his or her intention to begin that conversation, not only through the practice of magick and ritualized craeft, but through the practice of magick and the ritualized craeft of a particular tradition, and with a specific group of like-minded people.
After some time of study and practice the initiated witch may choose to dedicate themselves to the craeft. Traditionally a dedication takes place after at least a year and a day following initiation, but in my opinion, it should be when the practitioner is ready and not before (even if that means 5, 10, or even 30 years down the line). A Dedication is when the practitioner consciously decides to enter into a life-long communion with the divine. He or she performs a ritual of their own design and vocalizes their devotion and their dedication to service in the interest of the divine, the Earth and the craeft. Even for the coven witch, the dedication should be a private communication between witch and divine and in my opinion, should never include other coven members.
My self-initiation rite is a very simple, outdoor ritual that was greatly influenced by the works of Scott Cunningham in his book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, and Ann Moura in her book, Grimoire for the Green Witch. I'm not going to include details of my ritual design here, but if you would like suggestions, please don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to provide a general outline by request.
For my children, I have decided that the same concepts should apply. I prefer that they choose their own religious paths - not because they were raised with it, but because it is right for them. So I have decided that while I will include all of my children in the natural, practical aspects of the craeft, introduce them to Green living, and encourage participation in the esbats and sabbat rituals, I will exclude them from what I consider to be the more adult aspects of the craft, such as magick and spell crafting, until they are old enough to understand and take responsibility for their own actions.
I have decided, for my children, that somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, the option of initiation into the family coven, as a student of the craeft, may be offered. It is important to me that it is their decision, and that they enter the world of witchcraft "with perfect love and perfect trust." The initiation ceremony should be a guided ritual between elder and initiate, and should take place only after a period of careful planning and study. My children will understand what it means to be a witch and acknowledge the personal responsibility that goes along with the development of their personal powers, before being allowed to participate in magick.
For this reason, I have decided to add another rite of passage to our family tradition. I want my children to know and acknowledge their role in the family coven from a very early age. I want them to know that they are valued as individuals and important contributors even before they are allowed to participate in all levels of our family craeft. So I have introduced a Naming Ceremony into our family tradition.
The Naming Ceremony is an initiation into the family coven. It is the individuals pledge of respect and responsibility to the other members of the family coven and to the energies and tenants of the family circle. At this level there is no pledge of personal communication with or dedication to the divine or acknowledgment of a specific set of beliefs. It is strictly a pledge of love and trust for the family members and the family's traditions.
We have decided to hold naming ceremonies yearly at Twelfth Night, or as needed when a new member seeks to join the family coven. All members of the family coven will participate each year. We have decided that the initial naming ceremony should take place no earlier than age 3 or when the child is fully potty trained (a sign of personal control and body awareness), although the children of the coven should be allowed to participate in family observances and celebrations even before a naming ceremony has taken place. Reconfirmation or renaming would then take place each year on Twelfth Night as an affirmation of continued love, trust and respect for the family coven.
I should note here, that naming is appropriate for both children and adults - my husband for instance is not a pagan, he will probably never go through initiation, and will never participate in rituals including the workings of magick; but he has chosen to participate in the naming ceremonies each year as a member of the family coven - witch himself or not. As he is the daddy, and Daddy is the co-head of the household, we both think it is very important that he be an involved participant at this fundamental level of our families culture.
So for us, we have Naming, Initiation, and then we have Dedication. Dedication to me is a very spiritually intense step in an individuals spiritual lifetime, so I intend to be very candid with my children on the significance behind the decision to dedicate or not to dedicate. Dedication is not to be taken lightly. Where initiation is the beginning of a conversation, in which the individual is dedicating themselves to responsible behavior while learning the ways of the witch with an open heart and open mind - dedication is a decision to devote oneself to the ways of the witch for the expanse of this lifetime. It is an adult decision and should not even be considered until the child is at least 15 or 16 years old, and then, only after several years of study and practice. As I mentioned before, I believe that dedication should be a private conversation between witch and the divine, so it will have to be 100% the individuals decision to embark upon that path as they will go it alone. My job as a parent and an elder will be simply to instill within each of my children, the importance of the decision at hand and to encourage a responsible and honorable approach to making that decision.
This system makes sense to me, and it works for our family; but what about yours? How have you approached Initiation or Dedication? Do you include them in your tradition? How do you feel about children and the craeft? And when do you think is the right time to include them in actual practice? I look forward to reading your comments. Thank you so much for reading.
Namaste and Blessed Be