I feel impelled at this late hour to delve into the mysteries of initiation within the context of the WildWood Tradition of Witchcraft and to share some personal experience and perspective on the subject.
I was first initiated into the WildWood Tradition (even before we identified it as such) at Samhain (late April/early May) of 2007 on Springbrook mountain plateau. I say ‘first initiated’ because I have since experienced several progressively deepened threshold moments of ignited awareness within the Mythos of the WildWood. WildWood Witchcraft is an emergent tradition and the majority of our beloved lore, ritual and technique derives directly from a living and cherished relationship with the Sacred Four – the Weaver, the Green Man, the Crescent-Crowned Goddess and the Stag-Horned/Wolf-Cloaked God. Some of this lore is private and not shared (without a context) outside of our Tradition. Other pieces are considered public and definitely to be offered to others as part and parcel of our wisdom tradition (an aspect of the living Craft). It might be odd that I am willing to speak on initiation in the context of WildWood, as this is commonly the aspect of most contemporary Craft traditions that is kept shadowed and secretive. Of course there are elements of WildWood initiation that I will not share, but these are mere semantics in the face of what I am about to write. I am firmly of the opinion that the Mysteries are unknowable until they are personally experienced and intimated. Therefore to speak of them is not to profane or spoil them; on the contrary it is to safeguard and empower them!
I wish to refer now to the most recent of initiations in our Tradition – Kate’s initiation as a priestess of the WildWood and the first initiate of OakSun Grove, the second branched WildWood group. I feel particularly connected to the resonating myth and potency of Kate’s unfolding priestess journey (although in many respects it has only just begun) because I have been there from her introduction to WildWood, her entire aspirant training and was also her teacher in and the facilitator of her priestess training. I tend to think of the ‘formalised’ lessons as punctuation points of facilitated and embodied reflection, dialogue and instruction within the broader journey which encompasses every piece of experience, insight and emotion aroused by the initial challenge to embrace the firebrand of illumination and walk towards priest/esshood. I also feel connected to Kate’s priestess journey because I knew of her and sensed her half a year before I met her in the flesh. I knew that she would be integral to the new coven I was about to form.
As we arrived at the location for the day of preparation and initiation I became deeply nostalgic. Here I was, four years after my own initiation at this same place, and I was accompanied by three other WildWood priestesses visiting from the Mother Coven to aid in the proceedings, several dedicants of the inner court of my coven and our aspirant.
Kate had risen at dawn. She had aligned and breathed deeply into her core and connected with the Land, her spirit allies and the Sacred Four. Most importantly she had begun the marriage of Self to All Self. She had either started fasting upon awakening at an early hour or started half-way through the day before. She would only eat again after dusk when the ceremony of initiation is complete.
We gathered our belongings from the three cars that had ferried us up the mountain and headed for the grove that my good friend James and I received our initiations within (James and I were initiated together in the same place and this is the only case in our short history of two people sharing sacred space and time for initiation). Once within the embrace of the trees, Kate began to explain one of her last assignments that I had given her to culminate her training. Kate was to facilitate a WildWood ritual for the celebration of Imbolc that did not necessarily retain the form of other WildWood rituals she had experienced. Something that should be known of WildWood Witchcraft is that outer forms of ritual and liturgy (dedications and initiations withstanding) are rarely similar between groups and individuals. To be considered WildWood Witchcraft one must be of the community of WildWood Witches (whether trained as a Wanderer – ‘solitary’ – or dedicated into a coven), celebrate the Mysteries of the Sacred Four and honour the Wild/Wood in all things (“Blessed be the WildWood – in our hearts and minds and everywhere!”) Therefore it is possible that there is a lineage, but not necessarily a human or apostolic one. The initiatory lineage comes directly from the WildWood itself (encompassing all of our Mysteries).
After this delightful and potent Imbolc ritual we moved onto the formal aspects of the preparation of Kate before her initiation ceremony which would fall before dusk. Kate laid down upon a blanket and contemplated her own death, decay and decomposition, only to be enlivened once more by physical touch and reaffirmation of the sacrality of the temple of her personal God/dess. We aroused this by anointing her with oils, massaging her with cream, stroking her with leaves, dressing her hair with flowers. We called up the very throbbing echo of the Earth and poured it into her body and being. We chanted and sang to raise her vibration and then danced around her in celebration of the transformation to take place. This part of the preparation can be attended by anyone within the WildWood community and is not strictly for dedicants or initiates (those within the inner court of any coven or more broadly the Fellowship of WildWood). This is a deeply primal and even tribal part of a WildWood initiation and as such is considered a favourite by the majority of us.
After the ‘lov’in’ Kate was then sent off to complete certain tasks and in so doing contemplate the mysteries and mythos of the Sacred Four and her own relationship with Them. This can take however long is needed and there are no time limits. The shortest timeframe tends to be an hour, though it can become three hours quite easily. The initiate-to-be wanders off into the wilderness to complete this phase of the unfolding. As such WildWood initiations generally occur in green, vital and wild places; though there are certainly urban areas which contain these elements and several WildWood initiations have occurred within the wilderness discovered in the pockets of a city.
After Kate returned from her journey outward and her contemplations, we gathered together to discover the site of Initiation. This was not hard to find and we discovered a blessed Faerie tree which bent over to create an alcove or cave-like atmosphere. Here it is that the literal ceremony of initiation occurs; but the true initiation (awakening to Self as All-Self) may have already occurred or may be brought on by the ceremony. It may also be facilitated within the space and time ‘set apart’ as ritual. It is also vital to understand that an initiatory experience is not just relegated to a moment in time, but is also the unfolding of the journey; the becoming of the priest/ess. As one WildWood priestess says: “The Weaver’s gift is retrospect.”
It is within the Sacred Circle as cast by the priesthood and then given over to the initiate-to-be that the Mysteries unravel within the blossoming heart of the Witch.
I remember how it felt for me to receive the Current of the WildWood in whole…in our Tradition I believe the unfolding goes something like this:
When someone chooses to aspire toward the Inner Court it is because they have sensed the possibility of connection and they wish to court it…when someone chooses to dedicate (and is accepted by consensus) it is because they now wish to affirm this connection and work deeply with it…when someone chooses to become initiated it is because they wish to awaken to the wonder of Life in its fullness and to become an active agent; to participate wholly and soulfully within the Great Mystery as guided by the Current and Holy Place we call WildWood.
I am proud priest of the WildWood and I believe Kate now is, as well.