'Everything in me knew I was dying. Memories of my life started flooding by. I realized in that moment how much I loved. Loved my dear ones, the earth, this life. So much time had been wasted in fear! I started a ritual and invited everyone to say 'I love you'. I shared everything else that needed to be shared'. At the point of near death the veils are lifted. You suddenly see, know, are. Things that you have been closing your eyes for all your life suddenly become crystal clear. For instance: your mission in life, love, how to live together with all these people on our beautiful Earth.
When the Christian church started portraying death as something outside of you, which decided for you whether it would be heaven or hell, depending on past actions, they stole something essential from us: the potency of this moment near death.
In the blog Star says, “I told my initiator afterwards that had I had an understanding of what the ritual would entail, I would never have requested an initiation. I would have remained a ‘friend of the house.’ To be perfectly honest, had I been given a paper copy of the ritual to peruse ahead of time, my response would have likely been ‘Oh HELL NO!’”
A required reading in my tradition is “What Witches Do” by Stewart Farrar. The very first chapter of the book is about initiation and describes a man going through it. I didn’t read it before I took initiation exactly because I didn’t want to know what would happen during an initiation. I have read the book since and am glad that I made the choice not to do so beforehand. For me, going through initiation was partly about proving to myself that even without knowing exactly what was going to happen, I was ready enough to handle it without any forewarning. That I could blindly take what was done and have the knowledge to handle anything thrown at me. While initiation is an undertaking that you’re given by others, my initiation was a test I had also set for myself.
I sat in a tent, carrying on a conversation at a small Pagan event. In the distance women were gathering for a women's ritual. At one point I heard a woman challenging the attendees as they entered the circle.
"Do you enter the circle in perfect love and perfect trust?" The challenging woman had a soft voice, and sounded very unconvinced as she asked this over and over.
Last weekend, I made the long pilgrimage to San Jose, California, where I joined about 3,000 other Pagans for PantheaCon. It was the first time I had been to California or seen the Pacific Ocean. In several ways it was also both an ending and a beginning.
PantheaCon the event didn't change my life like it may have done for many others, but that wasn't because of any lack on the part of the convention or anyone involved in organizing the events; most of the con faded in view of the enormous milestone I reached and overcame the Friday night of PantheaCon. Last week, while at PantheaCon, I went through my first degree Initiation, and that event ended up overshadowing everything else that happened to me over the rest of the weekend.
Last year a young man approached me at a sabbat and told me he was "of my line." Huh? I didn't know I had a line. Then he told me he'd recently been initiated and one of his initiators was an initiate of one of my initiates. My initiate had been a student of mine (and of others) for some years before any oaths were sworn.
This incident brings up lots of questions, especially since it arises from a tradition (Reclaiming) that requires no initiation in order for people to participate as fully and completely, prominently and authoritatively (teaching, public priest/essing, et al.) as they choose. An obvious concern in this scenario is accountability -- to students, to community, to tradition. Another is whether, or how, one can assume a shared knowledge and capability. Those are questions for another rumination; for now, let's stick with lines and lineage.
What do we mean by lineage? Why is it important to us? Or to those of us who may think it is important? Or to anyone?
(Lauren DeVoe recently wrote a blog post about the purpose of secrecy and initiation in the Craft. Of course, she sleeps next to me, so when she gets talking about a subject, I end up having my own thoughts on it. So I decided to write a post about initiation...)