As a person who has been both the initiate and the initiator on more than one occasion, I have gathered some bits of knowledge about the art of initiation. I underwent my first formal magickal initiation 27 years ago, and I have been in an initiating priesthood for an occult mystery tradition for over 25 years.
I have offered many initiations outside of the mystery tradition also. In 2005 Llewellyn Worldwide published my first book, Sexy Witch. Over the next decade I facilitated initiations based on that work for literally hundreds of women, and a few brave men. I have facilitated initiations in spontaneous settings as well, and have held space for people as they found their way through their own internal process of initiation.
Initiation is big magick. I am drawn to it because I love it. I love the thrum of energy as releases occur. I love the accelerations and deccelerations in the process. I love the spiral path of it. The ineffability of it.
Have you ever wondered if magickal initiation was part of your future path? Let these words help you find your way to an answer.
There are prohibitions against speaking of the particulars of initiation. This is for good reason. Forgive me if I am sometimes lacking in detail. But know that is obscurity is really and truly allowing the space for your initiation to show up as it Will.
What is initiation?
To initiate means to begin. It also means to admit someone into a secret order. While the latter definition is in a sense what I will be addressing in this article, the former is in many ways more relevant to the topic at hand. To enter into an initiation, in many cases, is to begin a process of transformation.
So this is where we begin. At the beginning.
Initiations come in varied forms and formats. Some initiations are consciously invited, as in the case of a formal magical initiation, or a graduation, or another recognized rite of passage. Some initiations happen by way of an experience that changes one’s life in an instant or over a course of time: a birth, or a death, or a near death experience, or a great loss or gain.
Some initiations – such as into an order – may be a recognition of work done. Or an initiation may be starting off on a new path. Most often, an initiation is both. Initiations are doorways; in initiation you are both entering and exiting at once. Passing a threshold between stations.
Initiations are liminal. They are the magickal moments of transition. The liminal spaces are the places where magick takes form. The times outside of time and spaces outside of space. Initiations are the magicks that bring new worlds into being.
Some initiations are entered into in a cohort. Some are entered into in a one-on-one setting with a teacher. Some initiations are conferred by initiators who are priest/esses. Some initiations are conferred by the gods themselves. Some initiations are a process of self-aware rebirth. Some are process or education or induction toward a spiritual or educational goal.
Across all the lineages of initiation, perhaps only one thing really holds true: even within a group process, initiation is different from person to person. Your path will not be the same as the path of another. Even given the same map, the requirement, needs, stations, and experiences of your journey will be specific to you.
Initiation rarely, if ever, looks how we might imagine it will.
The value of magickal initiation
Magickal initiations offer opportunities for a deeper and richer understanding of your self, the world, the divine, and your place within it all. They allow for new understanding of your walk and your Work in the world. They offer opportunities for a deeper commitment to your path. They offer greater alignment with your soul and your work in this body.
The deep work of any initiation happens when you recontextualize your new understandings into your interactions with the world and the divine. This is the love and magick of it. The grit and blood and fire of it. Where we put our backs to the wheel and push. Where we dig into the ground and plant seed. Where we come into conversation and root in new ideas.
We are born to it, and we see gardens grow in us.
Often initiation is not of the membership-in-a-secret-order variety. But even when there is no official order that you are being initiated into, initiation – the process and result of it – delivers you to a level of understanding that most will not have who have not been through the initiation.
The benefits of formal process
A formal process of initiation offers a container for your experience of your initiatory process. This container, held by your initiator, initiatrix or initiatrices, is a matrix within which your transformation will take form, and from which it will emerge.
In a group process of initiation, your cohort is both part of the container of the process of initiation, and each is also held within the matrix of support and transformation. Your cohort is your sangha: the spiritual siblinghood where you can share your process, ask for support, offer support. Witness and be witnessed in the process of metamorphosis.
This container is a space held safe and sacred where your process will be honored, incubated, breathed into, witnessed, and held with reverence. The time and space you share with your initiatrix and your cohort is dedicated to the work of the Work.
Part magickal witnessing and reflection, part skill-share, part heart-sharing circle, and part think tank, the shared container of a formal initiation process is the place where you stand first in your process toward embodiment of the Work of transformation.
How do you know if an initiation is for you?
If you are wondering if a cycle of initiation is right for you, chances are it is. The almost indistinguishable whisper on the wind is the beckoning of the Divine. If you can hear it, you are already seeking a path that will take you deeper.
Is there a tug? That tug is your deep knowing. Your body knows whether an initiation is right for you. It might feel like infatuation, or like anticipation, or like gravity. The pull may feel like all of these things. You may feel it in your gut, in your heart, your chest, your genitals. You may feel it in your solar plexus, in your hands, in your head. You may feel it in your skin, in your blood, in your bones.
You may experience the pull as desire. Or as anticipation. Or even as fear. Or as joy. Or as love. At the core of it, you will experience the pull as a deeper compass: the one that leads you to your deepest self.
That said, now is not always the right time. So how do you know for sure if the right initiation is coming at the right time for you?
Ask yourself questions. Answer them. Write them down in a – – – (minuses) and + + + (plusses) listing exercise. What might be in the way of participating right now? And what are your reasons for participating in this opportunity at this time?
Do you have a desire for transformation? Do you feel the beginnings of a shift in your life or consciousness? Are you ready to commit to your spiritual deepening and growth?
Still not entirely sure? Divine the answers! Talk to your god or gods. Use the cards, your pendulum, your runes, bibliomancy, tea leaves. Whatever your divination tools of choice, avail yourself of them.
All of this will reveal the truth you already know.
And then, as now, sometimes you may not know in your head that this is indeed the opportunity. Sometimes – perhaps often – TRUST is the tool that moves us into, and through, our processes of initiation.
Preparing yourself for the journey, and caring for yourself through it
Your initiation begins when you commit to the path of initiation. And initiation is akin to healing (and for many of us, part and parcel to it) in that it is a process with no destination. The journey – the process – is the destination.
One of the things that will help you greatly along the way is laying good groundwork before you start out on your path.
You will need to pay close attention to your shifting needs as you move forward. Part of the work ahead of you is to turn your listening inward. Much of what you need to hear on this journey will come from that inner voice. Take time to quiet yourself. Listen for what needs to be known.
Your initiation will also affect the people you love as it affects you. Involve your people in your process. You will need to engage them in the Work at times. Sometimes your Work will be with them. Let them know why you are undertaking this journey. Make sure they understand your commitments, and your needs. Let them know how they can best support you in it.
Finally, bring yourself to your gods. Allow yourself to open to the transformation. Allow yourself to fall in. And swim, walk, dance, fly your way into the center of it.
Are you ready for your initiation?
This six-month, web-based, interactive initiation cycle begins October 14.
Thanks for the FaceBrain brainstorming to: Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, Heather Logsdon, Phaedra Christine Bonewits, Sarah Clark, Elsa DieLowen, Elinor Predota, Durga Fuller, and others.
Lasara Firefox Allen is an author, coach, educator, and activist. A family-traditions Witch, Lasara is a second generation ordained Pagan clergy member with ordinations from multiple traditions and religious organization.
Lasara’s first book, Sexy Witch (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005) is available in four languages and is distributed internationally. Her second book with Llewellyn, Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning or Feminist Spirituality, will be published June, 2016.
Lasara regularly offers online courses, in-person workshops, and retreats on a range of topics; feminism, bodily sovereignty, sexuality, relationships, parenting/family dynamics, media literacy, body-positivity, magick, and spirituality. Married to the love of her life and mothering two amazing kids, Lasara lives in the wilds of northern California.